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It was 1994, Donnie Ienner, was President of Columbia Records, and he called to ask me to be the product manager for Pink Floyd’s new album–which would become “The Division Bell”. At the time the record was not complete and it didn’t have a title. He said that although I had done a ton of promotion, live remote broadcasts, and a lot of creative event style marketing he understood that product management would be new for me. He said ne needed me because frankly, at that time I was the only guy left at the label who the band knew and trusted. Of course that was a big complement and also a bit of a daunting task since, as he said, I’d never been a product manager before (which essentially is seeing a finished album through the process of the album cover, the package, and every stitch of marketing that will be done for the project). He said he needed me for the big strokes and that he would also assign a true product manager to the project who knew how to handle all the details—we would work together. PS. that product manager was named James Diener who is responsible for all of Maroon 5’s success and has gone on to become the President of A&M/Octone Records. A very talented guy (who knows a few good card slights as well).
I had known and become close to the Pink Floyd band and their legendary manager Steve O’Rourke since they signed with the label in 1974. In fact during the summer of 1989 I had been invited to play a song live on stage with them at the London Arena as a belated Christmas present (that’s another story that I’ll probably get to one day, but for now you can see a photo of it under Rap’s Classic Photos in our “cool stuff” section—every time I see it, I have trouble believing it myself!).
I think I had first met Storm during the “Momentary Lapse Of Reason” album and tour but this would be the first time I would work with him and the word was that he was notoriously difficult with record companies (and, even with O’Rourke himself). What I came to realize was that Storm wasn’t intrinsically difficult, he just wanted things done perfectly, so that the very best was achieved—just like me!
What I quickly discovered about being a product manager was, that you found yourself right in the middle of the band’s desires (read “demands”) that the art be the very best it could be, and the record companies desires (read “demands”) that everything be affordable so that the “commerce” can be the best it can be! Ha, ha!
I flew over to London to hear some of the rough bits of The Division Bell album so I could report back to Donnie on how incredibly good it all sounded (made him very happy) and to have my first business meeting with David Gilmour and Storm on their packaging ideas.
The recording studio is built into the Astoria houseboat that David owns and is moored on the River Thames. I suggest you google it to see images as it’s quite extraordinary.
After the listening session we all went up the hill for a nice lunch outdoors to talk. Here is the conversation as I remember it.
Storm: “So Rap, you know those little plastic nibs that hold the album booklets in CDs? We find them quite cumbersome, troublesome, and frankly a great pain in the arse for our fans, or any music fans for that matter! So, we don’t want those on our CD package. Also, since this album is all about communication, we want Braille embossed on CD spine of the jewel case, so those with impaired sight can still feel a part of the total Pink Floyd experience.”
We hadn’t even got to the extra color for the album cover that I knew he was going to ask for which I also knew the label would fight because of costs, and already we were $300,000.00 in the hole if we had to make custom molds just for a new type of CD jewel case!!! Help!!
The initial challenge with all of this was, I WAS ON THE BAND’S SIDE!! Oh, double help! I’d been such a fan and had grown very close to the guys and O’Rourke over the years, besides which I have always tended to side with the artists in general. But I knew that I was going to have to pick my battles and do the very best for both sides (I was very proud of my label and always did the very best job for Columbia as well). I knew deep inside that custom jewel cases were not going to fly for us in the States because way too many “Division Bell” albums were going to be manufactured here. The cost of creating custom molds for jewel cases would just be astronomical and so much money was about to be spent on marketing already (not to mention an insane ideal of my own which came to pass that cost us an extra $250,000). I figured if I was to survive and really do my job the best I could for both parties I had to nip some things in the bud myself and not just be a messenger taking back a list of all the band’s demands to be checked off one by one by some bean counter in New York.
I swear there is a God! And, not just for what happened next (that’s not only a different story, but a whole a different book). Anyway, I swear as I was trying to come up with an answer, someone from above put a big light bulb almost instantaneously in my head. Out of nowhere I somehow had the come back to this major request.
“Storm,” I began, “I know that during this project and campaign that you, and I, are going to have some pretty incredible ideas, and that we’re going to fight for the money to get them done. But think about this. Even if we are successful in talking the record company into creating and building private CD jewel case molds just for this album, do you know how many CDs we’re going to be manufacturing in a very short period of time? Like, at least 4 million!”
Storm came back with my all time favorite answer from any band or manager (do your own best English accent here),…“But, WE’RE Pink Floyd!!” Done and done—can’t argue with that one.
Thankfully the idea sent from above made sense. “But Storm, suppose we go down this road, build the molds which are maybe $150,000.00 apiece. And we know we’re gonna make at least 4 million CD cases for this release—at least one to two hundred thousand a week in the beginning. And suppose in the middle of all this heated jewel case building, one or more of the molds breaks?? Do you know how long it would take to build a new one?!! And, HOW MANY SALES YOU GUYS WOULD LOSE WHILE WE WERE WAITING TO MANUFACTURE IT?!!! I was thankful that somehow this had come to my mind almost instantly but most importantly, it was also the truth. Just not practical for the States.
In the end, I believe EMI in Europe was able to accommodate a run of these jewel cases, but they didn’t press nearly the amount of CDs that we had to.
Dodged a bullet on that one, but here came the fifth color. Printing is usually a four color process, if you need to add a fifth color to enhance a look like a metallic or something extra, it costs more, and a lot more if you’re going to be making somewhere in the vicinity of 4 to 5 million album covers–plus posters, point of purchase material, etc..
There’s a reason why those Pink Floyd album covers are so cool looking folks. It’s because Storm was a genius and was uncompromising in demanding the best quality in the photos and the printing process itself.
The sky on The Division Bell album is one of the most striking blues you’ll ever see. Storm felt he might have to add a fifth blue color to really make it pop—to get the true Pink Floyd mesmerizing experience. I knew the label wasn’t going to want that either (I think there may have even been a rule or something of not allowing fifth colors on album covers), but I was prepared to fight for this one if need be—this is where art had to win for sure.
I left London on pretty much an even keel with the guys. They knew I’d fight for them, but also knew I’d have to be a good soldier for the label as well.
The stories that will follow are nothing short of extraordinary. How ALL the blue came to be—blue sky, blue vinyl, blue cassettes and the creation of The Pink Floyd Airship—the largest psychedelic blimp on the planet and highlights of its amazing adventures during The Division Bell tour.
© Paul Rappaport 2013]]>
In the end, I decided not to say goodbye at all but rather to tell him how much I enjoy his person keeping everything in present tense. So rather than saying “what I’ve loved so much about you” became “what I love so much about you,” etc., and told him I hoped he could knock this thing on its head, one more time. I decided it was not for me to give up or speak about letting go, not knowing if he was ready, and besides, there was always a chance of a miracle right? But alas, it was Storm’s time to leave the planet.
I became Storm’s friend by truly understanding and loving his work, his work ethic, and mostly his person. He was full of sarcastic humor, and even in the most tense of times, with almost impossible deadlines in front of us to meet, or very tough artistic decisions to decide, he always found a way to make things fun, and sometimes even funny. Over the next few weeks I will share some very intriguing stories about this most incredible man.
