Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Montvel-Cohen gets wrist slap in theft case

Guam media executive Evan Montvel-Cohen was sentenced to five years of probation today after pleading no contest to a charge of first-degree theft. He will, however, have a felony charge on his record in the case.

Montvel-Cohen, 43, admitted stealing some $30,000 from a Waimanalo landscaping company that he worked for in 2005. He has since repaid the money to the company, Ultimate Innovations, Inc., prior to yesterday's sentencing by Circuit Judge Randal Lee in a Honolulu courtroom.

Additional charges of credit card fraud, forgery and money laundering against Montvel-Cohen were dismissed as part of the plea agreement he reached with prosecutors here.

Montvel-Cohen is known to many readers here for his role as one of the founders of Air America Radio. He left in a storm of controversy amid accusations of overstating his own personal worth and taking out loans from a non-profit organization to fund his investment in the startup radio venture.

He was arrested last year for the recent charge, and accepted a plea deal last month.

Once a thief, always a theif...

Monday, July 27, 2009

LTR goes social

Okay, it's been awhile, but that's what happens when...

A. There's nothing to write about.

B. The only stuff to write about is ridiculous wingnut exploits like picking apart Barack Obama's birth certificate and kissing the asses of corrupt health insurance and pharmaceutical companies

C. I've got writer's bloc.

D. It's summer, and I've got a bitchen' tan!

E. The dog ate my homework.

Nonetheless, I haven't forgotten about all of you. As a matter of fact, I decided to get a little more social. Now, many of you are familiar with the LTR MySpace page. It's been there awhile, and if it serves some sort of purpose, I shall soon find out exactly what it is. At least it makes more sense than my YouTube page (which I no longer publicize and, to be quite honest, I've forgotten the web address).

And now, like just about everyone else there, I expanded to a few new frontiers, for all you web socialists. I've been up on Twitter for awhile now, but just haven't really found the time to tinker with it, or figure out a use for it. I guess I'm supposed to post whenever I brush my teeth or tell you what I had for lunch (turkey and swiss sandwich, BTW). But I won't bore you with that stuff. Perhaps some news updates or something (which is kinda what I have this blog for, right?). Hey, maybe some stuff that doesn't seem to cut the mustard on the blog (I do try to keep out the excess). I tried Twitter before Twitter became cool, but couldn't figure out what to do with it. But everyone is seemingly using it, so I guess I'll finally figure it out. Bear with me.

For Facebook users, you're not left out in the dark. You can find the LTR Facebook page here. Now, bear with me, as I have no idea what to do with these things thus far. But I imagine it's a simple concept like "Build it and they will come". So, I guess it will unfold somehow, some way.

So again, if you'd like to follow the shenanigans on Twitter, you may do so here. Facebook users can find me here. And I may very well find a use for both of these sites. So c'mon, be my friend.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In this episode, you can read my mail

I always get rather interesting things in my email box. Aside from Nigerian and Chinese money-making scams that could probably result in me either getting fleeced or getting killed, should I be stupid enough to comply, I get some rather interesting news items, press releases, newsletters, fan mail, hate mail and women who want to bear my children. Okay, so that last part's not true. But if any out there need practice...

Nonetheless, here's a few interesting items I deemed worth sharing:

National Lampoon delivers new Limbaugh clip

First, remember those cool guys at National Lampoon? Hey, I remember reading the magazines (when they did a magazine) under the covers late at night. By that time, I had started to grow out of Mad magazine and was ready for something a little more provocative. Remember the movies your parents wouldn't let you see, like "Animal House" and "Vacation"? Ahh, memories...
But National Lampoon never went away, they exist now mostly as a web entity. And I was quite humbled today when I opened up a personally-sent email from their director of National Development. Okay, I'm not bragging (cuz I know you don't really give a rip), and even if I were, would I brag about that? Hey, I just thought it was cool to hear from them.

So, NatLamp has a new YouTube clip, called "Rush Limbaugh's New Obama Show!" It's a cool diversion, and let's face it, in these depressing times, we could all use a laugh. Particularly if it skewers someone like Rush Limbaugh. Check it out here. Make Brian Maloney cry.

