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Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce

by Fred Goodman

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8129-2113-5
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Rock music has grown from social pariah to powerful engine of industry. This is an intelligent, honest look at the intersection of rock and business.

Goodman, a music and entertainment reporter with credits from Rolling Stone and the New York Times, doesn't blow the lid off the big-money machinations behind the music of rebellion--he lifts the cover and carefully reveals the personalities and motivations of the industry giants behind rock's superstars. As he covers diverse careers and the business of many record companies, Goodman masterfully conveys an incestuous industry of tightly held power. David Geffen--record industry kingpin and all-around media maven--is a featured player, along with Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Springsteen's manager and producer, John Landau, also figures prominently. The author, though critical of greedy scheming by management, pays respect to those managers, producers, and record executives who made fortunes for themselves and, sometimes, their clients. Springsteen's pages detail his rocky relationship with opportunistic manager Mike Appel and the influential, dominating influence of producer/manager Landau. The book is full of numbers--millions of dollars trade hands according to negotiated percentages. And Goodman makes it all fascinating. It's the focus on the business side that makes the lengthy book cohere. Some rock fans will undoubtedly have a hard time with this story of money changers in the temple. But a character such as Geffen, as Goodman paints him, is to be both despised and admired. Among other exploits, he stole visionary rocker Neil Young from RCA with an offer of $3 million less and a guarantee of artistic freedom, but later sued Young, unsuccessfully, for breach of contract, for failing to make "commercial'' records.

Goodman travels to Oz and dares to pull back the curtain--he finds both snake oil and genius.