The story of a manager more often vilified than any other in the history of rock.
At his peak, Allen Klein (1931-2009) managed both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but both relationships led to legal action and acrimony, with Klein largely depicted as unconscionably rapacious even by the dubious ethical standards of the music business. Since former Rolling Stone editor Goodman has previously explored the seamier side of rock’s underbelly (most notably in The Mansion on the Hill, 1997), readers might expect him to pile more dirt on the legacy of his late subject. Instead, he humanizes Klein with a nuanced and multidimensional account of how a boy raised in an orphanage looked for validation by courting artists who had been cheated by their record companies and promising to rectify their financial situations. The author benefits from access to previously unavailable material, provided by Klein’s son without editorial stipulations. “When you hired Klein, you hired a pistolero,” writes Goodman. “He’d run the rustlers and varmints out of Dodge, but then you’d have to figure out how to live with a mercenary in the sheriff’s office.” The author shows how Klein earned the trust of Sam Cooke and how he came to be seen by both John Lennon and Keith Richards as a kindred spirit while arousing the enmity of Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger. (Goodman also acknowledges that Klein engaged in a conflict of interest in buying the rights to the Stones music while he was managing them and shifting sides on the “My Sweet Lord” copyright suit.) Klein loved a battle, and he would engage in litigation long after it was to his benefit to settle. But Goodman builds a convincing case that Klein fought the good fight for his artists and that depicting a man in his business as greedy is akin to calling a lion a carnivore.
Klein changed the way rock does business. In this balanced, fascinating, and well-written biography, Goodman gives him credit where it’s due.