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Recordmecca’s Jeff Gold on The Bob Lefsetz, on working at A&M and Warner Bros, Prince, Bob Dylan, collecting and much much more

For those interested in record and memorabilia collecting, here’s The Bob Lefsetz Podcast’s recent episode with Recordmecca’s Jeff Gold.

In this wide ranging two-hour plus interview, Jeff talks about his record collecting origins, the early days at Rhino Records (he was the first employee,) working at A&M and Warner Bros. Records for legendary executives including Mo Ostin, Lenny Waronker, and Gil Friesen, his notable experiences with recording artists including Prince and Iggy Pop, meeting Bob Dylan and years later appraising his extensive archive, archival work with the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman, interviewing Quincy Jones and Sonny Rollins, his books on classic vinyl, the history of the Stooges (a collaboration with Iggy Pop,) and American jazz clubs of the 40s and 50s, the state of the music collectibles market, and much much more.

For those with limited time, below is an index of topics, and where they appear in the Podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, iHeart, Sticher and Amazon Music.

0:01:45 – collecting Hendrix records, growing up in classic rock era, LA record swap meet

0:06:45 – working with Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones

0:08:20 – getting into music through Herb Alpert, Beatles records, attending concerts as a teenager

0:11:45 – Rhino Records origin

0:17:40 – Working for A&M Records and Gil Friesen

0:23:55 – A&M’s film company, reading scripts, becoming head of marketing

0:26:45 – leaving A&M for Warner Bros, working for Mo Ostin, Mo’s genius, Lenny Waronker

0:35:30 – meeting my wife Jody, her father, Bell Records head Larry Uttal

0:38:50 – meeting and working with Prince, Diamonds and Pearls

0:45:20 – Prince briefly becomes a Warners VP, dispute over his masters, name change

0:49:50 – Mo and Lenny leave WB, upheaval, Jeff requests to be fired

0:55:00 – starting Recordmecca, selling on Ebay, collectible records: first pressings, including The Beatles & Bob Dylan; increased availability of previously rare records due to internet

1:02:30 – Bob Dylan-owned blues records

1:05:50 – vinyl revival has inflated the price of common records, Nirvana, (Nevermind), etc.

1:08:40 – buying artists & industry record collections, Recordmecca’s business model, donating historic artifacts

1:12:10 – importance of condition, fraud, Recordmecca’s lifetime guarantee

1:20:10 – Jeff’s personal collection and at-home audio setup, vinyl revival, Beatles remasters

1:26:00 – Bob Dylan museum exhibition, appraising Dylan’s archive, discovering Dylan at Brandeis tape

1:31:40 – selling tapes to record labels: the Stooges, Charlie Parker; Gary Stewart’s career, death, record collection

1:38:50 – people who have left the music business

1:40:45 – Jeff’s feelings on current music, hip-hop

1:44:30 – other music memorabilia, authentication, Coltrane’s saxophone, Bob Dylan’s guitar, other sellers, etc.

1:54:45 – Jeff’s three music books, on classic vinyl, the history of the Stooges (with Iggy,) and Jazz Clubs, interviewing Quincy Jones and Sonny Rollins, racial harmony in jazz clubs

2:09:40 – Jeff’s typical work day, Jeff’s coolest treasures, Bob Dylan sighting

Signed Copies Available of the Updated & Revised ‘TOTAL CHAOS: The Story of The Stooges/As Told by Iggy Pop’

We’re happy to announce the release of the updated and revised edition of TOTAL CHAOS: The Story of The Stooges/As Told by Iggy Pop, by Recordmecca’s Jeff Gold.  Signed copies are available from our friends at Arcana:Books on the Arts.

Published by Jack White’s Third Man Books, the newly revised TOTAL CHAOS  includes additional photos and a lengthy new chapter featuring legendary Black Flag singer. spoken word artist, and Stooges mega-fan Henry Rollins, discussing why the Stooges are one of the most important groups ever.  The Third Man website has more info and a short preview video.

For more on the book Anthony Bourdain called Definitive…This book is everything, see the Total Chaos website.

 

Mo Ostin – An Appreciation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week Mo Ostin died, at age 95.  I was beyond lucky to work with Mo at Warner Bros. Records, the company he ran for 32 years, and wanted to share some memories of arguably the most important record executive ever, and the smartest person I ever met in the music business.  By a mile.

My first real ‘job’ was selling records at Rhino Records in Los Angeles. At the time, my fantasy was a career in the music business, working for either Warner Bros. or A&M –the labels with a reputation for being ‘artist oriented.’

Somehow, my dream came true, and I ended up working for both. In 1981, the late great Gil Friesen, president of A&M, hired me as his assistant, and became my mentor and lifelong friend.  I had a number of jobs there, eventually becoming vice president of marketing and creative services. And then in 1990, as A&M was sold to Polygram, Mo hired me to be Warner’s senior vice president of creative services.

I couldn’t believe it.  Mo Ostin, the man who signed Jimi Hendrix, my favorite artist of all time, as well as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Prince, even the Sex Pistols had hired…me!  To work at Warner Bros., the most important and successful label ever, and the coolest too.

I experienced a bit of culture shock moving from A&M to Warners.  At A&M, I was in Gil’s office many times each day, letting him know what was going on, running decisions by him, asking for  advice.  At Warner Bros., things were much more decentralized.  Chairman Mo and president Lenny Waronker spent a long time finding and recruiting the executives they wanted to hire, and then pretty much turned them loose.  It took me a while to adjust to their hands-off approach.  They assumed their staff knew what they were doing, and if you had questions, they were always available.  Each week you would update them and the rest of the senior execs at the Monday vice presidents meeting, and the Thursday, four-hour long senior VP meeting (dubbed Korea, because it dragged on endlessly, like the war.)

There were many very smart people at Warners, but Mo was in a class of his own.  He knew music and the business inside out, remembered everything, had a deeply strategic mind, impeccable taste, and genuinely cared about people. Unlike most record company heads, he always played the long game, never chasing the quick buck.  And he always wanted to do the right thing for Warners’ artists and employees.   As longtime Warners publicity head Bob Merlis noted in his remembrance in Variety, Mo made it feel like you worked ‘with’ him, not ‘for’ him.

When Mo left Warners at the end of 1994, after a truly idiotic corporate management reshuffle (details here,) my department created this Billboard magazine ad, picturing 104 artists he’d either signed, made deals for, worked closely with, or brought to the company via the label deals he’d made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the headline says, They all have one thing in common…and his name is Mo.

I can’t imagine anyone in the music business has ever worked with a list of artists half this impressive.

Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Tiny Tim, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, Neil Young, James Taylor, Ry Cooder, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Beach Boys, Doobie Brothers, Little Feat, Bonnie Raitt, T.Rex, Todd Rundgren, America, The Allman Brothers Band, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Rod Stewart, Curtis Mayfield, George Benson, George Harrison, Funkadelic, Steve Martin, Ramones, Talking Heads, Steve Winwood, The Band, Dire Straits, Van Halen, Prince, Devo, B-52s, ZZ Top, Paul Simon, John Lennon, Pretenders, Elton John, The Who, U2, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, Donald Fagen, Chicago, Madonna, Eric Clapton, John Fogerty, Los Lobos, Don Henley, The Smiths, Aerosmith, New Order, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakum, Miles Davis, k.d. Lang, Guns N’ Roses, Ice-T, Jane’s Addiction, R.E.M. Traveling Wilburys, Elvis Costello, Enya, Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Seal, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Tom Petty.  And that’s leaving a bunch out.

And unlike virtually all of his peers, Mo seemed almost allergic to taking credit.  ‘Interviews have always been a personal hang-up. To me, the artist is the person who should be in the foreground,’ he told the Los Angeles Times, in his first-ever interview, given shortly before leaving Warner Bros. after 32 years.

Mo’s the one looking at the camera; that’s me at the bottom looking to the left. My longtime assistant Diane Wagner Quintana is to my right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paradoxically, Mo was one of the best storytellers I met in all of my years in the business.  In private, he loved sharing his incredible tales of the music business.  Here are a few classics.

