The Girls that ran the Boys club…..by RayMan
Since the beginning, the Record biz (along with Entertainment and Motion pictures) has been a Boys Club (strains of ‘It’s a Man’s World’ and thank you James Brown) probably because
they had the means to own and run their own companies and therefore endowed with Power….but NOT, without help from the ladies who, over time developed a knack for doing things for themselves.
Back in the
1920’s a gutsy woman with a brood of children spanked the planks on the Vaudeville circuit, meet the Marx Brothers. She booked and badgered and promoted them through all manner of adversity until she broke through her crew into the movies,
their first picture was ‘Coconuts’ (1929) and the rest of them are hilarious history; meet Minnie Marx! She was driven alright but then she had a lot to live down you see, her mother was a yodeling Harpist, for real.
Tab forward some 70+ years in our home and naive land and enter Carol Wright, who, working in the fabulous Bob Jamieson’s BMG Presidency was a successful General Manager and a formidable talent in her
own right. Bob was a joy who lifted the company from the doldrums of the Don Kollar era.
Carole then was asked to go to Spain to head the BMG International company there, ole! Ahh, Spain, home of the extended lunch:
Snack & Snooze.
In my own experience, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some terrific ladies that threw off the mantle of subservience to take the chair at the HEAD of the BIG BOY table and not just
one company as it turned out!
My first example is Lisa Zbitnew who I was first exposed to in 1982 via Bernie Solomon’s Dallcorte imprint, and she was driven!
Three of their acts I recall quite clearly, one was Kilowatt that included two survivors of various versions of Guess Who. Another was British Diva darling Elaine Bookbinder better known as Elke Brooks and what a lot
of work she was and to me, her main credibility was being in the Rock group ‘Vinegar Joe’ with the celebrated Robert Palmer and not the only British act I’ve dealt with that couldn’t get over the fact that she was adored at home and
ignored everywhere else tho we tried hard to correct that, to her it was all …OFF with their heads! How DARE they?! The third was the Brit Band The Drivers which, in spite of a solid national effort got little mileage on Radio
then but later main man Nick Van Ede would write ‘I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight’ for the band Cutting Crew altho he wrote that joint while in the Drivers and right in Lisa’s
living room as it turns out! So Lisa was loyal and persistent, which is how you put the ‘P’ in Platinum, by-the-way.
I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight
- Cutting Crew - Lyrics - YouTube *Link below*
its tent after 2 years (seemed longer!) and I didn’t hear from Lisa again until 1996 when she came on board when the company morphed from RCA to BMG (Bertelsmann Music Group). At that time I believe she was the GM under Paul Alofs reign and following
Paul’s departure in 1998, Lady Lisa took the helm as President through to 2007 after BMG was swallowed headfirst by Sony in 2004. It’s to BMG’s undying credit they recognized her obvious multi-talents when they just as easily parachuted in
another male to Man the helm.
The Advent….it was at this time that two other ladies of good fortune rose simultaneously to their own Presidencies; Laura Bartlett: Capitol/Emi and Denise Donlon/Sony
and I am not aware of any other country outside our own that this has occurred.
Some people may not know or forgot how hard some of the Male Spear Bearers were. It was no less a light than Bruce Allen removed his
charge, Bryan Adams from the chilly clime of A&M in Canada and installed him in the warmth of A&M in sunny California, and everyone basked in that success!
Interestingly, it seems A&M LA couldn’t
get enough Bryan as I have an LP from 1987 with a guy in a white T Shirt and leather jacket on the cover (hmmmm….) name of Glen Burtnick (of Styx) that had a rather incredibly Bryan sounding single ‘Follow You’, here’s the deck www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnmHlN6USTY *Link below*
Next up is the eternal Denise Donlon
and her rise to head Sony 2000 to 2004 (prior to that was head of MuchMusic Canada) and who I had the fabulous (and FUN!) experience with during her tenure in Sam Feldman’s office in Vancouver when we got the incomparable Doug & the
Slugs signed on to RCA Canada* where we had a very successful run with them and they carried on that run over at A&M.
