Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Allen Klein, 1931-2009

In the midst of the Steve McNair controversy, I learned (via The Music's Over) of the death of Allen Klein on July 4.

The Music's Over touches on the highlights, and much more can be learned via various Beatles and Stones biographies (Bill Wyman's autobiography is an excellent reference on the highs and lows of being represented by Klein), but the part that made me take note was the comment that Klein suffered from dementia in his later years. Whatever you think of Klein, he certainly had a razor-sharp mind in his heyday. Here are some highlights of his Beatles years:

Allen Klein's records showed the Beatles earned £7.8 million between 6/62 and 12/68 not including songwriting. During the 19 months of Klein's involvement the Beatle earned £9 million with £8 million coming from record royalties....

Allen Klein renegotiated the Beatles contract with EMI as follows: The royalty rate went from 17 1/2% to 25% on U.S. sales. The Beatles were to do two albums per year as a group or individually. The Beatles would receive $0.58 per album until '72 when it would increase to $0.72. Reissues would be paid at a rate of $0.55 when it would increase to $0.72.

Now perhaps anyone could be a financial genius when compared to Brian Epstein, but he certainly had his accomplishments on the financial level. Then again...

Allan Klein, the sharp-talking American lawyer brought in by Lennon (much to McCartney's annoyance) to get rid of "the hustlers and spongers" who were buying houses and charging them to Apple's account, left his own troublesome legacy of financial mis-management. Klein was eventually condemned, in the High Court action McCartney instituted in 1971, for "lamentable" book-keeping. Lawsuits between Klein and Apple kept Aspinall busy through until 1977....

Out of all the Apple departments that were cut by Klein, his decision to effectively close down Apple Publishing made the least sense from a business perspective...Apple also held the European publishing rights for several promising American acts, including the Steve Miller Band...Although Apple Publishing was a large department with a staff that ranged from five to seven people, it was one of the few Apple divisions that saw any return on Apple's investment. According to Mike O'Connor, Apple was ready to sign UK publishing agreements with both Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson when Klein shut the department down.

But the Beatles were not Klein's first client...and neither were the Stones. Before he crossed the pond, he was working with American acts:

Through a friendship with publisher Don Kirshner, Mr Klein became involved in the music business. A meeting with Bobby Darin started him on the path of auditing record companies on behalf of recording artists and he developed a fervent following among these clients based on his uncanny ability to identify unpaid royalties. In 1962, Klein met Sam Cooke and would soon become his manager. On Cooke’s behalf, he secured an unprecedented agreement with RCA Records providing for not only artistic control but Cooke’s ownership of his own masters via Tracey Records, a label that Klein set up for this purpose. That contract forever changed the traditional relationship between label and artist that had been in place since the birth of the industry.

Cooke later died, and Darin would eventually die himself, but Klein had already moved across the pond, most notably as the manager of the Rolling Stones...then the Beatles (or three quarters of them, anyway).

After leaving the Stones and the Beatles, Klein continued in the music business. Here's what mental_floss had to say (in a November 2008 post) about his later years:

investigated by the IRS in the 1970s for embezzling money from George Harrison’s benefit show The Concert for Bangladesh. In 1997, Klein was still up to his old tricks, suing British indie rock group The Verve over their hit “Bittersweet Symphony.” The band had sampled orchestration from “The Last Time,” a recording by The Rolling Stones that Klein controlled. After winning the lawsuit, Klein licensed The Verve’s masterpiece to Nike for millions. Now age 76, Klein lives in Los Angeles, where he has one remaining client—wall-of-sound producer Phil Spector.

The Independent provides further details about Bangladesh and Spector:

In 1979, he served two months in prison in America for income tax evasion on income from illegally selling $216,000 worth of promotional copies of George Harrison's album, The Concert for Bangladesh (royalties are not paid on promo copies). But he's still in business, living off the back catalogue of the Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke, and managing the producer Phil Spector, who was owed royalties Klein retrieved in traditional fashion.

So if you're wondering where Spector got the money for his outlandish wigs, blame Klein.

The funeral is taking place on July 7.
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