Allen Klein

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the American author, see Allen Klein (author).
Allen B. Klein
Birth name Allen B. Klein
Born (1931-12-18)December 18, 1931
Newark, New Jersey
Died July 4, 2009(2009-07-04) (aged 77)
New York City
Genres Rock music
Occupation(s) Accountant, record label owner, business manager
Years active 1956–2009
Labels ABKCO Records
Associated acts The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Verve

Allen B. Klein (December 18, 1931 – July 4, 2009) was an American businessman, talent agent, and record label executive, most noted for his tough persona and unethical practices. He founded ABKCO Music & Records Incorporated in 1961. As manager of the Rolling Stones, he controversially acquired sole copyrights to all of their music composed before 1971.[1]

In 1979, Klein was sentenced to two months in jail for tax evasion after it was discovered that he had defrauded both the Concert For Bangladesh and UNICEF.[2]

Early life[edit]

Allen Klein was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Jewish immigrants from Budapest, Hungary. His father was a butcher by trade, and his mother died before his first birthday. As a teenager, he worked in several jobs while attending evening classes. He excelled at mental arithmetic, and graduated from Upsala College, East Orange, New Jersey, in 1956.

He undertook bookkeeping for several people in show business, and audited record companies. In 1957 he began his own business, a partnership with his wife Betty. Record industry insiders began to fear his blunt-speaking tenacity, and well-placed people began to recommend him. Klein regarded himself as a shrewd and tenacious businessman, exampled by him having a modified Biblical quote on his desk, reading: "Though I walk in the shadow of the valley of evil, I have no fear, as I am the biggest bastard in the valley."

Sam Cooke[edit]

Klein became the business manager of Sam Cooke, and in 1963 Klein started to take control of all aspects of Cooke's career and demanded an independent record company. The role of business manager, someone who would take the artist's side in negotiations with the recording industry, was unprecedented.[citation needed] Klein secured an unprecedented agreement, with Cooke starting a new label (Tracey Records, to be distributed by RCA Records) that would own the rights to all of his future recordings, site fees, gate revenues for concerts, 10 percent of all records sold, and back royalties.

Cameo Parkway[edit]

Cameo Records was formed in 1956 and Parkway, a subsidiary, was formed in 1958. They were based in Philadelphia and specialised in teen market pop music. They had run out of hits by 1964, but struggled on until 1967, when Klein bought them, together with rights to music by The Animals, Herman's Hermits, Bobby Rydell, ? and the Mysterians, Chubby Checker and recordings produced by Mickie Most.

The Rolling Stones[edit]

In 1965, Klein became the co-manager of The Rolling Stones. In 1966, he bought Andrew Loog Oldham's share of the Rolling Stones's management, though Oldham continued in his role as the band's producer till late 1967. Mick Jagger had studied at the London School of Economics and was sufficiently impressed with Klein's business acumen to recommend him to the Beatles. But not long afterwards, Jagger started to doubt Klein's trustworthiness, and The Stones fired Klein in 1970. However, by that time, Klein had already secured himself ownership of all the Rolling Stones's song copyrights while under contract with Decca. He did this by surreptitiously forming Nanker Phelge (US) and exhorting the band to sign over all their material. The band members willingly obliged as they were majority owners in a U.K. company of the same name. In reality, the Stones unwillingly signed away their musical catalogue to Klein, sole owner of Nanker Phelge US. A seventeen-year legal battle ensued and the eventual settlement meant forfeiting to Klein the rights to most of their songs recorded before 1971;[3][1] Keith Richards later described the settlement as "the price of an education."[4] Klein's ABKCO label released the rarest of all Stones albums, Metamorphosis. By the late 1990s, some of the 1960s albums were becoming hard to acquire on Compact Disc. Finally, in 2002, Klein's son Jody oversaw a remastering of the 1960s albums.

The Beatles[edit]

The death of Brian Epstein in 1967 proved difficult for the Beatles, as they had always relied on him to manage their business affairs. Epstein had been the one to put the brakes on spending, talk over practicalities, and say "no" when required to do so. With the formation of Apple Corps, problems began to arise within the band.[5]

Several managers were considered, including Lord Beeching and Lee Eastman, McCartney's father-in-law. Klein contacted Lennon after reading his press comment that the Beatles would be "broke in six months" if things continued as they were.[6]

After a meeting between Lennon and Klein at the Dorchester Hotel, Lennon convinced Harrison and Starr that Klein should take over their affairs. McCartney was staunchly opposed to Klein and did not sign the contract, but Klein was still technically the Beatles's manager. This fundamental disagreement over Klein was one of the key factors in the eventual break-up of the Beatles.

In 1969, Klein re-negotiated the Beatles's contract with EMI, granting them the highest royalties ever paid to an artist at that time; 69 cents per $6–7 album. Despite Klein's original claim that he would only take a commission on increased royalties, it was later disclosed that Klein was taking 20 percent of the entire royalty. During this time, Klein also hired Phil Spector to re-produce and release songs that would comprise the album Let It Be - a decision that he made without the authorization of all four Beatles. (See also Let It Be...Naked.)

On December 30, 1970, McCartney filed a lawsuit against Lennon, Harrison, Starr, and Apple Corps, Ltd. As a result, a receiver was appointed to manage the Beatles's affairs, and Klein was forced to leave Apple. Following Klein's departure, Neil Aspinall was appointed CEO of Apple Corps, a position which he held until 2007.

