Phil Spector, Leonard Cohen, & Their Mutual Agent, Marty Machat
Excess all areas: A life in rock’n’roll1 offers extracts from “Gods, Gangsters and Honour” by Steven Machat,2 a chronicle of the author’s experiences as an “American showbiz lawyer.” While I am posting only the section dealing with Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen, the excerpts also include fascinating (and a bit scary) anecdotes about James Brown, Michael Jackson and New Edition, Peter Gabriel and Womad, Ahmet Ertegun and Henry Kissinger, and Sam Cooke.
Phil Spector and Leonard Cohen
In 1977, my father [Marty Machat] was confronted by a big problem that was threatening his relationship with Phil Spector. Dad had negotiated Phil a label deal with Warner Brothers that involved Spector getting a huge advance before he delivered his future product. Unfortunately, Spector had failed to deliver the product and Warners wanted their money back.
Machat Senior came up with the answer: stick two of his top clients in the studio. My dad would then give the album to Warners to keep them happy, clear the debts, and keep both clients happy. But this involved two of his most problematic clients. Not just Spector but Leonard Cohen,3 who, like Phil, could not buy a pop hit in the US. Nevertheless, Death of a Ladies’ Man was born. The album would become one of the most controversial productions of the 1970s for the press. My father handed me this poisoned chalice. The lyrics basically involved Cohen and Spector trying to get laid. Track titles such as “Don’t Go Home With Your Hard-On” might have been funny to me, but they sure were a hard sell to the labels.
If that wasn’t enough, Cohen and Spector didn’t exactly hit it off. An irate Cohen said to me in September 1977: “Are you out of your brains? This album is junk. It’s your father’s masturbation. I love Marty. He’s my brother. But I never want to see that man Spector again. He is the worst human being I have ever met.”
Cohen complained that he had been held at gunpoint by Spector during the recording sessions. “The man is crazy. We were drunk and stupid. I do not wish for this album to see daylight.”
Warners quickly abandoned the album after its release with no promotion and eventually CBS, after much pushing by my dad, put it out in late 1977 in Europe. My father was so lucky that Spector and Cohen didn’t fire him. He was even luckier that Warners forgot to ask for their advance back. Or chose not to.
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted July 31, 2009 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
- Published in The Independent: July 31, 2009 [↩]
- To be released by Beautiful Books on 6 August 2009 [↩]
- Until his death, Marty Machat was Leonard’s manager, at which time Kelley Lynch, accused of embezzling millions from Cohen and, consequently, necessitating Cohen’s World Tour, took over Leonard’s management duties. [↩]