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ON THE RECORD: 'Bowie Bond' was a unique financial instrument

ON THE RECORD: 'Bowie Bond' was a unique financial instrument


Q: I was very saddened by this week’s news that David Bowie had died. I remember hearing something in the past about him issuing bonds or something like that. Do you know anything about this?

A: David Bowie’s passing certainly stunned the pop music world. His untimely death marks the end of a remarkably creative and influential career, one which is hard to overstate. A talent like his is extremely rare, and we were privileged to witness it. In the annals of finance, however, it can likely be said that the “Bowie Bond” was a unique financial instrument. The brainchild of investment banker David Pullman, the Bowie Bond was first issued in 1997. Basically, what Pullman did was to securitize intellectual property for the first time. With David Bowie’s assent, Pullman offered investors bonds that offered 7.9 percent returns over 10 years backed by the expected royalties that would be generated during those 10 years by the 25 albums (287 songs) Bowie recorded prior to 1990. This included some of the most remarkable pop music recorded, including the albums “Space Oddity,” “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” “Young Americans,” “Station to Station,” “Low,” “Heroes,” and “Scary Monsters,” to name a few. The deal certainly benefited Bowie financially. By forfeiting 10 years’ worth of royalties, Bowie was able to receive $55 million up front. He used some of the money to buy back the rights to some of his songs that were owned by a former manager. Bowie was able to issue the bonds because, unlike many artists, he had kept control of his copyrights and master recordings. In March 2004, Moody's Investors Service lowered the bonds from an A3 rating (the seventh-highest rating) to Baa3, one notch above junk status. This downgrade was prompted by lower-than-expected revenue “due to weakness in sales for recorded music.” Pullman did not stop with Bowie Bonds. He also securitized the songs of James Brown and Marvin Gaye.

Q: I’m looking for a song that was played on rock radio stations in the late '80s or early '90s. It featured parts of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and a strange spoken word part in the middle. I want to download it but I don’t know the name of the song. Can you help me?

A: The song is called “Rush” by Big Audio Dynamite II. Led by former Clash guitarist Mick Jones, Big Audio Dynamite went through many personnel changes during their 10-year existence. The second incarnation of the band, appropriately named Big Audio Dynamite II, released “Rush” in 1991 and it went to No. 1 on the U.S. Modern Rock chart. Other than sampling the Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” the song also includes the infectious drum beat from Tommy Roe’s 1966 hit “Sweet Pea,” the groovy organ and drums from Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham’s 1968 hit “Here Comes the Judge,” and the aforementioned spoken part by Peter Sellers from his 1959 album “Songs For Swingin’ Sellers” in which he says “I wish I could sing like that ... the only important thing these days is rhythm and melody."

What’s the name of that song? Where are they now? What does that lyric mean? Send your questions about songs, albums, and the musicians who make them to Bradford Brady and John Maron are freelance music writers based in Raleigh, N.C.

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