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As readers of this blog know, I've got a ton of respect for the late Ralph J. Gleason, the legendary music critic from the San Francisco Chronicle and co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine. Gleason was an early supporter and friend of Bob Dylan's. But here's Gleason's column from the December 30, 1966 Chronicle where he really gets it wrong, announcing that Dylan has signed with MGM Records.
It has been known that Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, had negotiated with MGM for Dylan's services--but I never knew it had been "announced" that Dylan had jumped ship. I'd guess this was information Gleason got from Grossman. Knowing Grossman's reputation as a tough and canny negotiator, it's entirely likely he gave Gleason this "exclusive" as a negotiating ploy to alarm Columbia Records into upping their offer for Dylan. Remember, Dylan was an extremely popular (and highly prestigious) artist Columbia could ill-afford to lose, having released his highly lauded "Blonde on Blonde" earlier in the year (Gleason has so much detail in terms of the deal, Dylan's royalties, etc. that I think it unlikely this could come from anyone but Grossman.)
It's interesting to note Gleason's take on Dylan's dissatisfaction with Columbia for the Freewheelin'/Talking John Birch Society contremps, the shipment of the "Positively 4th Street" single that mistakenly played "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window," and the aborted "Bob Dylan In Concert" album--he certainly would have been in a position to know (for more on these, see the July 2007 entry below and www.searchingforagem.com, the ultimate Dylan discography site.)
It's also interesting to see the that "the broken vertebrae" in Dylan's neck (from the motorcycle crash) are "still tender enough to prevent him from hanging a guitar around his neck and performing" but that there are tentative plans for an April tour. Sure. You bet.
I'd like to thank my friend Gene Sculatti, a Dylan and Gleason scholar, for this article, which I'd never seen before. Gene had the good sense to clip this out of the Chronicle back in the day.
Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy new year, and in the next post we'll talk in more depth about forensic document examination and the Peter McKenzie lawsuit.
As readers of this blog and followers of the Bob Dylan collecting scene may know, in November 2007 I filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court against Peter McKenzie, accusing him of fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The suit came about because of questions about the authenticity of some signed and inscribed Bob Dylan items McKenzie had sold me (this is all a matter of public record; see the posting directly below for the complete story.)
It is my great pleasure to report that after 15 months of forensic examinations, court proceedings and legal haggling, the lawsuit has been settled. Unfortunately I’m legally bound to not disclose the specific terms of the settlement, much as I’d like to. But I can say that I’m extremely pleased with the outcome of the suit. As a longtime collector and a dealer, I felt it very important to pursue this despite the high cost of doing so, in terms of dollars, aggravation and time spent.
I’d like to sincerely thank the many people who helped bring this to a satisfying resolution, particularly Dylan manuscript expert George Hecksher, collector Barry Ollman, Jasen Emmons, curatorial director of the Experience Music Project (and curator of the museum exhibition “Bob Dylan’s American Journey”,) Jeff Rosen from the Dylan office, my attorney Mike Gibson, and certified forensics examiner Jim Blanco.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating--if you’re buying high-end collectibles, do your research, know who you’re buying from, and most importantly, insist on a guarantee of authenticity with no time limit. And remember, if it seems too good to be true, it almost always is.
As of the time of this writing, Reed Orenstein’s lawsuit against Peter McKenzie (see below) is still active.
Check back as we’ll be writing more about issues of authenticity, what a real forensic document examiner does, why most certificates of authenticity are worthless (even so-called forensic ones--more on that later,) and how to protect yourself when buying autographs and memorabilia.
In the future, I’ll be writing much more regularly too.
November 19, 2008
And remember, we're always interested in buying your music collectibles too !
Those who know me know I’m obsessed with documenting the authenticity of the items I collect and sell. Every week I spend countless hours on the phone, internet, and speaking to people in person to make sure EVERYTHING I offer for sale is absolutely genuine. And then I guarantee everything to be authentic with no time limit—a lifetime guarantee.
Unfortunately this is not the case with every dealer, and there is a lot of inauthentic material out there being passed off as genuine. As music collectibles continue to escalate in value, there is more motivation for unscrupulous people to be dishonest—and so it’s more important than ever to do your research, know who you are buying from, and get that all important lifetime guarantee.
