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WHEN LAVINTHAL MET BEER, PART THREE: REELIN' IN THE YEARS

An excerpt from the forthcoming memoir High and Inside

ABC/Dunhill chief Jay Lasker was a tough, no-bullshit, old-school record guy who knew how to sell The Mamas & Papas so many different ways it was mind-boggling: Farewell to the First Golden Era, Their Greatest Hits, The Golden Years, The Anthology, 16 Greatest Hits, and then the final 16 Greatest Hits Never Heard Before in This Order. The guy knew how to milk a catalog. They never recorded as a group for him, or anyone else, ever again.

This was not the house that Mo and Joe built, but there were a few of us: Steve Barri, a Top 40 hit producer out of famed Fairfax High (Phil Spector, Herb Alpert, Tommy Roe, The Grass Roots, etc.), and Joel “The Creeper” Sill, the son of Lester Sill (who’d co-founded Philles with Spector and headed Colgems during the Monkees era) and brother of publishing mogul Chuck Kaye, both famed music men. Joel was executive producer of the Easy Rider soundtrack on Dunhill. The three of us stuck together that first year or two. Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” had been a big hit, and Three Dog Night’s first single, a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “One,” was just out.

After I’d been there for six weeks, Lasker told me, “Go back and work for your daddy,” as he threw a box of 45 RPM singles at my head, declaring he didn’t want to see me again until I went on the road and got the record played.

“Don’t go to Seattle,” he added. “That doesn’t count.”



I went home and told wife #1, Pam, who was from Spokane, that we might have made a mistake moving to L.A. She’d been crying since we moved to town. After mulling over the situation, I decided to call an old family friend, Bill Gavin, who ran the influential tip sheet The Gavin Report at the time, and see what he thought I should do. He asked what record Lasker had sent me off to work; after I told him it was “November Snow” by Rejoice, he said he’d call me back.

Bill called the next morning and suggested that I go to Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston to see stations WKY, KLIF and KILT. So I went. Both WKY’s Danny Williams and KLIF’s Michael O’Shea added the record, but Bill Young at KILT in Houston kept me waiting in the lobby for two days. When I finally confronted him in the parking lot as he stood there with a shotgun in his hand, he said he didn’t have time because he was shooting birds. I had the distinct feeling that shooting birds and shooting Jews was pretty much the same thing to him. I haven’t been back to Houston since.

The next six years were awesome, as ABC/Dunhill took off. I became a super-hot young exec, and the dream of sex, drugs and rock & roll was fulfilled to the max. The label’s output was incredible: Steely Dan’s “Do It Again,” Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way,” Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good,” Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World,” The Four Tops’ “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got),” Dusty Springfield’s “Yesterday, When I Was Young,” B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” and “Hummingbird,” Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” Freddy Fender’s “Before the Last Teardrop Falls,” Ace’s “How Long,” The Amazing Rhythm Aces’ “Third Rate Romance,” Jimmy Buffett’s “Come Monday,” The Grass Roots’ “Sooner or Later,” Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods’ “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero,” Bobby Vinton’s “Beer Barrel Polka” and Tommy Roe’s “Jam Up and Jelly Tight,” plus classic LPs by John Lee Hooker, Lamont Dozier, Keith Jarrett, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Bobby “Blue” Bland, to name more than a few.

It was through Three Dog Night that I met the Ienner brothers. Jimmy had replaced Richie Podolor as the group’s producer, and Donnie was Jimmy’s runner. Even then, I could tell Donnie was going to be this super-aggressive, win-at-all-costs kind of guy. The first time I laid eyes on Donnie was the day he delivered the master refs to the first single from Hard Labor, “The Show Must Go On.” He strolled into my office, yanked open the door to my fridge and took what he wanted without asking.

NEAR TRUTHS:
THE AGENCY SAGA
What do you want from live? (6/11a)
REVENUE CHART: OLIVIA’S ARMY
Looks like she's got staying power. (6/11a)
SIGNS OF HITS LIST
We're reading the tea leaves. (6/11a)
WATCH THE FIRST OFFICIAL VIDEO FOR "FEELING GOOD"
The Black Music Month celebration continues with a classic from a legend, (6/10a)
MUSIC’S HOTTEST FIRMS: HERTZ LICHTENSTEIN YOUNG & POLK LLP
Is there a lawyer in the house? (6/11a)
RHYTHM, BLUES AND THE FUTURE
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
WHO'S NEXT?
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
JUST THE VAX, MA'AM
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
WORLDWIDE GROOVE
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?
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