Mo was never an accountant: Many articles mistakenly stated that Mo was an accountant, whose first music business job was for jazz impresario Norman Granz, owner of the Clef and Verve labels.  Mo actually studied economics at UCLA, but one of his responsibilities for Granz was calling record distributors around the country to get them to pay their overdue bills. Granz gave just-out-of-college Ostin the lofty title of ‘controller,’ figuring the distributors would pay up more quickly if the label’s ‘controller’ was calling.

The Kinks: Frank Sinatra hired Mo to run his Reprise label.  In addition to Sinatra’s own releases, the label signed his friends and middle-of-the-road artists including Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr, Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby.   When the Beatles exploded, the record business began to shift to rock, which repulsed Sinatra.  He labeled the music, ‘The most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear.’  Mo could see the future, but Frank steadfastly refused to let him sign rock acts.  Over time, Sinatra saw the fortunes of his label decline precipitously, and eventually, he gave in to Mo. His first rock signing was The Kinks, who’s first release, “You Really Got Me,” was a Top 10 hit, soon followed by five more Top 40 hits.

Jimi Hendrix: In the UK music papers, Mo read about the young Black American guitarist whose debut single, “Hey Joe,” was charting in England. Sensing something special, he had a contact send him the record.  Mo loved it, and quickly made a deal with Roland Rennie at UK Polydor to license Hendrix’s records for North America.  A few days later Rennie called back, and apologetically explained he hadn’t realized that Track Records, who’d signed Hendrix to their Polydor subsidiary, had a first-right-of-refusal deal with Atlantic Records.  So Mo couldn’t sign Hendrix unless Atlantic passed.  Mo was understandably upset, and conveyed to Rennie how much he still wanted Hendrix, urging him to do everything he could to get Atlantic to pass.  Polydor sent the single to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic with no fanfare, and Wexler passed, opining Hendrix to be nothing more than ‘lower case B.B.King.’  Mo told me this story a number of times, but refused to go on the record, even after Wexler’s death, not wanting to embarrass his old friend.  Eventually, in an interview for the 2021 book Sonic Boom, Mo came clean.

Sinatra: Mo had many great Frank stories, but my favorite was about Reprise’s Chicago distributor notifying the label that they’d ‘dropped the line,’ ie, decided not to distribute Reprise any more.  Mo called Frank to see if he could help, and Frank called one of his connected ‘friends’ in the city. An hour later, the distributor called back, apologizing.  It had all been a misunderstanding, of course, and they didn’t drop Reprise.

Mo with the Rat Pack; we used this photo on the cover of a six CD tribute to Mo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Red Hot Chili Peppers
: In 1990, the newly out of contract Chili Peppers were the object of a major-label bidding war.  Mo wanted the group desperately, and spent a good deal of time with the band members, inviting them to his home, taking them to Laker games, and letting them know just how successful he thought they could be at Warner Bros.  He bonded with the Peppers, particularly Flea and Anthony Kiedis, but Columbia Records offered more than Warners, and the band decided to go with the bigger offer.  Mo, ever the gentleman, called the band members to let them know how much he’d enjoyed getting to know them, wishing them the best of luck.

Later, as their lawyer began drawing up the contract with Columbia, the band was disappointed when some of what they’d been promised wasn’t forthcoming. Evidently the terms had changed.  They thought about how much they liked Mo, his reputation for integrity, and how classy he’d been, even after they told him they weren’t signing with Warners.  And so they called Mo, and told him if he was still interested, they’d sign to WB.  Which they did, leading to massive worldwide success.

Here’s a story illustrating just how on the ball Mo was.  At a vice president’s meeting, Tom Ruffino, head of international, casually mentioned that Rod Stewart was touring Germany, and that the German company was doing a big TV advertising campaign around the tour, and releasing a Greatest Hits album for the German market only.  Mo turned to David Altschul, head of business affairs, and said ‘I remember four or five years ago when we renegotiated Rod’s deal, there was a provision for a Greatest Hits album. Can you check the contract and make sure the German Greatest Hits album doesn’t get in the way of that?’

And another.  In 1992, Eric Clapton had done MTV’s popular show Unplugged, where artists performed live with only acoustic instruments.  Clapton’s show was a hit, and we soon heard reports of people coming into record stores, asking if there was going to be a Clapton Unplugged album.  Mo told Clapton that his fans were clamoring for an album of his performance, and he agreed we could release one.  Fast forward a few months.  On the eve of the Unplugged release, the senior WB staff were in Santa Barbara, for an off-site meeting. During one of our sessions, someone got a message to Mo; evidently Clapton had changed his mind, and wanted to cancel the Unplugged album.  Mo left the meeting to call Clapton in England. He explained to him the album wouldn’t be perceived as Eric’s new album, but rather would be a ‘souvenir’ for his fans, who’d been asking for it, and were excited it was coming.  He returned to the meeting an hour or so later, having somehow managed to get Clapton back on track.  You probably know the rest.  Unplugged sold 26 million copies, won three Grammys, including Album of the Year, and is the best selling live album of all time.  And the biggest album of Clapton’s long career.

And here’s how into music Mo was. Sometime in the early 90s, I went to see the long-past-his-prime Tiny Tim play at a small club in Santa Monica.  The next day I mentioned it to Mo, who’d signed Tiny in 1968.  He was truly sorry I hadn’t invited him; he would have LOVED to have seen Tiny Tim.  Here was the chairman of the biggest record company in the world, lamenting that he’d missed an opportunity to see Tiny Tim!

Mo’s extraordinary run at Warner Bros. drew to a close in late December 1994.  Lenny Waronker and Mo’s son Michael, head of A&R at Warners, also left– each a big loss for the label. Less than a year later, the three launched a new label, Dreamworks Records, partnering with Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg.  And more success followed.

In 2003 Mo was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by his friends Paul Simon, Neil Young and Lorne Michaels.  When Dreamworks eventually closed, Mo stayed active, as a consultant to Warner Bros., lending his sage advice to the Warners team, and serving on various boards at his alma mater, UCLA.  Mo’s philanthropy included donating ten million dollars to the school to establish the Evelyn and Mo Ostin Music Center, and ten million more to build a basketball training facility.

The thing I haven’t mentioned, which was far more important to Mo than all of his business success, was his family.  His wonderful wife, Evelyn, was his full partner in everything, and beloved by all who knew her–including the artists and staff of Warners.  Evelyn and Mo enjoyed life thoroughly.  I remember going to dinner with them in San Francisco.  Mo couldn’t decide what to order; he thought everything on the menu looked great.  When the waiter came, he ordered every entree on the menu, split in thirds.  For the next few hours, the three of us sampled probably ten different meals, laughing at the absurdity of it.

Mo and Evelyn had three sons, Michael, Randy and Kenny, all of whom worked in the music business. Michael’s beloved wife Joyce became the daughter they never had, and the couple’s three daughters were the light of Mo and Evelyn’s life.  Unfortunately, Mo outlived some of those closest to him.  I can’t imagine the profound sadness the family must have felt losing Kenny, then Evelyn, Randy, and earlier this year, Joyce.

I stayed in touch with Mo, meeting up with him for the occasional lunch, and tapping into his big brain when I needed advice. He was always happy to share his insights, and I was always happy to hear more of those stories.

Mo Ostin definitely made his mark, and I–and music lovers everywhere– owe him a huge debt of gratitude.  Rest in Peace Mo.  You definitely earned it.

Jeff Gold

Here’s a song Mo’s great friend George Harrison wrote in tribute to Mo, on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

(And thanks to a few others who changed my life:  Richard Foos hired me at Rhino and set me on my path.  Jeff Ayeroff convinced Gil Friesen to hire me. Gary Borman thought I should work at WB, and introduced me to Michael Ostin, who agreed and introduced me to Mo and Lenny. Evelyn and Mo brought Depak Chopra to WB, starting me on my long meditation journey.  And of course Jody.)

 

Virtual Museum: Janis Joplin’s First Record Contract / Big Brother and the Holding Company Sign With Mainstream Records

Here’s a true piece of music history we’ve just listed: Janis Joplin’s first recording contract, with Mainstream Records, signed by Janis and her Big Brother and the Holding Company bandmates on September 13 1966.

