A memoir detailing the 1966 founding of Sire Records and the author’s journey through six decades in the music industry discovering talent like the Talking Heads, the Ramones, Madonna, and many others.
Of all the great music men who emerged from the 1960s record industry—from the Ertegun brothers of Atlantic Records to Warner’s Mo Ostin, Morris Levy, Jerry Wexler, and Berry Gordy—Stein has one of the most nuanced stories. As the author explains, from his late teens, he knew music was his destiny: “I’d lie on my bed, studying the small print on the sleeves: King, Apollo, Mercury, Aladdin, Excelsior, Atlantic, Miracle, Sun, Chess, Vee-Jay, Modern…all these castles and flags from across the land.” After a couple of years working at Billboard magazine, learning the charts and grooming himself as a music journalist, Stein landed with Syd Nathan, the recording legend and founder of King Records, who showed him the “shellac in his veins.” Why merely write about music when you can be making music history—and real money? Convinced, Stein packed it up and did two summer internships with Nathan in Cincinnati, where he learned every function of the King empire. Within years, the author had earned lots of money and enough experience to co-found his own label, Sire Records. With Sire, he spent the next couple of decades signing major acts—e.g., Madonna, Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen—and became a pioneer of the new wave, punk, and post-punk genres along the way. Intertwined with behind-the-scenes tales of mayhem and craziness of the 1970s and ’80s, Stein weaves down-to-earth storytelling about his Jewish upbringing in 1950s Brooklyn and his childhood fascination with Coney Island and how it stoked his young imagination, leading to his future life in music.
A sometimes-gritty, sometimes-charming memoir that pays tribute to the American recording industry.