Bennett Zier discusses Air America's upcoming web makeover

Shelly of Air America sends this one (sorry for trashing Heather Mills the other day, Shel... okay, I'm not). It's a link to a Fishbowl NY interview with Air America CEO Bennett Zier, who discusses the media company's future and upcoming website redesign. Here's an excerpt:

FBNY: What sort of projects or initiatives are you working on to expand and define this target market?

BZ: We will be redesigning and relaunching the Web site before the end of the summer. The readers, viewers and listeners will find it to be a wonderful multimedia experience. We're going to have multiple audio streams, multiple video streams and content that is new and compelling. The site will have a new look and navigation will be a pleasurable experience. We're also highlighting hosts -- like Montel Williams, Lionel, Ron Reagan and Rachel Maddow -- who bring passionate debate to the air.

FBNY: What affect do you think these new initiatives will have on Air America's brand and business?

BZ: I think what Air America is looking to get a larger distribution and generate more critical mass by creating content that not only draws in non-conservatives but also brings in opinionators. We're also bringing on new audio and video channels and new writers for our Web site, in new categories like green living and lifestyle, which are very attractive to the people who view the world from the left.

FBNY: What future do you see for Air America?

BZ: As progressive behavior has moved more into the mainstream with the election of the new president, Air America's vision is to continue to expand its brand to all left-leaning people. Air America is also very focused on providing a relevant, entertaining and provocative voice.

Technology is catching up to content so you have to make sure that your content travels to all of the distribution systems. News and politics have become a spectator sport and people are keeping score the way they do with baseball, football or basketball. Air America is very, very excited about the future and we look forward to being relevant and offering a significant viewpoint well into the future.

Rodriguez debuts webcast

Another one I just got in my box from a reader:


I wanted to point out to you that Neil Rogers' long time producer and substitute host Jorge Rodriguez has started a webcast that runs from Noon-3pm daily. Jorge doesn't talk about politics all the time, but he is decidedly liberal and takes no shit from conservatives. His webcast is quite good and very much in the spirit of the old Neil Rogers show.

You can hear the show here.

Hartmann debuts daily newsletter

On Monday, I was quite surprised to find this item in my email. Thom Hartmann has launched a new daily e-newsletter, letting listeners know about upcoming events, show guests and whatnot. You can subscribe to it here, and best of all, it's free. Neat.

What exactly is an 'activist judge' anyway?

Finally, another daily newsletter I receive is from media watchdog group Media Matters for America. And reading their most recent low-down, mostly dealing with Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, got me thinking about something.

We often hear the right-wing talking point about the evils of what they call 'activist judges'. Only thing is, they're often quite vague about what exactly they consider to be an 'activist judge'. If it means what I think it means, then why are these same conservative critics so adamant about using Roe vs. Wade as a litmus test for confirmations? I don't know about you, but that sounds pretty 'activist' to me.

The tide is turning - the death of WBCN and the move of WQXR

America’s radio landscape is looking to shift considerably in the next month, with several industry moves that will topple two pioneering stations. First, a 65 year-old New York classical music radio icon is ending. And in the other, CBS Radio is looking to boost it's FM sports presence with two format flips. One of those moves was long-rumored. The other one effectively kills a four decade rock institution. And both are closely related to the current economic landscape hurting many media owners.

To begin with, there's the complicated deal completed late yesterday. New York's WQXR, one of the oldest FM stations in America (it went on the air in 1939, and has carried its current format since 1944), is being sold by its cash-strapped owner, the New York Times. The Times will sell the 96.3FM frequency to Univision, which will move its Spanish hits "La Kalle" format from the current, lesser-powered 105.9FM. In turn, the Times will sell WQXR's classical music format to WNYC Radio, which will take over 105.9FM and operate it as a non-commercial classical station.
The Times will get $45 million out of the two deals - $33.5 million from Univision plus another $11.5 million from non-commercial outlet WNYC (93.9FM). Times CEO Janet Robinson sees the three-way transaction as the best chance to preserve WQXR's format, though the move will sever the station's ties with the Times' reporters and resources. In addition, WNYC, which broadcasts some classical music in the evening, will likely shift to all news/talk. WNYC has already begun a $15 million campaign to fund the purchase of the new frequency and its equipment.