Solo Beatles[edit]

Klein helped Lennon and Ono with their film Imagine, and helped Harrison to organize The Concert for Bangladesh. It was here that his reputation started to unravel. Rather than prearrange matters with UNICEF, Klein waited until after the concert to approach them, leading to questions about the proceeds, and finally a U.S. Tax Investigation, which found Klein guilty.

As Klein's relationship with Harrison disintegrated, Klein purchased Bright Tunes, the company that sued Harrison for copyright infringement, thus becoming his legal opponent. A judge later ruled that Klein had unfairly switched sides of the lawsuit; see My Sweet Lord#Copyright infringement suit.

In 1978, he was parodied by John Belushi as "Ron Decline" in the TV film All You Need Is Cash, a roman à clef with the Beatles turned into “The Rutles.”

Phil Spector[edit]

In the 1980s, Klein bought the rights to music produced by Phil Spector, such as the Philles Records and Phil Spector International catalogs.

The Stranger films[edit]

Klein produced a trilogy of spaghetti westerns starring and written by Tony Anthony. A Stranger In Town and The Stranger Returns were released in the USA by MGM. A dispute with MGM over the last of the three, The Silent Stranger, led to it not being released for seven years after production. Klein and Anthony also collaborated on the film Blindman, featuring Ringo Starr as a Mexican bandito. Klein also appeared briefly on camera, in a similar role.

Alejandro Jodorowsky films[edit]

Lennon, after seeing and being impressed with Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo, persuaded Klein to buy the rights and bankroll Jodorowsky's next film, The Holy Mountain (1973). The Jodorowsky-Klein collaboration was an artistic success, but plans for a follow-up never materialized. Witnessing the commercial success of hard-core pornographic films, such as Deep Throat and The Devil In Miss Jones, which broke through to the mainstream, Klein saw similar potential in Pauline Réage's bestseller The Story Of O, but Jodorowsky walked out on the deal. In retribution, Klein withdrew every print of El Topo and The Holy Mountain from US distribution, and turned down all subsequent requests by film festivals.

Both films were withdrawn from circulation in the US for more than 30 years, making sporadic, bootleg appearances on video – and being usually only of poor quality. Jodorowsky publicly endorsed these pirated copies of his work, since he was unable to show or distribute the films legally (within the US). Both El Topo and The Holy Mountain were screened as part of a retrospective of Jodorowsky's work at the 7th annual Chicago Underground Film Festival in 2000. The dispute over the films ended in 2004, when Jody Klein contacted Jodorowsky and offered a reconciliation. In response to the films's re-appearances, both the Cannes and London Film Festivals have organised gala screenings.[7] Both films are also available on DVD and Blu-ray.[8]

The Greek Tycoon[edit]

Klein also produced the 1978 film The Greek Tycoon, starring Anthony Quinn and Jacqueline Bisset.[9] A roman à clef about the Aristotle Onassis-Jacqueline Kennedy marriage, it drew critical hostility and poor box-office revenues.

The Verve[edit]

On their song "Bitter Sweet Symphony," the British rock group The Verve sampled an orchestration from Andrew Loog Oldham's version of The Rolling Stones's "The Last Time," the rights to which were owned by Klein's ABKCO Industries. Before the release of the album, The Verve negotiated a licensing agreement with Klein, who administered The Stones's catalogue, to use the sample (or at least the compositional rights to the sample). In 1997, The Verve's album Urban Hymns peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard charts. A bitter legal battle ensued, resulting in The Verve turning over 100% of the royalties to ABKCO. Klein argued that The Verve had violated the previous licensing agreement by using too much of the sample in their song. Capitalizing off the success of the song, Klein licensed The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony" to Nike, who proceeded to run a multi-million dollar television campaign using The Verve's song over shots of its sneakers. Klein also allowed the song to be used in advertisements for Vauxhall automobiles. (Additionally, though the song was authored by The Rolling Stones, the Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra performed the sampled recording, and also filed suit upon the success of the song.) When "Bitter Sweet Symphony" was nominated for a Grammy Award, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones were named as the nominees, not The Verve.

However, in a somewhat ironic twist, the Staple Singers had already recorded a previous selection[title missing] from which "The Last Time" had used a nearly identical-sounding musical and lyrical phrase.[citation needed]


Klein died of complications of Alzheimer's disease in New York City on July 4, 2009.[1][5]


  1. ^ a b c Sisario, Ben (July 5, 2009). "Allen Klein, 77, Dies; Managed Music Legends". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Allen Klein: Notorious business manager for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones". The Independent (London). July 6, 2009. 
  3. ^ Patrick Todd (August 11, 2010). "Who/What is Nanker Phelge?". Rolling Times. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Entertainment | Beatles 'shark' Klein dies at 77". BBC News. 2009-07-05. Retrieved 2013-11-20. 
  5. ^ a b "Former Beatles, Stones manager Allen Klein dies". Reuters. July 4, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  6. ^ "Allen Klein". The Daily Telegraph (London). July 5, 2009. 
  7. ^ Sight & Sound magazine, vol. 17, issue 5, May 2007, p. 92
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "The Greek Tycoon (1978) : Full credits and cast". Retrieved 2013-11-20. 

External links[edit]