Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, July 06, 2009

There's been a slew of interesting people dying lately: Jacko, of course, and poor Farah, who deserved a weekend news cycle to herself, just on the strength of that Noxzema commercial with Joe Namath. I really should get around to programing a Karl Malden retrospective, and what about Steve McNair?

The obit that really grabs me though is Allen Klein's. Managed the Beatles and the Stones-- and Bobby Darin, Sam Cooke, the Kinks, and a bunch of others. I like this story from the Guardian's obit, which seems to capture the man in full: "His first client was the soul music star Sam Cooke, who was unable to get royalty payments from his record company, RCA. 'Sam said, "Well, what do you think?",' Klein told Cooke's biographer Peter Guralnick. 'I said, "I think they're treating you like a nigger, and that's terrible - you shouldn't let them do it."' Klein succeeded in releasing the monies owed to Cooke and soon established a corporation to own the rights to Cooke's future recordings." In other words, he was a tough negotiator, who really went to bat for his clients, but he was also a double-dealing gonif who didn't flinch from conflicts of interest. He died owning the rights to a big catalog, including a bunch of Stones' songs.

UPDATE: Paul McCartney wrote "You never give me your money / You only give me your funny paper" about refusing to sign the contract with Klein; "he is said to feature cryptically in George Harrison's "Beware of Darkness’ and The Who's "Who Are You" and is certainly the subject of John Lennon's poisonous 1974 song "Steel And Glass" about a sinister wheeler dealer: "Your teeth are clean, but your mind is capped / You leave your smell like an alley cat." There must be a Stone's lyric about him.

UPDATE II: Klein went behind George Harrison's back during the "My Sweet Lord/He’s So Fine" plagiarism case, and bought the copyright of the original Chiffons songs so that no matter what happened in the case it would go his way.

Harrison: When they issued a complaint about "My Sweet Lord", he was my business manager. He was the one who put out "My Sweet Lord" and collected 20 percent commission on the record. And he was the one who got the lawyers to defend me, and did an interview in Playboy where he talked about how the song was nothing like the other song.

Later, when the judge in court told me to settle with them, because he didn't think I'd consciously stolen their song, they were doing a settlement deal with me when they suddenly stopped the settlement.

Some time elapsed, and I found out that this guy Klein had gone around the back door. In the meantime, we'd fired him. He went round the back door and bought the rights to the one song, "He's So Fine," in order to continue a lawsuit against me.

He, on one hand, was defending me, then he switched sides and continued the lawsuit. And every time the judge said what the result was, he'd appeal. And he kept appealing and appealing until it got to the Supreme Court.

I mean this thing went on for 16 years or something ... 18 years. And finally, it's all over with, and the result of it is I own "My Sweet Lord," and I now own "He's So Fine," and Allan Klein owes me like three or four hundred thousand dollars 'cause he took all the money on both songs. It's really a joke. It's a total joke."

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