At least WQXR's classical format will survive. Another iconic station is not so lucky. Earlier in the day, another notable incident of format shuffling was announced, as CBS announced the pending flip of two large-market FM stations. In Washington, DC, FM talker WJFK's shift to sports has been a poorly-kept secret for several weeks. Therefore, that announcement was not surprising. But the most notable part of this story is the pending implosion, set for mid-August, of one of this country's most iconic rock stations, WBCN in Boston.

The changes in Boston are a little more complicated than a mere format flip. What essentially is happening is CBS is moving the adult contemporary format of WBMX (Mix 98.5) to the 104.1 FM frequency. The 98.5 frequency will become WBZ-FM, "The Hub", which will be all-sports.

Sports on FM is a growing fad for many of the big corporate broadcasters across the country. First, some music formats don't seem to be faring well in Arbitron's new flaw-ridden PPM-derived surveys (which use 'people meters' rather than diaries). Second, with music industry lobbyists pushing Congress to mandate performance royalties from radio stations, some radio owners see talk-oriented programming as a way of giving the music industry the middle finger. It also shows the impulsive nature of the major corporate broadcasters.

But today's changes are most notable in a different way. After all, it's not every day that a company abruptly blows up a 41 year-old radio institution. Honestly, though, WBCN's pending demise should come as no surprise, given that it has practically been dying for years. Many similar stations also lost their way as their corporate owners have been clueless as to how to remain relevant. WBCN suffered the death of a thousand cuts.

For over half a century, WBCN has been a local institution. Since its inception in May, 1958, they aired a classical music format (with the same call letters), while most ears were glued to AM radio. By 1968, 'underground' free-form rock was making waves on the FM dial, as struggling stations on that band were eager to try just about anything to get people to listen. It started with KMPX in San Francisco and WOR-FM in New York, and spread like wildfire across the landscape. It could be argued effectively that free-form rock contributed greatly to the growth of FM radio.

WBCN, engulfed in fierce competition with other FM classical outlets, began to experiment with cutting-edge rock when it leased its nighttime hours to a local promoter/nightclub owner, who wanted to use the airwaves to draw traffic to his shows. "The American Revolution" launched on March 15, 1968, with "I Feel Free" by Cream. Within a year, and with skyrocketing listenership, WBCN adopted free-form rock full-time.

Like many similar stations of the day, the programming was adventurous, heavy with album cuts, diverse genres of music, and no playlists. The newscasts and the overall attitude of the station was unabashedly left-wing and, well, revolutionary. The jocks talked with the listeners, rather than at them. And they were fully in tune with who and what they were. It is highly doubtful, for example, that a station would actually air a show dedicated to, of all demographics, prison inmates in these more rigid, uptight times. WBCN became the epicenter of the growing Boston rock scene, which helped to spawn such bands as Aerosmith and The Cars. Peter Wolf, who went on to international fame as the lead singer of the local J. Geils Band, was originally the station's wild nighttime personality.

As music, culture and lifestyles changed, WBCN was still able to keep up. They championed the arrival of punk and new wave in the late 1970s, as similar stations were befuddled as to how to mix it with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.

As with many of their contemporaries, WBCN soon grew up. A new corporate owner, along with consultants, playlists and a more rigid format began entering the picture by the late 1970s. Competitors also bit at their heels. With its listeners growing older and a new generation of rock fans entering the picture, WBCN arrived at a crossroads. By the 1980s, the station's original listeners began flocking to classic rocker WZLX and the younger listeners tuned in to modern rocker WFNX. WBCN straddled the fence with a mix of both old and new. But like many of their pioneering contemporaries, they struggled.

By 1994, Infinity Broadcasting decided a generational update was in order. Following their purchase of WZLX, they gave WBCN a modern rock format similar to that of WFNX. Infinity's New York-based morning superstar Howard Stern was brought in and a year later, they became the flagship station for New England Patriots football. The music evolved over the next decade, as heavy metal and soon, even classic rock acts, were added. Soon, the station's music would be diminished further, with CBS' growing addiction to FM male-oriented talk. Opie and Anthony and the local Toucher and Rich shows were added, as Howard Stern departed from terrestrial radio. Like many other CBS rock stations, it became a matter of too much of everything and not enough of one thing.