Here is an amazing fact. If you are a collector of rock albums, believe it or not, Storm Thorgerson probably created about 80% of the album covers in your collection! Mostly known for his brilliant work with Pink Floyd and creating the most famous album cover of all time, “The Dark Side Of The Moon,” he is also the man who created “Houses Of The Holy” for Led Zeppelin, and hosts of other iconic album covers for artists such as Peter Gabriel, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Scorpions, Styx and on, and on, and on, and on.
For Pink Floyd, in so many ways he was almost like the fifth band member, carrying the music through to those most incredible visuals for the fantastic album covers, posters, and movies, making sure we got a complete audio and visual Pink Floyd experience.
The most incredible thing you need to know about Storm is that none of those images were done with computer graphics. They are all photographs taken of physical scenes built and/or created by Storm first. So, the “Wish You Were Here” cover is a photo taken of an actual actor on fire (perhaps being burned in a business deal). For “Animals” it’s a photo of a real flying inflatable pig tethered in between the smoke stacks of the Battersea Power station! The first day of shooting the pig got loose and caused havoc with the jumbo jets flying into Heathrow Airport! The band had actually hired a marksman to shoot it down, just in case the unthinkable happened–and, of course it did. For Led Zep’s “Houses Of The Holy,” Storm hired child actors and put them in costumes to climb those rock formations. And, for “Momentary Lapse Of Reason” those are 700 real beds on a beach. Not ten beds with a computer filling in the rest of the images—700 freaking beds! The funniest thing about that one was, it rained on day of shoot and they had to take the 700 beds off the beach, and put them back on the next day! David Gilmour had told Storm he had a vision of a boy on a bed, and Storm said, OK, great, how’s about one boy and 700 beds!!!!
In an interview Storm did with my buddy Ken Dashow at Q104.3 in New York, he recounted the story behind “The Dark Side Of The Moon” cover. He told Ken that Rick Wright had said, “For once, why don’t you stop with all the big things, big ideas and expensive stuff and just draw something.” So he did, and it became the most internationally known album cover of all time!
I want to tell you one more story here to give you a glimpse of how Storm’s mind worked, and more stories will follow in subsequent writings. But, between what happened this week in Boston,Texas, and with Storm passing away, like the President said, it’s been a tough week, and I’m pretty spent. So, here you go.
The genius of Storm Thorgerson:
I was backstage at a carnival that was created for all the Pink Floyd band, crew, family and friends after the Division Bell Tour performances at Earls Court Arena in London. YES, a for real carnival with rides, booths, games—the whole shot. Pink Floyd doesn’t do anything small, and this was no exception. It was held in a space as big as an aircraft hanger.
Storm came running up to me extremely excited. He said, “Rap, Rap I just came up with a brilliant idea and I have to tell you!! But you cannot tell a soul because I don’t want anyone to copy it!” He made me promise like seven times before he’d tell me.
He was really amped. “Rap, remember how at the beginning of ‘Dark Side’ there is a heart beating? Well, there is going to be a live recording of this Division Bell Tour, and the title of the album is going to be ‘Pulse.’ I am going to create a package with a tiny red light on the spine that is going to pulse at the same rate as a heart beat. The actual package will come to life–be LIVE just like the music!” True to form, Storm had a vision and an image that would meld with, and express the music found inside this beautiful package.
I thought this was truly an amazing idea as it was so creative and at the same time a stroke of commercial genius. But I told Storm it would be an extremely hard sell to the record company because of all the extra costs (light, battery, wiring, etc., etc.). But I’d seen the band get their way before (God knows, I myself, had talked the record company into a million dollar airship that traveled the countryside promoting this same album and tour!).
Well, wouldn’t you know—Storm prevailed (the art always won out when Storm was involved). I happened to be back in London during the release week of “Pulse.” I walked into Tower Records London and there staring me in the face was an entire step-down shelf fully loaded with at least one hundred “Pulse” CD packages all blinking away like crazy! Yes, they seemed ALIVE. Not only could you not miss them, every other package in the store looked dead and uninteresting by comparison!! “Pulse” became one of the most brilliant CD packages in the history of the music business.
That is just the tip of the iceberg of some incredible stories to come.
Farewell to my friend Storm Thorgerson. He gave us all so many images to enjoy, and was uncompromising so that we would be able to experience true art, on its highest level.
© Paul Rappaport 2013]]>
EPISODE THREE – “THE ENTIRE SONY MUSIC CORPORATION WAS BEING THROWN OUT OF ONE OF THE FINEST RESTAURANTS IN THE WORLD!”
BOOZE, COCAINE, FLYING BUTTER PATTIES—FOOD FIGHT! Part Two
I really don’t know why so many of us in the record biz just never grew up. Maybe it’s that 60’s “Youth Generation” thing, or just the sense that having a good dose of fun was so much a part of what helped the business actually run back then. Certainly things have changed dramatically, since the early 90’s I’d say—but the music business in general is a very social business—a business of favors, and of relationships.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s, it seemed like the people who partied hardiest were the salesmen, many of whom would eventually become promoted to the heads of sales. I think it was because, frankly, they drank so much. Most of the salesman were a bit older and came from the heavy drinking days of the 50’s. Whether it was white wine or Chivas Regal Scotch, these guys could drink! And, I mean no disrespect here—those guys were very special and talented in their own ways, and sold millions and millions of records!
I remember having to have a meeting with the LA Branch Manager and his second in command to discuss a big promotion I wanted to do. I walked in on a Friday afternoon, and the first thing they said was, “What would you like to drink?” I said, “Oh, that’s OK, I’m fine.” They said, “No, really, what are you drinking?” And, I replied, “Really nothing,…I’m fine.” They came back a third time, but with heavy punctuation. “Clearly you’re not understanding us, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WILL BE DRINKING?” Light bulb! I am not going to have a meeting with these guys unless we are ALL drinking together. I think it was their way of welcoming me into the club or something. So, I said, “Ohhh, I think I’ll be having some white wine.” They both smiled approvingly and said, “Perfect!” And then invited me to sit down.
I really loved the sales guys. They were a lot of fun and theirs was not an easy job, having to convince buyers to take on boxes of brand new releases with the promise that the label would be breaking these new artists and that consequently those albums would be selling—making the stores money and clearing the way for more inventory. They also had their own way of doing business—lots of times it was straight business and had nothing to do with using facts—just came down to relationships.
One of my all time favorite stories about how much relationships played a part in our business is when I was hanging out with one of the legendary salesmen from the Los Angeles Branch office, Tom Rainey. One of his store accounts was Tower Records in San Diego. He had a southern drawl in his voice, so he used to call them “Tar” Records.
So, one day we go down to Tar Records in San Diego and amongst all the other product we had a brand new Miles Davis album to sell. Here is the priceless conversation between Tom and the buyer.
“Hi Tom, how ya doin’? What have you got today?”
“Well hey there Bill, we have a new release from Miles Davis!”
“Is it new shit or old shit??”
Tom, now getting a bit frustrated, expecting that the buyer should somehow automatically know the answer to his own question says, “I don’t fucking know Bill! Don’t you read your God damn ‘Buyways’?!! (a one sheet that explains all the new releases). Hell, what’s the damn difference if it’s old shit or new shit??”
The buyer now speaking a bit heatedly to make his point—“Well Tom, honestly, The OLD shit, sells way better than the NEW shit!”
“OK, FINE, (Tom thinks for a second)…then it’s the OLD SHIT!!”
