Se­crets of rock’s money man

Rough-edged but charis­matic, man­ager Allen Klein was a strong, com­bat­ive ad­vo­cate for mu­sic mak­ers

Los Angeles Times - - BOOK REVIEW - By Mikael Wood mikael.wood@latimes.com

Allen Klein The Man Who Bailed Out the Bea­tles, Made the Stones, and Trans­formed Rock & Roll

Fred Good­man

Houghton Mif­flin Har­court: 368 pp., $27

When Ap­ple in­tro­duced its new stream­ing mu­sic ser­vice at its an­nual de­vel­op­ers con­fer­ence this month in San Fran­cisco, the tech com­pany made sure to have the rap­per Drake on hand to lend the an­nounce­ment a bit of siz­zle. But Drake wasn’t the star of Ap­ple’s pre­sen­ta­tion, which fo­cused on Jimmy Iovine and Eddy Cue, two of the many ex­ec­u­tives who have stepped into the spotlight as the record in­dus­try strug­gles to re­make it­self for the dig­i­tal age.

To­day such vis­i­ble string-pullers — think also of Justin Bieber’s man­ager, Scooter Braun, or Spo­tify Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Daniel Ek — wheel and deal be­fore a public that’s been trained (in large part by the spread of con­sumer-media box-of­fice re­port­ing) to re­gard it-

self as a kind of am­a­teur pun­dit class. Yet it wasn’t al­ways thus, as the vet­eran mu­sic jour­nal­ist Fred Good­man re­minds us in “Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Bea­tles, Made the Stones, and Trans­formed Rock & Roll.”

A rough-edged but charis­matic player who at one point man­aged both the Bea­tles and the Rolling Stones, Klein worked in shad­ows that are hard to imag­ine now, when Tay­lor Swift’s feud with Ek over what Spo­tify pays artists makes it to the cover of Time mag­a­zine. Fifty years ago, what hap­pened be­hind the scenes gen­er­ally stayed be­hind the scenes, and that lack of trans­parency, Good­man ar­gues, might have en­abled the cre­ative ac­count­ing that in some cases left Klein mak­ing more money than his clients.

This isn’t to say that Klein, who died in 2009, lacked an ap­petite for recog­ni­tion — or that Good­man lacks sym­pa­thy for his sub­ject. The au­thor, a for­mer Rolling Stone editor whose pre­vi­ous books in­clude “For­tune’s Fool: Edgar Bronf­man Jr., Warner Mu­sic, and an In­dus­try in Cri­sis” and “The Man­sion on the Hill: Dy­lan, Young, Gef­fen, Spring- steen, and the Head-On Col­li­sion of Rock and Com­merce,” roots his story in Klein’s grim up­bring­ing in De­pres­sion-era New Jersey. (His mother died when he was less than a year old, and his fa­ther sent him to live in an or­phan­age at age 4.) For Klein, Good­man writes, suc­cess “came down to hav­ing the things he’d missed as a child: com­pan­ion­ship, a sense of worth, and power over his own life.”

That power de­rived from an aha mo­ment in which Klein, work­ing as an ac­coun­tant in the late 1950s for a firm rep­re­sent­ing mu­sic pub­lish­ers, re­al­ized that per­form­ers were likely get­ting stiffed by record la­bels as a mat­ter of course. Be­fore long he was promis­ing name­brand artists that by au­dit­ing the la­bels he could find them money they were owed — and he was de­liv­er­ing. Singer Sam Cooke was so im­pressed that he hired Klein to over­see his af­fairs; the man­ager, known for his com­bat­ive ne­go­ti­at­ing style, struck an un­usu­ally lu­cra­tive deal with Cooke’s la­bel that at­tracted the in­ter­est of even higher-pro­file acts, in­clud­ing the Stones.

“As far as Allen was con­cerned, the busi­ness had it back­ward,” Good­man writes, lay­ing out the ba­sis of the trans­for­ma­tion to which he refers in his book’s sub­ti­tle. “It wasn’t the [record] com­pa­nies that were ir­re­place­able; it was the peo­ple who made the records.”

Klein’s belief in his clients led to ever big­ger pay­days, not just for the artists but also for Klein him­self. He de­vised com­plex cor­po­rate struc­tures to con­ceal how much in­come he was tak­ing. Though Good­man pro­vides plenty of de­tail here — more, in fact, than we can prob­a­bly use, as when he goes into Bri­tish tax law’s treat­ment of cap­i­tal gains — he keeps the story mov­ing briskly, pep­per­ing the money talk with col­or­ful back­stage anec­dotes and sharp anal­y­sis of the rock ’n’ roll im­age fac­tory then revving into full gear. The bad boy Stones, he sniffs, were in re­al­ity “about as dan­ger­ous as Coca-Cola and just as ea­ger to be sold.”

Yet “Allen Klein,” which draws on pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished in­ter­views Klein con­ducted with the writer and MTV ex­ec­u­tive Bill Flana­gan, slows down con­sid­er­ably when it reaches the man­ager’s late-1960s re­cruit­ment by the soonto-split Bea­tles. Per­haps that’s be- cause Klein had so much to say about the band, whose busi­ness was the “white whale” he’d been work­ing his en­tire ca­reer to cap­ture. What­ever the rea­son, Good­man’s blow-by-blow ac­count of the Bea­tles’ breakup — and the metic­u­lous fi­nan­cial un­tan­gling it ne­ces­si­tated — is a long and wind­ing slog.

For­tu­nately, his writ­ing picks up for the fi­nal stretch of his book, which charts the strange turns Klein’s ca­reer took in the 1970s, in­clud­ing his col­lab­o­ra­tion with the sur­re­al­ist film­maker Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky and the two months he spent in jail af­ter be­ing con­victed of tax eva­sion. And Good­man also chan­nels Klein’s glee over the emer­gence of the com­pact disc and the in­cen­tive it of­fered fans to re­pur­chase old mu­sic he con­trolled.

Read­ing about that, it’s easy to won­der what Klein might have made of the now-as­cen­dant stream­ing model, in which artists are paid even less for their work than they were in the bad old days.

You can bet Eddy Cue is happy not to know.

Janet Good­man ABKCO Ar­chives / Houghton Miff lin Har­cour t

ALLEN KLEIN, cen­ter, with John Len­non and Yoko Ono in 1972. Fred Good­man’s book of­fers a blow-by-blow ac­count of the Bea­tles’ breakup.

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