I'll Pit My Accomplishments Up Against A Corrupt Slimy Politician Like Tim Holden's Any Day Of The Week
Tim and I-- he doesn't wear a hoodie
I don't write a lot about my days in the music business here at DWT but then I've never been attacked-- not even by a Republican-- for being in the music business before. Yesterday was the first time and it was in a press release from corrupt Blue Dog, Tim Holden. Reacting to the billboards Blue America put up revealing his shady role in the fracking industry he decided to ignore the substance and attack our PAC and my old job instead. Holden sent out a press release calling Blue America a SuperPAC-- our average contribution is $45-- and whining he's being attacked "from the left by a Hollywood record company executive with Blue America PAC."
I retired from my job at Warner Bros almost a decade ago and work full time running by blog, DownWithTyranny, exposing corrupt politicians on both sides of the aisle, like Holden. But, for Holden's sake, I'll give a brief run-down of my experience as "a Hollywood record company executive." I started a small, independent label called 415 in San Francisco in 1978, on of the country's first "alternative rock" labels. It was funny when I heard from Borys Krawczeniuk at the Scranton Times-Tribune yesterday morning. He asked me if I was the same Howie Klein he used to chat with about SVT and Romeo Void when he was music director at WRKC (88.5 fm) at King's College in Wilkes-Barre. What a hoot; we hadn't talked in 30 years!!! Funny how music brings people together!
A small indie label with absolutely no capital-- I lived in a $90/month apartment in the Mission District and often had to decide if I wanted to put $2 of gas in my car or eat a meal-- 415 thrived and eventually attracted the attention of the major labels. CBS bought the label and my life changed, although I keep my old Fairlane and stayed in my old Mission District apartment. But I could at least afford health care for the people working at 415. I ran the label for CBS for a few years and then went to work for Warner Bros, as general manager of Sire Records, where I helped guide the careers of the Ramones, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, k.d. lang, The Pretenders, The Smiths, Morrissey, Ice-T, Ministry, Tommy Page and dozens of other musicians who have probably had more of a positive impact on people's lives than a hack politician in Washington. And speaking of Tommy Page, he was just a teenager when Seymour Stein signed him to the label and we released the #1 worldwide smash hit I'll Be Your Everything.
But the career of a teen idol doesn't usually last forever. When Tommy came to me and told me he had decided to go back to college and get a degree he asked me if I would give him a job at the label when he graduated. Four years later he was back and he started at the bottom of the ladder-- a promotion department assistant, where his hard work and dedication earned him promotion after promotion until he was an A& R man and then a senior vice president of promotion. Around that time I had bought an old house in gorgeous Monroe County in what is now the 17th CD. Many of my music business friends, hearing from me how beautiful the Poconos are, also bought homes there. One was Tommy and his growing family. Tommy still calls Stroudsburg home-- and now he's the publisher of Billboard Magazine.
Another of our friends was a Pennsylvania native, Steve Lau, who-- also a teenager-- was signed to Sire because of his wonderful songwriting and his fantastic band, the Ocean Blue, from Hershey, Pennsylvania. They joined our label in 1988 and I worked closely with them, helping to nurture their career and helping Steve, particularly, to deal with the oppressive right-wing atmosphere of his early life. Eventually he decided his talents would be best suited as an entrepreneur and I helped him set up his own label, Kinetic Records. Hearing me wax poetic about how much I was loving Pennsylvania, Steve also decided to move back, after years in New York City. He was shocked yesterday when I sent him the press release Tim Holden sent out about me.
"You're a billionaire?" he laughed. "Wow, and you live so modestly. You still drive that beat up Prius?" Sire did well, and so did I. But a billionaire? Not even close. Eventually Warner Bros decided to resurrect Frank Sinatra's old label, Reprise, and they asked me to become president. We released records by a wide variety of artists, from Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Eric Clapton to Green Day, Enya, Barenaked Ladies, Wilco, Josh Groban, Cher, Nick Cave, Rickie Lee Jones, Faith No More, Erasure, and The Replacements. One of my favorite bands to work with has always been Pennsylvania natives Book of Love but I can't imagine an uptight, negative hater like Tim Holden has ever heard their music nor would he ever understand the contribution this industry has made to the lives of so many millions of people around the world-- or even to the U.S. economy. The American music business is still preeminent in the whole world, even if a reactionary politician like Holden wants to try to make fun of people who worked in it at one time. Steve wrote this after he read Holden's mean-spirited and distorted press release:
"Howie was always the one executive who you could count on to be on the artists' side. I learned so much from him about working together as a team for the common good and respective other people's goals, ambitions and beliefs. Howie was the antidote to all those horrible stories you always hear about record companies ripping off artists and about executives forcing their decisions down artists' throats. Howie was the living example that you could run a hugely successful record company in the spirit of cooperation and fairness. I wish we had more Members of Congress that did their jobs as well and as decently as Howie Klein did his while we worked with him at Sire and then Reprise. Tim Holden should apologize-- and have a little respect for people working in the private sector and paying his overblown salary with their taxes."
I'd like to remind Mr. Holden that musicians who have made people's lives far better than he ever has, who call Pennsylvania home include Frankie Avalon ((Philadelphia), Trent Reznor (Mercer), Pink (Doylestown), Patti LaBelle (Harrisburg), Joan Jett (Philadelphia), George Benson (Pittsburgh), Jaco Pastorious (Norristown), John Coltrane (Philadelphia), Keith Jarrett (Allentown), Live (York), Todd Rundgren (Upper Darby), Hall and Oates (Philadelphia), Teddy Pendergas (Philadelphia), Christina Aguilera (Pittsburgh), and Lou Christie (Moon Township). Here's an Ocean Blue song I worked to help make a hit. All the members still live in Pennsylvania. And Holden's attack on the music business inspired Steve to make a nice contribution to the efforts to defeat him in November, his first political contribution ever.