Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dave Morrell’s Book | Lefsetz Letter

“45 RPM (Recollections Per Minute): The Morrell Archives Volume 3”

He shits on Clive Davis.

I received this in the mail with a note from a friend saying “Arista Part, MUST READ!”

So I did.

Didn’t take me long. Hell, I finished the whole book in less than two hours.

But I did read it, because I remember when.

I’ve got no idea who Dave Morrell is. And to tell you the truth, the book is not well-written and the mistakes will make you wince, but I could not help but turn the pages, because the stories are from my era, when music ruled the world and radio was the midwife.

Most labels still believe this to be true. Now I don’t want to shit on the majors that much, they’re more clued-in than you think they are, but they believe in taking the path of least resistance, which is radio. Radio’s got the most mindshare, it’s the easiest way to break a record.

For now.

So Morrell’s friends with John Lennon and tells tales of doing dope with Mick Jagger and much less famous people but if you’ve been around the music business you know this guy, if not this particular one. The truth is the guys, and it’s almost always guys, running these labels get all the press, and the people who get the work done don’t. Furthermore, after dedicating their lives 24/7, they get kicked out, go independent, rely on scraps, if they didn’t get out early and go into the video business, now defunct, or real estate, where the promotion person’s skills really shine.

They can sell anything to anybody. They’re always upbeat. And they’re always up for a good time. They’re a special breed. One which needs little sleep that delivers on deadlines and is always working.

Used to be it was a free-floating party, with players moving from label to label, but that was before the great consolidation. They’d change the label head and he’d fire everybody and most, but not all, would find jobs at a new company. It was a game of musical chairs, with the most networked ending up with new gigs.

So Morrell is a singles promo man at Warner Brothers. He goes on how James Taylor and Maria Muldaur and America all had hits with him, but none after he left. And this is factually true, did he make the difference? Possibly. You’d have to reconstruct history to prove it, and no one’s gonna do that. You see history is left to those who write it down. And generally speaking, no one is telling the tales of the worker bees. Except for every outcast who believes they’ve got a book in them, I receive them all the time, self-published, available on Amazon, and none of these people can write, which is a prerequisite for a book, but they all have amazing stories, like Morrell.

But this is less of a starfucking adventure than a business tale.

He talks about the acts that are willing to work, like Melissa Manchester, who calls Bob Dylan for advice after Clive insists she record a song she doesn’t want to, and John Denver, who sends him a personal note, and rags on pricks like Lou Reed who gets him to toke up and then reports him for it, but mostly it’s about the slog, working for the man, and the points he puts up on the board.

He references Rick Sklar, the most powerful man in radio, whom I saw at the Century Plaza at four AM after staying up all night with promo people, Rick said he kept himself on New York time, wearing a suit and a smile, just months before he died on the operating table. Morrell got records on WABC and got no thanks. And I know how hard that was.

Took Scott Muni out with Bobby Bare to get the former to add the latter’s country novelty song and Muni did, after bonding all night over alcohol and military tales.

It’s all people I tell you.

And most of them are forgotten.

Unless they insist on being known.

I’m shocked at all the people in this book I know and wonder where they are today.

And I’m shocked at all the people with big gigs I never knew, like the guy who got fired by Clive in the northwest… Did the guy ever get another job in the record business?

That’s what’s so strange. The acts remain, the workers do not. Except on the live side, where everybody’s a lifer. You get your picture taken with household names, share a joke and a toke, and then you’re out on your ass with no access shortly thereafter, even though you were a big part of their success.

But successful acts know the game, they’ll kiss up to anybody who can get them ahead.

So Clive is clueless. He drones on and on, boring his troops while unaware of their achievements.

What’s the truth?

I don’t know and it doesn’t even matter.

But what does matter is you cannot believe everything you read.

But usually you only read it from the winners, who’ve been working their reps. Like Jimmy with “The Defiant Ones.”

Morrell is playing on a smaller scale. He brushed up against greatness, but it didn’t stick. He worked Elvis’s records, but never met the man.

And all this happened decades ago. When music drove the culture and we all knew it and wanted to be in in it.

Those days are through.

Music still remains.

But it’s not like it used to be.

Morrell is talking about what once was.

And if you were there, you will remember.

And feel old.

P.S. Morrell quit Arista for a job at Capitol, so this isn’t the usual sour grapes, or is it?


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