“OK, FINE! I’ll take two boxes!”
I thought this was one of the greatest business deals I have ever witnessed—two boxes (50 albums) of Miles Davis albums were sold into Tower Records, San Diego that day and neither the salesman nor the buyer knew the contents of the album!! Didn’t matter—the salesman’s job was to sell the records and the buyer’s job was to buy them—done and done, business deal completed!
The sales guys used to get pretty rambunctious after a couple drinks when we’d go to dinner. One of their favorite things to do was to propel butter patties high into the air until they hit the ceiling of the restaurant–and they would stick up there! Real Frat boy stuff.
But before I go further, I don’t want to keep painting the sales guys as the only wild bunch. That age group liked their Scotch alright, but those of us who came along a bit later, the children of the 60’s and early 70’s had come from an experimental drug culture. (*Special note here to my children and mom: If you are reading this, please remember this was a verrrrrrrrrrrrrry loooooooooooooooooooong time ago).
So, while the salesmen were getting sloshed, we were experimenting with the latest popular drug of the day, Peruvian marching powder. They may have been tossing butter patties, but I remember pulling a pretty crazy all-nighter with my colleague Michael K. (no need to incriminate anyone else here) where we decided to re-arrange all of the furniture in our hotel room at the Century Plaza Hotel during one of the many conventions we attended. Sounds typical, you might say for two guys speeding a thousand miles an hour blasted out of their heads on pharmaceutical cocaine, except for the fact that at the Century Plaza Hotel all the furniture is firmly attached to the walls!! Yep, not a pretty picture (had to clean off a lot of dry wall chunks and dust). I always wondered what the maids thought when they walked in, given that they were used to cleaning all rooms that looked exactly the same.
Anyway, back to the butter patties. The salesmen had perfected the art of flying butter patties down to a science. What you do is take a cloth napkin, hold it by two opposite corners with your thumb and forefingers, and twirl it so you get a nice thick rope effect. Then you let it go slack, place a butter square in the middle (paper side on the bottom leaving the exposed butter facing up) and then very quickly pull your hands apart, snapping the cloth napkin taught—that action makes the butter patty fly up like being catapulted out of a slingshot. If you snap it hard and quick enough the patty will hit the ceiling, and stick!
We got in trouble at a number of restaurants in the city for doing this (now, I want to say right here that although I was complicit in sending champagne bottles tied to parachutes made from bed sheets out many a hotel window, I NEVER SHOT A BUTTER PATTY (maybe a few rolls across the table at folks that weren’t looking, but that was about it– well,…there were the sugar packets, but whatever…).
I was sad the day we got thrown out of our favorite, Romeo Salta restaurant because they were our friends and treated us so well during our many meetings there. We just got too nuts one day, and wayyyyy too many butter patties (and rolls) were flying about. We came back to Black Rock (famous CBS building on 52nd and Avenue Of The Americas), and the head of marketing just ripped us a new one—boy was he mad! Just couldn’t believe grown men, and execs at that, could be capable of such childlike actions.
As it turned out, that was just a foreshadowing of what was to come!
In 1988 CBS Records sold to Sony Corporation and after a couple years we moved to the former AT&T building at 550 Madison Ave. Every year at Christmas time many key members of Sony Music flew in from all over the United States and from all over the world for year end meetings. As one of the perks the company always threw an annual dinner party for us at a well-known restaurant. I can’t remember exactly what year it was (early 90’s I believe) but that year we were being treated to the Five Star legendary Le Bernardin French restaurant on 51st St.. Sony had rented out the entire place for our private party. Must have been well over 150 people.
A few of the guys were feeling their oats again because we had had a banner year. People were getting very drunk very fast, and a few guys started with the butter patties. Immediately, I looked over to the heads of sales and whispered loudly, “Hey, this isn’t Romeo Salta! (which was bad enough), THIS IS LE BERNARDIN! Hellllooooo, one of the finest, and classiest restaurants in the world! We can’t be doing this!!”
Well, they either didn’t understand, where just too happy, or didn’t care. SNAP! There went a butter patty, and then another. Again, I reached over and said, “guys,..really, we have to stop this!” They just laughed and laughed, and then IT happened! One guy miss-fired and the butter patty went sideways and hit a wall. The big problem was, at Le Bernardin all the walls are covered with huge original museum like quality oil paintings!! Oops! We all watched as the butter patty started to slowly slide down this beautiful six feet high classical work of art.
Oh crap. Everyone immediately got real quiet and we all looked away pretending nothing had happened. But one of the waiters must have seen it. The next thing I know the French chef owner of Le Bernardin stormed out of the kitchen yelling, screaming, and waving his hands wildly–throwing an incredible fit, all in French. Then he turned around and stormed back into the kitchen. It all got very quiet again for a few minutes and then all of a sudden I saw people getting up en masse and leaving their seats. I looked over and asked, “What’s going on??” I was told that we were being asked to leave the restaurant. I enquired, “Just the trouble makers??” The reply was no, THE ENTIRE SONY MUSIC CORPORATION WAS BEING THROWN OUT OF ONE OF THE FINEST RESTAURANTS IN THE WORLD! From the President on down—everyone had to leave!
I couldn’t believe it at first. I thought they were joking. But no, we were being kicked out—the whole damn company. I watched in amazement as all of these key executives—label presidents, producers, heads of sales, promotion, press, and marketing people from all over the world, all got their coats one by one and walked out the front door. Wowzers!
After a few stunned minutes, the only people left, standing in amazement, were me and three of my colleagues. Everyone had gotten through most of our dinner and waiters had set up a giant table the length of the restaurant ready to serve dessert buffet style. The table was full of the fanciest French desserts on the planet—pies, cakes, fruit tarts, ice creams, chocolate covered profiteroles, etc., etc., etc..
Well, I have a real sweet tooth and I LOVE desserts. I appealed to the French waiters that were left. “Hey guys, I am so very sorry and we are so very embarrassed. But this all happened because of just a very few people who got too out there, and most of us aren’t like that. Besides, my friends and I frequent this restaurant often for business meetings and personal special occasions. It would be a shame to see all of these beautiful and wonderful desserts go to waste! Don’t ya think?? Can’t my few friends and I please stay, sit back down, have a cup of coffee, an sample some of your most artful treats?”
By then the waiters were just disgusted so they said, “Fine!” and left in a huff. My three friends and I were the only ones in the restaurant gorging on every dessert on the table! We stacked up dinner platefuls, sampling every last item. It was amazingly great but also amazingly rich and we so overly gorged ourselves that we all felt just awful for the rest of the evening—ha, what a night!
Well, that night became the stuff of legend–although the kind of legend that wasn’t a plus for us. The next year’s Christmas Dinner had to be held in a much less fancy, and less well-known restaurant, because it had to be held outside of New York City! In fact, the next year’s dinner was held in Long Island City–turns out all the restaurants in New York had heard about that fateful evening and NO one would allow us in for dinner!!! I’m actually laughing as I’m writing this—grown men, big corporation, but hey, that’s the record biz!
Well, this writing was a bit long, but as always, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the stories.
Next chapter will be one of my all time favorite adventures—THE PINK FLOYD AIRSHIP—commissioning one of the biggest blimps in the world to be painted psychedelic and turned into a Floydian flying machine, blowing minds all across the country while promoting “The Division Bell” album.
