With the passing last week of Malcolm McLaren, I figured I should huddle together a group of showbiz guys who influenced the culture for better or worse. These ten are as random as anything else in the universe and clearly a list of only ten means that hundreds of Under Assistant West Coast Promotional Men will go unrecognized. Sorry, fellas! But these ten came immediately to mind and even if Malcolm hadn't died in the past week, he would've made the list.
If you want to know the criteria, I cant actually answer you. We've got managers, record producers, label owners and DJs on this list. And at least two convicted felons! You gotta love the music biz! (A guy like Dr. Dre doesn't qualify because he's considered a front of the deck musician who released albums featuring himself in the spotlight. Even Phil Spector had to hire others to do the performing.) Apologies for leaving Jack Nitzsche off the list among many others.
10) Colonel Tom Parker: Without Colonel Tom Parker it's possible that Elvis Presley would never become the huge superstar and cultural icon he became. We also might not have an unusually large amount of terrible Elvis movies and maybe the whole Las Vegas thing couldve been avoided. Then again, we're not allowed to see what's behind Door #2.
9) Rodney Bingenheimer: The film Mayor Of The Sunset Strip felt kinda sad. But it's a testament to something when a man I've never heard on the radio is still a name that has come into my consciousness all the way on the East Coast. In fact, if you can believe it, I have NO opinion of the man. He has appeared in Ramones videos and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I will let others who knew him decide what to think of him. Me? I'm going to have a bowl of cereal!
8) Lou Pearlman: The former manager for *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys didn't just terrorize us with his musical picks but he pled guilty to defrauding banks out of $120 million and stole an additional $315 million from over 1,000 investors, kinda like a mini- Bernie Madoff. He forced authorities to chase him all the way to Indonesia where he was extradited and brought back to Florida to receive his 25-year prison sentence. This guy has been annoying in too many ways, doncha think?
7) Malcolm McLaren: For many, Malcolm McLaren is the guy who made sure that anyone who was labeled punk couldn't get any respect in the music business. He made sure the whole thing played out like one big fiasco where you were likely to be spat upon if you even admitted to once liking your mother. According to Steve Jones, Malcolm got him a hooker and heroin for his 21st birthday. So he did have a heart!
6) Tony Wilson: You're going to see a minor trend here as I'm partial to British record labels. I mean, SubPop and Touch & Go and Matador have released some decent things over the years, but for whatever reason it just isn't as interesting to me. Maybe having an ocean between you and the label makes you more appealing. Heck, I didn't even care for the Happy Mondays or the Durutti Column and I don't have an opinion on A Certain Ratio. But Joy Division tilt the scale and I remember watching 24 Hour Party People and Control and thinking he was an amusing character. Maybe I'm wrong. Unlike some people, I kinda like being wrong. Especially if it means I short you on your change. Paper or plastic is the least of your worries. And yes, you want fries with that! Well, you're being charged for them anyway.
5) Ivo Watts-Russell: The man who gave us 4AD, a label that released a number of unusual releases over the years and featured a graphic design style that is often imitated but rarely duplicated (I don't actually know what that cliche means, but I figured I'd use it because it sounded cool.) Loved some of the bands. Hated others. But always wanted to check out whatever it was because I couldn't be sure what it would be.
4) Danny Fields: His involvement with Elektra Records and the MC5 and the Stooges and his later successful attempt to convince Sire Records to sign the Ramones, who immortalized him with "Danny Says," makes Danny a legend in my mind. Now I read he was once a DJ at WFMU and Im impressed even more. Go to WFMU.org today and listen to that racket!
3) Phil Spector: Even before Spector's now infamous legal troubles, the stories were legendary about him pulling a gun on Leonard Cohen and scaring the hell out of his wife Ronnie. I'll let karma handle that end. But when he was young, he was the one of those rare producers who got his name featured as prominently as the artist and eventually he got his own box set. I don't think this will happen to Bob Rock. At least I hope it doesn't.
2) Sam Phillips: Sam Phillips is known as the guy who discovered Elvis Presley. Well, him and his receptionist Marion Keisker. But Phillips also signed Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison. Not bad. While he was away, Jack Clement signed and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis. This kind of luck doesn't even seem possible. The only people I ever meet are guys who want to raid my house for scrap metal.
1) Berry Gordy: Are you going to argue with the guy who brought us Motown? His only mistake was eventually moving out of Detroit. You can't get that Detroit sound in California. There's too much sunshine.