Signature page of Big Brother’s contract with Mainstream Records

From On the Road With Janis Joplin by John Byrne Cooke:

Big Brother was first approached by Bobby Shad, the owner of Mainstream, in the summer of 1966…Shad was in San Francisco to check out the new rock groups. He expressed interest in recording Big Brother, but he triggered all of [band manager and Avalon Ballroom promoter Chet] Helms’s distrust of outsiders from the music business, and Chet rebuffed the offer. Chet’s out-of-hand dismissal of Shad’s interest proved to be the catalyst that led Big Brother to dissolve their informal management agreement.

Soon after parting with Chet, the band took a month-long booking at a club in Chicago called Mother Blues, but Janis wasn’t sure she would go.  ‘I have a problem,’ she wrote to her parents… She told them what she had not yet told the boys in the band: she been approached by a record producer named Paul Rothchild… In the summer of 1966, Paul had sold Elektra [Records] president Jac Holzman on an idea: he would assemble a group of young urban interpreters of the blues, pay their expenses for six months, and see if the effort produced a viable band… Paul gathered several musicians in a living room in Berkeley [including future Canned Heat singer] Al Wilson, Taj Mahal and Janis…They traded songs back-and-forth for a while, and it was beginning to click… Janis was having a good time, but the Mother Blues gig was looming. She had to decide whether she was going to stick with Big Brother or take a chance that Paul Rothchild’s idea would pan out.

Janis wasn’t sure she and Big Brother were going to pan out. She had never sung rock ‘n’ roll before…But Janis liked the feeling Big Brother gave her, the power of it, and she loved the interplay between the bands and the dancers of the Avalon and the Fillmore.  In the letter to her parents, Janis expressed another doubt. ‘I’m not sure yet whether the rest of the band (Big Brother) will, indeed want to work hard enough to be good enough to make it. We’re not now I don’t think. Oh God, I’m just fraught with indecision!’

Janis and the guys in Big Brother had moved to a house in Lagunitas, in Marin County, north of San Francisco. The shift to communal living was intended to strengthen the bonds within the group and make them a true family band in the San Francisco style. One morning when everyone was up and about, Janis told the boys about Paul Rothchild’s offer, and she that she was considering it. Her announcement provoked a shocked response. To [bandmates] Peter and Sam and Dave and James, joining a band was a sacred trust. It wasn’t just a business, it was a commitment. You didn’t just back out after a couple of months when something that looked like a better offer came along. Peter Albin was the one who reacted most indignantly. He went at Janis hammer and tongs, demanding that she commit to the Chicago gig right then and there. Taken aback by Peter’s onslaught, Janis gave in.

In Chicago, Bobby Shad approached the band again, renewing his offer of a record contract. This time there was no Chet to blow him off. Peter and David and Sam and James wanted to go for it. Janis’s uncertainty about staying with the band had shaken them all. They recognized that her vocals were a vital addition to the group’s unique sound. Some of Big Brother’s San Francisco partisans had objected at first to the addition of a chick singer, but as the band’s music adapted to embrace Janis, her lead vocals had become the high points of their performances. A record deal would hold the band together, at least for a time.

The boys argued for accepting Shad‘s offer, and Janis gave her consent. Mainstream wasn’t Elektra by a long shot, but the record would be made now, not six months or more down the road, if the prospective blues band panned out. A more important consideration for Janis was proving herself to her parents. Growing up in Port Arthur [Texas], a Gulf coast oil town, and during her brief stab at college in Austin, she had always felt like a misfit. In San Francisco she found a band and a community that welcomed her, and made her feel like she belonged.  She wanted her parents to approve of her unconventional life. She had written to them enthusiastically about Big Brother in her first weeks with the group. Making a record would prove her contribution to the band was real. It would prove she could take a job and stick to it,

Big Brother’s music proved too out there for Bobby Shad. He wouldn’t allow the band in the control room during the final mix. Still, for all the hassles, the Mainstream deal and the Mother Blues gig did what the boys hoped they would do – they kept Janis in the group. After Mother Blues, she didn’t raise the subject of leaving the band again.

Big Brother recorded some songs at a studio in Chicago and more, later in the year, in Los Angeles. While they were in LA Mainstream put out two songs from Chicago sessions as a single that sank without a whimper. In May 67, Mainstream issued another single; the A-side, ‘Down on Me’, aroused some notice. All of this was before Monterey. After the band’s success at the Pop Festival, Mainstream scrambled to get out an album to capitalize on the publicity.

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This historic agreement—Janis Joplin’s first-ever record contract—is hand signed by Joplin, Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley and David Getz of Big Brother, and countersigned by Mainstream owner Bob Shad.

While the seven-page contract, dated September 12, 1966, achieved the desired result of binding Janis Joplin to Big Brother, its terms were onerous, even by mid-sixties standards.  The group agreed to record enough masters (songs) for an album, and granted the label two additional one-year options if desired.  However, unusually, the group was paid no advance on royalties—they were merely promised “Union scale”—the minimum amount the union mandated musicians receive for each recording session.  And they received that only after each master was “accepted” by the label, and had to pay this back out of their royalties.

The contract comes from the archive of early Big Brother manager Julius Karpen.  In 1967, Karpen was fired and replaced by the far more experienced Albert Grossman, manager of Bob Dylan.  Grossman was soon negotiating with Columbia Records president Clive Davis, one of those greatly impressed by Big Brother’s Monterey Pop performances, to buy the group out of their Mainstream contract and sign Big Brother to the much bigger and more successful label.

It cost Columbia a fortune to get Joplin and Big Brother, but the band was fed up with Mainstream and Davis was desperate. As John Byrne Cooke recollected, “Shad demanded $250,000 to let Big Brother out of the contract and he is sitting in the catbird seat.  Columbia and Big Brother have no choice but to swallow their pride and pay him…Following the signing, Columbia throws a press reception for the band…The minions of the Fourth Estate buzz around Janis like flies on honey, ignoring the boys.  They feel left out, but…they sense that the next phase of their career is truly launched.”

Offered for sale with a telegram from Bob Shad to Julius Karpen regarding scheduling more recording sessions and the photographs used on Big Brother’s debut album, and an original Mainstream Records publicity photo of Big Brother.

 

Virtual Museum – 4 Mixing Session Master Tapes for the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star/Born Cross-Eyed” / With 91 Mixes!

Here’s a remarkable Grateful Dead collectible we’ve just listed: a set of four 10″ 2-Track tapes from the mixing session of the ultra-rare Grateful Dead single, “Dark Star/Born Cross-Eyed,” with nearly two hours of unreleased–and very different–mixes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Dead collectors know, this single (with picture sleeve!) was issued in very limited numbers in fall 1968, in advance of the release of the Dead’s second album (and psychedelic masterpiece) Anthem of the Sun.  The single, as they say in England, failed to ‘trouble the charts’ and now regularly sells for more $500 to $700.

“Dark Star,” however, became a Dead Classic.  As Wikipedia notes: The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list and was ranked at number 57 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time…After 1973, “Dark Star” fell out of the normal rotation at Dead shows…Being present for a “Dark Star” performance became a “Holy Grail” for Deadheads. The song became so legendary that it was often referred to as “IT” by dedicated Heads. Knowing this, the Dead would sometimes tease the song’s introduction before switching into another song, finally bringing it back in the end of the seventies on New Year’s 1978, at the closing of Winterland.”

These four reels capture a live-in-the-studio mixing session where the band, during their most experimental period, demonstrate their complete lack of conventionality. The seventy nine (!) full or partial mixes of “Dark Star” and 12 of “Born Cross-Eyed” feature numerous fascinating experimental versions, mostly in mono, with various instruments dropping in and out, sound effects added or subtracted, vocals isolated, and tracks speeded-up or slowed-down.  Listening provides a fascinating glimpse into their working methods and willingness to try almost anything.

A more complete description of these unique tapes can be found here.  And if you don’t know Anthem of the Sun, do yourself a favor and check it out.  Whatever you think of the Dead, it’s a psychedelic classic of the highest order.

