"ONE OF A KIND" INDEED ... ALL THAT AND MORE
August 16, 2013
"Either you're going to go on this incredible trip with me, or you may not be on the team."
-- Al Coury
Last week, as many of you already know, the industry lost a truly great "record man" when Al Coury passed away.
If you were lucky enough to have known Al, or worked with him, then you were one of the fortunate ones who witnessed Al's passion for music, and the industry he so loved.
I could write a small book of "Al Coury stories" that would put a smile on the face of everyone who knew Al ... and even those who didn't. I'm sure most of the people who did know Al have their own book of stories as well.
I first met Al when I was Capitol Records album promotion manager in New York City. Al was the head of Artist Development at the time, and he called me weekly, imploring me to "bring radio guys ... as many as you can get" to see whatever act we had playing in the city that particular week.
Eventually, Al was offered the title of VP/Promotion by Capitol's President at the time, Bhaskar Menon. Al once told me he didn't want the job because Capitol had gone through eight different promotion heads in a few short years, and he told me, "I did EVERYTHING not to get the job ... I told Bhaskar that he couldn't afford me and I would need far too much power. He told me to go home and write down a list of all the things I would want and need to take the job, so I went home and wrote down a list of all the most preposterous things I could think of so I knew he wouldn't give me the job ... a company car of my choice fully paid for ... a car phone (note: this was 1972 and only the very rich and powerful had car phones) ... and more ... only I could hire and fire promotion people (prior to Al's tenure, branch managers could do so) ... it was a ridiculous list. Steve, SON OF A BITCH, MENON GAVE ME EVERYTHING I WANTED! I HAD TO TAKE THE JOB!"
Al gathered the promotion staff in Atlanta for a few days and told us how important our roles were in rebuilding Capitol at radio and retail. He ended the meeting by saying, "Either you're going to go on this incredible trip with me, or you may not be on the team."
Those of us who went on that "incredible trip" with Al were part of re-establishing Capitol Records as a major label after the Beatles broke up. During Al's time as head of promotion and A&R, Capitol broke Steve Miller, Pink Floyd (with the 'Dark Side Of The Moon' album), Grand Funk Railroad, Linda Ronstadt, Natalie Cole, and more. We also had huge success with the individual Beatles as well, and it was Al who talked Paul McCartney into letting Capitol release multiple singles from the 'Band On The Run' album. (As well as not letting Paul know he had an our A&R man John Palladino -- or as Al called him "Mr. Snips" -- edit the "Band On The Run" single for radio)
Al Coury was the man who sent me the very first bonus check I ever received in the business, and when I called to thank him he said, "No, thank you for doing a great job ... just keeping doing it and there's more where that came from."
Al was also the reason I had the opportunity to move to Los Angeles as Capitol's national promotion manager. When he left Capitol to take over RSO Records, Bruce Wendell offered me the job, and I grabbed it.
I remained friends with Al, seeing him at industry events and elsewhere in town, and always witnessing how dynamic he was as an individual. I remember him coming to Miami right before I moved to the Capitol Tower in Hollywood, to see the Bee Gees (they all lived in Miami at the time) who were working on music for a new soundtrack to a film called 'Saturday Night Fever.'
Al played me some demos, among them "Stayin' Alive" and would not stop talking about the music he was hearing. "It's unbelievable ... it's just hit after hit ... these guys are making a jukebox full of hits!" Al had that big smile on his face and was shaking his head to the music as it played, and when it stopped he screamed "I can't wait to take this music to radio! They're gonna' flip!"
Flip they did, and 'Saturday Night Fever' became the biggest selling album in history at the time, and it was followed in short order by the 'Grease' soundtrack. Both albums were at the top of the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart for awhile and I called Al at the time to congratulate him on his success and jokingly suggested "These albums are so big you should talk one of the trade magazines (there were three at the time, Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World) into possibly making one album #1-A, and the other #1-B."
Al laughed loud, paused, and then said, "That's hysterical! But you know what ... I'm gonna' use that line just to make the guys who do the charts crazy!"
Al went on to launch Network Records, which later merged with Geffen Records, and Al became Geffen Records' GM. At Geffen, Al's successes included albums by Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel and Don Henley.
One night while I was going into a restaurant on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, Al was walking out and when we saw each other we hugged. Within seconds Al was telling me about some of the new music he was working on at Geffen, working me hard as if I was still on his promotion team, not letting me go until he talked about everything he was working on. I guess in reality, anybody who worked with Al was always on his team.
