Former Capitol Records exec remembers meeting John Lennon
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Steve Meyer, now publisher of the newsletter DISC & DigitalAudioTechnology (Music & Digital Audio/Video News), worked at Capitol Records from 1969 to 1983.
When he left the company, he was National Promotion Director. He had a platinum award for John Lennon's “Imagine” album and gold records for “Love Songs” and “Reel Music” on his office wall.
“I worked at Capitol Records for 14 years in National Promotion and was a member of our in-house 'Beatles Committee' that oversaw all new releases and repackages,” he said.
During that time, he met all of the Beatles except Ringo Starr. His encounters with George Harrison and Paul McCartney were brief, he admits.
“I had the pleasure of meeting George Harrison very briefly at a show for Doris Troy in Greenwich Village. I believe she had done an album for Apple at the time. I met Paul briefly at that time as well, and later when he toured with 'Wings Over America.'
“I didn't spend time with him or George, just had the pleasure of meeting them, shaking their hands. They were all extraordinarily nice.”
It was John Lennon, though, that he did get to talk to.
“ I met John in 1970 and 1971 when I worked for Capitol in New York City as their East Coast Album Marketing Specialist, handling all the radio stations back then that started playing albums on the FM dial. (WNEW-FM in NYC, WPLJ-FM in NYC, etc.),” he says.
“I was actually one of the first promotion people to promote album radio. Capitol's VP of Promotion at the time had the belief that album radio stations were going to be a big boon to the record labels, and boy was he right!
“The first time I talked to him I got 'mealy mouth,' was nervous, and he asked me what was wrong. I mumbled and then said, 'I, I watched you on Ed Sullivan.' And he said, 'Ah, well, that was The Beatles thing and all that. I'm just John now. So tell me what kind of music do you like?‘
“We talked until the wee hours of the morning and I walked back to my apartment on a cold December morning with my mind racing.”
He learned about Lennon's death in 1980 from a phone call.
“It was a Monday night, and I was working in my office when the phone rang, and a good friend of mine asked me if I had been watching 'Monday Night Football' and whether I had heard the news. I told him I had been working on trying to get my batch of records I was currently promoting on radio stations and setting up strategies.
“My friend knew I had worked with John briefly in New York City, and he said, 'I think you'd better turn on ABC. Howard Cosell just announced somebody shot John Lennon and they think he's dead.'
“I remember I said, 'What? I hope you are wrong.' And I hung up the phone and immediately turned to ABC and heard the news John Lennon had just been pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital.
“I started to sob loudly and my wife came running into the room and asked me what was the matter. I blurted out 'Somebody killed John Lennon. Somebody killed John.'
“My three year-old son also heard me crying and came into the room. He had never seen his father cry and it was disturbing him. He walked up to me with a troubled look in his eyes and said, 'What's the matter daddy? Why are you crying?'
“I pulled him up on my knee and said, 'You know The Beatles? You sing their songs and you watch them in 'Yellow Submarine'? He nodded and I continued, 'Well, someone shot John tonight. And he's dead. And now he's in heaven.'
“My son put his arm around me and said, 'I'm sorry daddy.' And then without hesitation he said, 'I know who did it.'” I said, “What?”
“I know who did it,” he said. “It was a Blue Meanie wasn't it?" I hugged him and said, "Yes, that's exactly what it was."
Meyer says working at Capitol Records was a dream come true.
“I've been a Beatles fan since they arrived on American radio," he says. "I never imagined that night as I watched them on 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' that within five years I'd be lucky enough to get a job working for Capitol Records selling Beatles records, and then promoting them to the very radio stations I grew up listening to."
Note: Meyer's weekly newsletter of music industry news and information, which has been going since 2003, is published on Fridays to over 2,000 subscribers and also posted at http://www.allaccess.com/disc-and-dat and http://stevemeyer.webs.com/. To subscribe, email him at email@example.com