Archive for the ‘Mo Ostin’ Category

The Pretty Things

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Listen: Havana Bound / The Pretty Things
Havana Bound / The Pretty Things

It’s May 19, technically the anniversary of booking The Pretty Things at my college. I celebrate it every year, well given this also marked my first date with Corinne, it’s impossible to forget. Talk about impressing a girl, this totally did the trick. Yes, our first date was a concert by The Pretty Things, with all the backstage trimmings.

I was the school’s event chairman and conveniently, there was no concert committee. None of the other students were interested. I believe that reality is known as a dream come true. Not only did I worm my way into the campus radio station as music director, I was also booking whoever I wanted with the school’s money. A spoiled freshman, that was me.

Needless to say, only British acts got the slots: Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack, Rory Gallagher, Atomic Rooster, The Incredible String Band and The Pretty Things. Not a bad lineup for year one.

Given they had a manager that turned down The Ed Sullivan Show, it’s no wonder The Pretty Things never made it to the US during the 60′s. Hard to believe, and neither did The Small Faces.

After having called it quits post their album PARACHUTE flopping in ’70; it was like a miracle that The Pretty Things were reforming to record FREEWAY MADNESS in late ’72. Seemed a lifetime then, and the news was a big deal to the small but already twisted following The Pretty Things had acquired.

Then, on top of that, a premier US tour for spring ’73 was announced. It seemed too good to be true and booking them became my mission in life, School work tabled, getting The Pretty Things to town top of the list. Success, I got the band to play for $500 on May 19th with The James Cotton Band as openers. See the poster below.

Never did I envision at the time that one day, years later, I’d have my own label and actually reissue the FREEWAY MADNESS album. Never ever crossed my mind, but life can take you on the wildest ride if you let it.

Fast forward to ’94, The Medicine Label is up and running out of the Warner Brothers New York office. Mo Ostin, then chairman of both Warner and Reprise, but based in Burbank, would often visit our building at 75 Rockefeller Plaza. On one particular trip, we were talking in the hallway, and it just occurred to me that this was the moment, so I asked, could I re-release The Pretty Things album from the catalog, then lying dormant having been unavailable for years.

“Sure. Good idea, just check to see it hasn’t been scheduled by the reissue department.”

I nearly blacked out with excitement, unlike the reissue team, who smelled a potential predator upon hearing the news.

“Not to worry guys, it’s a one-off.” Reissue departments were very cautious of the finite back catalog from which they drew.

Suddenly, with FREEWAY MADNESS on the schedule, the original 1/2″ master tapes were delivered to my office along with cover art films, bios, press shots, studio logs, you name it. There sat history in the Warner Brothers pouch, as it was referred.

Well who better to write new liner notes than Phil May?

Luckily, we’d been introduced a few years earlier by Shannon O’Shea, a UK friend who was managing the band around ’90-’91. I would often stay in Notting Hill Gate, and Phil lived just down the street from my hotel, on Talbot Road. We spent many an afternoon in his local pub. A nicer guy you will not meet, and the recollections. Endless.

So yeah, Phil May was only too happy to write those CD reissue liner notes, and while rummaging for some bits to post here, I found the agreement below between the WB art department and Phil for the job:

The real moment on FREEWAY MADNESS was ‘Havana Bound’. It was picture perfect Pretty Things, and originally the UK B side to ‘Over The Moon’, released in ’72 as the album’s official single.

Huh? The B side? Not to take anything away from ‘Over The Moon’, great great song but come on. What planet did that decision originate from? ‘Havana Bound’ deserved a big red A label.

Well now was my chance to right wrong so we scheduled a US 7″ of ‘Havana Bound’ to promote the CD reissue and service college radio but mostly because I just had to have it on an A side. Few things have been more exciting than the day those box lots arrived from the plant.

Believe it, the record business in it’s heyday was a euphoric free-for-all.

Above: The promo only insert from the ’73 US release of FREEWAY MADNESS
Below: The 8×10 press shot that accompanied FREEWAY MADNESS mailings to US journalists in ’73

Miriam Makeba

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

MiriamPata, Miriam Makeba, Jerry Ragovoy, Reprise

Listen: Pata Pata / Miriam Makeba
Pata Pata / Miriam Makeba

A traditional African song by a native artist becoming a US radio and chart hit (#12, 10/67)? Probably a first, definitely a last. Seriously, I can’t remember it ever happening again. Programmers with their false sense of knowing the public taste and dismissive musical arrogance were actually powerful all through the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s. Even after the industry coined the sound ‘world music’ and it became chic, off the US airwaves it was kept – maybe Paul Simon’s GRACELAND got some radio attention, but nowhere near matching the sales story. That’s as far as the door opened. And not ever again for a native artist. Did any pop, alternative or more pointedly, urban station play King Sunny Ade & His African Beats or Ladysmith Black Mambazo? Yeah right. So much for a melting pot and honoring heritage.

This, of course, before the gatekeepers lost that power and their stronghold was decimated. But all those years of musical censorship took it’s toll. Just look at the tastes of the average American. Yikes.

Released not long after The Dixie Cups ‘Iko Iko’ became a hit, both hooked me with the rhythm and ambience of drums, sticks, bongos – whatever. It all sounded pretty fascinating. ‘Pata Pata’ never struck me as out of place, or threateningly different, just a great single. I collected all the Reprise 7′s to follow, about 5-6 more. Who realized at the time that Jerry Ragovoy was involved in the Miriam Makeba story, not only as producer, but co-songwriter. True, he was in the studio with her while juggling sessions with Lorraine Ellison. How great is that?

Reprise, and parent company Warner Brothers, had a most seminal and diverse roster, beginning in the 60′s. All you need do is pull out any of the label’s album inner sleeves listing their currents to see. In fact, that diversity and standard continued for decades, all under Mo Ostin’s leadership. His taste in music, and instinct for executives goes a bit unheralded in the history books, but it was there and vastly important to a healthy underground music culture in America.


Friday, June 20th, 2008

Numbers / Kraftwerk

Listen: Numbers / Kraftwerk

If you don’t know about Kraftwerk then go away, do some research and start the first day of the rest of your life. But if you do, you may not know something pretty interesting: this was actually released as a single 27 years ago. 27 years ago!!! Were Bob Krasnow and Mo Ostin ahead of their time back at Warner Brothers then, or was the rest of society behind the times? The answer is simple. Here’s the US single only version.