We had a creative ton of fun with this project and I’m
pleased to say that Denise and I are still in touch today, she was a great person to learn with and from.
I will now qualify the above *…Doug & the Slugs also got released in
America and we were over the moon about that, and then I heard the American version of our current single ‘Chinatown Calculation’….what the FUCK is THIS!!?? Rather than leave a perfectly good hit
record alone, those Homers eviscerated it to the point that, having heard it once, an hour later you didn’t WANT to hear it again; they Trumped it! Fortunately this didn’t impair our success in Canada.
Chinatown Calculation - Doug & The Slugs - YouTube (Canadian Version)*Link below*
The other remaining member of the Trine is the indomitable Laura Bartlett who joined Virgin Music in 1984 and enjoyed Presidentia (sic) at the EMI distributed label, rising to VP/GM
before leaving in 1997 for Universal Music where she was Sr VP, then assuming the tiller for Zomba International (part of the Jive BMG distributed label) in 2003 again as Sr VP but I know more of her than about her unfortunately, but her term at the
top speaks for itself as to how her acumen was perceived for success, and realised.
It may seem that I have doted upon Lisa, but she is simply the one I’ve had the most exposure to as well as always being
open to taking my calls about some mad idea I‘d had for creating ops to push our artists and projects to the fore of the media and on to the people that pay ALL of our bills, the great unwashed public. Not everything worked but I was always given the
floor (instead of the door) to make my point.
As for her own achievements, aside from surviving DallCorte, one most satisfying was the Northern Touch project which principally involved the Rascalz
and their signing to us as likely the first Rap/Hip Hop act picked up by a major label in Canada, preceding Swollen Members who were still rising (sound of clearing throat here) as well as the creation of the marketing force known as our Street Teams intended
to assist in the development of our Urban Music roster, NO small feat and WELL done!
Since her emersion into the music bidness, she also counts having worked with Leonard Cohen time and again which is tres cool…(Cue: ‘Hallelujah’ here.)
Lisa also let it drop to me that one of her very first incursions into the music biz was in an all-girl punk band where she said she played guitar badly; my response, having been exposed to many of them is..it’s a punk
band, how would anyone KNOW the playing was bad?
The Honorable Menschen’s….
I have worked with many fine and talented ladies and the following
are a few, if I missed any, please give me a head start so I can run for my goddam life, okay?
These ladies rose to the call and while not Presidents, set their own precedents.
Marilyn Saidman, my Divine Miss M and friend, who overcame adversity to develop an already keen edge with her innate talent and who brought my favorite band ‘Odds’ closer to me so I could see/hear the diamond in the rough,
and then sally forth to LA as a ‘Go To’ Touring/Production Manager for various shows and Music legends and she also did a stint at Virgin Records in tinsel town, her charge? Lenny Kravitz! Nice.
Mauricio, now a Warner Music maven, but worked with me at BMG and was a big assist in Promotions, one time taking the reins to attend company priority Matthew Sweet (touring his ‘Girlfriend’ album) as I was called to convention and she
acquitted herself admirably but the incumbent Boys Club disallowed her further direct involvement as she was a female, but she’s gone on to prove them Male-evelantly miss-taken, at the home of the Hare and presently Promotions & Publicity BC Region…so
Katherine Wong, our Miss Katherine, my former BMG work-mate (and continuing friend).
She was never new, but she definitely knew and no slouch at anything she put her hand to and is living Large at Live Nation today as Director of Ticketing in Western Canada.
The wonderfully creative and
inclusive Michelle Stewart who came to RCA Vancouver from the Calgary office where she endured something of a Plantation attitude; having to sort posters and do displays on her wedding day, nice. But once here, the bottom rail was on the top
and she’s only gone onward and upward, a true asset as opposed to an ass, left behind.
