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Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Nite Retro

Oh, it's Friday Night and the feelin's right. . .nope - I'm not featuring Kool and the Gang for tonite's FNR; I'm just glad the weekend is finally here. . .Now let's travel back to 1989 and watch an extremely popular duo blast to the top of the charts and then. . .flame out completely when they were exposed as a fraud!

Milli Vanilli was formed by Frank Farian in Germany in 1988 and fronted by the duo Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus. The group's debut album achieved high sales internationally which earned them a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1990. The group went on to sell more than 30 million singles, 14 million albums and become one of the most popular pop groups in the late 80's and early 90's. However, their success turned to infamy when the award was revoked after it was revealed that the lead vocalists did not actually sing on the record.

Girl You Know It's True


Farian chose to feature vocals by Charles Shaw, John Davis, Brad Howell, and twin sisters Jodie and Linda Rocco, but felt that those musicians lacked a marketable image.So Farian recruited Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, two younger and more photogenic model/dancers he found in a Berlin dance club, to front the project. Milli Vanilli's debut album, "All Or Nothing," was issued in Europe in mid-1988, with Rob and Fab at the helm and nary a mention of the actual singers. The LP's success caught the attention of Arista Records, who signed the duo, remixed some of the tracks, added others, renamed it "Girl You Know It's True" and released it in the United States in early 1989.

Girl I'm Gonna Miss You


The album's lead-off American single, the title track, peaked at number 2 on the Hot 100 in April of that year and was certified platinum. Even greater commercial success followed, as the pair's next three singles ("Baby Don't Forget My Number," "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" and "Blame It On The Rain") all hit number 1. A fifth and final single, "All Or Nothing," also made the Top 5 at the beginning of 1990. Milli Vanilli's meteoric rise to pop music superstardom culminated with a Grammy Award for Best New Artist on February 22, 1990.

Blame it on the Rain


In July 1989, during a live performance on MTV, the recording of the song "Girl You Know It's True" jammed and began to skip, repeating the partial line "Girl, you know it's-" over and over. According to the premiere episode of VH1's Behind the Music which profiled Milli Vanilli, fans attending the concert didn't seem to notice or even care and the concert continued as if nothing had happened, but critics did notice and savaged Rob and Fab in their concert reviews.

Unlike the international release of All or Nothing, the inserts for the American version clearly attributed the voices on the album to Morvan and Pilatus, "brothers of soul". Due to rising public questions regarding the source of talent in the group, as well as the insistence of Morvan and Pilatus to Farian that they be allowed to sing on the next album, Farian confirmed to reporters on November 12, 1990, that Morvan and Pilatus did not sing on the records. As a result of American media pressure, Milli Vanilli's Grammy was withdrawn four days later (however, their three American Music Awards were never withdrawn due to the fact the organizers felt the awards were given to them by music consumers), and Arista Records dropped the act from its roster and deleted their album and its masters from their catalog, taking Girl You Know It's True out of print. (Record stores were also not allowed to return copies of the albums to Arista, and many used stores completely refused to buy copies of the album from others.)

Baby, Don't Forget My Number


After these details emerged, at least 26 different lawsuits were filed under various U.S. consumer fraud protection laws against Pilatus, Morvan and Arista Records. One such filing occurred on November 22, 1990 in Ohio, where lawyers there filed a class action lawsuit asking for refunds for at least 1,000 local citizens who had bought Girl You Know It's True. On August 12, 1991, a proposed settlement to a refund lawsuit in Chicago, Illinois was rejected. This settlement would have refunded buyers of a Milli Vanilli CD $3.00 , a cassette or L.P. $2.00 , and a single $1.00 . However, the refunds would only be given as a credit for a future Arista release. On August 28, a new settlement was approved. The same pricing structure was approved, along with a $2.50 refund to be given for concerts. A proof of purchase or ticket stub was required to take advantage of the refunds. An estimated 11 million buyers were eligible to claim a refund. A deadline to claim refunds expired on March 8, 1992.