Take care and all the best,
© Paul Rappaport 2013]]>
This week we will take a break from the book I am writing on these pages titled AMAZING TALES From The Record Biz—You Can’t Make This Shit UP! so that we can spend a few moments remembering the great Alvin Lee.
We will have a memorial page set up soon on the site with photos and a nice obituary that was done for him.
I first met Alvin Lee sneaking into The Los Angeles Forum. He wasn’t sneaking in–I was, to meet him. And let me tell you something—sneaking into The Forum is impossible (well, nearly).
Clive Davis had signed Ten Years After to Columbia Records in the early 70’s and being a guitar guy, I was in heaven!
During early college years a bunch of us were into The Blues Project who featured Danny Kalb playing lead guitar, and at the time he was known as the fastest guitar player going. Later someone played me “Woodchopper’s Ball” by Ten Years After, and I was positively floored! Who the hell was THIS guy?!! For that matter, who was this whole band? They were all like musical gymnasts, playing at lightning speed (I wonder if the guys in Slayer ever listened to those records??).
At any rate, by 1973 Alvin had left Ten Years After looking to branch out musically. As I recall, Alvin was opening for The Who at the Forum with his new band and had Mylon Lefevre , a young gospel rock singer (and very funny guy) with him at the time. I eventually struck up a nice friendship with the both of them, but I also want to tell my story about sneaking into The Forum here because I don’t think anyone else ever has due to their legendary tight, Fort Knox like security, and I did it in the name of meeting one of my all time guitar heroes, Alvin Lee. In fact, our very first meeting was pretty funny.
I was the local album promotion man for Columbia Records and was going to the show. I didn’t have a ticket because the place was completely sold out. The plan was for me to get in backstage, meet Alvin, and then go out to the audience where the head of singles promotion, Terry (“The beauty is on duty!”) Powel, would give me his seat after seeing Alvin’s set and a Who song or two.
So, I go to the backstage entrance (load-in dock) with my credentials, and of course, wouldn’t you know it, my name is not on the list. Happens to the best of us. In fact it happened to Bob Dylan once and it was HIS show! Believe it or not, the guard wouldn’t let Bob in!!! Didn’t believe he was Bob, or didn’t care as he was under strict orders—no name—no get in. That guy got fired of course. Anyway, I decided to go to The Forum offices to explain my case. Easy-peasy right? I’m a Columbia exec coming to see my band. No, not so easy—“Sorry your name’s not on the list.” No luck there, so I went to The Forum Club and met all the big honchos, showed them my Columbia credentials, and…still no luck! No one, wanted to let me into The Forum! I walked around the whole building trying to open the many doors that are available and they were mostly all locked except for the ones who had security guys posted as soon as that particular door opened—no way I’m getting into this buttoned-up joint!
After two hours of futile attempts, I decided rather than give up, to make it MY MISSION to talk my way into this place and to meet Alvin Lee!
I finally went back to the guard at loading dock and said, “LOOK, here are my Columbia Records’ credentials. I’m carrying a briefcase for God’s sake—do I look like a groupie?!!! I pleaded with him to just call the promoter or someone in Alvin’s camp to let them know I was there. But, “Hey sir, IT’S THE FORUM, your name’s not on the list”—no go.
Finally I took a page out my father’s book (he was a very bigger than life character who grew up in Brooklyn, moved to California and dressed like a cowboy but still retained his New York “personality”—had his own creative ways of convincing people). I got creative.
I said to the guard, who’s name was on his badge, “I REALLY need to get in to have a business meeting with Alvin Lee (which was kind of a white lie at the time cuz I just really wanted to meet him), and if you don’t call someone to let them know I’m here, tomorrow I am going to take out a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times and it’s going to say that YOU, with your name listed, did not let ME, a bona fide Columbia rep into The Forum to see my own act! You and The Forum will be roundly embarrassed! In fact, I think I’ll make it a double truck ad—two pages! Can you see it?! YOUR NAME in GIANT LETTERS on a fold out spread in the Los Angeles Times!!!” Do you think The Forum honchos will like that???! And don’t think I won’t do it, because I am one crazy mother f*cker!!!”
Now, I’m not fond of people who throw their weight around, and I was not particularly proud of myself for treating the guard that way—but it worked! He got a little scared, called back to the inner sanctum and sure enough someone knew me and told him to let me in. F-i-n-a-l-l-y! First part accomplished, but at The Forum, that’s just the beginning of the security—there are two more checkpoints backstage before you can get into a band’s dressing room. I waited ‘till the security guys were dealing with other problems and somehow sneaked past them. When I got to Alvin’s dressing room, I just had to talk my way past his private security guard. I can’t remember what cock and bull story I told him, but I think carrying my briefcase helped.
After a full three hours of running around the whole building, begging, pleading, and sneaking, I was finally let into Alvin’s dressing room. By that time I was all hot and sweaty, pretty disheveled and just spent, but there he was sitting in a chair, warming up with that big red guitar—I finally was going to meet one of my all time guitar heroes!
I relaxed for a moment, got myself together, took a deep breath, walked up to him and began to speak, “Hi Alvin, my name’s Paul Rappaport, and I’m with Columbia, and I just want to say…” Before I could finish, he looked up, promptly waved me off, and said “Talk to me manager mate, talk to me manager!” That was it! After all that hard work—all the running around, the begging, the sneaking, the pleading–I was completely blown off with the wave of a hand—simply dismissed–my big moment dashed in a matter of seconds. Ha, ha! The truth was, at the time he had absolutely no interest in meeting anyone from his record company!!!! After all that!!! I really had a good chuckle at the time–I’m even smiling now as I remember him laughing good-naturedly with me, as I walked away shaking my head, to meet…his manager.
Another funny part of this story is when I walked out into the house and went upstairs to meet Terry. The Forum is also notorious for everyone having to have a seat—no standing room. But there were NO EXTRA SEATS because the place was totally sold out, and the security guards couldn’t figure out how one extra human had gotten into the building (because of course that was impossible)—there was absolutely NO place to seat me! They were bugged beyond belief and finally they just gave up and let Terry sit in my lap for a few songs (which was hysterical in and of itself!).
Well, of course, I finally did meet Alvin again and got to spend some quality time with him and Mylon (who we used to call “nylon” for fun). The pair of them together was like watching Laurel and Hardy! Maybe more like Abbott and Costello, as Alvin was the more serious, and always trying to reign in Mylon who was always cutting up but also trying hard to show Alvin that he was responsible. In fact, Mylon and I, and his band once got stuck in a cave in Topanga Canyon after getting high as kites and then realizing we had to walk back over a very scary ledge over looking the canyon. We had to be on time for a recording session with Alvin so Mylon told us all to hold hands so if one of us fell over the cliff the others would pull him back—yeah right! Eight totally stoned musicians holding hands on a dangerous cliff all the while with Mylon leading the chant, “We can’t be late for Alvin, we can’t be late for Alvin!”
The thing about Alvin Lee is, it was always about the music and the guitar. He didn’t care much for the star-maker-machinery, in fact, I’d say he railed against it which is why he probably was nonplussed that first day I tried to meet him. But, he was one of the good guys, and what a great player he was! Some folks think that he was a one trick pony–that he became famous and well respected for his speed on the guitar alone, but that’s not true. Alvin could play guitar like nobody’s business, and in all kinds of varied styles and tempos.
