Obits — June 16, 2014 at 12:01 am

Casey Kasem’s greatest hit: Negativland and ‘the letter U and the numeral 2’

u2

The death of Casey Kasem on Sunday reminded different people of different things, from those long-distance dedications on “American Top 40” to his iconic voicing of Shaggy on “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” But for some of us, Kasem’s greatest achievement was his most unintentional: that in-studio meltdown sampled on Negativland’s notorious “U2” single.

Related: Negativland gives away ‘U2’ multi-track master, invites fans to remix infamous single

The experimental sound-collage outfit issued the single in the months leading up to the release of U2’s Achtung Baby, prompting Island Records to sue Negaitvland over the record’s cover — with a large “U2” emblazoned on the sleeve — and the song, which sampled “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

The track itself is built around a studio tape of Kasem struggling to get through one of his famous long-distance dedications, this one involving “a little dog named Snuggles.” The beloved DJ veers far from his wholesome pop-radio image, declaring, “This is bullshit! Nobody cares! These guys are from England and who gives a shit! Just a lot of wasted names that don’t mean diddly shit.”

Negativland withdrew the single, later chronicling the controversy in a magazine/CD called “The Letter U and the Numeral 2” and the book “Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2.” The single would be re-released in 2001 as “These Guys Are From England and Who Gives a Shit.”

The battle over Negativland’s single shed important attention on fair use, copyright and sampling, perhaps not something mentioned much in this week’s farewells to the legendary radio voice — but an important, if inadvertent and unwanted, legacy nonetheless.

Below, you can listen to the infamous, and infamously profane, track.

 

Audio: Negativland, “U2”

 

 

9 Comments

  1. Paul Moses

    I remember passing up this single in the record store! I kicked myself for years afterwards. Thanks for posting the video!

  2. michael salmons

    Thanks!! This is ALWAYS the first thing I think of when I hear Casey Kasem mentioned. Immediately followed by “Run, Scoob!”

  3. wow, I’ve never heard this before The samples of Kasem’s rants are brilliantly funny. The music is shite though but maybe that was the point?.

  4. Scott Stalcup

    Must work exclamation “Diddly Shit!” into conversation where and when ever possible for rest of my life now.

  5. RIP Mr. Kasem. Will be missed.

    That man introduced me to music as a kid.

  6. This is the B-side of the single, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Special Edit Radio Mix).” Here’s the A-side, the 1991 A Capella Mix.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqse3vYcnaU

  7. Frank Giannantonio

    Howard Stern has been playing that Snuggles clip for years. Casem’s daughter was on once to defend him.

    The dude was having a bad day, and if you listen to the clip, he had a fuckin point.

    Why bring this up now? He’s dead. Why try to paint a negative picture of him?

    Not cool.

  8. Because this has always been a go-to pick-me-up, I naturally presumed everyone knew about it. (Indeed, it was even mentioned in some of the obits.) Thank you for posting this – and, no, I’m not tearing up, there’s just something in my eye.

  9. Where exactly on their website are we supposed to post our remixes? Here’s mine: https://soundcloud.com/robert-rabinowitz/u2-negative-land-rr-remix

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