Last night, the reputable and acclaimed classic rock DJ Nicky Horne interviewed Andy Powell on Planet Rock radio. With the 40th anniversary of the formation of Wishbone Ash approaching, the conversation naturally turned to the possibility of the original members of the band regrouping to celebrate this milestone. Nicky Horne offered to act as an “honest broker” to enable the differences between the original members to be resolved. Any initiative that could result in the four of us getting together – even just one last time – to make music together has to be applauded. Management acting for Steve Upton, Ted Turner and myself immediately accepted Nicky’s offer. An e-mail was sent to Nicky and copied to Andy suggesting that any reasonable person would acknowledge that Andy’s litigious activities in the past, and those in the present, are not conducive to fair negotiations and should be ceased before a round table meeting.
Today Andy Powell has posted a message on his site, where he has chosen to distort the goodwill and put a negative spin on the content of communications between my management and Nicky Horne. I would much prefer that the differences between the core members remain private, but once again Andy has chosen to go public, which we regret.
Right now there appears to be a great deal of enthusiasm for all things Wishbone Ash and a general positive vibe from both the public and the media. Respected, high profile figures such as Nicky Horne have nothing personally to gain through making such offers. They do it out of sheer passion for the music. We can all see from Andy’s comments today on his website that he once again has thrown the rattle out of the pram. Given Andy’s present mindset, it would seem he has shot himself in the foot here. And when Andy Powell shoots himself in the foot, he also shoots Wishbone Ash and its fans in the foot. Ultimately rock ‘n’ roll is built on an edge of controversy and without that edge it becomes safe and sterile, but this is childish. I am often confronted with questions concerning contentious matters, but I tend to field them with a smile on my face and, on occasion, an injection of tongue-in-cheek humour (sometimes misinterpreted, admittedly!).
With so much appetite for the public activity of the various Wishbone associated musicians, I continue to be somewhat perplexed as to why Andy feels the need continually to put a negative spin on events, re-writing history and presenting gross inaccuracies and mistruths – as was evident several times during his Planet Rock interview and his comments today. As stated, I personally prefer to keep behind the scenes matters out of the public arena. However, so long as inaccurate information and negative spin concerning my conduct and activity is published and broadcast elsewhere, I have no option but to set the record straight from my perspective. No doubt some of the commentators who choose to act as self-appointed judge, jury and executioner in the kangaroo court that certain fan forums masquerade as from time to time, have no real idea as to the true facts or the underlying issues that have been the cause of conflict between Andy Powell and his former colleagues in Wishbone Ash. Let me elaborate...
Firstly, the name - yes, that old chestnut! To clarify, I have chosen to perform as Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash under the legal principle of "residual rights". As co-owner and co-founder of the brand, I have every legal privilege to use Wishbone Ash with or without a prefix. This right extends to all core members of the band. I am comfortable with the prefix, as it describes exactly what is in the tin. Andy Powell continues to perform as Wishbone Ash, as he is entitled so to do if he wishes, though he is drawing on the reputation and goodwill of all core and founder members and creating a confusion which would not be there if he accurately described himself as Andy Powell’s Wishbone Ash. This is a moral decision for Mr Powell to make. His activity post-1994 cannot truly be considered a ‘continuation’ of previous Wishbone Ash activity. The spin from Mr. Powell's publicity machine gives the impression of an 'uninterrupted history' whereas the reality is that following the eventual disintegration of the reformed original line-up, Andy (aware that there was, and I quote his words, "an existing fanbase to exploit") constructed a new band from scratch that had absolutely nothing in common with the original entity in terms of its personnel, management, business structure, group democracy, equity division or moral ethics. The only connection (aside from Andy's obvious guitar talent) has been its performance of songs originally written and recorded by the core members.
I should also state that – contrary to what was claimed by Andy during his Planet Rock interview – I did NOT initially agree to call my band “Martin Turner’s Wishbone” and never have. The band was called Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash from DAY ONE, as the news archives on this very site documents. We did make a brief trial non legally-binding “gentleman’s agreement” with Andy at one stage where we agreed to appear as Wishbone featuring Martin Turner and, by return, he agreed to certain terms that included, amongst other things, him agreeing not to discuss publicly the specifics of the agreement (a clause he contravened the very next day after the agreement had been signed by discussing the deal at Ash-Con) and he was required to add a clear and distinct link to my website on his site. Several months on, it was clear that we had been somewhat tricked into making this “gentleman’s agreement” and that he had no intentions of adhering to his part of the bargain. The agreement simply didn’t work and we reverted to our original chosen name on a business as usual basis.
And then there is the issue of the 'registered trademark' that Andy delights in parading around these days (personally I think that clumsy looking ® symbol demeans the brand and spoils the aesthetic beauty of the classic Wishbone Ash logo, and I’m not alone in this opinion!).
Andy Powell registered the name Wishbone Ash in 1998 as a trademark for his use without the required consent of the other original owners – in fact, without even informing us. The registration only came to light in 2004 during the legal action Andy launched in an (unsuccessful) attempt to shut down my website. Andy’s registration prevents third parties from using the name, but does not prevent use by any core member who possesses residual rights. The other three original members retain rights to the name. The owners of the name Wishbone Ash are therefore Andrew Powell, Steven Upton, David Turner and Martin Turner. We have no objection to Laurie Wisefield registering his interest, and we also state publicly that we do not seek to deny his rights in any case. In many band’s cases, one man may own the name if he has bought the shares of the other members. In the case of Wishbone Ash, this simply did not happen - FACT! Andy has never paid a penny for our shares – it is like co-owning a house with three brothers, allowing one brother to remain in the house rent free, and then finding out he is claiming he owns the house by virtue of his continued presence.
