Sunday, September 15, 2013

Datsun: 240Z

One of the first bands on the disco scene, Datsun was ironically one of the first victims of corporate litigation.

Their debut album, 240Z, showcased all the hallmarks of the coming disco era--Johnny Johnson's four-on-the-floor beats, Roger Smith's syncopated bass, Susie Autumn's soaring vocals, and Abraham Washington's prominent Hohner Clavinet. Datsun chose their name to embrace what they felt was the globalization of 20th century culture, and their Japanese-influenced instrumental arrangements polarized critics. Neil Bogart produced 240Z on his Casablanca label (also home of KISS and the Village People), and while singles promoting the album--"Fairlady Z" and "You Touched Me (Over and Over)"--failed to crack the Billboard top 40, DJs saturated the club scene with Datsun's tracks and 240Z went platinum within two weeks of its release. Datsun were nominated for two Grammy awards in 1973.

Unfortunately, Nissan Motor Corporation USA (NMCUSA) did not appreciate the band's use of the Datsun brand name, regardless of the positive cross-market publicity. NMCUSA sent cease-and-desist orders, which the band ignored, and filed an injunction against further sales of 240Z. The legal actions only fueled black-market sales of the album, which Bogart continued to press and distribute off the books. While the album unofficially set unheard-of sales records, Datsun found itself faced with a world tour schedule that included public appearances on every music-related show from Soul Train to Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

Bogart assured the band that his legal team was handling the court battle, and Datsun left on the European leg of their tour. Sadly, Bogart had no actual legal team to speak of, and NMCUSA won a judgment against the band that prohibited further use of the name Datsun in any way, shape or form for perpetuity. The judgment also required payment of damages that ultimately bankrupted the band's members.

Side 1
Read My Lips
Heat on the Street
Fairlady Z
Sakurock Me Baby

Side 2
Speaking in Tongues
You Touched Me (Over and Over)
Morning Beside You