All or Nothing


The material for Milli Vanilli's second album had been recorded and finalized in spring 1990. In the autumn, the first single "Keep on Running" was released for radio play, shortly before Farian revealed the truth about Milli Vanilli.

At the last minute, Farian had the artwork to the second Milli Vanilli album changed to depict the actual singers instead of Morvan and Pilatus, changed the album's title from Keep on Running (the name had been meant to correspond with the first single), and changed the artist name to The Real Milli Vanilli. However, the graphic artist who performed the change forgot to update the album cover's spine, so the second album still has the original artist and album name on the spine ("Milli Vanilli - Keep On Running").

The resulting album, released in Europe in early 1991, was renamed The Moment of Truth and spawned three singles, "Keep On Running," "Nice 'n Easy" and "Too Late (True Love)." A Morvan / Pilatus lookalike named Ray Horton was depicted on the cover and provided vocals on four tracks.

Keep On Running


In order to restore their career and prominence after a series of failures, Farian agreed in 1997 to produce a new Milli Vanilli album with Morvan and Pilatus on lead vocals. This all led up to the recording of the 1998 Milli Vanilli comeback album Back and in Attack. Even some of the original studio singers backed the performers in their attempt to bring back some of the fame that had been shed so quickly.

However, Pilatus encountered a number of personal problems during the production of the new album. He turned again to drugs and a life of crime, committing a series of robberies and ultimately serving three months in jail in California. Farian paid for Pilatus to attend six months of drug rehabilitation and plane tickets for him to fly back to Germany. On the eve of the new album's promotional tour on April 2, 1998, Pilatus was found dead after ingesting a mixture of unidentified pills and alcohol according to an Associated Press in a Frankfurt hotel at the age of 32.

Morvan spent the following years as a session musician and public speaker while working on his musical talents. In 1998, he was a DJ at famed L.A. radio station KIIS-FM. During this time, he also performed at the station's sold-out 1999 Wango Tango festival concert before 50,000 people at Dodger Stadium. In 2000, Morvan was featured in a BBC documentary on Milli Vanilli, as well as the premiere episode of VH-1 Behind the Music. Morvan then spent 2001 on tour before performing in 2002 as the inaugural performer at the brand-new Velvet Lounge at the Hard Rock Café Hotel in Orlando, Florida. In 2003, Morvan released his first solo album, Love Revolution. He marketed the album through his website.

Fabrice's new songs "Roll" and "Time Will Reveal" can currently be heard on his MySpace. Fabrice is currently recording new tracks for his second solo album, with a release date yet to be scheduled.

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7 Comments:

Blogger JM said...

My how times have changed; back then people got hysterical when models pretended to be singers. But now, you've got a frat-boy pretending to be President and nobody seems to give a rats' ass.

title="comment permalink">August 10, 2007 8:19 PM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

John, go here and see if you can figure out which line (note for note) was stolen for use in a Phony Baloney song - oops, I meant Milli Vanilli.

title="comment permalink">August 10, 2007 9:50 PM  
Blogger John Good said...

Robert - Boy, I'm gonna hit you!

title="comment permalink">August 10, 2007 9:54 PM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

:)

title="comment permalink">August 10, 2007 10:36 PM  
Blogger Parson said...

After watching those videos I feel unclean. I am hope watching some classic rock videos at Left of Centrist will cleanse me.

title="comment permalink">August 11, 2007 12:40 AM  
Blogger PTCruiser said...

What a sad story. I actually liked their sound at the time. Even if it wasn't their "sound".

title="comment permalink">August 11, 2007 5:46 AM  
Blogger John Good said...

I was surprised that the actual singers didn't do better afterwards - they sounded GREAT! I chalk it up to mismanagement.

title="comment permalink">August 13, 2007 9:15 PM  

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