In fact, part of why Judy and I are so stunned about Alvin’s sudden passing is that we have been, and are still are promoting his new album as I am writing this. We just had a round of fun radio interviews a couple weeks ago and the day Alvin passed I was actually setting up another blockbuster with Jim Ladd from SiriusXM! I will try and see if we can post those interviews, on the website here because although it may be a bit eerie, I think you guys would dig to hear what this rock icon had to say.
I will tell you this—if you want to hear a really great and entertaining album, get this new one titled “Still On The Road To Freedom.” You will have a blast listening to it, the songs are all really good, and Alvin covers many different guitar styles and nails each and every one! And, he is singing better than ever!
Isn’t it interesting that of all the bands that played Woodstock and all the images we have of Santana, Country Joe, John Sebastion, Jimi Hendrix, etc., etc., the one that sticks in our minds the most is Alvin Lee and Ten Years After doing “I’m Going Home” and after, he walking off the stage with that big watermelon on his shoulder!
Rock icon and one of he all time greats. Alvin Lee, is finally going home. I’d say rest in peace, but knowing Alvin he probably has a full head of steam on and trying to hook up with Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison for a jam session in Heaven!
Let’s not be sad because we’ve lost Alvin, let’s smile because we were lucky enough to have him.
Once again, thanks for reading and next time we will return to more Columbia Record’s antics and the art of how to flip butter patties and make them stick to the ceiling. PS. Not good when you’re at Le Bernadin, the famous five star French Restaurant in midtown Manhattan!
© Paul Rappaport 2013]]>
EPISODE TWO – The LA Branch was legendary for it’s outrageous behavior. Our fearless leader once had to sit us down for an actual business meeting to discuss the fact that at the upcoming summer convention we would no longer be allowed to set our table on fire. Yes, a real meeting to discuss that! (and, knife throwing was out as well).
FUN PRIORITIES–FREE RECORDS–FOOD FIGHT! Part One
These next few stories are designed to give you an idea of the overall view of the times. Yes, business had to be accomplished but there was also an important camaraderie that held us together, and there was a big priority on fun and party. Indeed, sometimes the fun seemed almost important as the business. The music industry is very social and in some ways we were not forced to grow up because of the kind of business it was back in the day. Hence, many of us remain big kids, just cleverly disguised as responsible adults.
For instance, circa 1975, in the Los Angeles branch office water gun fights were common in the summer, and in the winter from time to time there would be afternoon bowling in the halls played with a plastic set of pins that I bought at the local toy store.
One summer I placed a bucket of water over the inside of the branch manager’s door and it landed on him as he entered his office. Everyone had a good laugh but he was a little pissed because he was wearing a suit at the time. So, one day I was sitting in my office and the ultimate retaliation came–and with a vengeance. The branch manager knocked on my door, entered, and unloaded an entire Super Soaker Blaster on me. It was the newly invented, biggest water gun in the world and it came with an extra pouch of water that he had strapped to his waist. The scene looked like something out of a sit com—I sat dumbfounded in my chair, totally soaked from head to toe, dripping big puddles of water onto the carpet. This from the man who was in charge of the entire LA sales branch—big kids indeed!
Let me flashback to the beginning for a moment. I began my career as a College Rep for Columbia Records in 1969. I was going to UCLA and was coaxed into the position by the company telling me that amongst other perks, I would get all my records for free. I was on the phone with Bob Moering, the man who would become my first boss and teach me so much about the business. I told him that I was a “serious” blues guitar player (hysterical!) and that I loved music but was very hesitant about the music “business” part of it all. When he started to list all the perks and got to the free records part I stopped him in his tracks and asked, “Are you serious? All my records for free?? That’s impossible, Columbia is such a HUGE label.” He said yes, that it was, but I would get all my records for free, and that also people at the other labels traded for their records as well. I was totally flabbergasted, and I told him I’d hop in my car and be right there! He had to talk me off the ledge and beg me to come and see him the next week when he had time for a real meeting as I was so bent on driving IMMEDIATELY to see him.
The interview was kind of funny in that Bob (a very big kid in his own right) was pretty straight and I was a total hippy freak (super big afro, mustache and goatee). But he was very cool and could see behind all the hair that I was quite knowledgeable about the new rock music Columbia was putting out and also had a good head on my shoulders. He hired me, and always had a good chuckle referring to me, and my later counter part at Long Beach State, as his “random freaks off the street.”
So, my first day at work I just had to see if this free record thing was for real. I filled out a gratis form for EVERY Miles Davis album the guy had recorded on Columbia—it was like 20 albums or something, and I’m thinking, this ain’t never gonna happen. Two weeks later a bunch of boxes show up on my apartment doorstep—holy sh*t!! Twenty plus Miles Davis albums!!! OMG, I was in heaven.
When I got married three years later, my new wife walked into an apartment with no furniture, just some big cushions to sit on, a stereo system, and 10,000 record albums!!!!
I eventually graduated and got a full time job as Local Album Promotion Manager for Los Angeles. Two years later as FM radio was becoming increasingly popular I got promoted to Regional Rock Album Promotion for the Western Region (my territory covered all of California, Arizona, and all the way up to Seattle). Rock music was exploding, Columbia was right in the middle of it, and they needed a rock expert to promote this music and someone who could relate to the longhairs who were taking over the FM airwaves. Well, me being the “random freak off the street,” with my big fro and facial hair seemed to be perfect—I looked exactly like them! Truth was, I related to the folks at the radio stations more than to some of the folks at the record company for a while because we were all the same age and had like minds—we were sort of all hippies together and I just happened to work for the record company and the they just happened to work for a radio station. The one thing we had in common was, that we were all workin’ for “The Man” and all of us were trying to come to grips with that one (but that’s a longer story).
Let’s get back to those fun priorities. In today’s world when someone gets promoted they’re likely to get a few e-mails from close friends and hopefully some sincere notes from co-workers. But more often than not, it seems that the work place has become a bit colder in general (I’m sure you haven’t seen much bowling in the halls lately, right?) and too often one sees petty jealousies and some folks even intimidated by another’s advancement. It’s kind of sad to me–not enough joy being spread around, etc.
Well, the ‘70’s were wayyyyyyyy different. At that time, Columbia Records’ was also known as “The Family Of Music.” And it was, indeed, a family. People watched out for one another, most bosses took care of their people and protected them. And, just like a family, when something good happened for someone there was A BIG PARTY!
My promotion celebration was in the conference room on the 12th floor of our offices overlooking the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. It wasn’t all that expensive, very homey with finger sandwiches, cheese, crackers, some fruit, a big cake, and of course, the record biz staple—champagne, lots and lots of champagne! As corks popped, in no time at all, we started to get very “happy” and I was being roundly congratulated, back slapped, and all the rest.
By the title of this chapter you may be already anticipating that some sort of food fight was in the making. Here’s the thing about food fights–you’re use to them when you’re in high school or college. But when you get into the real grownup world, you really don’t expect to see them, much less be participating!
The actual row started innocently enough, people making fun of me, and then people making fun of each other. Then someone threw a roll at someone, and that someone retaliated with a piece of fruit. The man in charge of the four branch offices in the western region–LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver–sat at the head of the table. He was our “Godfather” so to speak.