Ellen Pidgeon, Lawrence-of-a-Radios able organizing assistant and filter.
Jill Snell, the juice behind so many acts and artists, now heading her own Road Angel Entertainment and fosters a roster of her own and doing well, overseen by sister Shelly.
Fraser and Sedun
Barb Fraser began her careen at Virgin Records in Toronto (Office Manager/Production
Co-ordinator) then became an ‘Island’ girl (Whoo, Whoo!) joining that label as Production Co again then Director of National Publicity then (pant, pant) over to A&M Canada as Director of National Publicity again finally
moved to YVR working first for Perryscope, later Media/Artist Relations for the first 3 and last 3 Merritt Country Music Fests and now doing relatively sane stuff as Publicist for Broadway Across Canada. Productions to name a few
include such shows as… The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!, The Book of Mormon, Kinky Boots, Motown the Musical, Wicked, Beautiful, Come From Away, and The Lion King just to show her prowless! Pleased to say she also did a short stint
with us at BMG Vancouver
Barb Sedun 16 years at EMI Publishing/A&R, their first Canadian Female VP tooand
one of the nicest, most helpful, and caring people you could hope to meet in this crazy bidness, worked with me briefly at BMG and was outstanding at SOCAN, a World Class Mama Care Bear, dedicated to the Music and the people that made it; one of a
kind and very much so.
Kim Blake for her years of untiring work as a Fireman in Rock Central.
Linda Dawe, one of the first people I
connected with when I got to RCA Vancouver. A former journalist (Beetle) prior to RCA Canada President Smilin’ Ed Preston hiring her (1980) to become RCA Canada’s first Female Promotions Managers inthe country(Ontario)!
She later went on to form Linda Dawe Associates to support the independent minded Music mavens.
Margret Spence Krewen for her dedication
in our BMG Media department and later the Human in our HR department.
Dee Lippingwell Vancouvers own Rocktographer of 42 years! Here’s the Kodachronology…Dee started
with a Kodak Brownie, a gift from her Grandfather when she was 5, tab ahead to serious photography and her first professional image catcher, a Canon camera then moved on to a Leica (which she hated) then on to a Nikon (Cue: Paul Simons ‘Kodachrome’
here) and today she has one for every day of the week! Dee’s latest book, an obvious Labor of Love ‘First Three Songs…No Flash! (Which is what Concert Production people bawl at you when they hand out the Photo-Passes) took the better part
of 25 years to complete!
Besides her own books, she’s been a part of a few others including Red Robinsons Rocking out the clock tomes and my own as well. Dee has always on hand to help and very focused, yeah.
Deb Macko who I enjoyed working with IMMENSLEY in her various appointments
Jane Harbury a truly independent Independent and edgy proponent of our
muse, being that working in the Eye of the Storm is safe but being on the edge of things is where all the interesting shit happens.
Sarah Norris a 30 year veteran of the Music Biz: started with
EMI-A&R, Publicity Manager, BMG-Pub Mgr again and Marketing Mgr, then MCA-Marketing/Universal as VP Mktg then Sr. VP- there 16 yrs) who designated me the Male Erma Bombeck (I break a leg to that sentiment, tah!) and for putting up with me (for YEARS):
the medals are on order!
My good friend Val Lapp from BMG that extended our friendship by having me do Media locally for hubby John (as kids entertainer ‘Jake’) and has offered sound
advice topp me on a song or two of my own, lovely people.
Susan Rosenberg a former stalwart of the YVR Music biz for years and her reward is as Sr VP Global Touring-Live Nation, a indefatigable
and driven lady…so, where’s the car!? Wrong ‘driven’.
The late Nadine Gelineau for her undying belief in independent original music and thought
Mary Levitan a loyal Feldman supporter for years and currently looking after biz for Colin James and always with style, and a fellow Tickleberrys aficionado!