-Jeff Gold, October 5, 2021

Virtual Museum: Handbill for Bob Dylan at Gerde’s Folk City: The Most Important Shows of His Career?

Here’s a handbill advertising arguably the most important shows in Bob Dylan’s long career; his two-week stand opening for The Greenbriar Boys at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village. The first of these shows, on September 26, 1961, resulted in a rave review in The New York Times—the first article ever written about Dylan—and his signing to Columbia Records.

Howard Sounes writes in his Dylan biography Down the Highway: [Folk singer] Carolyn Hester decided to use backup musicians on her debut Columbia record and she suggested to [producer] John Hammond that Bob Dylan play harmonica.   Hammond independently asked the advice of Paddy Clancy [of the Clancy Brothers], who agreed he should give Bob a chance.  A rehearsal was arranged at an apartment in the Village.  “We were all seated around a kitchen table and John was seated next to Bob,” says Hester.  “Bob starts in on the harmonica and John turns and looks at him and couldn’t take his eyes off this character.”  When Hammond discovered that Bob wrote his own material, he said he would like to hear him.

Fortuitously Bob was about to play an important two-week residency at Gerde’s Folk City [opening for] John Herald’s bluegrass group, The Greenbriar Boys.  Robert Shelton had already decided to review the show for The New York Times… Many of Bob’s supporters were in the audience the opening night and he received such an enthusiastic reception he upstaged the more experienced Greenbriar Boys.  Afterward Bob went into the kitchen and gave [Sheton] his first press interview.   

The article was published in the Times on Friday, September 29, 1961, together with a photograph of Bob looking like Huckleberry Finn, under the headline BOB DYLAN: A DISTINCTIVE FOLK-SONG STYLIST.  It was an unprecedented plug for an unknown folksinger in the most influential newspaper in America, the very newspaper Bob’s father read.   

Shelton, almost ignoring the headlining Greenbriar Boys, began his review A bright new face in folk music is appearing at Gerde’s Folk City.  Although only twenty years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months…When he works his guitar, harmonica or piano, and composes new songs faster than he can remember them, there is no doubt that he is bursting at the seams with talent….Dylan’s voice is anything but pretty.  He is consciously trying to recapture the rude beauty of a Southern field hand musing in melody on his porch. All the ‘husk and bark’ are left on his notes and a searing intensity pervades his songs…Dylan’s highly personalized toward folk songs is still evolving.  He has been sopping up influences like a sponge…. His music-making has the mark of originality and inspiration, all the more noteworthy for his youth.  Mr. Dylan is vague about his antecedent and birthplace, but it matters less where he has been than where he is going, and that would seem to be straight up.”

Biographer Anthony Scaduto picks up the story in Bob Dylan:  The review simply amazed everyone, and it created some jealousy in folk circles.  None of the singers who’d been knocking themselves out had ever been treated to such an effusive bit of puffery by Shelton.  The critic was friendly with all the folkies in the Village, yet had never given any of their careers the boost he gave to Dylan…There was a good deal of backbiting about the review, but Dylan didn’t let that bother him.  He was totally ecstatic about it and carried it around in his pocket until it was falling to pieces. 

Carolyn Hester: The day of my recording session was the day the review was printed, and Dylan brought it with him.  He was absolutely delighted with it.  He would laugh and sort of shyly say something like he didn’t expect it and was so new in town and wasn’t that a bitch and wasn’t he lucky…And Hammond saw it.  We were in the studio working every day and I could see Hammond was getting more and more interested in him…the more Hammond saw of him the more impressed he got.

Hammond: So he came in and made some demos…and when I heard him I flipped.  I told him I wanted him to record for Columbia, and I had the contract drawn up.

And, as the cliché goes, the rest is history.

The exceptionally rare handbill also advertises a run of shows by blues legends Lonnie Johnson and Victoria Spivey.  Dylan wrote in Chronicles about learning a unique style of guitar from Johnson, while he recorded with Spivey and Big Joe Williams in March 1962.  Dylan used a photograph of himself with Spivey from those sessions on the back of his album New Morning.

Available at Recordmecca

Why I collect beat-up records owned by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and members of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and Grateful Dead


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Mojo. It’s an early 20th century word meaning “a magic charm, talisman, or spell.”  Muddy Waters sang “Got my mojo working.”

And mojo is exactly why I collect records that were owned by my favorite musicians.

The music of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Velvet Underground, the Grateful Dead and countless others has brought me immeasurable joy for many decades.  I often say music saved my life, gave me purpose, and it’s definitely been at the center of my career as a record executive, collector, dealer, archivist and author.

In the nearly 50 years since I traded a shopping bag full of baseball cards for my friend’s copy of Smash Hits by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours (and a lot of money) tracking down rare records and music memorabilia, trying to capture just a little bit of the mojo of my favorite artists.

But let’s face it–records, concert posters, ticket stubs and the like don’t really connect you to the artists who made this incredible music.  An autograph…well, that’s a bit better, as Hendrix or Dylan actually held the thing they signed, if only for a moment.

But something really clicked when I went to the opening of Seattle’s Experience Music Project (now Museum of Pop Culture) in June 2000.  I was on a preview tour with some music executives and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I’d worked with them at Warner Bros. Records, and they’d headlined the opening concert,) when we came to the museum’s incredible Jimi Hendrix exhibit.

Hendrix was my first record collecting obsession, and it was moving to see some of his instruments, clothing, and his handwritten diary.  But what really impressed me was a display of a dozen or so albums from Hendrix’s record collection.  The actual vinyl records he’d listened to and obsessed over.  The albums that inspired one of the greatest musicians of all time.  Call me crazy, but as a lifelong record collector (and non-musician,) it felt like these held a lot more of Hendrix’s mojo than any of outfit or guitar ever could.  But how could I ever hope to own some of Jimi Hendrix’s records…

Incredibly, the answer came almost exactly a year later.

On June 20, 2001 I stayed up until the wee hours to do some overseas telephone bidding in Bonhams and Brooks’ The Jimi Hendrix Auction.  One lot was 21 albums from Hendrix’s record collection, with provenance from his longtime girlfriend and flat-mate Kathy Etchingham.  I waited patiently, bid on some other things, but the records were what I HAD to win. When the time came, the bidding was surprisingly tepid, and I won Hendrix’s albums for a fraction of what I was prepared to pay.

When they arrived, they were what collectors euphemistically call “well loved” records; scuffed up and covered in fingerprints.  Ordinarily I would have cleaned them immediately.  But these were Jimi Hendrix’s records, with Jimi Hendrix’s fingerprints!  Cleaning them felt like sacrilege.  The fingerprints and wear were critical to the mojo. The collection included Hendrix’s own copy of Electric Ladyland, my favorite album of all time (there’s a famous photo of him appearing to bite this very copy, in the flat he shared with Etchingham.)  His copy of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits had a doodle on the back by Hendrix, which the auction housed somehow neglected to mention.  And the copy of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, from which he famously covered “Like a Rolling Stone,” had a few drops of Hendrix’s blood on the front cover, which Etchingham explained was the result of his breaking a wine glass.  Now that’s mojo! (There’s a pictorial essay on Hendrix’s collection in my book 101 Essential Rock Records.)

Hendrix with his copy of Electric Ladyland; it just looks like he’s biting it, but no teeth marks on the cover, unfortunately.

 

And so, it began.  Record collectors often have strange parameters to their collecting. My quirk was wanting to own the actual records that inspired my favorite artists—or their own personal copies of records they’d made. It’s as close as I’ll ever get to the mojo of these hallowed individuals.

As you might imagine, finding these is not easy.  At all. And being a stickler for authenticity, I only add something to my collection if I’m positive about the provenance.

My next big score came in 2006 when the late Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan’s early 60s girlfriend (she’s with Bob on the cover of Freewheelin’,) sold her Dylan memorabilia at Christies.  I won the two albums I coveted, Blues anthologies to which Bob added his own handwritten inscriptions next to the liner notes.  On a Blind Boy Fuller compilation, he wrote “Drinked up and let out by Bob Dylan” and “Read thoroughly and with full throttle by Bob Dylan.”  On a Southern Blues anthology he added “Made for and about Bob Dylan” and “Hand read by Bob Dylan.”  Via the auction house, Rotolo told me he’d added those annotations as one might make notes in the margins of a book.  It later struck me that when he’d scribbled on these album covers, he’d only recently changed his name from Bob Zimmerman, and might have been just trying out his new name.

