THE AVARICIOUS RECORD BUSINESS
[An excerpt from RHYTHM AND THE BLUES, A Life in American Music by Jerry Wexler and David Ritz.]
. . .A year earlier, [Jerry] Lieber and [Mike] Stoller had a falling out with us over money. "Our lawyer Lee Eastman insisted we do an audit," says Stoller, "and it turned out Atlantic owed us eighteen thousand dollars. Wexler, who can be tough and intimidating as hell, put it this way: 'You can have the money or you can continue working with our artists.'
"We gave on the money," Stoller recalls, "but Jerry took the Drifters away from us anyway and started using Bert Berns."
"That hurt us deeply," Lieber says. "It was like having a fight with your brothers---Jerry and Ahmet were like family to us---and then having the door locked. We weren't allowed back in."
"There was also the matter of credit," Stoller insists. "We wanted to be listed as producers, but Wexler wouldn't hear of it. 'You're listed as songwriters and arrangers,' Wexler would say. 'How many goddamn times does your name have to be on the record?'"
"Wexler and Ertegun could be ruthless opportunists on one hand," Lieber continues, "and enormously generous on the other. They could be lovely or lethal. When it came to grabbing an artist or a song, watch out! Neshui was the real gentleman of the group. His behavior was impeccable."
Mike and Jerry, like me, were not without a streak of avarice. We were all poor boys getting our first taste of real money. Yet I can't understand why, given the hundreds of thousands of dollars they earned with us, chump change like eighteen thousand dollars would cause a cave-in. Maybe their beef was justified---and maybe it could have been a technical dispute over returns. Either way, when it comes to audits the record company is invariably the villain. . .##
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