But the passing of WBCN is not surprising in the 2009 radio landscape. External forces, such as webcasting, satellite radio, MP3 players, Arbitron's PPM, performance royalties, uninspiring programming ideas, the economy and corporate radio's itchy trigger finger obviously helped to seal the fate of WBCN and other similar stations. Legacy rock stations, the ones that began in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are a rapidly vanishing breed, often propped up by big ticket sports contracts and popular morning shows, but not by the very thing that made them successful in the first place. There are only a scant few of these stations still around, such as WMMS in Cleveland, KQRS in Minneapolis and WEBN in Cincinnati. And, like WBCN, these stations long ago became hollow corporate-owned shells of their former selves, twisting in the winds with uninspired programming and little connection to their glorious pasts aside from their history and call letters. In the 1960s and 1970s (and even into the 1980s), radio was exciting to listen to. They had great live jocks, terrific music, lots of personality, and a finger on the community's pulse. Today, it's almost all done by computer. Radio stations in this day and age all sound as if they're run by account executives and focus groups. In short, it's just plain depressing.

And the fact that WBCN and other once-great stations like it, rich histories and all, are being replaced by the trendy sports talk format and work-friendly adult pop music is certainly a telling sign of where radio is headed. No wonder radio is dying.

Finally, in a fitting funeral well-suited for modern-day radio, CBS vows that WBCN will live on, as a fully automated jockless HD Radio side channel on 98.3FM, that likely few will listen to. Welcome to 2009.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yet another semi-manic Monday

Here's a little of what's happening today...

"Clout" goes celeb-crazy

Air America calls the concept "Pollywood" (the intersection between politics and Hollywood). And now, they're beefing up the weeknight show "Hollywood CLOUT!" with the permanent addition of 10 celebrities to its weekly line-up. According to AAM, "these celebrities, chosen for their depth of knowledge and commitment to political, environmental, social and spiritual issues and their unique perspectives, will add their comments via The Hollywood CLOUT! Hotline or serve as co-hosts with Richard Greene, live on air during the 9-11P ET (6-8P PT) time slot."

Here's the lowdown:


Peter Coyote comments on what the Progressive political community must do in the Age of Obama
Heather Mills comments on lifestyle, health, vegetarian and animal rights issues, and how to fleece aging rock stars... oops, sorry for the editorial content.


"Hollywood CLOUT! Think Tank" Executive Director Noah Wyle co-hosts with Richard and discusses the news of the day

DL Hughley and his "DL Minute" bring humor to the issues of the day


Billy Baldwin (as opposed to his crazy wingnut brother Steve) co-hosts with Richard and discusses the news of the day

"The L Word" star Mia Kirschner talks about social justice and international issues


Fran Drescher comments on women and other issues

Bai Ling brings her unique international and spiritual perspectives


James Cromwell adds his sage commentary on politics and lifestyle

A different musical or comedic star joins for "Friday Music Night" or "Friday Comedy Night".

Friday, July 17 - Jon Lovitz
Friday, July 24 - Trumpeter Chris Botti
Friday, July 31 - Alanis Morrissette

So there you have it.

Cullen to launch web show

Lynn Cullen has been a long-time Pittsburgh radio fixture and a moneymaker for WPTT (1360) before it changed formats last year. Her current station, WAMO (860), is set to soon flip to a Catholic format. Now, enter another local station. The Frischling family of Pittsburgh, owners of WLTJ and the Pittsburgh City Paper alt-weekly, has approached Cullen about doing a mid-morning online show.

The show will air live 10-11am and can be downloaded any time after that, starting August 18.

Webb killer gets 20 years

The mentally ill man who killed former Seattle talk-show host Mike Webb with an ax in 2007 was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

The sentence of Scott Brian White, 29, was 10 years more than the defense attorney asked for and eight years more than even the prosecutor asked for. The judge considered the plea agreement submitted by the prosecutor, but imposed a stiffer sentence for second-degree murder, downgraded from first due to his mental condition and drug use, suggesting that the murder wasn't premeditated.