Like I said, so many stories. Like the time the lady at the Fontainebleau coffee shop wouldn't leave Al alone, mistaking Al for Sonny Bono (which happened often back then), and wanting an autograph. I won't tell the rest of that story here, but those I have told it to, have laughed hard and loud. I've told that story and other several times in the past week to people, and they all have told me how great it is to talk about Al Coury, because such talk will keep him alive in all of us.
I last saw Al several years ago when he and his wife Tina were driving out of Las Vegas, and they stopped to have lunch with me. It was a joyful reunion, we chatted about the "glory days" retold great stories, and then it was over. I remember walking back to my office with a happy tear in my eye. It was THAT good to see Al again.
I've received so many e-mails from people this past week as well, and one was from Bhaskar Menon to Al's wife Tina. He copied me on it and said the following," the loss of Al Coury for so very many of us brings immense grief and inconsolable deep sorrow not only because we were privileged to work closely with this marvelous man who was as much a source of warm personal affection and caring for his colleagues, as much as he was amongst the most distinguished professionals and superior performing executives in the great music business that once was. And indeed, he will be remembered with great fondness and love, and, with great respect and long remembrances by each of us who were privileged to work with him at the Capitol Records, that once was to which he devoted so much of his extraordinary life of eminence, talent, humor, and dedication.
"His whole life was based upon relentless pursuits of excellence in whatever he did always improving those whom he worked with, and I shall always remain deeply grateful that my own life was so hugely touched by Al Coury's generosity, by his camaraderie, by his enthusiasms and his humor, and above by all his example. It is with these thoughts that my family and I extend our sincere condolences to you Tina and to Al's family. We share your grief in full measure at the loss of this great and lovable human being."
Mr. Menon always had a great way with words, and he said it all so well.
We hear the phrase "he was one of a kind" too often I think, and in Al's case, it doesn't begin to do his legacy justice. He was so much more than that. So much more.
I miss Al already.
Al Coury is survived by: his wife, the children's book author, Tina Nichols Coury; two children -- his son, Albert Coury, Jr. and daughter, Kacy Coury Resch; his sister, Adele Hanna; and four grandchildren, Colt Coury Resch, Ethan Michael Coury, Justin Charles Coury and Marissa Kiley Coury.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to: Saint Michael's Orthodox Church, 16643 Vanowen Street Van Nuys, CA 91406
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
WILCO'S JEFF TWEEDY ON LEARNING TO "GROW UP" ABOUT THE MUSIC BIZ AND FIRE FRIENDS
My thanks to Portland's DJ extraordinaire, Clarence Duffy, for sending me the link to this great article in which Wilco's Jeff Tweedy talks about the harsh realities of realizing the music business is more than just about being creative. Unfortunately, it's also about survival.
"There's a widely held belief among musicians, and maybe artists in general, that there's some zero-sum game being played, that it's a compromise to even think about business as being a part of what you do," Tweedy says. "I think our approach is that there's another way to be creative. How we run our business is another thing to think about creatively."
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
PIRATES WILL SAIL NO MATTER WHAT
I've talked many times about how, despite the best efforts of any laws in any countries passed about online downloading/illegal file-sharing, piracy will always exist.
Whether via intranets, "darknets," or some other vehicle, people will always find a way to circumvent any obstacles placed in their way.
Now comes news that the "Pirate Bay's censor-thwarting browser" is increasing in popularity. The 'Pirate Browser' "is designed to circumvent the censorship imposed on Internet users by certain governments. But don't expect it to provide anonymity."
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
THE BEATLES "UNPLUGGED" COLLECTS DEMOS OF THE BEATLES WHITE ALBUM
Listen to the Beatles play some of the songs that made up the now famous 'White Album' on openculture.com, acoustically and in their beginning stages.
From the website," The compilers of the release have tacked on three additional songs: "Spiritual Regeneration India" (also a birthday tribute to The Beach Boy's Mike Love), an oddly upbeat studio run-through of "Helter Skelter," and a free-form acoustic medley of traditional songs called "Rishikesh No. 9" (also called "Spiritual Christmas"). In addition to the slew of White Album songs, the recording session also features McCartney's "Junk," which later appeared on his 1970 solo album McCartney and John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" (here called "Child of Nature"), which surfaced on 1971's Imagine. As Allmusic's Bruce Eder writes that Unplugged is a bootleg so good, "the folks at Apple and EMI ought to be kicking themselves for not thinking of it first."
If you're a Beatles fan, it's pure joy.
How do you keep the Beatles legacy alive when so many young people are asking "Who is Paul McCartney?"
