Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Last Night At McCabe’s | Lefsetz Letter

Seems I’ve got to have a change of scene

Joe Cocker hated Traffic’s version, but he was convinced “Feelin’ Alright” was a smash, if only Artie Butler could concoct an arrangement.

They were eating hamburgers across the street from A&M, after a production meeting, and Joe implored Artie to take a chance.

So Artie came home and thought of Carole King and her piano style and came up with the riff, and VOILA!

Artie told that story last night. It was a benefit for Music Rising, which puts instruments in schools after disasters, whose donations are distributed by the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which Felice runs. And Richard Foos came up with the idea of this benefit, of alta kachers telling their stories.

First up was Mike Stoller. Did you know he was on the Andrea Doria? And when he ultimately got rescued and got off the boat in New York, his partner Jerry Leiber told him they had a hit with Elvis Presley and Mike said WHO’S THAT?

But Mike’s an artist. His temperament is so different from that of businessmen. He’s not driving, not a force of nature, like Artie Ripp.

Who’s always denigrated by Billy Joel. I figured Artie would be a sinister fellow with a low voice.

But Artie looks like he should be on “Laugh-In,” a boisterous fellow with a ponytail who was there when…

He got a call from San Francisco, about a record…

But they didn’t want to sign with Buddah, an also-ran company, but Artie convinced the Edwin Hawkins Singers to make the deal, that’s right, it was for “Oh Happy Day,” although it wasn’t called that then, nor did the group operate under that moniker.

He sent Neil Bogart to the coast, and Neil said the deal was done, as long as Artie cut off his ponytail, which he refused to do. But then he did, and the contract was signed.

But Artie fascinated me. He was one of a kind, a character, the type of person who could convince you of anything. You know, someone upbeat and knowledgeable who was born to close. These characters used to run the music business. That’s where all the square pegs go, to new businesses with opportunities. Artie started a singer, realized he couldn’t sing or play at the highest level and went into the business, he studied under George Goldner, and then he started Kama Sutra.

But Artie chafed under distributor MGM’s direction, and he started Buddah for freedom. And then he got the rights to Woodstock, for film and record, and the whole thing blew up, that’s when he started Family Productions, and made the ensuing deal with Billy Joel.

And you wonder why Billy made that deal. FOR TEN ALBUMS!

Because Artie was the only one who was interested.

So, you’ve got to play, and you’ve got to go your own way, Artie did both.

And he told the story of recording “Darling Be Home Soon,” wiping John Sebastian’s vocal and getting in a fistfight as a result thereof, and Artie is a natural raconteur, I could have listened to him all night.

But then Jeff Greenberg, owner of the Village Studios, talked about getting snookered by an inmate imitating Michael Stipe.

And Mickey Shapiro talked about Cass Elliott stealing Nipper from Robert Sarnoff’s office.

And Harold Bronson talked about Hunter Thompson running up $300 in room service in less than forty eight hours and abandoning his rental car.

And Jeff Gold talked about uncovering Bob Dylan’s acetates and…

When it’s all said and done, all we’re left with is the stories, and people in the music business have tons of them.

We heard a bunch last night.

The Rock Godz Must Be Crazy Music Rising Benefit


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