None of the core members of the band - Steve Upton, Ted Turner, Andy Powell, Martin Turner and Laurie Wisefield - ever sold or otherwise forfeited their rights to the name Wishbone Ash. I am often asked why I chose not to put my share up for sale and I respond that Wishbone Ash is my life - I've never wanted to do anything else and, contrary to what continues to be reported elsewhere, I've never voluntarily left the band. To set the record straight, in 1980 I was effectively 'edged out' by being put in an untenable situation when the band felt changes were vital; in 1991 I was told by Andy (on my birthday!) that my services were no longer required; and in 1995/96 I appeared with Andy on a session basis and was quite prepared to continue, but was subsequently excluded from further activity and Andy choose to continue with sidemen). I am a reasonable man and not one to hold grudges – as has been proven by my continual attempts to work with Andy through the years, with me often compiling albums of re-mastered or archive WA material to coincide with his tours or appearing with his bands at short notice to save him from cancelling shows. I have always remained willing to be involved in Wishbone Ash activity. It saddens me that we have to defend ourselves against Andy’s current legal action by drawing attention to the fact that his 1998 registration of the trademark was made in “bad faith”, according to our counsel. What a ridiculous state of affairs.
Once again Andy’s self pity, bitterness and anger is getting in the way of common sense.
And so to reunions….
As original members of the band, Steve Upton, Ted Turner and myself are in receipt of a significant offer from the UK’s second biggest music promoter to regroup for a series of major venue concerts during 2010 on the basis that the line-up would include at least three of the original members. We are all, in principal, receptive to the idea and are presently reviewing the feasibility of such a project. It should be added that this offer was presented to us – and in turn to Andy - long before Andy announced his 40th anniversary concert in London. Any shows performed would be in the context of the originals performing together for the full duration of the evening - not as 'special guests' alongside Andy's band, or mine for that matter, which would be something of a compromise for both the musicians and the fans. Naturally any reunion shows will be appropriately branded and need not be a threat to either of the existing bands presently performing Wishbone Ash music. In fact the existing bands would only benefit from the extra publicity a high profile reunion would generate. It is blatantly obvious that Andy’s London show was hastily arranged and announced as a deliberate ploy to “trump” the reunion plans already being discussed and to get it on record that we – the original members – had turned down a reunion. Andy was asked about his invitation to the original members during the Planet Rock interview and Nicky Horne enquired as to whether Andy felt he had given us reasonable notice of the invitation before going public. Andy replied to the affirmative. It has already been documented that, in actual fact, Andy gave us just 24 hours notice before going public. I will leave people to make their own minds up as to whether they feel this “reasonable”, taking into account the logistics involved in producing a show of any description, never mind one involving four individuals who have not been in the same room at any one time since July 1990…
The original members of Wishbone Ash remain open to sitting down with Andy and discussing any issues that may be on our minds, or his for that matter. For example, there are certain outstanding matters regarding apparent grey areas in some of Andy’s business dealings that need to be addressed properly. In particular, various misrepresentations concerning the licensing of past Wishbone Ash material (to which the core members possess equal ownership) dating back over a number of years. To date Andy has been unwilling to respond to our not unreasonable request for clarification regarding various seemingly dubious deals. Neither his “bad faith” trademark registration or him being the sole original member in the band that presently performs as Wishbone Ash gives him any legal or moral license whatsoever to sign away rights to our collective material or conduct business deals on our behalf without our consent, which has been the case on several occasions - in fact, there is a whole catalogue of releases out there featuring material performed by the original members (and therefore collectively owned by the original members), which has been released without our required consent. Andy may well feel he has the right to "exploit" the existing fanbase but he certainly has no right to exploit or otherwise abuse the
original band members. We retain the right to exercise control over all co-owned material, on both artistic and business levels and Mr. Powell has denied us this right on several occasions. His moral fibre therefore has to be seriously questioned. The rich body of work we created together back in the days of group democracy and equity membership is not only Andy Powell's lifeblood, but also the lifeblood of the other original members and their families. Does the housekeeper have the right to sell the family silver?
We remain willing to talk with Andy and our management has been trying to facilitate this for some time now. Andy implied on Planet Rock and has stated elsewhere that our management has denied him direct access to the original members. This is nonsense, untrue and another gross distortion of the facts. All that has been asked is that Andy remove any legal threats in order to allow talks to proceed on an even playing field. We are requesting nothing more than to be treated with the degree of respect, honesty, good faith and fair play that we as founder members of Wishbone Ash deserve. For the four of us to address some of the above matters by talking face to face around a table like grown men strikes me as no big deal, and sometimes "really sorry about that mate" can make quite a difference, so what is the problem? Fear of....? Using the old adage that there is nothing to fear except fear itself, I believe the problems can be straightened out and the way cleared for a re-union of the original band in its entirety. Now that really would be a real deal for all concerned, would it not? Especially as an acknowledgment and "thank you" to all the fans who all helped to make the band happen in the first place. Our preferred route would always be negotiation and mediation as opposed to litigation. The four of us have more uniting us than dividing, we just need to recapture a totally dignified spirit of harmony, mutual respect and co-operation - the very strengths that helped Wishbone Ash achieve its international success in the early days.
I hope the presentation of the above facts helps people to see the situation a little clearer and give a little insight into the reasons why relationships between the original members and Andy Powell have broken down over the years. A small minority of fans have, of late, been passing judgement on matters they have no personal or professional qualification to comment on, with some of the material published being nothing short of libellous. This goes totally against the grain when juxtaposed with the unanimous support and respect I have been shown at the shows we have played. These really are behind the scenes matters for the original members and their appointed representatives to deal with - privately if possible.
Even if a reunion isn’t possible, it would still make sense for us to go down the pub as mates.
Thanks for listening,