Saturday, August 8, 2009
(part 192) IT'S NOT PERSONAL...IT'S JUST BUSINESS
Doheny Toweres where I lived in 1978
Unlike now, the panorama of issues and events in 1977 and 1978 were not as clear to me. The fact that I could get Bob Summer, the president of RCA Records on the phone, as I did in the Cleveland warehouse, gave both myself, and my girlfriend's father, the incentive to forge ahead, which we continued to do.
Back then it looked like we were encountering problems and then resolving them. Each issue was analyzed and dealt with on an ongoing basis, such as the DP problem. It came up, and I made a decision about it and moved on.
When we found out that records weren't getting shipped, I talked the president of the label, who appeared receptive to my concerns, as well as being accessible to me.
In our minds it was business. Things happened and you dealt with them, or so we thought, but it was impossible to ever really know how each individual piece affected the whole situation.
There were political problems at RCA as well. The president, Bob Summer, was relatively new, and had not gone through the customary channels before signing me as an artist/producer for the label.
As I mentioned in earlier posts, the A and R people on the east coast felt slighted by the then president's decision to take me on as his pet project. The fact that he may well have done this at the urging of DP, a cocaine dealer from my past, would have made Bob Summer's actions that much more suspect.
Perhaps the president of RCA Records was unaware that those below him were determined not to help make "Stay With Me" a hit for the label.
It may have also been the case that there were those within RCA that were committed to the demise of Bob Summer as well. Possibilities such as these would have been beyond my understanding at the time, and completely beyond my control. They were blind spots that riddled the landscape.
From my personal standpoint, I saw one thing as being crystal clear. Stay With Me, when presented to the public on the radio, was a hit.
The fact that the record itself was simultaneously unavailable to that very same public, for whatever reason, was the new glitch.
Someone could hear the song on the radio, decide to buy it, but find they couldn't when they tried. This proved to be one of the most insidious problems I have ever endured in the dark arena of music as a business. The pettiness, yet overwhelmingly negative effect of this single issue, still haunts me today.
While the record continued being added to one radio station after another, the opposite reality was also coming true. It was now starting to be dropped by those stations who found it was unavailable in stores in their area.
This did not happen all at once, but slowly, like a painful twisting in the wind over a few months. To make matters worse, DP decided to send someone to where I lived, and threaten my life if I didn't go along with his demands to manage me and play ball.
The person he sent was GM, who you may remember as my partner in crime burglarizing hotel rooms, when I was still getting loaded.
His appearance at my door, one afternoon, was one of the most clarifying moments I can recall from back then. It put an end, forever, to the word friend, as used by DP, to explain our relationship.
There was no friendship. There was a person who made demands on another person, and if those demands were not met, then an enforcer was sent forth to accomplish the goal by threatening the life of he who would not conform, namely me.
GM stood like a dark shadow in front of me in my apartment. He talked angrily about how much DP had done for me, and that I was way out of line in refusing to let him manage me.
He threatened to throw me off my own balcony, which was eight stories up, if I didn't buckle under to DP's demands. He was more than capable of doing it if he decided to. There was no question about that.
I stood there like a zombie and stared back at him saying, "Do what you gotta do, G, but I'm not letting DP manage me, and you aren't gonna have an easy Goddamn time with this chicken shit job he sent you to do. If I go over that fucking
railing, you're comin' with me."
This was not a bluff. It was the literal truth at that moment. "I'm not gonna do what you guy's want, no matter what you do to me," I said.
Both DP and GM knew me from the past, and had observed, on numerous occasions, my propensity for insanity, so it wasn't like I was a pushover in the matter.
GM watched my eyes and body language like a hungry animal. He was looking for the fear scent in me. It was there alright, but so was the "I'm a crazy fucker and you know it" scent, and it was stronger.
He stood there and studied me for a long time before he spoke.
"You're a strong son-of-a-bitch, Jamerson," he said. He always added an r to my name when he said it. "You probably would get thrown over that railing before you ever changed your mind, you crazy asshole."
"Yeah!" I said, "I probably would, G." He half smiled at me and turned toward door. As he headed out he said, "Oh yeah, DP wants the guitar he bought for you in Nashville."
"OK," I said, "there it is," pointing to the Gibson Dove.
GM grabbed the guitar by the neck and looked at me one last time....I stared at him motionless, with the same determined look as before...He shook his head and turned and left....
I will always remember the sound of the door as it closed....I stood there for a long time before I moved.....