...and we've got an exclusive preview before the book hits the shelves in early October:
“Even in the bacchanal of 1970s Los Angeles, the drug and promotional excesses of Casablanca Records stood out. In a period when cocaine use was probably at its peak in the music business, Casablanca set the pace...”
“You stupid fucking idiot!”
I was pissed. I was so pissed I was shaking. I was on the phone with Bill Wardlow, the head of Billboard magazine’s chart department, holder of one of the most powerful positions in the music business. I had just called him a stupid fucking idiot. And I wasn’t even close to being done.
“You can’t do that! We had an agreement! I don’t care if their record is selling better than ours—that has nothing to do with it! Give them No. 1 next week. We discussed this yesterday, and you told me we would have No. 1! You have to change it back. I already told Neil that we would be No. 1.”
I wasn’t just pissed, I was scared. I had promised to deliver Billboard’s No. 1 album in the country to Casablanca, and now a done deal had been yanked from me—from us—at the eleventh hour.
I was intimately familiar with all the steps that had to be taken to get the top album in the country, and screaming at the head of Billboard’s chart department was way, way down the list. Yet it was a step I was taking. I knew that they weren’t going to let out the chart information for another two hours. They could still change it. I wasn’t going to stop screaming until they went to press.
“I couldn’t care less if Al Coury already knows about the numbers! Did he pay you off in cash? I helped you out where no one else could, and this is how you pay me back? You are a complete asshole to put me in this position!”
People were beginning to congregate outside my office to watch the meltdown. Neil Bogart walked in through our adjoining office door, clearly surprised at my outburst, and attempted to talk me off the ledge. No one had ever heard me yell with such venom and hatred. And they certainly had never heard me yell at Bill Wardlow.
Bill had promised me that our three-disc soundtrack LP for Thank God It’s Friday would be No. 1. Now he was reneging and giving the top slot to Saturday Night Fever. In truth, Saturday Night Fever deserved it. It was outselling us ten to one—easily—and I knew it. RSO, the label that had released Saturday Night Fever, shared a distributor with Casablanca, and I had access to their sales figures. The movie was doing much bigger box office than ours, too, but I didn’t care. Not only did I want to end Saturday Night’s impressive twenty-plus-week run at No. 1, but I also wanted the image enhancement that went along with being No. 1 and the increased sales for our picture and album.
For the past two years, I had had control over the Billboard charts and was able to significantly affect the positions of our records to help establish a perception that our company, Casablanca Records, and our artists—among them, KISS, Donna Summer, the Village People, and Parliament—were the hottest in the music industry. I was not going to accept a broken promise. This guy had screwed with the charts for years and years, and now he was screwing with me.
Casablanca was our child. We gave birth to it, we nurtured it, we fought many battles to keep it alive, and to have someone not give it the respect I felt it deserved was unacceptable. But this story begins long before I even knew who Bill Wardlow was, when Neil Bogart was not king of the hottest label in the record biz but just Neil Bogart, my second cousin from Brooklyn.
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