Thursday, August 6, 2009
(part 190) "STAY WITH ME" WASN'T GETTING SHIPPED
My sense of responsibility and frustration had boiled over in the office of RCA's west coast PR department. My girlfriend's father was now in the red for $80,000, and I was trying desperately to protect his investment by getting the label to push "Stay With Me" for real.
My outburst, though volatile and unhelpful, stemmed from the growing list of facts I was faced with. In New York, a cocaine dealer who wanted into my life, had the ear of Bob Summer, the president of the label, and on the west coast, a do nothing PR department sat motionless.
I also wondered if the executive from Billboard Magazine had actually said something to RCA about my past as he'd threatened he would?
I pictured him running around town spreading his venom about me to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who would listen, but in reality I just didn't know.
I'd already endured L.A.'s refusal to play my records in the past, so hearing they weren't going to play this one, meant nothing had changed, and was par for the course, at least in my experience.
On the brighter side, "Stay With Me" just kept getting played on more and more radio stations around the country. I figured my only option was to keep pushing the record, and force the label to pay attention to the airplay it was getting.
I guess I could have teamed up with DP and made things better, and believe me I thought about it, but that really wasn't an option for me at this point. My sobriety was more important than getting help from a cocaine dealer who wanted to manage me.
As I fought on, trying to convince RCA they had a hit, I cut off all my hair and shaved so I'd look more like a businessman than an artist.
It was one of the dumbest things I remember doing, but somewhere in my mind I believed if I shed my old look I could somehow shed my old past with it.
Similarly, that's why I'd chosen to use my full name, Robert Parker Jameson, instead of Bobby Jameson. I was trying to become someone else and cut all ties with the old me.
As the girls and I continued updating and mailing out flyers to radio stations from my apartment, I tried not to think about failure and watching everything go down the tubes.
Although the thought kept lurking in the back of my mind somewhere, I relentlessly kept my focus on the record, and the ever increasing number of stations that added it to their playlist.
One afternoon as we worked, I got a call from a program director back east, who said he had "Stay With Me" on his station. He asked if I was the same Jameson who'd released "Color Him In" in the 60's, and I said I was.
"Man!" he said, "I thought it might be you. Boy that was a good album, and a big hit back here, all through the New England area."
I was somewhat taken back by his remark, because it was the first time I'd ever heard that "Color Him In" was a hit from someone in radio. It gave rise to more shades of lies from Verve Records and their version of how the album had done in the 60's.
"Hey, Bobby," he said, as I snapped back into attention, "I have to tell you something important."
"OK," I said, "lay it on me."
"As I told you, we're playing "Stay With Me" on our station, which is heard in multiple states up here, and it's been real popular and gets a lot of requests."
"Wow, that's great," I interrupted.
"Yeah, but here's the problem," he said, "the record's moving up our chart, and looks like it could go top 10, but no one can buy it here, because none of the stores have it."
I was confused, as I listened to him talk. "Why?" I asked, "did it sell out?"
"No!" he answered, "You can't buy it, because there aren't any here, there never have been. You've been working so hard on your own record that I felt I had to call and tell you what was happening. You're doing a hell of a job, Bobby, but RCA's not helping you at all. They're not shipping records to anyone up here, and believe me I've checked."
I felt as if someone had just hit me in the face with a two by four. I couldn't think of what to say to him.
"I'm really sorry about this," he went on, "but I have to pull your record off the air, because it's not for sale here, and if no one can buy it, I can't keep playing it."
"OK," I said bleakly, "I understand. I really want to thank you for playing the record and for calling and telling me all of this. I really appreciate it."
"OK man!" he answered, "Sorry it had to be me who gave you the bad news, I just thought you had a right to know."
I hung up the phone and looked at the girls. "What's wrong?" they both asked, "What happened?" I told them about the part of the conversation they couldn't hear and said I had to call their father.
I dialed his phone number in New Jersey and filled him in on the details of the program director's claim that RCA was not shipping records.
We agreed we needed to know if this was happening in other parts of the country, as well, or was just an isolated incident. The only way we could know this first hand, was to go somewhere the record was doing well, and see if it could be purchased there.
In Cleveland, Ohio, the record was on two big stations and moving up the charts. RCA had a distributorship there, so we planned to meet in the city, try and buy the record in some stores, and if we couldn't, then we would go directly to the distributor, and see if they had the record in stock.