After being missing for several months in 2007, Webb's decomposed body was discovered under his house in June of that year. White confessed to killing him soon afterward.

Funny, I remember when they'd lock up the murderers and throw away the key.

New portable HD Radio hits market

The much-beleaguered HD Radio technology has gotten a significant boost, as a new affordable and portable device hits the marketplace.

It's a portable radio capable of receiving HD Radio signals, and it is available at Best Buy stores via their Insignia in-house brand.

The unit is the has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, an armband, and the ability to store 10 pre-set stations. And at $49.95, the price is at least reasonable. Plus, with a device like this, perhaps it wouldn't be unreasonable for radio stations to use them as giveaways.

Sure, HD Radio has a ways to go before it shows any hope of being a factor in the industry. Let's face it, it isn't an iPod. But with devices such as this, it sure does seem like they're going in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

KPHX rises

Well, it seems the rumors are indeed true. Liberal talk on KPHX (1480AM) in Phoenix is back.

The station, which had aired the format for over two years, brought it back to the local airwaves today.

Here's a statement from their website

Welcome back! The Progressive Talk format has returned to the airwaves in Phoenix, Arizona! I want to thank all our sponsors, advertisers, listeners, hosts and everyone in the community who made this dream a reality. We look forward to bringing you the most compelling, provocative and entertaining programming there is to offer locally and nationally. Over the next several days we will be adding new features to our website, At times the website will be temporarily down as we make these upgrades. We encourage you to participate in whatever ways you can to make our mutual endeavors a success. Please feel free to send me any suggestions or ideas you might have regarding 1480 KPHX to Peace!

There are some differences between the new KPHX and the former incarnation run by the now-defunct Nova M Radio. Most notably, Nova M is out of the picture. This new one appears to be run by former Nova M personality Mike Newcomb, who is hosting a weekday afternoon show on the station.

Much of the on-air lineup is similar. Mike Malloy, Thom Hartmann, Stephanie Miller Bill Press and Randi Rhodes can still be heard here. One interesting addition is Ed Schultz, who had not aired on the Nova M incarnation but will air evenings on delay.

Currently, it doesn't appear as if the station has a live streaming link (unlike the old KPHX). And unlike the old KPHX, this is being put forward as merely a local radio station, rather than the flagship for an upstart radio network.

Wingnuts claim evil liberals shut down station, amid skyrocketing tin foil sales

We all know that many die-hard right-wingers are having problems coping with the current sad state of the conservative movement. Hey, we've got 60 senate seats, a majority in the house and a black liberal in the White House.

I love America. I really, really do

But one has to kinda feel sorry for those tighty-righties out there. Things are so rough for the crybaby conservative movement that its minions are reaching new, ridiculous levels of paranoia.

For this story, we travel to Eugene, Oregon. A local conservotalk station, KPNW (1120AM) has been off the air since Friday. Station personnel claim that hot summer temperatures caused a transmitter failure. Meanwhile, some of the station's listeners had other ideas.

From the Register Guard:

Since the station’s transmitter failed early Friday morning, Program Director Bill Lundun says, the phone lines have been jammed with concerned callers.

Some are conspiracy theorists, convinced that the Obama administration is behind the outage.

Ted Egan, an 80-year-old listener from Veneta, said Monday that while the station says it’s had problems with the transmitter, he thinks something else may have happened.

"You listen to these guys talk, and they are really down on this guy Obama. They really blast him," he said. "I don’t think he likes it, and I think he has the power to do something. To think, in this day and age that this station can just be off the air for three days … it seems strange."

I realize that some of these people think President Obama is the messiah (or is it the other way around?), but seriously, I highly doubt he has control over the weather. Or at least control enough to zap radio stations off the air.

So, if the idea of Obama, who is currently elbows-deep in trying to sort out the economy, health care and international relations (and is, at this point, traveling from Russia to Italy for the G8 conference), hijacking a tiny AM station in Oregon seems rather ridiculous, the other excuses are also rather ridiculous, though not surprising given the source.

