Monday, November 2, 2015

"Allen Klein" by Fred Goodman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

ISBN: 978-0-547-89686-1 Houghton Miffin Harcourt

"Allen Klein" by Fred Goodman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

 There are the artists, and there are the people behind the artists. I have always been fascinated with the figures behind the artists.  Like the Wizard in the "Wizard of Oz," I suspected that if you pull the theatrical curtain open, not only would the artist be exposed, but also the mechanics or system that places the artist front and center.   The beauty of such a system is that the consumer has a much-designed 'idea' what or who the artist is - but in fact, sometimes the wizard who is pulling the strings backstage is often the most fascinating figure in the narrative.   They say the devil is in the details, and I'm not sure if Allen Klein is Satan or not, but surely he can find Satan in a business contract.

The subject matter of accounting practices is usually not that interesting to those who love the world of pop music, but in the hands and mind of writer Fred Goodman. He makes these individuals reach Shakespeare's height in drama and comedy.   Allen Klein, a hardcore Jewish New Yorker, who had a Charles Dickens poverty typical childhood, had a deep understanding of numbers and what it can mean to a business or a relationship.  For him, it is not the money that is important, but the game itself.  Which is negotiating, arguing, and the results that can lead to power.   Allen Klein had one major goal.  To become the Beatles business manager.  Goal number two: to become the Rolling Stones business manager.  Which didn't make Mick Jagger happy to be in the number two bracket.  Nevertheless, Klein became part of the music business as the world of the Brill Building was starting to take place.  An early champion of Sam Cooke, and actually got his business together, he eventually attached himself to the 1960s British invasion by having the genius record producer Mickie Most as a client.   That eventually led him to the world of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles via the route of Andrew Loog Oldham.   The Stones co-manager and record producer, was the entrance way or door to the top of the British music world.  What Klein did was make America part of the territory for the Stones upcoming invasion.

Books about businessmen are rarely interesting, but what we have here is a fascinating man who was quite creative in his business practices, and had an understanding of the role of the artist.   He has always been pro-artist, in their fight against the corporation, in other words, the record label.   Although Klein doesn't come off as a 100% hero, he is nevertheless a figure of great importance in the life of the Stones and The Beatles.  The rise and mostly fall of Apple Records is told in great detail, and also the breakup of The Beatles.  For anyone who is raised in Beatle-history, it's a very sad narrative.  Klein would have preferred to manage The Beatles, but in the end, he had only 3 out of 4 members.  Still, not a bad percentage in the field of accounting.

Fred Goodman is a very good journalist, and he can tell the story of numbers very well.  Because in truth, this is not a story of accounting, but the characters surrounded in that world.   And here we have Sam Cooke, Phil Spector, Oldham, Brian Epstein, as well as the Stones and the Fab Four.   With characters like that, including the main subject matter of this biography, and being in good hands of Goodman, this book simply cannot fail.

- Tosh Berman
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