Monday, July 6, 2009

Former Beatles/Rolling Stones Manager Allen Klein Passes at 77

Allen Klein, the powerful and controversial manager and record label owner, passed away on Saturday in New York at age 77. He had been fighting Alzheimer's disease.

Klein began his career in the late-50's and quickly became known as the "go to" guy when an artist wanted to get tough with a record company. He extracted $100,000 from Atco Records for Bobby Darin in unpaid royalties and helped Sam Cooke dissolve existing contracts and start his own Tracey Records, regain ownership of his songs and receive payment of back royalties.

In 1965, Klein became co-manager of the Rolling Stones, a position that initially drew great praise; however, by the end of the decade, Mick Jaggar suspected some of Klein's business practices and ended up firing him. Klein sued with the result being that the Stones gave up the rights to most of their pre-1971 recordings to Klein.

Klein, ever the savvy business owner, formed ABKCO Industries in 1968 when he purchased the catalog of Cameo-Parkway, putting his company in charge of the recorded output of artists like Chubby Checker, the Animals, Herman's Hermits, Bobby Rydell and many others. Later in his career, he also acquired the back catalog of Phil Spector's Philles Records, giving them the output of artists like the Righteous Brothers, the Crystals and the Ronettes.

During one of his last sessions with the Stones, Rock and Roll Circus, Klein met John Lennon. The Beatles had not had a manager since the 1967 death of Brian Epstein and their Apple Industries was in a bit of disarray as was the group who fought over business decisions. Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr agreed to let Klein take over business matters while Paul McCartney abstained from signing any contracts.

Klein negotiated a new royalty rate with EMI, allowed them to release a Beatles compilation album and was responsible for the release of Something/Come Together as a way to stave off looming financial disaster. He also arranged for Phil Spector to come in and save the Get Back sessions, which eventually became the group's last album, Let It Be.

Upon the split of the Beatles, McCartney chose to sue the rest of the group for a "divorce," breaking up the group as a business entity. He later stated that he did so to keep Klein's hands off their legacy.

Klein went on to work with both Lennon and Harrison on their early solo efforts, but a number of misjudgments around the Concert for Bangladesh led to both artists breaking off their relationship with him. At one particularly contentious moment, Harrison came up against Klein during the My Sweet Lord plagiarism lawsuit. Klein advised Harrison during the first part of the proceedings, but then bought Bright Tunes and obtained ownership of He's So Fine, basically putting him on both sides of the case. The maneuver backfired against Klein and Harrison eventually ended up owning both songs.

Later in his career, Klein got into producing films but had one last major lawsuit against the British group The Verve who had sampled part of the Rolling Stones' The Last Time in their song Bittersweet Symphony. Even though their had been a contract before the recording of the song, Klein sued the group and received 100% of the royalties after saying that too much had been sampled. He turned around and licensed Bittersweet Symphony to Nike for use in their advertisements and changed the writers of the song to Mick Jaggar and Keith Richards.


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