Album Reviews

Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll

Fred Goodman

Artist:     Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll

Album:     Fred Goodman

Label:     Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date:     06/23/2015

I had no idea. Allen Klein, raised an orphan from the wrong side of Newark (that’s doubly bad), never forgot his hardscrabble roots while he clawed and finagled his way to the top in the music business.

Author Fred Goodman, a former Rolling Stone editor, obviously has a talent for tracking down details, and has assembled a remarkable portrait of a man who would never, under any circumstances, admit defeat. Fortunately, Klein rarely found himself defeated.

An accountant by trade, Klein had a genius for finding missing payments, which in the music business, particularly in the ’50s and ’60s, was like finding hay in a haystack—skimming was a way of life, from the record companies through the radio stations through record stores through performers and on down to the last ones with their hands out, the songwriters. Usually the smartest guy in the room, Klein did an enormous amount of homework, often in order to land a client. He made a million for Sam Cooke, millions for the Rolling Stones and many millions for the Beatles, then told them how to hang on to the dough. Klein also made millions for himself, sometimes by legally cutting himself in on a deal that someone with a louder conscience might have left to his client.

Klein’s contradictions are the stuff of legend. Capable of great generosity but going ballistic when he didn’t get exactly the funds—or respect—he felt he or his clients deserved, Klein made friends and enemies readily, often first one, then the other, with the same person, and often forged both the friendship and the animosity deliberately. Klein never abandoned his Newark upbringing or his religion, but openly cheated on his wife while refusing to divorce. Detailing his quirks takes nearly 300 pages, actually.

The machination of Klein’s business deals is brilliant– and dizzying. Goodman rarely describes Klein directly, but more often describes a situation and Klein’s circuitous behavior in the situation, from reclaiming his car efficiently at a parking garage to ousting the Rolling Stones’ manager. Klein imagined convoluted business deals that used psychology as much as accounting, and Goodman’s precise detailing of the way deals went down reveal Klein’s personality… and quite a bit about the music business. Klein would routinely enter into one project in order to further another entirely different goal; as Goodman put it, “Allen’s best and most thoughtful deals answered to more than one master.”

As promised in the title, Allen Klein’s innovative approach to the music business did bail out the Beatles, did make the Rolling Stones and most definitely transformed rock n roll and the business which supports it; Klein’s story is riveting. What Goodman doesn’t say, is we could use another Allen Klein about now.

– Suzanne Cadgène

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2 Responses

  1. ‘We could use another Allen Klein about now’.
    Hmmm…well I don’t know who ‘we’ is (as usual in the media) but where I’m at, it would be like having a baby piranha in the bath because it looked cute in the shop.

    • But I read this book avidly earlier in the year and I can confirm it beats all comers when it comes to getting the story in vivid, revealing detail. Recommended.