Testimony sung out at McLachlan trial
The Vancouver Sun - November 13, 1998
Neal Hall, Sun Court Reporter Vancouver Sun
A music expert sang some of his testimony in a Vancouver courtroom Thursday while Canadian superstar Sarah McLachlan tapped her foot in time to the music played at her copyright infringement trial.
McLachlan's lawyer even got into the act, playing a bit of Mozart on an electric keyboard.
The McLachlan trial is turning into a musical event, with McLachlan herself expected to perform next week when she takes the witness stand.
At issue is who wrote four of the songs on McLachlan's 1988 debut album, Touch.
Darryl Neudorf, 34, a Vancouver record producer and former drummer with the band 54-40, claims he co-wrote the songs Steaming, Sad Clown, Vox and Strange World during the three months he spent helping McLachlan develop and produce songs in early 1988.
Vancouver record company Nettwerk Productions had hired Neudorf in late 1987 to help McLachlan, who at the time was 19 and had never written a complete song before.
She had just moved to Vancouver from Halifax after signing a five-record deal with Nettwerk in October 1987.
Neudorf is suing McLachlan, Nettwerk, her manager Terry McBride and partners Mark Jowett and Rick Arboit.
Neudorf claims he wasn't adequately compensated for helping produce and write songs on Touch, which has sold 624,000 copies.
Most of Thursday's testimony centred on one song in dispute -- Steaming -- and three versions were played for B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen, who is hearing the case without a jury.
The first version of Steaming was contained on a tape known as the Sarah Project, which was sent to Neudorf before he became involved.
McLachlan's lawyer Jennifer Conkie admitted it was an "atrocious" copy because of the poor sound quality.
While the tape was playing, McLachlan turned to reporters sitting at the media table behind her and whispered: "This is where it gets embarrassing."
McLachlan was heard warbling on the tape but the words were almost unintelligible.
The next tape played was the version that Neudorf worked on before McLachlan entered the recording studio in March 1988. It was referred to as the Touch Demo.
The final version was a tape of the song contained on the commercial release of Touch, which was released as a vinyl LP in October 1988.
Neudorf's music expert, Los Angeles musicologist Gerald Eskelin, gave a bar-by-bar analysis of the changes made to Steaming. He said the song was "immensely improved" during Neudorf's involvement which he concluded led to about 90 per cent of the original song being changed.
Eskelin added: "Steaming is a magnificent song -- one of the best I've heard -- sung by a wonderful singer."
Conkie, in her cross-examination of Eskelin, tried to suggest what Neudorf did was not songwriting but arranging and producing.
"Absolutely not," Eskelin said.
He said the three months' work on the songs that Neudorf and McLachlan did in a backroom of Nettwerk amounted to collaborative songwriting.
To illustrate her point, Conkie went over to the portable electric keyboard in court and played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Then she played the Mozart version.
She suggested one is just a different arrangement but the song is essentially the same.
But Eskelin said the song Steaming, like other songs Neudorf worked on, wasn't finished. "Once it's in a fixed form, variation by a producer is arranging," he added.