Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rock 'N' Roll Will Never Die, but Has It Sold out? ; the Insider Scoop on Warner Bros. Records - before Cash Was King

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Rock 'N' Roll Will Never Die, but Has It Sold out? ; the Insider Scoop on Warner Bros. Records - before Cash Was King

Article excerpt

Stan Cornyn's rich history of a key pop music conglomerate is one of the few books to make sense of this complex field. It begins in the '30s on vinyl 78s, with Warner Brothers' first label, Brunswick. It ends in 1999, when Time Warner released compact disks through the Atlantic Recording Corp., Elektra Entertainment Group, and Warner Bros. Records (WBR). It is the story of a firm and a business that used to have fun making money and music. Now, Cornyn suggests, it focuses on making money - humorlessly.

"What we had accomplished in '69 we had forgotten by '99," he writes. "When money changed from being a wondrous shower and became ruler over all, everything suffered. Swarms of suits had, in the end, endorsed greed over boogie."

"Exploding" isn't very well-written. Its business-book formula, though efficient, grows tiresome, and so many names are dropped that they blur. But Cornyn more than compensates with his anecdotes, attitude, and more than three decades of insider status.

Names the names

Fans of classic rock will enjoy Cornyn's account of the bitter clash over Bob Dylan between David Geffen and Jerry Wexler, who, respectively, recorded definitive pop and soul music. The suits, too, get their due and dimension, including the collegial Steve Ross, the passively manipulative Jerry Levin, and the highly political Robert Morgado.

Cornyn forged the image of Warner Brothers Records as the hip place to work and the hip label to buy. As head of WBR Creative Services, he crafted indelible copy, even conspiring in an elaborate hoax: The Masked Marauders, a 1969 album released on the one-off label, Deity. Its creation followed a bogus review in Rolling Stone by then-staffer Greil Marcus under the name T.M. Christian. The album allegedly featured several Beatles, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, and "a drummer as yet unnamed."

It sold 40,000 copies and is now available from Rhino Handmade, a limited-edition, Internet-only arm of Rhino Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. Which proves that rock 'n' roll - even fake rock 'n' roll - never dies.

Rock does, however, go corporate. …

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