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If 'Zanz' Kant Danz, Kan 'vanz'?

February 07, 1985|ROBERT HILBURN | Times Pop Music Critic

If you've already picked up a copy of John Fogerty's best-selling "Centerfield" album, you probably know that the final selection is titled "Zanz Kant Danz."

But if you go into a store next week for the same album, you'll find that the last track on the LP is titled "Vanz Kant Danz."

A misprint?

A change of creative mind?

Not exactly.

The song is the center of a controversy that appears headed for the courts.

An acidic story about a pocket-picking pig, "Zanz Kant Danz" has been interpreted by some industry observers as a thinly veiled indictment of Saul Zaentz, the main force behind Fantasy Records, Fogerty's former label. Zaentz also has been active in films in recent years, producing the Oscar-nominated "Amadeus" and co-producing "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

An attorney for Zaentz said this week that Zaentz intends to sue Fogerty and Warner Bros. Records, claiming that the song--and recent media interviews--defames Zaentz by holding him up to "contempt, scorn and ridicule."

In those interviews, Fogerty was critical of Zaentz, even blaming his lengthy "artistic paralysis" in part on his frustration over business matters with Fantasy. He suggested in interviews that Fantasy had made a fortune on his music while holding him to a contract that paid a relatively low royalty rate.

Zaentz's attorneys contacted Warner Bros. Records by letter shortly after the album was released last month, objecting to the song.

Sample lyric:

He's silent and quick

Just like Oliver Twist

Before it's over your pocket is clean

A four-legged thief

Paid a visit on you

Zanz can't dance

But he'll steal your money.

Asked Wednesday about the possible suit, Fogerty declined comment, except to say by phone from his studio near Berkeley, "All I did was write a song about a pig."

Shortly after Warners received the letter from the Los Angeles firm of Slaff, Mosk & Rudman, Fogerty re-recorded the song, substituting the name "Vanz" for "Zanz."

Warners' legal department declined to talk about the matter, but a source said that all printed references to the song on future pressings of the album also have been changed to "Vanz Kant Danz." Copies of the LP already in the stores won't be recalled, Warners said.

The album--the first release in a decade by the former leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival--has sold more than 700,000 copies. It's the best-selling album in several local record chains, including Tower, Music Plus and Moby Disc. A single from the album, "The Old Man Down the Road," is also a hit.

Zaentz's attorney, Norman Rudman, said Tuesday, "(In the January notice), we told Warners we were preparing to bring an action against Mr. Fogerty and that the only question was whether we were going to include Warners as a defendant." The latter decision, he explained, would depend on whether the company demonstrated that it was acting "without malice" in releasing the song.

After discussions with Warners attorneys about a meeting to discuss possible changes in the album, Rudman said, his firm was notified "unilaterally" that the only change was going to involve Fogerty substituting the letter "V" for the letter "Z" in the song. "I don't think it matters at this point. . . . It seems that the damage is done," Rudman added. "Changing that one song isn't sufficient."

Zaentz's attorneys also are studying a second "Centerfield" song--"Mr. Greed"--to see if it, too, was intended as a commentary on Zaentz. This selection, which is getting heavy radio airplay, includes the lines, "There's corruption in your path/Be that your epitaph/Mr. Greed." There isn't, however, any reference in the song to suggest that the subject is even in the music business. It could easily be about anyone driven by excessive commercial motives.

Creedence broke up in 1972 after chalking up nine Top 10 singles and an estimated $150 million in worldwide sales on Fantasy. Fogerty, who wrote and sang on such hits as "Proud Mary" and "Bad Moon Rising," then released a solo album for Fantasy before moving in the mid-'70s to Asylum Records, a sister label of Warner Bros. After one LP on Asylum, he took a nine-year break from recording to resolve various legal and financial problems.

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