Dylan added to the liner notes on this Blind Boy Fuller album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2014 I was able to purchase a collection of 149 Bob Dylan acetates, which had been owned by Dylan and used in the production of his albums Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait and New Morning, a discovery that went viral and was covered by The New York Times and many other media outlets.

Dylan-owned acetates of his album New Morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also acquired a small collection of Beatles and Apple 45s owned by Ringo Starr and his first wife, Maureen (via her second husband, Hard Rock Café co-founder Isaac Tigrett,) and a few of John Lennon’s Beatles albums, given to two of his employees.

Ringo’s Beatles and Ringo 45s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wonderful Martha Morrison, widow of the great Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison, sold me some of Sterling’s Velvets acetates, along with his own copies of their albums.  I bought an album from the collection of the great English folk singer Shirley Collins, from a friend who got it from her.  And when Jerry Garcia’s widow sold some of his possessions at auction, including his Grateful Dead acetates and test pressings, I was all in.

Jerry Garcia’s acetates of the Dead’s Skull & Roses album

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in 2018, and again this year, I was able to really score, buying some records from the collection—really, massive archive—of longtime Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman.

Bill is a world-class collector.  As a small child in London, he began collecting cigarette cards, World War II bullets, and anything else he could find.  His archive of Rolling Stones memorabilia is undoubtedly the most extensive collection of any musician or group in existence (I highly recommend the 2019 Wyman documentary, The Quiet One, which delves deeply into his collecting.) He’s written a number of books on topics as varied as the Stones, his friendship with the artist Marc Chagall, and his pursuits as a metal detecting enthusiast.

While doing some consulting for Bill, I was able to see his extensive record collection, and convince him to part with a few of his albums, including his UK first pressing of Hendrix’s Are You Experienced and The Beatles White Album.  So I now have Beatles records from the collections of two Beatles and one Stone!

A Beatles album owned by a Rolling Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2020 Wyman sold over 1000 items from his still extensive archive at Juliens Auctions, and I was able to buy 24 lots of his records, including Stones test pressings and groupings of the blues and soul albums that influenced him.  Ever the collector, Bill often annotated his records on the sleeves with dates, and markings to indicate his favorite songs, etc.

With artist-owned records, conventional collecting criteria flies out the window. Usually, beat up records are worth a tiny fraction of what a mint copy might bring.  Any writing on an album cover is a major negative.  And an album without its proper cover?  Forget it!  However, with artist owned records, these ‘negatives’ become major positives.  Hendrix’s doodles and blood?  Wyman’s notations?  Sterling Morrison’s copies of the first Velvet Underground album and Loaded with home-made covers?

That’s major mojo!

Sterling Morrison’s copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico, with a sticker used to promote the third VU album

Sterling Morrison’s copy of Loaded, in a repurposed Buddy Holly cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, if anyone out there has a line on any artist-owned records, please let me know.

And if anyone is interested in beginning their own artist-owned record collection, I’m offering for sale a few albums owned by some of the above artists.  Because, after all, even I don’t need more than 100 of Bill Wyman’s records.

Take care!

Jeff Gold

December 30, 2020

Bonus trivia: After moving, Ringo leased his house at 34 Montague Square, London to Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham.  So it’s entirely possible that some of the Hendrix albums I own once lived at Ringo’s house.

Virtual Launch Event for ‘Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s’ Sunday Nov. 22, Pacific Time

Join me on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 1:00 PM Pacific Time for a virtual launch event for my new book, Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s. Mark Ruffin of SiriusXM’s Real Jazz will be interviewing me, followed by a question and answer session.  Signed books will be available.  Register here.

For more information, a video trailer, sample pages, early reviews and a playlist soundtrack visit SittinIn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sittin’ In Jazz Club Book: Video Trailer and More Early Reaction

We’ve just posted a 3 1/2 minute video ‘trailer’ for Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s, which will give you an excellent idea of what my new book looks like (more info here.)

And here’s some more great pre-release reaction (see more in the previous post).

Vivid and beautiful

Los Angeles Times

Unprecidented…explores a seminal period in jazz culture, including how [jazz clubs] broke racial barriers

Jazziz

Fabulous; well thought out, beautifully put together and artfully done with superb taste…a treasure for all who care to know

Herb Alpert

Absolutely fascinating…a thoroughly entertaining, coherent, visually enticing package

Analog Planet

A revelation.  In these unique images of mid-century jazz clubs, the camera is turned on the audience–showing the hidden history of racial integration.

Jon Savage, Author of England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock and The Searing Light, the Sun, and Everything Else: Joy Division

It’s a stunner

Record Collector News

Early Reaction to New Book ‘Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s’, and Soundtrack/Playlist link

It’s less than three weeks until the November 17 release of my new book, Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s, and some great early feedback is coming in.

The book is based on a newly discovered archive of jazz club souvenir photographs and memorabilia.  Many jazz clubs of the era had in-house photographers who would photograph patrons at their tables, develop them quickly in on-site darkrooms, and offer them to customers for a dollar at the end of the evening.  Sometimes fans posed with the club’s performers, in a primordial version of today’s celebrity selfie.  The book also explores how these clubs were among the earliest places Black and white people could gather during the Jim Crow era, on stage and in audiences.

Actress Joan Davis and Duke Ellington with soldier, 400 Restaurant, NYC 1945

Charlie Parker with fans, Royal Roost, NYC 1945

The book features interviews with Quincy Jones and Sonny Rollins, who talk about playing these clubs in the 40s, legendary jazz critic Dan Morgenstern, who first went to New York clubs in 1947, musician/composter/educator Jason Moran, who speaks eloquently about what these images say to us today, and Pulitzer Prize winning critic Robin Givhan, who helps tease meaning from the photographs.  And my friend Tom ‘Grover’ Biery put together a great ‘soundtrack’ playlist for those who’d like to listen as they look.

The book website SittinIn.com features sample pages, a playlist/soundtrack and much more information.  In the meantime, here is some early feedback.

A great book…A story that needs to be told

-Sonny Rollins

Sittin’ In is in a word–exquisite. Meticulously laid out and extensively researched, it’s a deep dive into this amazing period of American cultural history. These venues and this amazing music were among the best vehicles for integration the country ever had. This was an America really making a go of bringing people together. It wasn’t legislation. It was Jazz. And it worked.  We are incredibly lucky to have Sittin’ In.

Henry Rollins, Musician/writer/performer

Jeff Gold’s vivid and beautiful Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s captures that heady time through photographs, evocative memorabilia and incisive text, including interviews with Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins and scholar Dan Morgenstern. The images set the scene, but the text tells the history of the hopping clubs that populated the major cities of America during those thriving years.

-Los Angeles Times

Without a doubt a MAJOR contribution to jazz history in so many ways…truly a must-have for anyone for whom swing is the thing.

-Loren Schoenberg, National Jazz Museum in Harlem

Any research project of this depth and breadth deserves celebration…So valuable, and so browsable. With inspired, insightful interviews with Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Jason Moran and others.

-Ashley Kahn, Author of Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece, A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltrane’s Signature Album, and The House That Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records

Charlie Parker’s Centennial, and My New Book on Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s

Jazz giant Charlie Parker was born August 29, 1920; one hundred years ago tomorrow.  The worldwide celebrations marking his centennial show just how much of a mark he made on music in his short 34 years on the planet.

Parker looms large in my forthcoming book, Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s (released Nov. 17 by Harper Collins).  I’ve just launched a website for the book with sample pages and excerpts, and a companion playlist but today I thought I’d share this fantastic photo of Bird posing with two fans at New York’s Royal Roost in the late 1940s.