Licensing their songs to a younger generation is one way. Read what The New York Times' Ben Sissario reports about it in his article 'Licensing Plan Gives Fresh Plays to Beatles'
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
CASSETTES: THE OTHER ANALOG FORMAT
Was the cassette the MP3 of its era? Still alive and kicking, the cassette just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and CNET's audiophilliac Steve Guttenberg talks about it all.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
IT'S OFFICIAL: BLACKBERRY IS FOR SALE
That new Blackberry phone was too little too late in a world of iPhones and Androids.
BlackBerry is officially exploring "strategic alternatives," including a possible sale, the struggling phone maker announced on Monday.
"In effect, the company is basically saying, 'We tried [to go it alone], and that didn't work so now we're calling it,'" TechCrunch writes. Over the past sic months, BlackBerry's share price has fallen by nearly 38%.
Short News Items ...
Between Paul McCartney's explosive kickoff and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' closing set, this year's Outside Lands festival in San Francisco had acts with unanimous appeal regardless of what trip you were on. Hall and Oates, for instance, brought a nostalgic feel-good set.
HERE'S WHERE JOHN LENNON GOT THE INSPIRATION FOR "THE BENEFIT OF MR. KITE":
The Beatles' inspiration for a track on 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' now lives on in a re-created, limited-edition poster. Designer and artist Peter Dean has produced 1,967 prints of the poster that prompted John Lennon and Paul McCartney to write "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" Lennon originally bought the circus poster, which dates back to 1843, in an antique shop; many of the song's lyrics were from the letterpress-printed piece.
Kid Rock, Toby Keith and Heart's Nancy Wilson are a few of the all-star guests on Sammy Hagar's new album. The Red Rocker tells Rolling Stone why "we all want to be Jimmy Buffett" and why he's not interested in "re-tarnishing" the Van Halen legacy.
TIMBERLAKE READIES 4-LP SET:
Justin Timberlake will release both parts of The 20/20 Experience as a four-LP package set. Modern Vinyl reports the combined edition is due on October 1st, the same day as the second installment of the album, and will include all the tracks from part one, in addition to part two.
AND TIMBERLAKE SET FOR VMA HONOR:
MTV announced that in addition to performing at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, Justin Timberlake will also receive the coveted Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for his "pioneering and innovative impact" on music vids. JT is nominated for six awards this year (tied with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for the most of any artist) and is up for Video of the Year for his clip for "Mirrors."
KATY AT VMAS:
Katy Perry will add even more drama to the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. The singer is set to perform her new single, "Roar," live for the first time at the August 25th ceremony. It'll be Perry's first time performing at the VMAs since 2009, when she covered Queen's "We Will Rock You" with Aerosmith's Joe Perry. She also performed her breakout hit "I Kissed a Girl" at the 2008 VMAs.
AND KATY'S HOT:
Billboard reports that Katy Perry's new song "Roar" is off to a roaring sales start, with industry forecasters suggesting it will move around 450,000 downloads by the end of the tracking week on Sunday (Aug. 18).
CIVIL WARS INDEED:
The songwriting folk-pop-country duo behind the Civil Wars have topped the charts with their dark, intense new album, selling 116,000 copies in its debut week. Imagine what they might have done if the feuding twosome were actually speaking with each other.
Nirvana's 'In Utero,' will be re-issued as a 70-song, three-disc deluxe edition of the band's final masterpiece and will contain: Two versions of 'In Utero' (the original LP remastered, plus the album newly remixed) as well as more than 40 tracks of unreleased demos, rehearsals, live performances, B-sides, and a recently unearthed, never-before-heard Nirvana instrumental. The reissue will arrive September 24th.
TO PLAY ON, OR NOT TO PLAY ON, THAT IS THE QUESTION FOR "THE BOSS":
Last week Bruce Springsteen called his upcoming dates in South America his "final 2013 Wrecking Ball dates." Now it appears the tour might extend into 2014: An Australian radio station briefly posted, then removed, six dates there for February. Now, "The Boss" has confirmed he will resume his band's Wrecking Ball world tour there in February. Springsteen recorded new material while in Australia this year.
LET'S SEE HOW LONG THIS WILL LAST:
Prince has embraced the online revolution yet again. The notoriously Internet-resistant pop icon made his Twitter debut this week, tweeting from the account of his group 3rd Eye Girl. This is Prince, the same artist who declared war against the Internet, and his representatives have vigilantly scoured YouTube in search of performance clips and videos before having them removed – they even served Twitter's Vine app with a copyright complaint this spring -- but now he seems willing to poke fun at himself.
The Cure have booked another major festival appearance, joining the bill for this year's Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. Robert Smith and Co. have been named the festival's third headliners, reports Consequence of Sound, joining previously announced top-bill acts Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails at City Park in New Orleans on November 1st-3rd.
