It's time I give some overdue props to three R&R books that can provide us business wisdom and life lessons.
In 'Shoulda Been There: a Novel on the Life of John Winston Lennon', Jude Kessler affords us an intimate view of Lennon's troubled young life, until the time that Brian Epstein took over management of the early Beatles.
There's much to learn here about how the most commercially successful musical team in history came together, despite their adolescent differences and jealousies.
The colorful dialogue in the book is fictional conjecture (thus 'a novel') but the basic story is founded on meticulous research—offering many surprises. For instance, I had no idea how Lennon bullied his art school buddy, Stu Sutcliffe, into joining—and sticking with—the Beatles despite Stu's protests. (In the end Sutcliffe lacked the talent and passion to musically succeed.)
This 800-page tome is a surprisingly quick read, and an absolute must-have for us get-a-life Beatlephiles. I eagerly anticipate volume two.
In 'Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001)' guitarist Don Felder entertains us with a candid account of his Eagles flight until his abrupt firing at the beginning of their 2001 tour.
One take-away from this lively paperback is if you're playing poker with friends, cut the cards. Felder alleges that the leaders of the Eagles, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, in collusion with their manager, violated the terms of their initial partnership agreement, treated him as contract labor, and ignored his requests for accounting information. (After Felder was fired, his subsequent lawsuit was settled out of court.)
He also documents the continual discord that placed the Eagles among the most fractious (and debauched) bands in the history of R&R. Even if Felder's claims are exaggerated the lesson still stands: get clear—get crystal clear—on what the business agreements are, even (or especially) if you're working with 'friends'.
In 'Bumping into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business' journalist/manager/recording executive Danny Goldberg discusses his business and artistic relationships with a who's-who of rock, including Stevie Nicks, Nirvana, Bonnie Raitt, Warren Zevon, Kiss, and Led Zeppelin.
His philosophy of management—applicable to more than the music biz—is to find talent with a 'self-contained vision', provide direction as needed, but mostly get out of the way.
Impressively, he never stopped being a fan of the talent he directed. How's that for a radical notion of management—from a guy with serious business cred?