Lundun said, "One caller said he was convinced that a group of liberal terrorists had gone and attacked our transmitter. Obviously that was not the case."

Other listeners who called the station claimed that the 'liberal media' is to blame for shutting down the station, and depriving them of their Lars Larson and Rush Limbaugh fix.

So, blame Obama. Check. Blame the so-called 'liberal media'. Double Check. These guys are nothing if not totally predictable. The only thing they didn't blame was Slick Willie's willie.

What really happened to KPNW sounds more reasonable. The main transmitter failed on Friday. Engineers switched to a backup unit, which happens to be 60 years old. That ancient relic lasted until Sunday morning, when it caught fire.

Currently, engineers are working to return the station to the air, and hope to get it back on soon.

But listeners should be warned. As it stands now, the Obama administration has been experimenting with a device that can send subsonic signals through individual radios. These waves have the ability to brainwash anyone listening. Oh wait, conservative talk radio is doing that already. Nevermind.

So, was this all merely the heat-related failure of the main transmitter and the flameout of a much older backup? Or was it a part of some evil liberal plot, designed to further pummel those poor right-wingers? Is Obama, who's favorable ratings are more than double that of even the most popular conservojocks, reaching all the way across the country to silence some small-town AM station? Is Obama also to blame for the death of Michael Jackson? Did he plant a girl in Argentina for the sole purpose of banging South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford? Did he force Sarah Palin to resign as governor of Alaska?

More importantly, what kind of glue are these tin-foil idiots huffing anyway?

To be honest, I kinda feel sorry for these folks. With a crazy flock like this, It's gonna be pretty rough for them come 2010 and 2012.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Schultz solidifies homebase, gets bigger workload

After several years of bouncing around various affiliates in his home market of Fargo, Ed Schultz has solidified his home base with a new local show.

Local right-wing radio host Scott Hennen recently purchased two stations, KQLX and KQLX-FM (106.1FM). The AM station is all-farm news, the FM airs a talk format. Back in March, he offered to air Schultz' syndicated show live, as opposed to the delayed evening airing on his previous affiliate KFGO.

In addition, Schultz will once again host a locally-oriented show, airing 8-9AM weekdays. This is in addition to his own three hour national radio show and his nightly gig on MSNBC. Schultz had previously hosted a locally-oriented show for KFGO.

The pairing of political opposites, Hennen on the right and Schultz on the left, was announced at a news conference Monday morning in Fargo.

"If you set the politics aside and look at the business side, it makes perfect sense," Hennen said.

Remembering a bastard

The grim reaper has obviously been building up his Rolodex as of late, as there has been an abundance of well-known personalities who have passed on, seemingly just in the past few weeks.

Over the holiday weekend, we marked the passing of a well-known behind-the-scenes figure, one who's impact was felt throughout the 1960s. Respected by some, he was loathed by many. In short, the guy was an absolute, destructive bastard.

No, I'm not talking about Robert McNamara.

Many gallons of ink and electrons will be spilled over the next few days about McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson who is cited by many to be the architect of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. Since many other scribes will do a better job of chronicling the controversial legacy of McNamara, I have chosen another dead controversial figure to analyze. A bastard by another name, Allen Klein.

The name may be familiar to some. But the impact of Klein, who passed away on July 4 after battling Alzheimer's disease, on the world of popular music was huge. Klein's intimidating, overbearing tactics were loved by some, detested by many, and both loved and detested by perhaps even more. Pete Townsend of The Who once called him "the awesome rock-leech Godfather." In essence, he was a predator, or as John Lennon once described him, "the shark that kept the other sharks away". He was the music industry's equivalent to nasty Wall Street predators like Kirk Kerkorian and Carl Icahn.

Klein was an accountant who muscled his way into the music business by presenting himself to artists as someone who could keep record companies from ripping them off, while eventually ripping them off himself. In the early days, he was heralded as an expert at dissecting the ledger books of artists in search of unaccounted-for money. And he was a vicious, nasty character known for wearing down his opponents through clever manipulation, vulgar language and a Jimmy Hoffa-like negotiating demeanor. Bobby Darin, his first major client, was impressed when Klein got him an extra $100,000 by picking apart the books and shaking down the record label. The guy could squeeze blood from a rock.

