Music news for the week of November 27, 1998 -- Jude's ''Rick James'' questioned, John Sykes long friendship with John Mellencamp, and two movies about The Who's Keith Moon

Could the timing of Maverick recording artist Jude’s song ”Rick James” have been more unfortunate? The tune, which is scheduled to be released as a single in January and is on the L.A.-based neo-folkie’s recent debut album, includes such provocative lyrics as ”Don’t be fooled/Don’t be flattered/It’s not like you ever mattered.” Jude, 29, insists the song is not an attack on James, who suffered a debilitating stroke on Nov. 9 and is now unable to walk. ”It was a poem long before it was a song, and the poem was written about someone else altogether,” says the singer-songwriter. The song’s chorus, which attempts to replicate James’ super-freaky musical style, came as an afterthought: ”It’s really more of a shout-out to Rick. It’s all about wishing he were there playing with us so we could sound a little funkier.” Both Jude and Maverick express regret at James’ misfortune but say they don’t plan to change the song’s title. Should they reconsider, they could always call it ”M.C. Hammer.”

On VH1’s current John Mellencamp: Behind the Music, a middle-aged friend of Mellencamp’s named John Sykes discusses his buddy’s health, love life, resilience, and general grooviness. What the show fails to divulge is that Sykes is the president of VH1 — not to mention Mellencamp’s former agent and manager. Sykes shrugs off criticism of his incognito appearance. ”If they identified all the ways [my career has intersected] with John’s, you couldn’t see my face on the screen for all the type,” he cracks. But isn’t the station’s long history of Mellencamp boosterism (the rocker is also VH1’s Artist of the Month for November) under Sykes’ watch just a tad curious — especially considering that Mellencamp’s commercial star has faded? Mellencamp had no comment, but Sykes, who no longer has a financial stake in the singer’s career, says his conscience is clear: ”My friendship with him transcends any job I’ve ever had.” Ain’t that America?

The Who’s Keith Moon was essentially chaos personified, so it makes sense that 20 years after his death, the skinsman continues to drum up controversy — in Hollywood, no less. Moon is the subject of two films: Full Moon, based on the book by Moon’s ex-chauffeur Dougal Butler, is currently in development at Paramount with Robert De Niro producing, while Who frontman Roger Daltrey says he is working on a rival, as-yet-untitled film for Warner Bros. Exhibiting a Scrooge-like lack of largesse, Daltrey (who, aptly, is playing the Dickens skinflint in the Theater at Madison Square Garden production of A Christmas Carol) has refused to grant De Niro the rights to the Who’s music. ”I wish them all the best with their film,” says Daltrey, ”but I’m not going to be involved in their film, and it’s as simple as that, nor is the Who’s music.” Although Daltrey’s decision would seem to put the kibosh on the flick (can you imagine a movie about Moon without ”My Generation”?), spokespeople for Paramount and De Niro’s Tribeca Films declined to say if Full Moon will be eclipsed.

Additional reporting by Sandra P. Angulo