A Review: Allen Klein by Fred Goodman

July 6, 2015

A Review:

Allen Klein

The Man Who Bailed Out The Beatles

Made The Rolling Stones

And Transformed Rock And Roll

 

Goodman, Fred:  Allen Klein, The Man Who Bailed…etc., 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Loewenstein, Prince Rupert:   A Prince Among Stones, 2013, Bloomsbury

Oldham, Andrew Loog:  Stoned, 2000, 2001 Vintage Edition

Oldham, Andrew Loog:  2Stoned, 2002, 2003 Vintage Edition

Oldham, Andrew Loog:  Stone Free, 2012, Escargot Books

 

Allen Klein:  A Real Orphanage Face

Allen Klein: A Real Orphanage Face

I anticipated what I hoped would be a revealing account of the infamous Allen Klein.  I have been sorely disappointed by this hagiography.  Bailed out the Beatles, made the Stones and transformed rock and roll?  Whew!  Where’s his statue so I can reverence it.  Since Allen died in 2009, his son, Jody, has shaken up his father’s empire.  Jody has dipped into the archives to let out the two Stones’ movies Charley Is My Darling and Rock and Roll Circus to his credit.  They can now be seen and appreciated.  He probably has done much else that I am not aware of but would undoubtedly approve.

Fred Goodman’s white wash of Allen is disappointing.  Jody did call Fred and offer him the job so this must be a work of hire.  Perhaps Jody wanted a hagiography of sorts which is what he got or perhaps Fred was so daunted by the job he swallowed his teeth.  Having accepted the assignment Jody led Fred out to the warehouse and showed him several pallets of documents.  That would make me shiver too.

 

When Rupert Loewenstein accepted Jagger and the Stones as clients after the Stones rejected Allen he spent two or three years studying all their contracts and documents which were voluminous although not several pallets.  And he did it without pay.

Something tells me that Fred never touched those pallets.  If he didn’t study the documents one thing is certain:  he read the three books of the Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham carefully.  It was Oldham who sold the Stones to Klein.  Apparently none of these people understood the nature of intellectual properties because, if we are to believe, none of them realized that the developing rock catalogs would be worth anything down the road.  Even Oldham who is billed as prescient let the Stones’ masters that belonged to him as the producer go to Klein for less than a peanut.

The president of Decca Records, Edward Lewis, sensing the Oldham was having difficulties offered to buy the masters for 800K, K as in thousands, much less than even a million that would be a low ball.  Oldham didn’t want to sell to Decca but needing money offered to them to Klein for 750K.  The biggest bastard in the valley snapped them up.  They have since proved to be worth tens and tens of millions of dollars over the years.  Of course, Andrew would have had to wait and his blood was running too hot for that.

A few years later when he realized the masters might be worth a billion or more he has spent his life begging Allen for a larger settlement.

Andrew Oldham’s three books are Stoned, 2Stoned and Stone Free.  They make good reading although 2Stoned is a rehash and expanded version of Stoned.  There is a French condensation of both books into one but the translation is laughable as Andrew was much too colloquial for French.  Fun to have though if you get a thrill out of mere possession.  I’m not exactly guilty but I don’t object.  It’s there on my shelf.

While Fred gives an overly long synopsis of Andrew’s life, probably because he needed a little filler and certainly didn’t have what It took to tackle those pallets, Andrew tells his own life better.  Fred seems to have based his researches on Andrew’s brief life of Allen as contained in Stone Free.  Stone Free might be sub-titled Brief Lives of the Notable Rockers.  A great collection and grand background.  Fred follows Klein’s Life closely.

Fred’s book was obviously written after Rupert’s: A Prince Among Stones. Published in 2013 but Fred shows no evidence of having read it and he didn’t use it.  To read Fred’s account Allen was a greater prince than Rupert even though the facts as we know them read differently.

