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MUSIC BIZ HISTORY: GATHERING MOSS
Another Sample From The History of the Music Biz: The Mike Sigman Interviews

Presenting a sample from The History of the Music Biz: The Mike Sigman Interviews, our recently published compendium of profiles on some of the giants who built the modern music biz. Jerry Moss, seen here with his A&M partner Herb Alpert, takes us back to the days of the label’s first hit.

“I started working the flip side of ‘Taste of Honey,’" Moss recalls, "and Herb kept looking at me and saying, ‘You’re working the wrong side.’ Finally, I said, ‘I think you’re right.’ So I turned it over, and ‘Taste of Honey’ went nuts. We hit #1. And then came the explosion.”  

By the middle of 1966, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass would have five albums in the Top 20 and would be outselling The Beatles two to one.  

Gil Friesen helped Herb assemble a live band to tour and promote the record. Herb—a great musician, arranger, composer and producer—quickly became an amazing onstage performer.  

“One night he opened for Dave Brubeck. Between shows, Dave came to Herb and said, ‘I’m gonna open for you for the second show.’ So Herb became a headliner, and he became suddenly the biggest act in the country. On stage he sang along with the band. But it was mostly this instrumental group, and here we were selling lots of tickets to see him and the Brass.”

In early 1966, Jerry signed Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 to A&M, and they joined Herb and his outfit on the road. But a large part of the original agreement was that Herb would produce their albums, and he did their first three for A&M.

“When the explosion happened and we had the income, we went out and hired people we liked and felt we all would work hard and do us some good. This was a time where the record business really came alive. It was a small industry and we were getting this incredible music, and we sailed right along with it.

“At A&M, the music and the artist always came first. Secondly, we were looking for people who loved the music and also enjoyed working hard. And third, it had to be fun. You know, we were a small company, and we thought we could manage that part of it very well.”  

In the hunt for the next superstars, the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival loomed large, and Jerry was frustrated that A&M wasn’t a player. “I was at Monterey, and I was feeling a little miffed that we didn’t have an act there. Whatever was happening with rock & roll in L.A., we were not getting our shot. Warners had moved in pretty good. And so had CBS, with big money.”

Mulling his next move, Jerry got a call from his old wedding buddy, Marvin Cane, who was now with music publisher TRO

“Marvin said, ‘Hey, have you ever heard of Procol Harum?’ They had made a hit record [‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’], but they didn’t have a deal for a follow-up record in the U.S. and Canada. Marvin said, ‘You want to sign ‘em?’ I said, ‘Yeah!’  

Jerry went to London with his attorney, Abe Somer, and made a deal for Procol Harum with David Platz, who ran TRO’s British operation, and the band’s producer Denny Cordell—and for future first call on anything else that was produced.  

“Whiter Shade Of Pale,” to the surprise of no one, went to #1 in the U.K. and #5 in the U.S. and remains one of the great classics of the 1960s. 

Through Cordell, Jerry met Island founder Chris Blackwell, and with those allies, A&M signed some of the greatest acts in rock for the U.S. and Canada...

Alpert and Moss in the studio with Sergio Mendes

 

To acquire a copy of The History of the Music Biz: The Mike Sigman  Interviews, contact Robin Gerber at (818) 506-8800.

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