WHITE STRIPES VINYL:
After the White Stripes marked the 10th anniversary of their 2003 LP 'Elephant' with a limited-edition Record Store Day vinyl reissue, Jack White's Third Man Records is giving the album a wider re-release on August 27th.
Miguel was arrested on a DUI charge very early this morning in Los Angeles, TMZ reports. The 27-year-old Grammy-winning singer was nabbed by police for speeding in his 2013 BMW X6 and for tinted windows next to an L.A. freeway around 2:15a. Miguel, whose full name is Miguel Jontel Pimentel, smelled of booze and was given field sobriety tests, which he failed
Eydie Gorme, a popular nightclub and television singer as a solo act and as a team with her husband, Steve Lawrence, has died. She was 84. Gorme, who also had a huge solo hit in 1963 with "Blame it on the Bossa Nova," died Saturday (August 10) at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas following a brief, undisclosed illness, said her publicist, Howard Bragman.
Allen Lanier, a founding member and multi-instrumentalist with classic rock band Blue Öyster Cult, has died after a lengthy battle with lung disease, the group announced on Wednesday. He was 67.
Jody Payne, longtime guitarist for Willie Nelson, died on Saturday from cardiac complications. Payne woke up early feeling ill, reports The Associated Press, and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The musician, who was 77, had a history of cardiac issues.
Jon Brookes, drummer for British rock band The Charlatans, has died after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 44. The band said on its website that Brookes died in a hospital on Tuesday morning with his family beside him.
Lisa Robin Kelly, the actress who played Laurie Forman on the Fox sitcom "That '70s Show" and had experienced legal and substance-abuse troubles in recent years, died Wednesday, her agent told TheWrap on Thursday. She was 43.
Quotes of the week
"People say to me, 'You're a Jimmy Buffett wannabe.' And I say, 'Everybody wants to be Jimmy Buffett.' You think Kenny Chesney wouldn't want to be Jimmy Buffett? You think Toby Keith wouldn't want to be Jimmy Buffett? So I'm very comfortable with that. It's the way that I am. I didn't dress up for you today. Actually, I did – I put on my bright red shorts instead of my blue ones."
-- Sammy Hagar, in Rolling Stone
"It was revelatory for me, recording Paul in that space, having listened to the sound of those Beatles records. He plugged in his bass, I put a microphone in front of it, walked upstairs into the control room, pushed the fader up, and [that sound] came out of the speakers immediately. I didn't have to do anything! It was a pretty major lightbulb for me. People get so fixated on the equipment and the gear, and those things are important – but ultimately, the bass sound on 'Revolver' is Paul. Paul could be playing anything and he will get that sound."
-- Ethan Johns (whose father is Beatles, Stones and Who producer Glyn Johns), talking about working with Paul McCartney on his next album
"The Beatles are the band I think of the most when I'm considering if the music I'm making is good enough,"
-- Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, putting his love of the Fab Four to tape, contributing a cover of "I Saw Her Standing There" to an upcoming Beatles covers album whose proceeds will go to the Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls Los Angeles.
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
Wealthy, Famous Individual Described As 'Totally Down-To-Earth' By Thousands Of Acquaintances, All Of Whom Are Lying
LOS ANGELES—A high-powered, rich, and famous industry player is routinely described as "low-key" and "totally down-to-earth" by countless acquaintances and friends, each and every one of whom is lying through their teeth, sources confirmed Thursday. "He's just like this cool, normal guy," said one lying acquaintance, trying to project an image wherein the massive celebrity seems approachable and humble, both attributes that the Hollywood megastar doesn't even come close to embodying.
The Music Industry Past, Present & Future, And The Internet I answer questions on EconTalk
I did an interview about the industry and the Internet at EconTalk with host Russ Roberts. Russ is also a professor of economics at George Mason University, blogs at Cafe Hayek, and has written three novels that teach economics. He's also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap video. (And if your understanding of the economic meltdown that occurred needs to be enlightened, this video will do it)
In the interview we talk about the evolution of the music industry, the impact of the digital revolution, and I give my reasons for believing in the virtues and potential of the Internet in enhancing the music industry. I point out, as I have many times here in the newsletter, that the internet allows numerous artists to make money from their music and it can enhance revenues from live performances by expanding an artist's base. We also discuss the challenges facing record companies and I suggest that the full potential of the Internet as a distribution channel has yet to be fully exploited. There's a lot of ground covered, but based on the comments already posted of those who have tuned in, they've enjoyed it.
Read more about it by clicking here.
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"And the beat goes on, the beat goes on ... drums keep poundin' rhythm to the brain."
"Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity." -- John Lennon