Rock and Roll and the popular music that came before it have ben a major part of my life's driving force.
In 2012 at MIDEM, I was awarded Billboard's first Icon Award. Meaningful, because Billboard is where I began my career while still in high school at age 14. And also, where I met most of the many mentors who guided and taught me. Syd Nathan at King Records foremost among them, but also Paul Ackerman and Tom Noonan at Billboard, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic, and George Goldner at Red Bird Records. Tonight, receiving the first CBGB's Icon Award completes the circle, making me a Triple Crown winner.
Richard Gottehrer and I met in the Brill Building, and started Sire Productions in 1966. Sire Records was up and running a year later. Without Richard, Sire Records might never have happened or gotten off the ground. It was a constant struggle during those early years.
I always believed that music knew no international boundaries. I attended the very first MIDEM and most that followed, and did many deals there. I also met Mike Vernon, a Decca producer in London, who worked with John Mayall, Ten Years After, Savoy Brown, and helped him start Blue Horizon Records which became the original home of iconic bands like Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, and Christine McVie.
We had very little money in the beginning and many of our earliest artists came from licensing deals with EMI in London; Climax Blues Band, Renaissance, Stackridge, and Barclay James Harvest. I knew this would be a good place to find talent. Several years later, Capitol, in their wisdom, rejected the Beatles not once, but twice.
Sire chugged along, and then we signed Focus from Holland, who gave us our first platinum album "Moving Waves", and the gold single "Hocus Pocus".
By the time CBGB's had opened, Richard had split from Sire to resume his career as a producer, signing Blondie out of CBGB's and was off and running. The bands I signed; The Ramones, Talking Heads, Richard Hell And The Voidoids, The Deadboys, Paley Brothers, Tuff Darts, and others, finally put Sire on the map big time.
Equally, if not more important, the CBGB's bands gave Sire credibility in the UK, where CBGB's and these bands gained an incredible following. The UK was just beginning a second wave of great indie labels like Beggars Banquet and 4AD, Mute, Rough Trade, Stiff, and later, Creation and Postcard to name a few, from whom would emerge legendary figures like Martin Mills, Daniel Miller, Jeff Travis, Ivo Watts-Russell, Dave Robinson, Jake Riviera, and Alan McGee, among others. The Undertones, The Pretenders, The Cure, The Cult, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yazoo, Modern English, Echo And The Bunnymen, Madness, The English Beat, Soft Cell, The Smiths, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Aztec Camera, Everything But The Girl, The Bluebells, Aphex Twin, The Farm, Spacehog, Seal, The Mighty Lemon Drops, Morcheeba, and even The Pet Shop Boys.
Seymour Stein: Billboard Icon 2012
And from the US, of course Madonna, who was a big fan of CBGB's and played there, The Replacements, Ice T, Jonathan Richman, Kid Creole And The Coconuts, Dinosaur Jr., Uncle Tupelo, The Flaming Groovies, Throwing Muses, Book Of Love, and Ministry.
From Canada, K.D. Lang and Barenaked Ladies.
From Australia, The Saints and Radio Birdman, all of whom have been inducted in their national Hall of Fame.
From Israel, Ofra Haza.
From South Africa, Jaluka.
From Belgium, Plastic Bertrand and Telex.
From Denmark, Laid Back.
From Finland, HIM.
Many of these artists were fortunate enough to have played CBGB's. Sadly, some of our newer acts; Regina Spektor, Tegan And Sara, Delta Rae, Kill It Kid, Ben Fields, Ewert And The Two Dragons, and Cold Fronts will never get the chance.
For six years, maybe longer, I was down at CBGB's almost every night I was in New York. A second home, you might say. Hanging out with Danny Fields, Lisa Robinson, Lenny Kaye, Bob Feiden, John Holmstrom, and of course, most importantly of all, the master of ceremonies, Hilly Krystal, with his famous drink, vodka and Fresca, holding court. Hilly Krystal gave us all a shot. The bands, and the music people, and the fans.
God bless you Hilly. God bless CBGB's. Long live Rock and Roll.