Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Allen Klein, 1931-2009
Allen Klein, onetime manager of both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, dead at the age of 77, much to the relief of the surviving members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. After his mother died when he was two, Klein spent much of his childhood in a New Jersey orphanage, and eventually got a degree in accounting from Upsala College, where his friend Don Kirshner suggested he go into the music business.
Klein made a name for himself discovering unpaid royalties to the likes of Bobby Darin and Sam Cooke, and eventually got himself installed as the Rolling Stones' business manager. In 1966, Mick Jagger supposedly told Paul McCartney that the Stones were making much more money than the Beatles were, all because of Allen Klein. After Brian Epstein's death and the disaster that was Apple, the Beatles turned to Klein for financial help, trying to create a management mishmash with Paul's future in-laws the Eastmans. (McCartney was said to be impressed by the fact that Klein was wearing a sweater and sneakers when he came to meet the Beatles, as opposed to the rest of the suits Paul had to deal with.)
Klein wrested full control, and after the Let It Be sessions foundered on the rocks, it was Klein who called in Phil Spector to help rescue them. This helped spur McCartney to leave the group - they'd been screwed over by businessmen before, but having them meddle in the Beatles' music was just too much.
Klein went on to build a whole music-publishing empire at his company ABKCO, and kept himself busy harassing people who ever suggested that his motives weren't pure and righteous. One time I was working on a magazine story that mentioned ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears," including the fact that the song had never been released on CD, and that all CD versions of the song were remakes. My original version noted specially that Allen Klein had never allowed the song to be released on CD, but the editor took out Klein's name, saying that he didn't want to be the recipient of an angry phone call from Allen Klein the morning after the issue appeared.
But now, the truth can be told.