La Toya Jackson’s claims that her brother Michael was murdered for financial reasons has been given credence by a top music industry insider. “Hell, that sort of thing goes on all the time in this business,” opines former record company executive Barry Buttclinch from his office in Los Angeles. “There are all kinds of reasons why record bosses might want to have an artist they have signed to them whacked, but usually, it all comes down to money.” Buttclinch agrees with La Toya that Jacko is worth far more dead than alive. “Just look at the millions he’s made since he died,” he says. “It’s always the way when an artist dies – not just a huge sales boost, but then there’s all the other merchandising – the memorial T-shirts, teapots and clocks, the books, the retrospective TV specials, the whole damn lot! That’s the truth, there’s no money in the music any more, it’s all in the merchandising.” Indeed, in the case of Michael Jackson, even his funeral proved to be a massive marketing opportunity, with a scale model of his solid gold coffin going on sale within hours of the ceremony. “That was a blast,” chortles Buttclinch, who currently runs a company producing novelty pop memorabilia. “It was even lined in velvet! It was the perfect repository for all those Wacko Jacko action dolls they sold! I heard they came with detachable noses and a range of adjustable skin colours.” Jackson isn’t the first deceased musical artist to have a range of highly dubious post-mortem marketing associated with them. “I can still remember the Kurt Cobain toy shotgun,” recalls Buttclinch. “You stuck it in your mouth, pulled the trigger and blew smoke rings with the exhaust fumes.” It isn’t simply the desire for a quick buck which motivates the liquidation of artists. Death is often seen as the best way to protect their long-term legacies. “Dying can also be highly beneficial, career-wise, for most artists. Let’s face it, most of the dumb bastards go on too long,” Buttclinch muses. “There’s the inevitable late career decline into mediocrity, alcoholism, child pornography and a sordid death in a dumpster. All of which completely destroys their reputation, puling down sales of the back catalogue for years. If they snuff it fairly close to their peak, their reputation stays intact for all time.” Sometimes money isn’t the primary motivating factor in a record company terminating an act, it can simply be a matter of convenience. “Let’s face it, most of them are complete assholes to work with,” Buttclinch says. “Always demanding this or that shit, too off their faces on drugs and booze to perform, wrecking hotel rooms – they’re just impossible. But once they’re dead, all that shit stops. Believe me, it’s all so much simpler. Not to mention cheaper. With no pushers, pimps and other hangers-on to pay off, the profit margins increase beyond all belief!”

Buttclinch, whose now defunct label, Stiffer Sounds, put out material by such seminal pop acts as Men Without Trousers, The Cock Rings and Golden Shower, refuses to say whether he has ever had any of his own acts ‘offed’ for their own good. Nevertheless, Butch Cockfinger, lead singer of the Cock Rings, did suffocate in a bizarre autoerotic accident involving a giant inflatable marrow at the height of their popularity. “That was just fortuitous,” Buttclinch claims. “But I won’t deny that the boost in sales wasn’t welcome – there’s nothing like a bizarre accidental death to shift records.” However, according to retired mobster Derek Yampy, he knows of several former organised crime associates who were involved in the assassination of top recording artists. “Listen, I’m not sayin’ I ever offed any singers, but I knew this one guy, he told me how he was the real shooter in the John Lennon hit,” he says from his retirement home in Florida. “That Mark Chapman guy, he was just a patsy, like Lee Harvey Oswald.” Yampy claims that his friend was also approached by record company executives for the Michael Jackson job. “The plan was for this guy to dress up as Jacko’s chimp, and then attack him, so it would look like a terrible accident,” he explains. “But hey, this guy, he’s seventy four years old now and has crippling emphysema. Dressing like a monkey woulda killed him. In the end, the guy they got to do it did a botched job – some kinda drugs overdose. Those always look suspicious.” Nevertheless, one expert claims that not all pop stars have to be assassinated by their record companies or management, some apparently arrange their own deaths in order to prolong their success. “Look at Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones – he’s been officially dead since 1970 for tax purposes, on the advice of his accountant,” says Howard Furk, an expert on celebrity death scams. “Apparently it has saved him millions! Of course some artists go even further than simply having themselves declared administratively dead, actually faking their own demise.”

Furk, a private detective based in Crawley, Sussex, has investigated several such cases on behalf of top clients connected with the music industry, and has reached some startling conclusions. “Trust me, my extensive enquiries have established, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Lennon and Elvis, most definitely didn’t die under the circumstances claimed,” he reveals. “They simply adopted new identities and continued to enjoy the financial rewards of their past work, without having to endure any of the disadvantages of celebrity – no stalkers, no need to keep the public and record companies sweet, no performing. Indeed, Hendrix and Lennon are still alive to this day, although of pensionable age, of course.” Most startlingly, Furk has claimed that the supposedly dead celebrities spend their time sailing the oceans aboard a luxury liner. Not any luxury liner, but the Titanic. “Believe me, it’s sinking was faked, for tax reasons, and it has spent the last century secretly sailing the world from a secret base in the Antarctic,” he says. “It’s become a secure paradise for the great and the good – it isn’t just supposedly dead pop stars. It’s passengers have included politicians like the Kennedy brothers, actors like River Phoenix and celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith. Only recently, top fashion designer Alexander McQueen joined the passenger list!” Not surprisingly, the private eye’s claims have been dismissed as the delusional fantasies of a demented conspiracy theorist, with allegations that his ‘top music industry client’, is actually the Southern Counties Stephen Gately Fan Club, an organisation run by two fourteen year old girls in Reigate. However, others believe there may be method in Furk’s apparent madness. “It’s all part of the conspiracy,” says Buttclinch. “The big shots in the industry behind all these murders like to spread these kind of stories as a smokescreen, to throw people off of the scent. I mean, the idea of pop stars faking their own deaths is even crazier than the idea of the record companies offing them, so it diverts attention from the truth!”