#12 Geffen pumps millions into (the nonexistent) Chinese Democracy
Ten years ago, Guns N’ Roses still looked like a good investment—they’d gone platinum 32 times. So in 1998, Geffen Records could be forgiven for paying Axl Rose a million bucks to complete GNR’s fifth album, promising a million more if he delivered it soon. (Rose had already spent four years working on the LP, losing every original bandmate in the process.) Beset by perfectionism, lack of focus and plain-old nuttiness, Rose never got that bonus million. But his label kept spending: In 2001, monthly expenses totaled $244,000. Four producers and a gazillion guitar overdubs later, the album is no closer to release. And Geffen’s in the red for $13 million.
Unintended consequence A frustrated Rose gets into a well-publicized fistfight
with … Tommy Hilfiger!
Just Be Yourself—Or Else
#11 Geffen sues Neil Young for making “unrepresentative” music
At the dawn of the ’80s, David Geffen signed Neil Young to his new record label, promising that “commercial” considerations would never get in the way of art. Young took this to heart, wandering so far off the reservation with albums like 1983’s synth-driven Trans that Geffen filed a $3 million breach-of-contract suit: effectively charging the folk-rock icon with not making “Neil Young” records. Young filed a $21 million countersuit before settling out of court, but remained somewhat bemused by Geffen’s judgment: “He didn’t seem to comprehend how … uh, diverse my musical career had become,” Young said.
Unintended consequence Young’s Happy House and Tejano albums remain on the shelf.