I was incredibly fortunate to interview jazz giants Sonny Rollins and Quincy Jones for the book, and this photo is a small illustration of how, as they told me, jazz clubs were among the first places in Jim Crow America where Blacks and whites mixed, in audiences and on-stage.  Sonny said “jazz was really where the racial barriers were broken down heavily.”  Quincy offered “Back then, it wasn’t about color in the clubs, it was about how good you can play. Racism would’ve been over in the 1950s if they’d listened to the jazz guys.”

More on the book later.  Today, I’m going to listen to some Bird.

Jeff Gold

 

Hal Willner: A Remembrance

I’ve been meaning to write about the almost incomprehensible death of Hal Willner (of Covid-19 complications) since his passing on April 7, but to be honest, I couldn’t figure out what to say.  There have been some high profile obituaries and tributes (just google his name).  My wife just sent me Elvis Costello’s moving remembrance, and that finally got me typing.  Like Elvis, I’m taking the personal approach.

Hal with Soupy Sales’ original Pookie puppet, one of his proud possessions

[If you don’t know about Hal, the extraordinary record producer/impresario/raconteur/eccentric and longtime Saturday Night Live music supervisor, and the man who discovered Jeff Buckley, check out the 2017 New York Times article Hal Willner’s Vanishing, Weird New York.]

I first met Hal in 1984, when I was the assistant to A&M Records president Gil Friesen.  Part of my job involved turning Gil on to things I thought might be of interest to him. One day John Telfer, the manager of A&M artist Joe Jackson, mentioned Joe was doing a track for a Thelonious Monk tribute album produced by John’s friend Hal Willner.  At that time, Hal had only recorded a few tracks, and John was helping him find a home for it.  Hal had previously produced a Nino Rota tribute album with mostly jazz artists, but this time, he planned to use a more eclectic mix of rock and jazz artists.  I was intrigued.

I spoke to Hal to get more details before pitching it to Gil, who like myself was a jazz fan.  Though we knew it wasn’t going to sell millions of copies, it sounded like a great project, and something we wanted for A&M.  Pretty quickly we made a deal for the album—and Hal and I became friends.

We made three albums with Hal at A&M, and I think they are in some ways his ‘greatest hits’:  That’s The Way I Feel Now – A Tribute to Thelonious Monk (1984), Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill (1985), and the cumbersomely titled (more about that later) Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music From Vintage Disney Films (1988).  Each is a classic in its own way.  Yes, they had big names like Sting, Lou Reed and Tom Waits doing songs you’d never expect, but Hal loved cult heroes like Yma Sumac  and Sun Ra, and excelled at putting together oddball collaborations that somehow worked, teaming Bonnie Raitt with Was Not Was, and Ringo Starr with A&M co-founder Herb Alpert and NRBQ’s Terry Adams.

As expected, none of these were runaway bestsellers that spawned hit singles.  But they got great reviews, found an audience, and I think turned a bit of a profit.  And we loved Hal and were happy to be involved in supporting great projects like these.

Hal was anything but a traditional record producer; he was more like an alchemist.  A typical ‘producer’ might suggest changes to lyrics or an arrangement, or ask a musician to play a part differently. It seemed most of Hal’s work was done before entering the studio.  He’d figure out which songs he wanted for an album, and then cast them, with a ‘lead’ performer, and supporting musicians.  Hal relished mixing it up, teaming James Taylor with jazz musicians Branford Marsalis and John Scofield, or ‘word jazz’ poet Ken Nordine with guitarist Bill Frisell.  I was in the studio for a few of his sessions, and his vibe, there and elsewhere, was pretty relaxed.  He got everyone together and let the magic happen, maybe making a gentle suggestion, or asking for another take.  And it worked!  Those records sounded great then, and sound great now.

As many have noted, Hal was an endearing oddball and a master raconteur.  Here’s just one great Hal story.

Hal decided his next album would be a tribute to songs from Disney movies—“I Wanna Be Like You” from Jungle Book, “Heigh Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from Song of the South, etc.

He was pretty far along with recording when he came to see me to talk about the album cover (by this time, I’d been promoted to vice president of marketing and creative services).  We were excited about the project, and Hal casually let slip that the people at Disney, ahem, might not be sharing our enthusiasm.  In fact the lawyers at Disney viewed their copyrights and trademarks as sacrosanct, their holy grails, and weren’t into some weirdo New York record producer putting together a tribute album with a bunch of musicians they’d never heard of.  I’ll never forget Hal telling me the Disney business affairs lawyer he met with had a sign on his desk that said, in reference to Disney’s most important character, “Don’t Mess With the Mouse”.

That explains the legalese of the album title: Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films.  This was not to be mistaken for a Disney project.  I remember a particularly tense meeting with Hal, the Disney and A&M lawyers, and our marketing staff, where we learned we could absolutely, positively use NO images from any Disney anything on the album cover or in any marketing materials.  Great, we thought–a Disney based project, and we could barely use the name Disney in marketing or even describing it.

Happily, a few days later, while perusing fine art catalogs looking for inspiration, I had the miraculous good fortune to find a painting by Rodney Allen Greenblat that matched the album’s vibe and title perfectly.  Hal liked it and somehow we were able to license it.  Phew.

Hal popped up in major events in my life too.  In 1984, I met my future wife, Jody Uttal, at my friend Steve Martin’s house (the filmmaker, not the comedian; Steve later became one of Hal’s closest friends.) Literally minutes into the first conversation Jody and I ever had, we discovered we both knew Hal.

Four years later, Jody was pregnant with our first child, Ella.  The day before Jody’s due date, Sting was headlining the Forum.  We planned on going, but our contingency plan was to give the tickets to Hal and Steve, who checked in with us throughout the day.  Eventually Jody started having contractions, and Hal came and got the tickets; he was the last person we saw before heading to the hospital (thirteen years later they both came to Ella’s bat mitzvah, but that’s another story.)

And then Hal became our (occasional) neighbor. In 1998, I left the world of record labels, and our trips to New York (and hangs with NY-based Hal) became less frequent.  A few years later, we moved from Santa Monica to Venice, and a few years after that I was stunned to run into Hal around the corner from our house.  It turned out he had rented a guest house about a block from us, to use as his west coast base (I believe he had it until the end).

Hal had a incalculable number of friends and projects, not to mention his wonderful wife Sheila and son Arlo, and his ‘day job’ at Saturday Night Live– so he didn’t make it out here as often as he liked.  But when you’d least expect it, Hal would materialize with no warning.  Sometimes there would be a text or a call, but more often than not, we’d hear a loud banging on our window, open the shade, and there would stand Hal.  He’d come in, and we’d start right back up, usually for at least an hour or two.  I’ll never forget the last time—my wife called from downstairs that Hal had dropped by.  I came down to find Hal, fresh from a swim at the nearby beach, in swim trunks and flip flops and nothing else, dripping wet.  His rickety bicycle was parked in our yard.  I went upstairs and got him a t-shirt, which I told him he could keep.  It’s such a great image to have for our last Hal sighting.

Hal always wanted to see my latest musical finds (I collect and sell rare records & music memorabilia).  In the past few years I remember a deep dive into a huge jazz memorabilia collection I’d bought, and a previously unknown Lenny Bruce tape.  Lenny was one of Hal’s heroes, and he helped me figure out where and when the tape was recorded

I never visited his famous NYC studio, but from the photos, his Venice guest house looked pretty similar.  Every surface was overflowing with precarious piles of cds, books, ephemera, things falling off tables, a huge chaotic framed print on the wall, inscribed to Hal by his great friend Ralph Steadman.

Here’s a text exchange from a few years ago:

Me: Are you around?  “

Hal: Yes-but I got a fucking acting gig as a Jerry Rubin character in “Documentary now”!  Strange – you around this weekend?”

Hal as a “Jerry Rubin character”

Hal was very close with Lou Reed, who I’d worked with at Warner Bros. Records in the 90s, and who could be very difficult.  He was also friendly with Gail Zappa, Frank Zappa’s wife, who had a similar reputation.  In a text conversation, Gail’s name had come up, and Hal wrote “So weird that I got on well with people that no one else did and didn’t get on with people that…well…”

I think that was a reference to the more mainstream music business.  Hal kvetched about how, despite all the acclaim his projects received, he’d never get hired by major artists to produce their albums.  I’d remind him that he’d staked his territory as someone who made wonderful art projects, not million sellers, and as fantastic as his projects were, the mainstream record labels craved million sellers.