The conference table was actually two long tables pushed together. Boy did that come in handy, because when someone shot a champagne cork across the table and hit another guy on the side of his head, that’s when all hell broke loose!
By that time we had certainly bypassed feeling “happy” and were well on our way to out of our minds!
It happened so fast I could hardly believe it. All out war had erupted between one table and the other. Champagne corks were flying like bullets and crackers whizzed by like Ninja throwing stars. All of the sudden both tables were turned over and dragged to opposing sides of the room. Each “army” took refuge behind their table and food really began to fly. Big chunks of my cake were used as hand grenades splattering over everyone upon impact. Peoples’ heads would pop up from behind their table long enough to take aim and fire another cork, or throw a glob of fruit across the room. It finally became violent as whole empty champagne bottles were being hurled into opposing camps.
As munitions were getting low, we finally decided to charge the enemy. We grabbed a bunch of computer sales printouts, used them as shields and bum rushed our opponents. We “captured” their captain (the Godfather) and wrapped him up in the printouts, which were on one sheet of continuous paper. When we were finished he looked like a mummy from head to toe, and the only thing sticking out was his famous red ponytail.
When we finally left, the conference room was a total disaster. The next day the walls had to be washed down and the carpet replaced. Someone had taken pictures but those would never see the light of day.
The LA Branch was legendary for it’s outrageous behavior. Our fearless leader once had to sit us down for an actual business meeting to discuss the fact that at the upcoming summer convention we would no longer be allowed to set our table on fire. Yes, a real meeting to discuss that! (and knife throwing was out as well).
Ahhhh, the good ol’ days! Stay tuned for next time, when the entire Sony Music company en masse gets thrown out of one of the finest restaurants in the world! And, I am asked to build and entire table of food at a party just so Leslie West can throw Keith Moon, head first, into it!!
Thanks for reading,
© Paul Rappaport 2013]]>
Here then, are some fantastic stories that I call: AMAZING TALES From The Record Biz—You Can’t Make This Shit UP!
There will be ongoing episodes on these pages but from time to time I will shift gears and continue to blog about current music events that cry out for comment.
EPISODE ONE – “OMG!! We’re all gonna go to jail for this one!”
THE BIG GREEN LASER
It was early spring 1976, and we were standing on top of Signal Hill in Long Beach, CA. Actually, standing on top of a work shed on top of Signal Hill. It was Paul Sullivan, the program director at the time for the big rock station there, KNAC FM, a small crew of guys from the Laser Light Laboratory in the San Fernando Valley, and myself. From that height we could see the whole city of Long Beach and all of Orange County.
On top of the shed lying across the roof was a nine foot, 30 Watt, Argon Laser canon—designed to shoot for 30 miles! I had seen it on the local news and called the laboratory to see if I could rent it. Laser technology was brand new at the time and a few rock bands were experimenting with these powerful light beams as part of their production. One of those bands was the Blue Oyster Cult and I was promoting their new album “Agents Of Fortune” (yep, that’s the one with “The Reaper” on it). I was also promoting their upcoming Long Beach Arena show, which would feature their new laser tunnel effect (an entire arena sized audience completely engulfed inside a giant sheet of swirling laser beams).
And, I had the biggest and baddest laser beam on the planet at my fingertips, ready to do a free light show in the skies for the whole city of Long Beach and surrounding Orange County areas while KNAC debuted the new album from beginning to end.
There was a strong feeling of trepidation for a few moments and then we heard the command from the crew chief — “Fire it up!” Instantly there was this gigantic beam of hot green light that was so insanely massive, that all of our jaws dropped at the exact same time. “Holy sh*t!!!!” The thing was so huge, shot so far out across the sky, and landed at such a far distance on the horizon (yup, 30 freakin’ miles, as advertised), that it scared the hell out of us and our first gut reaction was to immediately shut the damn thing off as fast as we could! None of us had ever witnessed anything with this kind of sheer power before and all of us were thinking the exact same thing, “OMG!! We’re all gonna go to jail for this one!”
But I had done due diligence, getting permission from the local authorities and even from the Long Beach airport as they didn’t want any of their big 747’s to land on us thinking that we were the runway!! True!
It was scary all right, but once we caught our breath we saw that the beam was also bold, and beautiful, and elegant in its strength. Now, we just had to control it.
Paul had the Blue Oyster Cult album timed to be played from 8 to 9 PM and we began our light show across the sky pulsing the laser and doing fan moves to the beat of the songs. Because this was a live remote, we could also break in between songs to talk to the listening audience, who by the way, were all having “laser light show parties” at their houses sprawled out on blankets on their lawns drinking wine and getting high as they listened to the music on their FM stereos while gazing up at the huge light show above them in the sky. As we swung the gigantic beam around to hit another area, Paul got on the mic and said, “Dig this Orange County!!” Woosh! A giant trail of light shooting out thirty miles looked like smeared green paint in the atmosphere as we swung the beam from left to right by 30 degrees. If you’ve ever seen the Northern Lights, it looked kind of like that only bigger, much longer, and way more intense.
Wow–this was turning into a huge event, and everything was going just swimmingly until something unexpected happened. What we didn’t realize was, that if you shoot a laser beam of this size off a very high hill that can be seen by all the locals, they will get into their cars and try to drive to the source of the light! Uh, oh.
In about 15 minutes all kinds of cars and kids were driving up the roads to Signal Hill looking for us. They certainly found us, and then they just kept coming and coming. In about a half hour our little plot of ground was strewn with cars all blaring Blue Oyster Cult music out their door panels and people standing and cheering the laser beam as it pulsed across the sky. You have to understand that laser technology was just in its infancy, so most people had never seen anything like it. And if per chance they had, they’d never seen anything this damn big! Some of the kids started drinking and getting high, and it became a real party on the hill beneath our feet. More and more cars were coming and we had no security—but, who would have thought, right?!
Some of the kids got feisty and wanted to experiment themselves—they started throwing their car keys up into the beam to see what would happen. This caused the light to reflect and refract and we had to make announcements to the crowd to lay-off because we didn’t know the consequences of such actions—melted car keys for one?? Perhaps eye damage as the light got reflected in a myriad of directions—who knew?!
Then the unthinkable happened. All of the sudden the water supply that was cooling the giant laser suddenly stopped flowing. CA-RRRRRRR-ACK!!!! We watched in astonishment as the glass tube started to rupture! Holy crap—in fact, holy crap squared!!
Sullivan had made a deal with Shell Oil to turn on one of their water pumps on Signal Hill so that we could cool the big laser. Someone three miles away in their main plant saw the valve on and it wasn’t tagged, so they had simply shut it off!
I thought it was the end of the world and that I’d be fired for sure because the laser laboratory would sue Columbia Records for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Turned out, luckily for me, that they were insured and so the only thing that ended was the promotion event. We had gotten three quarters of the way through the record though, so the point had been made and everyone thought it was a dazzling display of total cool. We even got written up in the local paper.
Yes, it was a magical time in the music business to be sure. You could call the record company headquarters, tell them that you had a very creative and totally insane plan, and if they thought it could sell come records and heighten an artist’s visibility, they’d actually give you the money to do it! In fact, when I called New York and told them I wanted to rent the big laser they said, “Great! Can you get two of ‘em?”
More stories to come.
Thanks for reading,
© Paul Rappaport 2013]]>
Yes, no matter what age, so many of us seem timeless, and I think the music has had a lot to do with that.
