Throwing Stones XV: For A Song
(This is Part XV. Click Throwing Stones XIV:Bad Apples to read the previous chapter.)
In Part XIV, Rolling Stones’ Manager Allen Klein made his play for The Beatles as the Stones worked on a new album.
By February, 1969, John Lennon was convinced that Allen Klein was the ultimate rock ’n’ roll manager. Mick Jagger was no longer sure. Four years after The Rolling Stones signed with Klein, Jagger and the rest of the band had grown deeply distrustful of the blustery American.
Initially, Klein had been generous with the Stones, doling out large sums of money with a smile. In 1966, when Keith Richards inquired if he could afford to buy a home in one of London’s toniest neighborhoods, Klein cut the guitarist a check for the full purchase price. But as time went by, the checkbook tightened, and Mick Jagger in particular began to suspect that their wily manager was getting the best of the Stones’ business deals.
Klein had an ironclad contract, and didn’t appreciate being questioned or second-guessed. Getting either money or answers out of him became increasingly difficult. Eager to warn John Lennon of Klein’s behavior, Mick Jagger set up a meeting with his fellow rocker. But when Jagger arrived, he was stunned to see that Lennon had invited Allen Klein as well. Wary of a direct confrontation with Klein, Jagger left with his famous lips sealed.
Perhaps he should have met with Lennon’s songwriting partner instead.
After splitting with actress Jane Asher, Paul McCartney had fallen in love with Linda Eastman, a young American photographer. Contrary to still-popular rumors, Linda Eastman was not the heir to the Eastman-Kodak fortune. But she was from a wealthy New York family. Linda’s father, Lee Eastman, was one of the world’s top intellectual property lawyers, and had decades of entertainment industry experience. Linda’s brother, John, had recently joined her father’s practice.
Before Allen Klein met John Lennon, Paul McCartney had suggested that Lee and John Eastman were ideal candidates to sort out the mess at Apple Corps. Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had initially agreed. They had no viable alternatives to suggest, and were duly impressed by the Eastmans’ expertise. Still, they were understandably concerned that Linda’s family members would be biased towards Paul, especially after he married Linda on March 12, 1969. What’s more, they had grown to resent what they saw as McCartney’s pushiness regarding the band’s business and creative efforts. Eventually, the idea of the Eastmans and Allen Klein co-managing the band was suggested as a reasonable compromise.
Though John Lennon had abdicated his role as the leader of The Beatles for years, he had grown to resent McCartney the most of all. Paul had made a tremendous effort to accommodate Yoko Ono, but Ono had her own agenda, and stoked Lennon’s ire. In retrospect, it’s no surprise that John Lennon took an immediate (although unjustified) dislike to the Eastmans, decrying them as pretentious, social climbing, elitist snobs. Klein was more than happy to join Lennon in parroting this line to Harrison and Starr.
In a meeting at Apple attended by both Klein and the Eastmans, Klein, Lennon and Ono mercilessly baited Lee Eastman, goading the lawyer into exploding at Klein. Lennon then claimed that Eastman’s outburst proved Paul’s New York attorney in-laws were nothing more than pompous, self-important phonies.
When the four Beatles sat down to decide who would manage the band and handle the turnaround at Apple, Allen Klein got three votes. The Eastmans got one. The Fab Four had a standing rule that all significant decisions had to be unanimous, and McCartney was shocked to hear his bandmates insist that the rule was no longer valid—Klein had won by majority and that was that. It was the beginning of the end.
Allen Klein moved into Apple and began slashing staff. But Klein’s cuts were motivated by more than simple cost savings. He wanted absolute control. Thus, good, loyal, hardworking employees were thrown out with the bad apples. That included Ron Kass, the seasoned record executive who had made the company’s record division its one shining success. Talent scout and producer Peter Asher (Jane’s brother) had also played a vital role in Apple Records’ achievements. Asher refused to let Klein humiliate him, and resigned before he could be fired. He went on to become one of the most successful producers of the rock era.
Klein renegotiated The Beatles’ contract with EMI, substantially increasing their royalty rate. He also brought Apple’s expenses under control. But his aggressiveness cost the Beatles their chance to buy back the Estate of Brian Epstein’s financial interest in the band. Epstein’s spooked heirs sold it to an investment trust instead, blindsiding The Beatles.
Meanwhile, music publisher Dick James had grown weary of John and Yoko’s increasingly odd public behavior and wary of the band’s ongoing business imbroglios. James held a controlling interest in Northern Songs, Ltd., the publicly held publishing company that owned the Lennon-McCartney team’s song copyrights. John and Paul were minority shareholders; George and Ringo owned small stakes as well.
James announced that he was selling his interest to ATV Entertainment, a conglomerate owned by Lord Lew Grade, a cigar-chomping British showbiz mogul. The Beatles felt utterly betrayed. Klein promised to stop the sale. But neither Klein nor the Eastmans were able to prevent it, especially after a frustrated John Lennon foolishly threw a tantrum in a critical meeting and denounced a group of potential white knight co-investors as just another bunch of greedy businessmen.
But what of The Rolling Stones? Unlike their Liverpool pals, Jagger and Richards’ outfit was firing on all cylinders. The addition of guitarist Mick Taylor had turbocharged their most creative period. Their rollicking summer single, “Honky Tonk Women,” spent weeks at number one on both the U.S. and U.K. charts. The band’s first U.S. tour in over three years was penciled in for the fall, along with another appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. A new album was scheduled for release as soon as the tour wrapped. The Stones had even decided to title the LP “Let It Bleed,” in sly mockery of their rivals’ (as yet unreleased) “Let It Be.”
With the Fab Four falling apart, every Stones concert would serve as a coronation. Jagger and Richards were confident that the band would return from America crowned as the reigning kings of rock ’n’ roll. And then, they discovered that there was no money available to fund a tour.
(This concludes Part XIV. Click now to read Throwing Stones XVI: Highway ’69 Revisited!)Posted by Bill | 8 comments