Van Halen L-I-V-E!!!!
Buy, beg, or steal a ticket to see Van Halen live!!! OMG! They don’t make ‘em like this anymore!! I went to the Jones Beach show with Maria Milito and Gerry Martire from Q104.3 here in NY, and we had a blast! First off, as Maria’s T-shirt rightly stated, “It’s not Van Halen without David Lee Roth.” Diamond Dave was just over the top and to this reporter’s eyes and ears, just took over as the number one front man in rock! Yes, that includes you know who. I have never seen more moves, more facial expressions, more dancing, sliding, prancing, and out-and-out exhibitionism at any rock show—ever! The guy is sooooooooooooo much fun. Add him to the blistering, one of kind-in his own universe, Eddie Van Halen on electric guitar and whoa!! Alex was brilliant on drums, and Wolfie was just amazing on bass and vocals. Simply one of the best rock shows I have ever seen. My favorite line of the night from Dave, “If Eddie gets you into the building, I’m the guy that sells you the bibles!”
Columbia Records Club—The Columbia Records Radio Hour
Before the internet, certain hip record labels (read Warner Brothers and CBS Records) had introductory offers to turn-you-on to music. They made getting an album sampler or CD so inexpensive you just couldn’t pass up the deal. When I was at Columbia, the Columbia Records Club was huge. The way it worked was that after your introductory offer (which was almost like getting 10 CDs for free), they had knowledgeable people who were fine tuned to the Record Club members that decided what kind of music to send out. If memory serves, they picked out like two titles a month and sent them to club members. At that point members were charged a full fee, but you could send back whatever you didn’t like and get your money refunded. The thing is, the music that was picked to send was so good most all of it was welcomed by club members and hardly any was ever returned! It was really a great deal, and a lot of new music was discovered by potential fans in this fashion.
We posted a recent news item about the Record Club (which eventually became “Columbia House”) finally closing it’s doors. I was reminded, not only about how great it was for folks to discover new artists and music via the club, but also how I sold 80,000 CDs in one week of a radio series I had developed.
In 1990 I had a thought to bring back live radio performances. We used to do live broadcasts in the 70’s and 80’s, but live is a hassle (and can be more expensive) so everything was going to tape—The King Biscuit Flower Hour and other pre-recorded syndicated radio shows had become the norm. I came up with the idea of a Sunday morning show, live from New York, featuring known and up- and-coming singer songwriters of the day. The best part was that we asked them to collaborate, so you got these amazing one of a kind performances with artists like Bruce Cockburn, Lou Reed, and Rosanne Cash singing together, or Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter singing duets. As the series grew we featured full band performances which included Leonard Cohen, The Dave Matthews Band, Little Feat, The Jayhawks, Boz Scaggs/Booker T and The MG’s, and more.
The shows were so successful we put out two best of CDs. Volume 1 was the more collaborative singer songwriter CD and later, Volume 2 featured more of the performances by bands. The first CD sold a modest 30,000, but the series was becoming so popular that the Columbia Records Club decided to pick Volume 2 to be sent as one of their best monthly choices. They shipped 80,000 CDs to all the Club members and got a great response! I imagine at the end of the day we sold well over 100,000 CDs of Volume 2, but there is no way we could have achieved this without the help and support of the Columbia Records Club.
**Here’s something cool and amazing. I thought both titles had been discontinued a long time ago, but when I researched this blog I came to find out that both are still available on Amazon, and not only that, Volume 1 has a 4 1/2 star review!!
If this kind of music appeals to you, I highly recommend you buy the CDs. I’m not telling you this because I make any money from them (I was work for hire at Columbia Records when I created and produced the series), but because in truth they are truly great. When an artist performs live, they really have to bring everything they’ve got to put it across vs. tape where they can re-do takes and sometimes in their search for perfection lose some of the excitement. This is some of the best live music you will ever hear, and remember our choices for what to put on the CDs came from many radio show performances—so what you get is the best of the BEST!
I am very happy to discover that The Columbia Records Radio Hour lives on!
Rock on, CDJ fans! And, go see Van Halen live!
© Paul Rappaport 2015