It’s that time of year again and I received a request for another “Classic Rock Holiday Gifts” suggestion list. Instead of doing it the “Letterman” way, I am going to start with my favorites first!
|BARNES & NOBLE||RedisCover Jigsaw Puzzles
You won’t find anything better out there than these!! Iconic, Classic Rock album cover jigsaw puzzles!!!! OMG! People are going mad for them! There’s eight in all, made by Rediscover, including Bob Dylan’s “Free Wheelin’,” Jimi Hendrix “Axis Bold As Love,” Rolling Stones “Let It Bleed,” Grateful Dead, “Aoxomoxoa,” and more!!!! And, here’s the kicker, each is two sided featuring the original front AND BACK cover! Plus there are some cool facts on the package about how each cover was made and interesting notes about the albums themselves. Immediately go to Barnes & Noble, buy every one in sight, and give them to your friends!
|Led Zeppelin Celebration Day CD & DVD
Second, and not by much, I highly recommend gifting the new Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” CD and DVD! The band rehearsed for months for this performance and it shows. It’s the best Led Zeppelin performance you’ll ever see, the musicality is just stupendous, and frankly, it’s so good it simply defines rock. Every household should have one, like a refrigerator or TV set.
|ION of NUMARK VINYL > MP3 TURNTABLE
This is a repeat, but it’s important—a turntable! You can get one that will even transfer your vinyl to CD, and that would be an Ion or Numark. I got one, but honestly don’t even do the transferring—just enjoy listening to vinyl again. And lest you think that’s “OLD,” think again! Vinyl is the rage and all bands are putting some out as a younger generation seeks to really “HEAR” fidelity! Yup, it’s true.
|PINK FLOYD IMMERSION BOX SET(S)
I didn’t do this column last year, so I highly want to recommend that you get some of Pink Floyd’s recent “Immersion” box sets. “The Dark Side Of The Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “The Wall” are all, OUTSTANDING. The newly mastered versions of the original albums really sound amazing, and each box is chock full of rarities and live recordings never before heard. Plus, you get a cool scarf, designed by Floyd visual master himself, Storm Thorgerson!
|GUITAR-SHAPED ICE CUBE TRAY
Our webmaster turned me on to a Guitar Shaped ice cube tray!! Wait ‘till you see this!! Perfect for holiday parties… you gotta have it!
|LIFE WITH THE BEATLES (BOOK)
If you’re a Beatles fan (and I don’t know many who aren’t, at least in some way), you should check out “LIFE With The Beatles.” The photos were taken by band’s official photographer, Robert Whitaker, and lots of them are pictures we’ve never seen before. Some are iconic shots for sure, but many are candid and you can really get a sense of the guys as just normal human beings. In this hardcover, you really and truly get an “inside” look at John, Paul, George and Ringo—fascinating.
|ROLLING STONES 50×20 (BOOK)
Similarly, but in a different way, the hardcover “Rolling Stones 50X20″ has some extraordinary photos taken by twenty of the world’s greatest music photographers. These are the kind of photos that you find yourself staring at for long periods of time. And, if you are a Stones fan like I am, they conjure up all kinds of provocative feelings. Also reminds you of a magical by-gone era which will never happen in quite the same way.
|BLUE OYSTER CULT COLUMBIA ALBUMS COLLECTION
Do you know what Absinthe is? It’s a very trippy drink that has all sorts of strange spirits in it. Famous painters and writers from back in the day used to drink it to hallucinate. In fact, it’s so powerful it is illegal in this country (I get mine from friends in France—oops!). Well, the Blue Oyster Cult are the Absinthe of rock! Amazing, out of this universe, metaphysical lyrics combined with great, rock musical composition sets them apart from all others. Those in the know, KNOW. The newly mastered stuff makes all the early albums seem up to date sound-wise, so you can really crank the sh*t up in your car and get that magical feeling. Also, cool rarities, a DVD, and download cards for some of their most historic concerts. Find some Absinthe (Google it so you can see how to prepare the “green fairy” drink), and turn up the volume on “The Red And The Black,” “Harvester Of Eyes,” and more—and you will definitely be in a very “different place.” Kind of like Alice falling down the rabbit hole of rock!
|HEART STRANGE EUPHORIA BOX SET
// KICKING & DREAMING (BOOK)
I also recommend you look into “Heart: Strange Euphoria” Box set and/or their new book, “Heart: Kicking & Dreaming.” These women have fought the good fight, been true to their music, and rock your socks off in concert! And they have quite a story. FINALLY, they will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame this year. Wayyyyyyyyy overdue!
|2012′S NEW CLASSIC ROCK RELEASES
Lastly, but not leastly, in the least little bit, I want to give my thumbs up to some great releases that came out this year that I think are worthwhile as holiday gifts because they’re that good! Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” has a whole lot of power and meaning in there, Van Halen’s “A Different Kind Of Truth” has to be the comeback album of the decade—crank that up in the car with the windows down, and you will be totally set free! Rush’s “Clockwork Angels” is one of the best they’ve ever done (could actually be their best yet!). Another late addition to the Rock Hall (I think they put them in ‘cuz fans were getting so nuts they probably would have burned the joint down if the guys didn’t get in this year! Ha! But true!). Other highlights include Joe Walsh’s “Analog Man”—what a comforting voice and can that guy play or what?!! And also, Don Felder’s “Road To Forever.” If you want to hear how an album is SUPPOSED to sound, check out the production on this—also some very moving songs and tasty, Felder guitar licks.
So, that’s it kids! Hope this helps if yer stuck for ideas or discovered some things you’d like for yourselves.
Happy Holidays to you all!
But the 40th Anniversary Blue Oyster Cult show WAS F*CKING KILLER!!! After 40 years this band still brings it and they are playing better than ever.
The highlight for me was when all the original members gathered at the end of the evening for a few songs and they launched into “The Red And The Black”!! OMG, it was stellar!!
I go wayyyyyyyyy back with these guys. I was just a young promotion man working for Columbia Records in Los Angeles when one day an album shows up with the most far out cover I’d ever seen, and the name of the band was equally out there.
I got into the music and really wanted to help make them happen.
I turned my buddy, Ron McCoy, the program director of Long Beach’s rockin’ KNAC on to the band and he started playing them. He got listener requests, so he played them more.
I decided to put on a big concert at the Long Beach Arena for the band and approached the husband and wife who owned the radio station. I said, “Look, I can go to the local promoter and set this up, but why don’t you rent out the arena and promote the show yourselves and YOU make all the money!!” They thought that was a brilliant idea. In order to sell tickets they asked Ron to play the Blue Oyster Cult all that more often on their radio station which, in turn, not only sold tickets, but plenty of more albums as well!
I wanted to do something spectacular so I had their famous logo cut out on a steel plate, then put it into a Super Trouper spotlight, and projected it on the side of the Long Beach Arena—it had to be at least 100 feet by 100 feet!—the entering crowd went nuts when it lit up, and traffic along Ocean Blvd. turned into a bonnified traffic jam as everyone slowed to check it out!
The whole thing was a huge event. It turned out to be the biggest show the band had played to date. We did a similar gig in San Diego two nights later with Mike Harrison at KPRI.
After that, the band was seen as a larger venue size act, and their career really started to take off.
