Johnny Hallyday jumps ship after legal dispute

4th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 4 (AFP) - France's best-loved veteran rock and roll star Johnny Hallyday has quit Universal records after 43 years to join rival Warner Music, the company announced Wednesday.

PARIS, Jan 4 (AFP) - France's best-loved veteran rock and roll star Johnny Hallyday has quit Universal records after 43 years to join rival Warner Music, the company announced Wednesday.

Hallyday, who at 62 still dons his trademark leather and performs with the vitality of someone half his age, left Universal after a bitter battle to win possession of some 1,000 master copies of his popular songs dating back to 1961.

The best-selling artist, once dubbed the French Elvis Presley, now plans to release his first album on the Warner label in the autumn, the head of Warner Music France, Thierry Chassagne, told AFP.

It will be a live album of Hallyday's forthcoming "Flashback" concerts in the Palais des Sports in Paris from June 2 to July 4, designed to celebrate his 63rd birthday.

A blues album, a long-time ambition which Hallyday said Universal had refused to back, is also planned for 2007.

Hallyday, who is travelling in Latin America, was not available for comment Wednesday, but Warner said he had been tempted to jump ship because he would be offered greater personal creativity.

"There is no other artist like Johnny Hallyday in France, and very few around the world with such a long and prestigious career," Chassagne said.

"I took over at Warner France 18 months ago and largely boosted the artistic budget to give it greater power. Signing Johnny is a continuation of this policy."

Warner, which is one of the big four in the world of music along with Universal, Sony-BMG and EMI, did not reveal the financial terms of the deal which was signed at the end of December.

Chassagne admitted he had not believed at first it would be possible to seduce Hallyday away from Universal.

"But we said to ourselves, 'if ever we see a hint of a rupture we must be ready because it's better that he signs with us than that he goes to the competition'."

In April, the Paris appeals court threw out Hallyday's bid to gain possession of 1,000 valuable master copies of his songs from Universal, overturning an earlier court decision and angering the French rocker.

Warner will therefore not be able to release any compilation albums of some of the artist's best-loved, best-selling songs which over the decades have earned him 39 gold discs, 18 platinum and two diamond.

But Chassagne said this had not caused the company to hesitate over signing Hallyday, nor had the star's reputation for producing costly albums.

"Producing an expensive album for an artist who sells a million albums is all relative. Proportionately an artist who sells 100,000 records will turn out to be more expensive even if the recording costs are not high."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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