Klein's tenacious, hard-ass reputation grew quickly among recording artists. He soon became Sam Cooke's business manager, and was able to negotiate then-unprecedented terms, such as his own record label, Tracey Records, and an impressive royalty rate. After Cooke's tragic 1964 death, his widow sold the label to Klein, marking his entry into copyright ownership.

Klein parlayed his growing clout and holdings into a sizable empire. He soon acquired struggling Cameo Records, and with it the rights to all their master recordings. He also began managing several popular British Invasion bands, such as the Animals, Herman's Hermits and the Dave Clark Five. But like a great white shark, he wanted more. Much more. He could smell the blood.

By 1966, Klein noticed that Andrew Loog Oldham, manager of the Rolling Stones, was vulnerable. Oldham was young, inexperienced, inefficient and heavy into drugs. Klein moved in and purchased Oldham's management stake in the band. Lead singer Mick Jagger was initially impressed with Klein's business skills, but later grew skeptical of his methods. Bassist Bill Wyman claimed in his autobiography that eventually, the Stones were almost flat broke, that few royalties were coming in from their massive sales and even worse, much of the revenue was diverted to Klein and his various shell companies. They were getting robbed blind! At one point, Jagger allegedly chased Klein down a hotel hallway screaming "where's my fucking money?!?" The Stones soon got rid of Klein in a messy changing of the guard as they set up their own management and label structure. Both parties spent years in court, and Klein's vicious litigation eventually got him complete rights to the Stones' publishing and recording catalogs through 1971. Naturally, the Stones were incensed.

While Klein held a firm grasp on the Stones, he sought even juicier prey. The Beatles, following the death of manager Brian Epstein and the establishment of their own Apple Corps., were very vulnerable. Apple was hemorrhaging money, as the band had no idea how to run an efficient business. John Lennon even admitted in the press that the band would soon be flat broke. That's when Klein pounced. He did his homework, and even listened to Lennon's music intensely enough to be able to recite lyrics. More importantly, he found Lennon's weak spot - his wife Yoko Ono, who was respected by very few in the Beatles' inner circle. By appeasing Yoko, he would win over Lennon. Lennon was impressed with Klein's pitch, and recommended him to his bandmates. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were willing to put him in charge of Apple. But Paul McCartney didn't trust Klein (likely, his good friend Jagger told him what Klein did to the Stones). Besides, he wanted his new father-in-law, successful entertainment lawyer Lee Eastman, and his son John, to manage the band. When the band signed a deal with Klein, McCartney was the only one who refused to put his name on the contract.

Klein's success with the Beatles was mixed. His most notable achievement was in renegotiating the band's EMI contract, granting them then-record royalty rates. He also engineered some successful releases, such as the massive single "Something"/"Come Together", at a time when they could use the money. And he enlisted producer Phil Spector to make something out of the abandoned Get Back project (which became the controversial Let It Be). At the same time, he turned Apple Corps. upside-down. His brash management style clashed with the "western communism" aesthetic of the company. He fired many long-time Beatles loyalists, as well as useless hangers-on. The label lost many of their biggest talents, including A&R head and producer Peter Asher, a longtime McCartney friend who also took one of Apple's most promising new signings, James Taylor, with him to another label. Amidst all the management squabbling with McCartney's own representatives, the Eastmans, the Beatles were unable to save their publishing arm, Northern Songs, from a buyout by ATV; hence they lost control of many of their song copyrights.

After the Beatles broke up and McCartney discovered that Klein was attempting to illegally siphon royalties off his debut solo album, he took Klein and his former bandmates to court, to officially disband the Beatles. McCartney took a ton of criticism for the move, but he saw it as the only way to remove Klein's tentacles from Apple Corps.

Following the breakup, Lennon and Harrison continued to let Klein manage their affairs, though they soon would grow weary of his methods. When Harrison organized the Concert For Bangladesh benefit at Madison Square Garden, Klein didn't even bother to make prior arrangements with benefactor UNICEF. This created a mess, lots of litigation, an IRS investigation and very little money actually making it to its intended destination. Even worse, Klein was skimming profits off the sale of promotional copies of the tie-in album, while not reporting the sales to tax authorities, a big no-no which later landed Klein two months of jail time.