He knew, but…

In my modern Buddhist worldview, people live on in those they loved, taught or in some way touched.  It’s a tragedy he’s gone.  I can’t imagine what it’s like for Sheila and Arlo.  Jody and I send them all our love.  But the incredible outpouring of love and appreciation for Hal and his work shows just how much he was valued.  And how much he’ll be missed.  I think he would have been blown away.

Happily Hal left a lot of tangible work behind (including a fine Mingus tribute and most recently, two various artist compilations of sea shanties).  This is music that absolutely would not have existed if not for Hal’s passion, creativity, and vision.  So let’s celebrate his time on earth, listen to the records he made, and remember the late but absolutely great Hal Willner.

Jeff Gold

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the star studded Saturday Night Live tribute to Hal.

 

 

Fake Sealed Records With Hype Stickers Proliferate on Ebay

Hello everyone, I hope you’re all well, washing your hands frequently, and staying sane.

I’ve been meaning to write about the proliferation of fake sealed records being offered on EBay, particularly ones with bogus “hype stickers”.

Resealed records have always been a problem.  In the 70’s, I was friendly with an employee at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip, which had a shrink wrap machine in the back room, and a general manager who claimed “there’s no such thing as a defective record.”  I was in Tower’s back room any number of times while employees resealed “defective” records that had been returned to the store. These machines would seal records in loose plastic wrap, and then employees would ‘shrink’ the wrap by quickly moving an industrial strength hair dryer back and forth over the shrink.

Of course shrink wrap machines were used for legitimate reasons too, primarily by US record stores to seal expensive import albums, which were sold in Europe unsealed.  ‘Imports’ sold for premium prices, so stores ‘loose sealed’ them, for protection, and to identify them as imports.

Knowing how easy it is to reseal a record, I’ve never understood why people pay high prices for ‘sealed’ albums.  The same goes for open albums with intact shrink wrap–when I was a teenager, we used to slide the shrink wrap off albums we didn’t care about, and ‘transplant’ it onto other records we wanted to protect.

As prices for sealed records rose dramatically, so did fraud, with unscrupulous sellers resealing clean records and selling them as ‘factory sealed’.  Sometimes they would make fake ‘breathe holes’ in the shrink too.  When I saw an expensive ‘sealed’ record I wanted for myself at a store or record show, I’d buy it with the understanding that I could open it in front of the seller, to insure it was in mint condition, and not a ‘re-seal.’

In the past 10 years or so, people have also begun to pay premium prices for sealed albums with ‘hype stickers’, the record store or distributor stickers usually with wording to the effect of “Featuring the hit single…”  And of course with premium prices, again came fraud.

For the past few years, a number of sellers on Ebay have been getting very high prices for a seemingly unending supply of ‘sealed’ albums with ‘rare hype stickers’.  Sometimes these stickers are ‘previously unknown’.  There’s a good reason for that–it’s because the vast majority are fake.

It’s not that difficult to find a clean copy of a scarce album to reseal.  Then with a scanner and desktop printer, it’s easy to either reproduce a rare sticker, or with a modicum of design talent, create your own ‘previously unknown’ sticker.  And that’s exactly what is happening, on a relatively large scale.  Every week I see lots of resealed albums with fake stickers selling on EBay, and shake my head at the poor people who are getting taken.

This has been a big topic of conversation among dealers, including my good friend Gary Johnson, of Rockaway Records.  Gary recently sent me an EBay listing for a supposedly ‘sealed’ album with a rare hype sticker and a Rockaway price tag, noting  “I assume that the only real thing in this listing is my 2018 price sticker.”  He noted some of these sellers “attach genuine vintage record store price stickers on their supposedly sealed albums to give the buyer “confidence”, but the reality is that it is simple (and common) to remove these stickers from other LPs in shrink wrap and place them on their “sealed” ones.  It amazes me how these guys keep finding new suckers. All one needs to do is look at the seller’s other items and see an amazing amount of sealed albums. None of them have any relationship to each other (same label, store, etc). Common sense should prevail, but I guess it doesn’t.”

I agree. There’s no easy way to tell if a record is resealed or a sticker is fake from a small internet photo.  But I encourage everyone to be exceedingly skeptical.  Check the seller’s feedback, past sales, and other items; if they’re offering many other similarly rare sealed albums with stickers, that’s a big red flag.  I’ve been collecting records for nearly 50 years and can promise you, these just aren’t that common.  Look at how long the seller has been in business.  A few of the sellers of fakes have changed their Ebay ID, more than once.  And most important, as I always say, any honest seller will happily give you a written lifetime guarantee of authenticity. If you’re buying something expensive, insist on this.

I’ve written about the proliferation of fake acetates on EBay.  Fake sealed records with bogus ‘hype stickers’ are becoming a big problem too.  There are of course genuine sealed albums with hype stickers.  But I wouldn’t be buying them off Ebay without spending some time vetting the seller, making sure they don’t have an endless supply, seeing if they’ve sold rarities other than sealed albums, and most important, insisting on a written lifetime guarantee of authenticity.

The great Richard Morton Jack of Flashback Magazine has written a highly recommended post about this topic, with illustrations, on his Galactic Ramble blog.

Stay safe and healthy everybody!

Jeff Gold

3/31/20

 

Another Jimi Hendrix First Pressing Myth Debunked: The UK Polydor Red/Black Logo “Hey Joe” 45 Is a Second Pressing

OK record nerds, time for more Hendrix pressing minutiae. For many decades, like most of the rest of the world (or at least Hendrix collectors) I accepted the conventional wisdom that the first pressing of Hendrix’s 1966 debut single, “Hey Joe/Stone Free” on UK Polydor had red labels and a black and white logo.  Yes, there were a bunch of variants, with punch out or solid centers, and ones that credited to either “Jimi Hendrix”, “Jimi Hendrix Experience” or “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”, but the version with the red label and black and white logo was by all accounts the earliest pressing (we’ll ignore those variations here, for everyone’s sanity).

A few years ago I saw a copy on Discogs that had a textured label that looked darker red, with an all black logo instead of the black/white one.  I shrugged it off, thinking it must be a printing error, but something about it stuck in my mind.  One day I decided to see if I could find other Polydor 45’s with that unusual label.  “Hey Joe” has the catalog number Polydor 56139, so I just started putting Polydor numbers lower than that into the Discogs database, and soon found 45’s by Valerie Masters (56135) and Normie Rowe (56132) with the same darker red/black type label.  So it wasn’t a mistake!

FIRST PRESSING WITH ALL BLACK LOGO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SECOND PRESSING, WITH BLACK/WHITE LOGO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching in the other direction, I found the Polydor single released immediately after Hendrix’s debut, Wee Willie Harris’ “Listen to the River Roll Along” had the familiar black label with the red/white logo.  Voila!  The first pressing of “Hey Joe/Stone Free” was clearly the last Polydor single issued with the all black logo label.  When it became a hit, Polydor repressed the single on their “new” labels, with the red/white logo.

VALERIE MASTERS 45, ISSUED JUST BEFORE “HEY JOE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEE WILLIE HARRIS, ISSUED IMMEDIATELY AFTER “HEY JOE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I know this is trivia, but it interested me, as I’m sure it will some of you. If you are one of those people, here are links to two posts debunking the popular myth that the first pressings of Electric Ladyland are the ones with the blue type.

Now back to the real world!

Jeff Gold

July 16, 2019

 

 

RIP Gary Stewart: Music Icon, Social Justice Warrior, and Great Human Being

It’s been two weeks since Gary Stewart, my dear friend of 44 years, took his own life, and I’m still trying to process it. We met as teenage college students and music fanatics; I was a clerk at the Rhino Records Store in Westwood and Gary was an enthusiastic customer. He was a management trainee at McDonald’s, but eventually we convinced him to come work at the store, and our deep discussions about music continued for the rest of his life.

Me (left) and Gary (right) promoting DIY artist R.Stevie Moore; outside the Rhino store, late 1970’s.

