They did what with my guitar?!

Chicago’s O’Hare International airport became the launching pad for You Tube’s newest video sensation. Just posted this past Tuesday (July7, 2009) on the same day as Michael Jackson’s Los Angeles memorial, the song United Break Guitars by Canadian musician Dave Carroll has already had over 2 million views.

When Dave Carroll, a member of the folk rock group Sons of Maxwell was changing flights in Chicago to reach his destination from Halifax to Nebraska, a fellow passenger noticed that the baggage handlers were literally tossing guitars outside of the airplane. Carroll’s valuable Taylor acoustic guitar which he had recorded 8 albums with was among the casualties, and when he met up with his guitar, he thought it was completely destroyed.

So what did he do? First, in trying to get fair compensation from United Airlines for over a year, he was predictably denied and given the run around. In the midst of that frustration, Carroll spent $1,400.00 dollars to have his main axe repaired, but it still doesn’t play right.

So like any good artist, he wrote a protest song about it, and shot a video in a mere 12 hours with his friends. The result: You Tube gold. Carroll has seen an avalanche of Facebook friends requests, and even an offer for an interview from Oprah Winfrey.

So now, amidst all the fuss, United Airlines is changing their tune (obviously due to the bad publicity), and is trying to “work” with Mr. Carroll so that he is fairly compensated. As Dave himself said, “Every musician wants to get their stuff out there. I just didn’t necessarily expect it to happen in this way.”

Like Carroll, almost every musician can tell you a horror story about catastrophes that happen while travelling on the road. As I’m writing this, I can recall a few personal incidents that were quite hellish at the time: our equipment never made it from London to Ireland when touring with the Police in 1980, and the semi truck that carried the gear on that same tour overturned in France, leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere for 12 hours.

What Dave Carroll has done is to use music and video to make a social statement, as this is something I’ve always tried to do myself as an artist. Plus, Mr. Carroll did it with humor and grace, which is quite hard to do when you’ve been as wronged as he had been. In addition, he promised United Airlines to write a trilogy of three songs about this incident, so there are two more pieces to come. Hopefully, he can turn this very unfortunate event into bringing him a larger audience for his work – even if it happened in the most unusual of ways.

4 Replies to “They did what with my guitar?!”

  1. Shortly after your Liverpool gig with New Order, they were recording on Sept. 22-23, 1980 at Eastern Artists Recording Studio in East Orange, NJ. They were keen on recording there because it was 24-track and “dirt cheap”. Having saved on the recording session, they returned to their Manhattan hotel, where their van containing up to $40,000 of uninsured equipment was stolen.

  2. Mark — I remember them being extremely open and communicative with us backstage. They told us it was their first show as New Order — Thanks for your words — Jim

  3. Unfortunately, this is not surprising nor a rare occurence. UAL very recently broke a guitar that belonged to a friend of mine; it was built just for him, had his name in the fretboard and all. Ugh.

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