But that wasn't the end. Harrison was in court for much of the 1970s for another reason. Bright Tunes, the publishers of the Chiffon's hit "He's So Fine", sued him for plagiarism, as they felt Harrison's hit "My Sweet Lord" was too similar to their song. Klein originally worked on Harrison's behalf, but eventually got the opportunity to secretly buy Bright Tunes. Lo and behold, he continued the company's lawsuit against Harrison. A judge later ruled that Klein had unfairly switched sides in the lawsuit, and after paying half a million dollars, Harrison wound up as the copyright owner of "He's So Fine" and ending the long-running matter.

Klein first alienated Lennon when he sided with Harrison in his request to let Lennon, but not Yoko, sing at the Bangladesh concert. Lennon had also persuaded Klein to bankroll two films by Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who he admired. Klein bought the rights to El Topo and financed The Holy Mountain. After Jodorowsky refused Klein's next request, to direct a hardcore porno film in the vein of the then-popular Deep Throat, a vindictive Klein withdrew all prints of the two Jodorowsky films he owned, and kept them off the market for three decades. Eventually, Lennon turned on Klein, and even wrote and recorded the scathing "Steel And Glass", a blatant assault on the manager featured on his 1974 Walls And Bridges album.

When the three Beatles finally tired of Klein's antics, they took him to court to get rid of him. They eventually made him disappear for the sum of £3.5 million. In the end, Klein screwed the Beatles, while the Eastmans made McCartney insanely rich and successful.

Following the whole Beatles debacle and his own legal problems, Klein's management days were essentially over. Nobody wanted anything to do with him. So Klein focused on managing his extensive ABKCO music and film holdings and even acquired new ones, including the rights to the Phil Spector catalog. Klein made a great deal of money off his music and publishing rights.

He made headlines again in 1997. A British rock group, the Verve, negotiated a licensing agreement with ABKCO to use a sample of an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" (ABKCO owned the master to the orchestral version). The resulting song, "Bittersweet Symphony", was an international smash. Klein obviously saw an opportunity to cash in, and sued the band for full control of the copyright, claiming they used more than the agreed-upon sample. Klein's hardball litigation was a success, and the Verve wound up turning over all royalties of the song to ABKCO. From there, Klein sought to milk the song as much as he could, offering to commission a new recording of the song for a Nike ad. The Verve beat him to the punch, offering the original song to Nike and turning over their share to charity. In addition, ABKCO later licensed the song to Vauxhall, a British subsidiary of General Motors. As it turns out, the Verve never made a dime off "Bittersweet Symphony", while Klein raked in a fortune. And when it was nominated for a Grammy, the song's composers, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, rather than lyrics composer Richard Ashcroft, were named as the sole nominees.

In recent years, ABKCO has been successful with their packaging of the Rolling Stones' early recorded output. The year 1996 finally saw the release of the film and recording of the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus, which never saw the light of day during the three decades since it took place. And the current ABKCO Stones catalog has recently been reissued, in both American and British configurations, with phenomenal sound quality. Much of this is due to the painstaking work of Klein's son Jody, who has seemingly spent many years trying to clean up his father's sordid reputation. It was Jody Klein who smoothed out relations with Jodorowsky and other alienated clients.

During his lifetime, Klein never seemed to show any remorse for his tactics. He was once quoted as saying, " Artists fuck groupies, I fuck the artists." And on his desk was a sign paraphrasing the 23rd psalm: ‘Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of evil, I have no fear, as I am the biggest bastard in the valley.”

Much ado is often made, especially on the internet, about being respectful to the recently deceased. We've been witnessing this during the past couple weeks since Michael Jackson died. It's become a frequent silly game, with some anal-retentive pundits even exploiting reaction as if to prove some sort of asinine point for indulgent ego gratification. But in a case like this, I imagine a guy like Allen Klein would welcome stinging reflections of his life. In fact, I imagine he'd be quite proud.

  © Blogger template Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP