The greatest record company in the world in terms of its history.
One of my proudest career moments was working for one of my favorite labels - the mighty Atlantic Records from New York. I made my mark in spectacular fashion by breaking one of the US company's brand new major acts in the UK before they had their debut record released in the USA. That act was En Vogue and the song was "Hold On". More info under the photos of En Vogue etc...
proving my music knowledge to Sylvia Rhone, the USA Vice President of
Atlantic Records, she called one day and said that she was sending over
a cassette of a new release that needed special attention. I got the
tape recognised the intro from an old Michael Jackson song 'I Wonder
Who's Loving You', and called to tell Sylvia that I felt confident that
I could break the song in the UK if the girls came over to London and
did some appearances with me. Atlantic UK gave me UK5'000 to spend on
flights and hotels with a warning that I must deliver!! Deliver? Even
without Radio 1 playlisting the record we hit No:5 in the national
chart and stayed there for weeks. Their performance at the Prestatyn
Soul Weekender really blew things open for them too because all the
DJ's came back and hammered the track on radio. I remember standing
back stage as the girls launched into the intro accapella - the entire
room of people stopped whatever they were doing and went "oh my god who
are they?". Honestly that single PA broke the record in the UK thanks
to the Soul Mafia. Later Sylvia Rhone flew myself and Sue Jeoffroy, my
very able partner, out to LA for The 1990 Soul Train Awards as a massive
thank you because the UK hit had ignited the US Radio Stations for them
with "Hold On'.
The '80s produced countless "three girl and a drum machine"-type acts, but 1990 produced the trendsetting quartet En Vogue (courtesy o fproducers Thomas McElroy and Denzil Foster), who, with their individual vocal skills, sophisticated sense of fashion, sultry videos, and smart singles, went on to become one of the decade's most successful and influential acts. The album that started it all was Born to Sing, which scored two pop hits and two more R&B hits. First and foremost is"Hold On," a cool, shuffling, timeless hip-hop R&B track which peaked at number two in the USA pop charts and showcased the girls'effortless harmonies.
EnVogue were a very polished act whom everybody, except Radio 1, fell in love with immediately. When it was time for the second single I wanted to go with You Don't Have To Worry with Jazzy B and Nellie Hooper keen to remix it, but the UK bosses said "no we'll take over now son and do the big record company job" on a song called Lies, which I never saw as a hit. Radio 1 put it on the A-list, Top Of The Pops live from LA and company priority push from press, marketing and sales. "Lies" hit the chart at 41.
Sometimes the major record companys bosses have not got a scooby doo. A big lesson learnt. I continued breaking records that year for the US Atlantic company with Family Stand's - Ghetto Heaven remixed by Jazzie B and Nellie Hooper plus Ten City - Whatever Makes You Happy, The Jungle Brothers "What You Waitin For", Ultra Nate, The DOC "Portrait Of A Masterpiece" and A Way Of LIfe "Tripping On Your Love" but I was seeing very clearly that the UK company didn't care much for black music, despite Sue and I having the Top 3 positions in the UK dance chart for the first time ever, so we quit the company and headed West to join Universal/Polygram.
I remained friends with Byron
Stingely from Ten City out of Chicago and signed him to the Manifesto label with more big success for us both. I loved what
Atlantic Records represented to the music business on the whole. Its quite possibly
the greatest ever record label for its diversity. Motown is obviously
up there but in terms of sheer across the board success with Jazz, R
and B, Disco, Rock and Pop I don't know of any label that has been more ground
breakingly successful than the USA Atlantic Records company.
The Label History
The label was founded in 1947 by
Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson. Upon its creation, Atlantic was
principally a jazz and R&B label, signing Ray Charles from
1952-1959, though it also released some country western recordings as
well. In the early fifties Ahmet was joined by Jerry Wexler and then
Nesuhi Ertegün. From February 7, 1955 Nesuhi headed the label's jazz
division and was responsible for major signings such as Charles Mingus
and John Coltrane; later Joel Dorn became Neshui's full-time assistant
from the success of his produced album The Laws of Jazz by flutist
Hubert Laws. Although it began as an independent record company, it
became a major player in the music business in the 1960s, with
mainstream pop signings like Sonny and Cher. Competing record labels
included Columbia Records and RCA Records.
The engineer, and later producer, Tom Dowd headed Atlantic's engineering department. Several sub-labels have been created or acquired since then. Atco Records was started in 1955 by Herb Abramson. Spark Records (the record label of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) was purchased in November 1955. Others including Lava Records and 143 Records became part of the Atlantic group. In 1960, Wexler began a distribution relationship between Atlantic and Memphis-based Stax Records. The association with Stax ended in 1968. Atlantic was acquired by Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1967. Initially, it and Atco were to be run entirely separate from WB-SA's other labels, Warner Bros. and Reprise Records. One of Atlantic's major signings around this time was British rock band Led Zeppelin. The band had a deal with Atlantic Records directly from 1968-1973. After this contract ran out, they started their own vanity label, Swan Song Records. It signed a distribution deal with Atlantic after being turned down by other labels.
In 1969, WB-SA was sold to the Kinney National Company, which later became Warner Communications. After buying Elektra Records and its sister label Nonesuch Records the following year, Kinney combined the operations of all of its record labels under a new holding company, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic, or WEA for short, and also known as Warner Music Group. WEA was also used as a label for distributing the company's artists outside North America.
In May of 1988, the label held a 40th Anniversary concert, broadcast on HBO. This 11-hour concert featured performances by a large number of their artists and included reunions of some rock legends like Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, and Nash (being David Crosby's first full band performance since being released from prison).
In 1990, Warner Communications merged with Time Inc. (owners of the aforementioned HBO), forming Time Warner. That same year, Jimmy Iovine founded Interscope Records, which Atlantic owned a 50% stake in. Interscope released notable gangsta rap titles — many in conjunction with Death Row Records. Pressure from activist groups opposed to gangsta rap, however, later led to parent company Time Warner's decision to sell Atlantic's stake in the label to MCA in 1995.
In late 2003, Time Warner sold Warner Music Group to a group of investors for $2.6 billion. The deal closed in early 2004, consolidating Elektra Records and Atlantic into one label operated in the eastern United States.
In 2006, the label denied "Weird Al" Yankovic permission to release "You're Pitiful", a parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful", despite Blunt's own approval of the song. Atlantic claimed that it was "too early" in Blunt's career, and that they didn't want Blunt to become a one-hit wonder. Although Yankovic could have legally gone ahead with the parody anyway, his record label, Volcano Records, thought that it was best not to "go to war" with Atlantic. The parody was released onto the Internet as a free download, and can be legally accessed and downloaded from Yankovic's official website. Later he recorded two more parodies, White & Nerdy, and Do I Creep You Out, to replace You're Pitiful.
In 2007, the label celebrated its 60th anniversary with the May 2 PBS broadcast of the American Masters documentary Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built and the simultaneous Starbucks Entertainment CD release of Atlantic 60th Anniversary: R&B Classics Chosen By Ahmet Ertegun.