Miraculously, we both went on to have successful careers in the music business.  Gary eventually became senior vice president of A&R for the Rhino label, and has been acknowledged as probably the greatest compiler of reissues and box sets ever (his LA Times obituary notes he is credited on over 700 albums).  In 2003 Steve Jobs hired Gary as chief music officer at Apple, where he curated iTunes’ offerings and oversaw their ‘Essentials’ playlists.  He left Apple in 2011, and launched Trunkworthy, a movie/tv/music recommendation website.  The name referenced his car’s trunk, filled with cd’s and dvd’s he thought people NEEDED, and his habit of forcing them on even casual acquaintances. He returned to Apple in 2016 for another run at curating their catalog, and left last year.  I still laugh about his career arc—even in his earliest days at the Rhino store, he was a huge fan of ‘Greatest Hits’ albums.  In an odd way, he made that artform his life’s work.

Gary was also a social justice warrior; incredibly committed to the underserved and underrepresented, through philanthropy and his very active participation in organizations dedicated to fairness and equality, particularly Liberty Hill, Community Coalition and Laane.

As befitting the passing of a beloved music business legend, obituaries honoring Gary appeared in the New York Times, Billboard, The Los Angeles Times and many other publications.

But I keep thinking these tell the story of Gary the music icon and committed activist–not Gary the person.  The Gary I knew was a big, sometimes awkward, occasionally goofy guy. He remembered dates like nobody I’ve ever known: “Sparks at the Santa Monica Civic?  That was December 3 & 4, 1975. They opened the show with…”  He had more friends and acquaintances than anyone I’d ever met. There were 400 people at his 60th birthday party.  I don’t think I could have paid that many people to come to mine.

Loyal to his friends, generous beyond measure, dependable as can be, when I think of Gary I think: reliable, insightful, committed, perfectionist, unwilling to settle, occasionally guarded, vulnerable, obsessive, brilliant, excited, voracious, neurotic, self-effacing, beloved.  As my wife Jody would say, Gary was dear.

At the 2010 Rhino store reunion; l-r Rhino’s Garson Foos, me, Gary.

The thing I’ll miss most is hugging that big bear of a man and our obsessively nerding out about music. I have lots of music fanatic friends, but I can’t think of anyone I’ve talked to more about music than Gary. When we first met, I knew much more than he did about music and records. But pretty quickly his musical knowledge overtook mine in a big way. His taste was so broad and encyclopedic, his interests so all encompassing. Gary listened to everything, read incessantly, remembered everything, was always looking for new music, and went to shows many times each week. His passion seemed to know no bounds.

As we aged, and his interests broadened to incorporate films, plays, television and movies, Gary was forever trying to get me to listen to new things, watch new TV shows, check out movies, etc.  When Apple hired him for the first time, he took his signing bonus and bought 150 box sets of the first season of ‘The Wire’ and sent them to his friends.  Crazy?  Absolutely.  But I had to admit, I’d never seen it, and once I’d watched it became one of my favorite television shows ever.

As a record collector and dealer, I always have more records in my ‘to listen to’ stack than I have time for, along with a pile of unread books, magazines, and a list of movies I’m interested in.  Gary was always trying to turn me on to new things, but I protested.  “Gary”, I’d say, “I don’t have enough time to listen to and watch what I already have”.  If I’m watching a movie, tv show, or listening to a record, and I’m not loving it, I move on to the next thing.  Gary would NEVER do that.  He always found something interesting in everything.  Eventually he came up with a line about me – – “for you it’s got to be an A”. Exactly right.  But for Gary, everything had something to offer.

I’m so glad we were able to spend an evening together the week before he died. We had dinner, went to see The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (an unreleased tv special from 1968), and sat in the theatre lobby and talked for more than an hour.  We discussed his present state of mind, his depression (my term; more about that below) and of course music. He said he was doing better, and seemed like it. We A&R’d the acts in the movie in detail—we agreed The Who were the best thing in it, and for Gary, his favorite 60’s group. We were both surprised at how good Taj Mahal was, and disappointed in how ho-hum the Stones were (they went on at 2 AM and were exhausted, though Gary was more forgiving than me, happy to see them performing Beggar’s Banquet material live).  We were surprised to see in the credits that the guitarist playing with Jethro Tull was Tony Iommi, who soon went on to Black Sabbath. That led to a long riff about which bands the casual music fan would be able to name all the members of—something we both were amazed we’d never thought about before (we decided: Beatles & Stones yes, The Who maybe, but not many beyond that).  I told him about the time a few years ago when I interviewed Pete Townshend for a Joan Jett documentary; and we both, once again, acknowledged how lucky we were to have met and worked with some of our musical heroes.  It was like hundreds of conversations we’d had over so many years. Eventually our energy faded, we headed to the parking lot, I gave him a hug and a kiss, told him I loved him, and we headed to our cars. Never for a second did I think this would be the last time I’d see him. But it was.

I will miss Gary for the rest of my life. But I’m fucking glad I got to know him and spend so much time with him for so many years.

Jeff Gold

April 27, 2019

I’m working with Richard Foos and Harold Bronson on an event celebrating Gary; to be added to the mailing list email garystewartmemorial@gmail.com

I wrote this on April 12 after hearing Gary had died:

I met Gary circa 1975, when I was a clerk at Rhino Records, and he was a customer.  We became close friends pretty quickly, and eventually I was able to convince him to leave his job at McDonalds (he was a management trainee) to join us at the Rhino store.  Gary had confided in me about his struggles, and I wanted to write this for his friends.

Just so everyone knows, Gary knew how much he was loved. He may have brushed it aside when told so, but he knew it. A few months ago at lunch we had a very frank discussion—he was depressed, lamenting not having a job, relationship, having spent too much of his Apple money and not knowing what the next chapter of his life was. He was obviously suffering, but didn’t sound remotely without hope.  I emphasized to him how unique and employable he was, knowing an impossibly lot about music, and having come from Apple, and that there would be many companies that would want to know about their inner workings. We spent a long time brainstorming ideas for a new job (he took notes), and he referred to his next chapter in subsequent email as Gary 4.0.  I invited him to write something for my blog which he wanted to do and was working on. I told him again and again how beloved he was and how much good karma he had.  He also told me that he owned his house and had enough money for at least 10 or 15 years, and that he was cutting back on going out and spending to make it last.  He was fully engaged in finding solutions to his issues, and wrote me the next day “And yes, I know just how ok I am-and how much, on every level, I’ve got-I always have really.”  A week or so later he wrote apologized for not getting the blog post to me sooner, saying he was working on it and ’that’s on top of two networking calls/meetings a day-with exercise and meditating thrown in for good measure.

I followed up with him regularly; he went on a meditation retreat (which he didn’t love that much, but was doing more meditating on his own), and he was definitely getting mental health care,   He alluded to a medical thing, but told me it wasn’t serious, and that he was fine.

Last week we had dinner, went to see the Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus film in a theater, and sat in the lobby for an hour or so afterward talking. He was again upfront about what was going on, and seem to be somewhat better, and said he was. We talked about ketamine being approved for depression, and I think he was going to ask his therapist about it.  I am pretty sure he told me he was seeing his psychiatrist the next day and was going to discuss changing his anti depressant,  but I’m not positive about that.  We discussed and I sent him a link to an Israeli film on a study where PTSD survivors were dramatically helped with MDMA/ecstasy. He wrote me an email this Monday telling me he really enjoyed it, and how it gave him a deeper understanding into a similar therapy a friend of his had tried.

I’m writing this to let his friends know that Gary knew he was depressed, had reached out to me, and I’m sure to others, was talking about it, trying to find a solution, and getting mental health care.  In no way did I think he was suicidal, but obviously I was wrong. But he was doing his best to try to help himself.  Gary was always working on himself, trying to be a better person, of service to his friends and humanity at large.

I loved Gary and always will. In my modern Buddhist worldview, reincarnation isn’t about being reborn into a new body.  It’s about how the departed continue to live on in those they loved, taught, or touched in some way, and how their energy is carried forward by those they leave behind.   I can’t think of anyone who put more great energy into the world, and so Gary will be reincarnated in each of us.

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