Listen: Four Women / Nina Simone Nina4Women.mp3
Michael Alago signed Nina Simone to Elektra in ’92, and I’m pretty sure she made her last studio album as a result. Michael, at that point, was very friendly with her, having been an ardent fan for several years. Nina was living in LA at the time, and during October of that year, she and Michael were together doing pre-production in some studio off Hollywood Blvd.
I was in town for The Cramps as they were preparing FLAMEJOB for my label, Medicine, and had timed the trip around a three day run The Ramones were doing at The Palladium (10/14 – 16, to be exact). It was a fun one.
Both Micheal and I, as well as Johnny Ramone, Arturo Vega (The Ramones’ career long light & design guy) and Monte Melnick (their tour manager), all shared birthdays within days of each other in that exact time frame, so Alago decided to have a pre show dinner party at The Hollywood Athletic Club to celebrate all five, as well as his Nina/Elektra signing.
By then he was having a slightly difficult time getting her to record the songs he wanted. On that particular night, it didn’t help that I was enamored with her Philips period stuff. She and I sat across from each other at this long table. With Nina right next to Joey, she just got into deep details about her time with that label as soon as we asked. It was fascinating info, I was even interested in what she could recall about the actual Philips offices, which surprisingly was a lot. Plus the details of the studios, her engineers and the small, small recording budgets of the day.
‘Four Women’ was a much played single then as now, and after a LOT of champagne on her part, I suggested she re-record it for the new album. Michael at that moment was sort of standing behind her in his constant buzzing around, good host style, and just whipped his head toward me, eyes bugging and frantically hand motioned behind her head to STOP. Panicked and pissed all at once, he kept up this silent communication, but too late, she was now on a ‘Four Women’ roll. Her assistant, like Nina with back to Michael, opinioned that it was timely, and might be a good idea.
So fuck it, I threw in, “and you should make a video”.
Nina announces loudly “Michael, I want to make a video for ‘Four Women’ “.
This was about to go very wrong when he seamlessly circles round behind me and says, “Before you forget, you should get Nina to do your jukebox tab now, and you know Nina, if we redo ‘Four Women’, Philips will just try to reposition their version and not pay you like they still don’t”.
Good move Alago, as that’s all she needed to be reminded of. End of idea, end of dinner and onward to The Ramones show (with signed jukebox tab in wallet), sans Nina.