Allen who was Jewish, was born in 1931 in the city of Newark, New Jersey, a city that has produced several notable Jews including the novelist Philip Roth.  Allen’s mother died when he was only a few months old so he never knew her.  He briefly lived with his maternal Jewish grandmother but his paternal grandmother objected because his mother’s parents weren’t Jewish enough.  His father unable to care for Allen and his sisters placed them in an orphanage.  This fact explains much about Allen’s adult attitudes.  I was in an orphanage but a municipal orphanage rather than a religious one.  Jewish orphanages seem to have been rather cushy places.  The groupie Catherine James lived in one that appears to have been a ‘country club.’   Allen’s Newark orphanage (often called Children’s Homes) had only thirty inmates and let me tell you that removes a lot of stress.

Mine had a hundred twenty or thirty most of which were bigger bastards then Allen could have been.  The Catholic orphanage down the street that we visited as a group every so often was as close to hell on earth that any kid would want to get.  Still orphans are pariahs in the community so I’m sure Allen’s small place left an indelible impression on him.

When he grew up and entered the record business, notable for the quality of its bastards, Allen billed himself as the biggest bastard in the valley.  He was undoubtedly at war with everyone including himself.

Once in the record business he saw the easy marks and they were English.  The American record people were uncommonly intense bastards while the British were mannerly bastards so someone like Allen, the biggest bastard, pretty much reversed the British Invasion traveling to England and scooping up some impressive bands and artists.  I mean, Mickie Most!  He was already a legend to anyone who read the record covers.

He cut his teeth on Sam Cooke as the first artist he bilked- that is robbed.  Somehow he managed to steal Cooke’s face, that is his whole musical career and hence life, lock, stock and barrel.  Sam Cooke died under mysterious circumstances.  As might be expected Fred clears Allen of any suspicions accepting the story that a hooker he was with did the deed.  Well, maybe, she caught with his pants around his ankles unable to maneuver properly; on the other hand Andrew Oldham who is fairly reliable at calling spades spades says that Cooke was badly beaten and the hooker couldn’t have done that.  That doesn’t implicate Allen necessarily, him being in the record business.  Sam certainly knew a few bastards, may have been one himself, who could make Allen look like a crass beginner.

Nevertheless Allen got all the goodies bar none and for perpetuity.  After having viewed Cooke’s body he was satisfied the hooker did it.  Those intellectual properties just keep on paying and paying.  Poor Sam.  Allen probably could have stopped there but the biggest bastard wanted the biggest bands- the Stones and the Beatles and he did realize that orphan’s dream.

Allen had the typical manager’s attitude toward his clients’ money, pp. 57-58

Theatrical producer, Lawrence Myers, a British business manager and an accountant by training, met Klein several months before Cooke’s death and credited Allen with altering the course of his own career.  “Allen taught me something without which I wouldn’t have the lifestyle I do today,” said Myers.  “Don’t take twenty percent of an artist’s income- give them eighty percent of yours.  The difference between Allen and I is that I actually told them what was going to happen.  And Allen certainly didn’t.  They found out sometime later.”

Obviously being a ‘business manager’ was a license to steal.  If Allen gave all his artists 80% of 20% son Jody has inherited well.  As a ‘business manager’ all checks were collected by Allen and once in his pocket were the devil to get out.  However after all was said and done, after taxes, fees, expenses and commissions there wasn’t that much left over to be divided five ways.  Even if the manager was honest, and few are, he, as an individual was taking a minimum of one fifth.  In the case or Colonel Parker and Tony Defries nearly all.  There wasn’t that much left over to be divided five ways.

Consider:  The tax rate in England for ordinary income was 90%.  That means that after all expenses were deducted, perhaps fifty percent or more out of a million, a half million at best might be left over.  Ninety percent of half million is four hundred fifty thousand dollars leaving fifty thousand dollars to be split five ways.  That is at most ten thousand dollars each.  While the Stones minds were confused because they were earning millions and getting peanuts.  Didn’t compute in their minds.

So while from 1963 to 1968 if the group earned ten million dollars and that’s a lot of money they were only entitled to a mere good living in after tax dollars.  Not flush at all.  At the time I don’t think the Stones realized that.

