Black Rock, as the CBS headquarters building was known to most of its inmates, was widely considered one of Eero Saarinen’s masterpieces. Its appearance was both elegant and forbidding, and certain of its floors were assiduously guarded from intrusion, notably the top, where the mighty William S. Paley ruled over us all, and the eleventh, which housed the senior executives of Columbia Records and its creative heart, the A&R Department. It was rather a shock to me, therefore, when one day in the fall of 1970 a teenage boy, having somehow dodged the receptionist, appeared at my office door asking me to listen to a demo tape. His name was Ricky Lyon, he was from
“I suppose you could do better,” he replied.
“As a matter of fact, I could.”
Ricky had a way of getting his way. Before long I had rewritten the lyrics for that song, and he composed music for several lyrics I had lying around, and pretty soon we were a songwriting team. The following fall, 1971, he started at Harvard, and so began four years of both of us yoyoing between
The next morning, this angel of a man began “working the horn” on my behalf. After three days of threats and cajoling, he had gotten me hired at Columbia Records, not as John Hammond’s assistant but as an all-around trainee. His daughter’s apartment on
I found a lot of talent, I felt, and took the artists into the studio and made a lot of demo recordings, but none of them ever passed muster with the higher-ups. Finally, one day I was in the studio control room watching one of my colleagues edit live recordings from the Atlanta Pop Festival when I heard something like nothing I had ever heard. I asked him to play it again. “You like that shit?” he inquired.
“I love it.” I found out who it was—the Hampton Grease Band—and I flew immediately to
Bernstein invited me to dinner at his penthouse apartment on
Bernstein did not call me Kid, but he did say, “Not in a million years.”