Do Not Hire John Brown Advertising

I’ve been plagiarised by an advertising company. John Brown Advertising are plagiarists.

So if you want to hire an advertising company, don’t hire John Brown Advertising of 820 Eastbrooke Lane, Rochester, New York 14618. They have no creativity (and so will be useless for coming up with ideas for your campaign) and no regard for the intellectual property of others (and so may well lead to an expensive court case for you).

Here’s how I discovered this:

I saw a link in my referral logs today from somewhere called I am not providing a link to this site — although I nearly did. Because when I clicked on this link, it looked like something I would definitely recommend — a glossy, well-put-together site, with tons of information on the album Watertown, which is one of my favourites, as I’ve written before.

The only thing that seemed odd was a link at the bottom to an advertising company, the plagiarists John Brown Advertising.

There’s a ton of stuff on there — interviews, session musician listings and so on. But then I clicked on the link to the “songs” section, and what I read was very familiar.

I am not going to link to the site in question, but I’ll post their article here, and bold the sentences and phrases that also appear in my Watertown post:

In all of Sinatra’s concept albums, the order of the playlists was carefully assembled, though not crucial to the total enjoyment. In Watertown, the order is significantly more important, at least for your first few playings. This is a love story with a beginning, a middle and an end; the sequence of events makes it a very powerful listening experience. Part I, his disbelief; Part II, his desperation; Epilogue, her story.

1) Watertown is the only song on the album not sung from the perspective of our narrator, the establishing shot before the main story starts, but even here, the narrator’s voice breaks in, and is singing to someone – “It’s gonna be a lonely place/without the look of your familiar face,” and immediately after we get hints that maybe the narrator isn’t to be trusted (“But who can say it’s not that way?”) before woodwinds, bass and arpeggiated guitar take us out over a train sound that is immensely sad and portends what’s to come.

2) Goodbye (She Quietly Says) is a wonderfully sparse, distanced description of a relationship breaking up: “Sitting in a coffee shop with cheese cake and some apple pie / She reaches out across the table, looks at me and quietly says goodbye.”

3) For A While is, in the context of this album, almost a cheerful song. Musically, this sounds quite a lot like some of the waltzes Brian Wilson was doing around the same time, like Time To Get Alone – all light and breezy. Sinatra genuinely sounds like he means lines like “Days go by with no empty feeling/until I remember you’re gone.” It’s also the first song to be addressed, as most of the album is, directly to his lost love.

4) Michael & Peter is quite poignant – a letter to Elizabeth about their two children and about the mundane details of everyday life (“I think the house could use some paint/you know your mother’s such a saint/she takes the boys whenever she can/she sure needs a man” – and what does THAT say about the relationship, that the mother-in-law is still helping out her son-in-law, while her daughter is God knows where. There’s a sense that quite some time has elapsed since she left.

5) I Would Be In Love (Anyway) is one of the most conventional songs on the album. The main message is that even though their marriage has ended, it was worth it (“If I lived the past over/saw today from yesterday/I would be in love anyway”) and once again we have the recurring themes of the lack of communication between them, the narrator’s unreliability and general inability to talk. “If I knew then, what I know now/I don’t believe I’d ever change, somehow.” She changed, and grew up, and he didn’t. And the poor man doesn’t even realize it.

6) Elizabeth is a fairly standard song of lost love sung to the person lost, one of the comparatively less stirring songs on the album, although the narrator’s view of his wife as a fantasy, a dream, and the utter lack of detail about her other than her name, is telling. And “Dressed in memories/you are what you used to be” is simultaneously beautiful and disturbing.

7) What A Funny Girl (You Used To Be) says far more about his wife’s character. “You’d fall for lines so easily, whatever they were selling, you’d buy three.” Suddenly, the ex-wife is a character, and we can see that someone so full of life and energy could never, ever have stayed with someone so fundamentally conservative (not to mention patronizing – he sounds a little more like her father than her lover. This is especially worrying when you factor in the lines a few songs earlier about how her mother ‘needs a man’). He’d never understood that the things he loved most about her were precisely those things that meant they could never stay together.

8) What’s Now Is Now is most astonishing. The song is all about him forgiving her for her adultery – and assuming that the reason she’s left is just because she thinks he won’t forgive her or that people around will disapprove. He thinks she’s run away from him, rather than having grown away from him. He’s talking about how much he understands, how much he knows, but he doesn’t have a clue.

9) She Says… he’s actually received a letter from herand she says she’s coming home. So why is the song all minor chords, and why do we have a haunting chorus of the children singing “So she says” at the end of each verse? The children seem more cynical, or at least more realistic, than he is.

10) The Train…and we’re back where we started at the train station, except much time has passed since the first goodbye. He claims “I wrote so many times and more/but the letters still are lying in my drawer/’cause the morning mail had left some time before.” Despite many hopes, he’s standing there in the rain waiting for her because of a reply he got to letters he never sent. In the end, he walks off to meet his kids as indicated by the back cover art, and the train pulls out in the fade.

If you compare what’s been done there by the plagiarists John Brown Advertising, who have clearly put this site together as some kind of SEO thing, with my original post on Watertown, you’ll notice a few things:

Firstly, as you can see from the bold, this has been plagiarised wholesale from my piece. The changes they’ve made are, firstly, to put numbers in front of each song to make it look more like an essay by a schoolchild, secondly to take out all reference to the alternative interpretation of the lyrics (that Elizabeth is dead), and worst of all to remove various bits of character from my writing.

Thus “What’s Now Is Now is… Christ, this is just the most astonishingly upsetting song ever.” becomes “What’s Now Is Now is most astonishing.”

I’m not claiming my original piece is a masterpiece of literary art or anything — looking back at it, as with almost everything I’ve ever written, I cringe — but this rewrite has been done by someone with no love of, or feel for, language at all.

Now, I am not that bothered about my copyrights — I don’t get too stressed if people want to share stuff I’ve written, or music I’ve made, or whatever. But if you’re going to repost my stuff, it’s actually the law that you have to ask me. And there are also my *moral* rights, and those I *do* care about. I care about my right to be identified as the creator of the work, and even more than that I care about the integrity of the work — I posted that article in order to get ideas across to other people, and if you repost it somewhere else that’s not so bad, but if you repost a neutered version, that makes me angry as hell.

So, if you’re a client looking for an advertising company, do not hire the plagiarists John Brown Advertising.