Without knowing the exact amount of money Klein was handling perhaps the Stones were making unreasonable demands for cash.  For Klein it was a stroke of good luck when the drug addled Andrew sold him the Stones masters from 1963-71 for what to him was pocket change.  Those masters are the basis of what Klein made from the Stones.  And it was a legitimate purchase.  They have no complaints against Klein on that score as Andrew owned the rights and could sell them to who he chose.

Nevertheless Klein did not deal openly with Jagger and the group so Jagger, by far the businessman of the group, began to look for help elsewhere.  A Hippie about town he knew named Chrissie Gibbs had a passing acquaintance with the investment banker Rupert Loewenstein, introduced him to Jagger, then he inexplicably agreed to represent an uncouth rock group of whom he says he had never heard.  This is even more remarkable in that the Stones had been arrested and convicted on drug charges in 1967 the year before the staid and respectable Rupert took them on.  It was on the front pages with pictures.

Reminded of William Rees-Moggs editorial in the London Times that Rupert had read, he writes in his memoirs that, oh yes, he did remember that but endorsed the conviction entirely.  He still agreed to represent them.  What do you think of that?

Analyzing a mountain of paperwork Rupert probably came to the conclusion that the Stones’ past was a lost cause and only the future earnings counted.  The only hope for big money lay in performing.  As the way touring was conducted at the time was less than cost effective Rupert had to reinvent it.  He had to eliminate as much of the thieving and inefficiency as possible.  This is actually pretty strange.

Why he felt equal to this with absolutely no guarantees is beyond me; according to his memoirs at this time the Stones were not only broke but in debt to the Inland Revenue for more than they could ever hope to pay as matters stood.  Well, OK, Rupert was super prescient.   You have no idea how criminal the record business is or was at the time.  Think about leopards.  The business is a shadow of itself today since the internet recreated the single while destroying the LP market.

Rupert was lucky in that Jagger was essentially a performance artist who would make Yoko Oko turn several shades of green.  But that is part of the Stones’ story.

Rupert and Klein got into a twenty year legal battle that as the saying goes made the lawyers rich.

Rupert And Keith

Rupert And Keith

However as the Stones left Klein’s stable Allen’s dream of managing the Beatles, at least three of them, came true.  Allen got John, Ringo and George while Lee Eastman got McCartney.

Once Klein got the money it was very difficult to get it out of him although he took a sort of paternal interest in the artists.  Of course if you are robbing them it is only proper to give then an allowance now and then.  Fred goes out of his way to demonstrate, or at least claim, Klein’s honesty, white washing him entirely although as one evidence of dishonesty Klein actually went to jail for a couple of months for failure to report income.

In the record business in order to get their records exposure, companies have to allow for so many demonstration albums- promos or demos as they were called.  I owned a small chain of stores back in the day so I would be given sets of albums of a new release for in store play.  The promo men had boxes of copies for all the radio stations and other uses.  As should be obvious there is a certain play in there to sell demos.

George Harrison, a client of Klein’s put together the charity play, The Concert For Bangladesh.  That was a charity release, box set of three records, for relief of the starving of Bangladesh.  Any of them starving at the time of the concert were dead by the any money reached Bangladesh.  Klein’s deal was that he pressed the records and packaged them, obviously he had the masters, sending the completed copies to the companies for distribution.  He then pressed, according to Andrew in Stone Free, literally truckloads of copies that he disposed of as promos.  Now these were sixty foot semis were talking about.

The things that happened in the record business is incredible.  When the Kiss solo albums were released Neil Bogart of Casablanca seriously overestimated the demand pressing up two million copies of each in advance.  Supposedly two truckloads, 200,000 copies, where hi-jacked on I-5 on their way North.  As unbelievable as it may sound it was suggested that I was the responsible party.  I’m sure those copies were insured.

It was not a crime for Allen to sell the records but, unfortunately, he failed to report the income and that is an IRS offense.  Bad, bad.

