|At different times I worked for both companies named
on this plaque: Record Week and Island Records Canada.
“Some people say” if you haven’t unpacked a box in a few years, you should give it away. If I did I would have lost stuff like this. These two plaques, newly rediscovered, tell the backstory of my life.
While I was going to Sheridan College of Applied Arts and Technology in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, the two things I played with most, when I wasn’t finding new ways to hoodwink my instructors:
- Station Manager at Radio Sheridan;
- Editor of A Student Magazine.
At the latter I wotked with artist Matthew Rust (who I’ve reconnected with recently on the facebookery) and Martin Herzog. Soon afterwards Marty and I started Zoundz Magazine, a little giveaway found next to the cash registers at Toronto area record stores. Soon we were taking advertising from the majors and adding pages to what had been a one-sheet folded cleverly. I was writer and editor and Marty had the business plan. However, in the end the business plan was that Marty would keep moving up, partnerships be damned.
He came to me one day and said that he was approached by Concert Productions International to take over Cheap Thrills, the house organ for members of the Cheap Thrills Club, in which membership had its privileges. Among them was to be first in line for concerts before tickets went on sale to the general public along with other perks. I followed Marty over to Cheap Thrills as Editor, but we were never partners after that.
Marty had his eyes on even bigger game than that.
One day he came to me, handed me a small pile of records, and told me that he had promised positive capsule reviews on them all. I argued that that’s not how record reviews work. I was young and dumb and had journalistic integrity. [I am no longer young.] Eventually, he told me that either I would write them or he’d find someone who would from the stable of writers we had started building. I told him that I would write the reviews, but to not put me in that position again.
No one ever noticed, but those 3 record reviews never once mentioned the music. I reviewed the covers, the producer, session musicians, whatever I could get away with. In one I actually reviewed the quality of the vinyl, wondering where it was pressed.
The next month Marty did the same thing and I quit on the spot. Yes, I walked away from a company owned by the man who went on to mount Rolling Stone tours, Broadway shows, and personally kick Donald Trump out of his own buildings. It’s a great story that ends thusly:
But, anyway, the bottom line is I look at Donald and said, “You and Marla (Maples) have to go.
You’re fired.” He looks at me and goes berserk.
“You don’t know anything! Your guys suck! I promote Mike Tyson! I promote heavyweight fights!”
And I notice the three shtarkers he’s with, in trench coats, two of them are putting on gloves and the other one is putting on brass knuckles. I go on the walkie-talkie and I call for Jim Callahan, who was head of our security, and I go, “Jim, I think I’m in a bit of trouble.” And he says, “Just turn around.”
I turn around. He’s got 40 of the crew with tire irons and hockey sticks and screwdrivers.
“And now, are you gonna go, Donald?”
And off he went.
And that was the night I fired Donald Trump.
I don’t know who Marty promised positive reviews to and I never asked. However, all 3 records were from CBS, where Marty later found a job. Isn’t that convenient? Bygones be bygones, once he landed at CBS, he’d hire me to write the salesmen one-sheets, the occasional band biography, and the words to populate entire promotional campaigns.
After all, freelance writing work is freelance writing work.
|Other related stories:
When I left Cheap Thrills I immediately landed at Record Week, a Canadian music industry trade publications that not only went out to every radio station, record store, and player in the business in Canada, but was also subscribed to by movers and shakers in the U.S. and around the world. My masthead title read Concert and Gig Guide Editor.
To be honest, I wasn’t at Record Week very long when I got a great offer to become part time Campus Record Promoter for Island Records Canada. This happened right about the same time I finished my 3rd year at Sheridan College (all of the above was extracurricular). I moved to Toronto, to live in the basement of the house on Bedford Road where Island Records had its Canadian Headquarters (and the only office in the country).
To be honest, I wasn’t at Island Records very long when I got a better offer from United Artists Records Canada to replace Pete Taylor, a legend in Canadian record promo. The pay was stunning to me, having just left school, where I had been surviving on student loans and a part-time McDonald’s job. [There’s a story I should tell one day.]
To be honest, I wasn’t at United Artists very long. I had climbed too high, too fast. I wasn’t ready for Big Time Record Promo™. On my 89th day I was called into the Vice President’s office and fired on the spot. Had they waited another 2 days, after my 90 day probationary period, they would have had to pay severance.
I went back to Island Records with my tail between my legs and I was taken back with open arms. There I finally learned the music promotion business.
Here’s the punchline: In the period between working for Island Records and returning to Island Records, Record Week decided to surprise me with that year’s Taking Care of Business Award. Apparently I had worked for Record Week for so short a time that they misspelled my name on the award.
I eventually went on to manage bands, write for a variety of publications (mostly non-music related) and spent a decade as a News Writer at Citytv. I have also had a lifelong love affair with music. This Throwback Thursday is dedicated to the time in my life when I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I chose ALL OF THE ABOVE.