Picks and Pans Review: The Mansion on the Hill
by Fred Goodman
At the Newport Folk festival in the summer of 1965, folk god Bob Dylan ushered in American rock’s new era when he plugged in an electric guitar and pummeled a horrified audience with the opening chords of “Maggie’s Farm.” With that Newport moment (and that summer’s groundbreaking “Like a Rolling Stone”), Dylan helped broaden the audience for rock beyond cheesy AM radio hits and the latest British invasion band. Although the selling of records had always been about money, the fact that Dylan, America’s premier folk artiste, turned up the volume would inspire a new generation of performers, as well as the dollar-hungry record labels, agents and promoters soon to court them. By 1975, Bruce Springsteen would notch rock’s first certified platinum album, selling 1 million copies of Born to Run, and Peter Frampton would collect $250,000 for performing a single show at Philadelphia’s JFK stadium. By 1990, David Geffen would sell his record company to MCA for $710 million.
Former Rolling Stone editor Goodman has written an engaging account of the battling egos and financial excesses behind the growing business of rock and roll. Perhaps big money didn’t spoil the music, Goodman argues, but it certainly corrupted numerous artists, record execs, producers and club owners. After reading Mansion, you still won’t be happy paying $15.98 for that new CD, but at least you’ll understand where the money is going. (Times Books, $25)