Andrew These Days

Andrew These Days

Andrew offers this take on the situation, Stone Free p. 360:

Allen’s karma finally caught up with him in 1979 when he was convicted on charges of US Federal tax evasion.  Klein had sold literally truckloads of albums that were accounted for on the books as “promos” (albums distributed free of charge for radio stations and press for which the label is not obligated to pay artist royalties.  His actual felony was pocketing the income from those sales without reporting it to the Internal Revenue service.  But Let’s tote up who Klein screwed in the affair, his country, which was entitled to tax him; the Beatles, both collectively and individually…UNICEF…and thousands of starving childre

Perhaps this was a sensitive issue for Jody because Fred carefully steps around the issue claiming a penny ante sharing between himself and his hapless promotion man.  The jail sentence says something else.

Actually it got Klein into more hot water than two months for a tax dodging charge. By the time of Bangladesh Klein was one of the most hated men in records by fans.  His reputation was just terrible.  Calling him a mere crook wouldn’t begin to cover what the fans thought.

A.J. At Work

A.J. At Work

A.J. Weberman got wind of the scam.  For those who don’t know, Alan J. Weberman was the first ‘garbologist.’  He was so interested in what Bob Dylan was doing he used to collect his garbage from the cans set out on the sidewalks of New York and sort through it carefully.  He was trying to prove Dylan was a heroin addict among other things.  So, he was a self-styled policeman of the industry.

Having got wind of the sale of the promos, he not only arranged picketing of Klein’s office but actually invaded it.  By the time he got through, Klein’s battered reputation was beyond repair.  Fred avoids all that even though a great story.

Allen also failed to back Harrison in his lawsuit over his supposed plagiarizing the song He’s So Fine with his song My Sweet Lord.

Andrew Oldham handles that story well in his biography of Allen in Stone Free p. 361:

Quote:

A falling out with Lennon followed (John would vent many of his feelings towards Klein in his song “Steel and Glass”).  but the ultimate betrayal came when Allen sued his own former client, Harrison for copyright infringement.  To Allen, this was probably as simple as getting the attention of an artist he felt was off the reservation- a counter-insurgency- if you will.  Like so many songs before it, George’s “My Sweet Lord” was patently based on the spiritual “Oh Happy Day”, a song long in the public domain and hence not subject to copyright.  Unfortunately, another song derived from “Oh Happy Day”, the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine’ was protected, prompting the publisher, Bright Tunes, to launch proceedings against Harrison.

Klein, naturally, was enraged, and happily assisted Harrison in preparing his defense.  But as his relationship with the former Beatles crumbled, Klein looked for ways of bringing George back in line.  He took himself out and purchased Bright Tunes for himself- and kept the lawsuit alive.  A degree of justice prevailed as the Judge slammed Klein for switching sides…

Unquote.

That’s a perfect example of the record business.  If Harrison had employed the same solution, buying Bright Tunes, Klein would have howled foul.  Artists are supposed to function with a different morality.  That’s the record business.

The thing is there are no original songs, every song is derived from another or several. I don’t know why the Courts accept the suits.  There is no way the Judges can make an informed decision unless they happen to be musicologists.

As Fred obviously read Andrew as above and had other information or could get it from his employer Jody, there is no reason to shield Allen’s terrible reputation.  The guy was totally unscrupulous.  Probably better than his counterpart Morris Levy of Roulette or Tony Defries who managed David Bowie or the king of con men himself, Colonel Parker who robbed the King himself- Elvis.

To conclude:  I can only recommend the book to the dedicated Stones or Beatles enthusiast.  There is no depth or breadth to the book.  Allen’s roster of clients, most of whom are still living do not seen to have been interviewed by Fred.  He doesn’t even seem to have talked to Andrew who knew and was intimate with Allen the longest.  Heck, Fred didn’t even bother to interview his own employer, Jody Klein.

I mean Jody must have had something to say about his father.  Even the pictures ae somewhat limited.  Fred could have gotten a picture of the orphanage that created the ‘biggest bastard in the valley.’  Allen’s whole career can be placed in the context of his life in the orphanage.  Four years old to nine, whew!- the most formative years of a boy’s life.

I was in from eight to ten and that was bad enough.  You learn a lot about bastards in the orphanage so when Allen Klein bills himself as the biggest bastard in the valley he is saying a little more than something.

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