Showbiz Tell-All Book Tells About Phil Spector, Leonard Cohen, And Their Agent
Excess all areas: A life in rock’n'roll is an edited extract from “Gods, Gangsters and Honour,”1 a chronicle of the author’s (Steven Machat) experiences as an “American showbiz lawyer” published in The Independent (31 July 2009).
While I am posting only the section dealing with Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen, the excerpt in The Independent also includes fascinating (and a bit scary) anecdotes about James Brown, Michael Jackson and New Edition, Peter Gabriel and Womad, Ahmet Ertegun and Henry Kissinger, and Sam Cooke.
Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen
In 1977, my father was confronted by a big problem that was threatening his relationship with Phil Spector. Dad had negotiated Phil a label deal with Warner Brothers that involved Spector getting a huge advance before he delivered his future product. Unfortunately, Spector had failed to deliver the product and Warners wanted their money back.
Machat Senior came up with the answer: stick two of his top clients in the studio. My dad would then give the album to Warners to keep them happy, clear the debts, and keep both clients happy. But this involved two of his most problematic clients. Not just Spector but Leonard Cohen,2 who, like Phil, could not buy a pop hit in the US. Nevertheless, Death of a Ladies’ Man was born. The album would become one of the most controversial productions of the 1970s for the press. My father handed me this poisoned chalice. The lyrics basically involved Cohen and Spector trying to get laid. Track titles such as “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” might have been funny to me, but they sure were a hard sell to the labels.
If that wasn’t enough, Cohen and Spector didn’t exactly hit it off. An irate Cohen said to me in September 1977: “Are you out of your brains? This album is junk. It’s your father’s masturbation. I love Marty. He’s my brother. But I never want to see that man Spector again. He is the worst human being I have ever met.”
Cohen complained that he had been held at gunpoint by Spector during the recording sessions. “The man is crazy. We were drunk and stupid. I do not wish for this album to see daylight.”
Warners quickly abandoned the album after its release with no promotion and eventually CBS, after much pushing by my dad, put it out in late 1977 in Europe. My father was so lucky that Spector and Cohen didn’t fire him. He was even luckier that Warners forgot to ask for their advance back. Or chose not to.
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