The band are all great guys and we became friends.
On their second tour they came to town and wanted to show me a cool guitar they had just picked up—it was a 1962 Les Paul Jr. I was always interested in what guitars Buck was playing and from time to time he’d show me a lick or two.
They knew I was a player and would really appreciate this fine instrument. So, I picked it up out of the case and started playing it—what a fabulous feel and look. I told Buck he had really found himself a nice piece. They said, no that’s not Buck’s guitar—that’s YOUR guitar! We can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for us. Really man, thanks for everything—enjoy!
Wow, I was totally overcome. In this business you don’t get many thank-you’s. This one was a doozer!! It was my favorite go-to guitar for years and years and I enjoy playing it to this day–the neck is a bit wider than most but also thinner. So the action is very fast and it has an original hand wound P90 pick up!
Every now and then and I will tell you when I believe there is a good piece of product worth buying. This is definitely the case for the new Blue Oyster Cult 40th Anniversary box set the “Complete Columbia Records Collection”! You get all the albums newly mastered, plus rarities discs with some really cool tracks on them, download cards for some great live concerts, and a DVD! It’s like 17 discs in all, for only a little over 100 bucks! So much great stuff for such a reasonable price.
My friend Bruce Dickinson put it all together and he did a fabulous job.
You should definitely buy it, and then crank up The Red And The Black!
Are you hip to Absinthe? It’s a green, distilled, highly alcoholic 90% proof anise flavored spirit derived from botanicals (wormwood oil). Painters like Van Gough and writers from back in the day used to get high on it—claimed if you drank enough of it you’d see green fairies and the like. It’s very trippy stuff, outlawed here in the States (I get it from friends in France), and there’s a great ritual where you slowly drip ice water over a sugar cube on a special Absinthe spoon laying across the top of your glass (about 6 to 8 parts water per 1 part Absinthe). Anyway, if you drink enough you will get really stoned, maybe even hallucinate—in some ways similar to a Jagermeister high in my opinion.
Anyway, the point I want to make is that the Blue Oyster Cult are the Absinthe of rock and roll! Something so trippy and unique yet packs an all-powerful punch that takes you to very far away places.
Nothing else is quite as exquisite as this band in rock. THAT IS WHY THEY SHOULD DEFINTITELY BE PLACED IN THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME—somewhere between, Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, and Black Sabbath.
As the stage announcement has bellowed for years…“HERE THEY ARE FROM NEW YORK CITY, THE AMAZING BLUE OYSTER CULT!!”
Rock on guys,
I saw it cranked with volume to the max and on a huge screen at the premiere, shown here in New York at the Ziegfeld Theater.
The band was there, and in fact, I got to sit in Jimmy Page’s row. IN FACT, Plant was sitting behind me! (who did THAT seating chart???). Anyway, I was in the middle of Led Zeppelin watching Led Zeppelin and it was freaking awesome.
This MOVIE DEFINES what ROCK IS. So, now and forever, it can be shown to anyone who never got to see a real rock concert and they will totally understand!!
The feel of the music alone will make your head bob and your feet dance. And, you will be totally blown away by the sheer magic and the musicianship of the players. There is always lots of heat on Page and Plant, but when you see the dexterity of John Paul Jones, not only on the bass, but on the keyboards (while playing bass with his feet on foot pedals), you will be beyond impressed. When the word “Super-group” is used, they aren’t kidding. And when you see the notes and sounds that Jimmy Page literally “summons” out of the guitar, trust me, you will be speechless!!
Actually, I take it back, it’s more than just the greatest rock movie ever made—I THINK IT’S ONE OF THE GREATEST MOVIES EVER MADE, PERIOD!
Why? Because it captures a time, a very special Camelot sort of time when ROCK Ruled the world and a handful of very talented axe men (guitar players) wielded their electric guitars like knights wielded their swords, and became famous rock stars in their own right, swaggering across the stage wearing the fanciest of rock duds.
Because these guitar players wanted so badly to be good, hell, BE GREAT, they constantly pushed their limits and each other, always trying to outdo their competition. And they shared one thing in common—they wanted to be known as the best. Yes, they got rich (and famous), but that wasn’t their original goal. They wanted TO BE KNOWN AS THE BEST AT THEIR CRAFT.
Today, too many artists want to be stars and have the celebrity thing right away. They get hung up on marketing. Their focus is misguided—they should be practicing more and the other stuff would not only come, but would last a lot longer.
Consequently, there are no really great contemporary guitar players that come close to Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, David Gilmour, etc.
When you see Jimmy Page in this movie, you certainly see great chops, but you also must be aware that most of these songs are his compositions. Years of being a studio musician aided him tremendously when he began writing for Led Zeppelin.
I’d never seen the band in person and the film clips I used to see often showed them as a sloppy troop, not living up to how great they played on their records.
Now, everyone can see Led Zeppelin in their finest hour—where they play BETTER THAN THEIR RECORDS!!
For years I used to think the very best rock guitar players in order of importance where: 1. Jimi Hendrix (then there’s a big space), and after came the big three, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. But after seeing this movie there is no doubt in my mind, when it comes to electric guitars, it should read Jimi at the top, but then Page first, followed by Beck, then Clapton.
For all those songs, all those riffs, all the different sounds, his deep, magical extemporaneous playing, and completely individual touch, Jimmy Page is simply astounding!
PS. Every once in a while I highly recommend that you buy some particular music or DVD. In the case of Led Zeppelin – “Celebration Day” I Insist that every household should have one (just like a refrigerator or TV set)!]]>
Judy and I were both lucky enough to see the 50th Anniversary Tour and I must say I’d put it my top 5 concerts of all time!
I was so overtaken by the harmonies and the breadth of material that it felt like I was witnessing some great classical music performance by a world-class orchestra. And, if you think about it, I was.
When you see musicianship of this caliber and voices to match—fourteen people on stage (not to mention the historic song catalogue—3 hours of non stop hits of which everyone is buried deep in your DNA), you are reminded of what TRUE TALENT really is.
The messages of the songs are like a movie soundtrack to your life, the live vocals with the guys sometimes even harmonizing without instruments, just flow into your soul in the most wondrous of ways. It is truly a euphoric experience, and if you can get tickets (even if they’re expensive) GO TO THIS SHOW!
Yes, the Beach Boys troubled lives are well documented, but through all the trials and hurdles their work ethic has never been compromised—and that’s how you achieve greatness—through hard work and dedication.
We don’t see too much of that in today’s music business. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just making the point that too many artists seem to want the fame, the glory, the money, and the bling as fast as they can get it and they emphasize all of that over really offering something worthwhile to the planet—some musical art so good that it might have staying power for years to come.
That’s what we need to get back to in my opinion. People who want to make music with the idea of GIVING something to their fellow man, instead of TAKING things from us—like demanding our interest via silly tricks and costumes, or selling us a fragrance.
Brian Wilson has been giving all of this life. When you give, good things come back in return—just naturally and organically.
The Beach Boys poured their hearts out for over three hours to a packed house at Jones Beach. Their natural reward was standing ovation after standing ovation, a never ending cheering love fest from the audience—a true shared experience between artists and their fans. And it took everyone to a higher place, healed everyone for that magic bit of time, and everyone left with such big smiles on their faces.
That’s the power music can have when it comes from the heart.
“Good Vibrations” to all,