Violinist wins fight for royalties after musical interlude in the High Court

A session musician won his claim for royalties yesterday after playing his violin in court to convince a judge he helped to write the biggest hit of the Eighties group the Bluebells.

Bobby Valentino won over Deputy Judge Christopher Floyd at the High Court in London by giving him a rendition of the violin section from "Young at Heart", which reached number eight in 1984.

He was paid £75 for adding the violin to the song after being given an idea of the style and rhythm required, but he received no royalties. The song was re-released in 1993 after it was used in a Volkswagen advert featuring a woman smiling at getting a divorce. It climbed to number one, and led to the Bluebells reforming to play on Top of the Pops, but again the violinist received no royalties.

Yesterday, 48-year-old Mr Valentino, a former member of the Hank Wangford Band who models as a Clark Gable look-alike, said he was "very happy" at the result. He will ask for £100,000 in royalties.

He now shares the copyright with Bluebells' founder member Robert Hodgens and Siobhan Fahey, a former member of Bananarama who was Mr Hodgens' girlfriend at the time, who co-wrote the song.

Mr Hodgens had opposed the claim, saying he wrote the violin part and Mr Valentino's contribution was no more than performing the piece in the studio. But the judge said: "Having heard the piece played, and reflected on the evidence given, I conclude that the violin part does make a significant and original contribution of the right kind of skill and labour to the Bluebells' version of the song. Thus Mr Valentino is a joint author of the copyright in that work."

The judge accepted Mr Valentino was not a member of the group and was hired as a session musician for the recording at the Red Bus Studios in London. But he said although Mr Hodgens gave Mr Valentino an idea of the style he wanted and the underlying chords and rhythm, that did not make him the author of the violin part.

The Bluebells split in 1986 after two Top 40 hits, one Top 40 album and touring America. Mr Valentino did not claim royalties from the success of "Young at Heart" in 1984.

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