I’ve been eager for some time to write about some inauthentic Bob Dylan material I purchased—but as there is a lawsuit pending, my lawyer advised me not to. Yesterday the New York Post wrote about the suit, and I now feel the need to respond without delay.
Last year, a highly regarded forensics expert advised me that some signed Dylan items I purchased from Peter McKenzie’s collection were not authentic. McKenzie was a teenager in 1961 when a then-unknown Bob Dylan slept on his parent’s couch for a few months. McKenzie had a number of early Dylan handwritten song lyrics from that era, and in 1991 began selling these as well as albums Dylan had signed and inscribed for him. He also contacted other friends of Dylan’s from the early 60’s, and brokered and sold some similar material for them.
In December, 2006 McKenzie contacted me for the first time after seeing an online listing for an item that had originally come from him. In January 2007, he contacted me again and offered to sell me two signed Dylan items, which I purchased for $9,000.
In mid 2007 a highly regarded New York rare book dealer who had previously sold me Dylan material offered me a number of Dylan items that had come from “Peter McKenzie’s collection.” I purchased 4 of these for approximately $40,000., and then contacted McKenzie, who confirmed that they had come from him.
Over the next few months, McKenzie offered to sell me many other Dylan items, and I purchased a number of these in a few separate transactions for a total of $44,000.
Every time I purchased something, McKenzie came up with something new to offer me, and I became concerned at the sheer volume of material that he was offering me. In this business, a seemingly unending supply of rare material is always a red flag. I knew his family had a relationship with Dylan in the early 60’s and he had sold some important artifacts, but at some point, logic would dictate, the supply would likely dry up.
One day McKenzie mentioned he’d bought something on Ebay and the amount he’d paid, and so I went online, found the listing, and saw his Ebay user ID. I was spending a lot of money with him, had become concerned, and thought it prudent to keep an eye on his Ebay purchases (which is publicly available information.)
A month or so later I saw that McKenzie had purchased three vintage Dylan albums in a short time on Ebay. I asked myself “If Peter McKenzie had known Dylan and had all this memorabilia, why would he be buying a copy of “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits” and two copies of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan ?”
An alarm bell rang a few weeks later when McKenzie offered me a “signed and inscribed” copy of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” which he told me he’d gotten 20 years ago from a mutual friend of his and Dylan’s. When he sent me a photo of it, it appeared identical to one of the copies he’d bought on Ebay a few weeks earlier, with an inscription and signature added. Both album covers had multiple scratches, imperfections, and flaws in exactly the same places—it seemed obvious that they were one and the same.
I had Peter send me the “signed” “Freewheelin’” on approval, and hired a highly regarded certified forensic document examiner (formerly with the US Treasury Department) to conduct a formal comparison of the Ebay “Freewheelin’” to the one Peter was offering me.
I also had him examine a group of other material I’d purchased from McKenzie, the rare book dealer, and other items from my personal collection. A forensic document examiner compares questioned items to “known examples” to determine whether or not a questioned item is genuine. Another top collector and I were able to provide over 100 pages of known authentic Dylan handwriting samples, including documents, published lyrics, and one of Dylan’s songwriting notebooks.
The forensics examiner concluded that the “Ebay Freewheelin’” was in fact the same album that McKenzie was offering me, with an inscription added after the fact. He determined that some of the items I had purchased from McKenzie and the book dealer were genuine, while others were found to be “not genuine.”
In short order, I hired a lawyer in New York (McKenzie resides there) who called and confronted McKenzie with the bad news. McKenzie denied that anything was not authentic, but asked to speak with me. He insisted he would give me a full refund and implored me to keep this “between us” (something I never agreed to do.) The book dealer, when contacted, expressed concern and made full restitution to me for the “not genuine” items they’d sold me from “Peter McKenzie’s collection.”
In a second lawsuit filed against McKenzie accusing him of selling non-authentic Bob Dylan items, plantiff Reed Orenstein (a longtime friend of McKenzie) states that McKenzie admitted to him that he had forged Dylan’s signature on the “Ebay Freewheelin’.”
For a number of months McKenzie continued to insist that he would make full restitution -- but he never came up with the money. Eventually I decided the only way I would recover what I’d spent was to file a lawsuit. When I notified a number of dealers and Dylan experts about this, at my lawyer’s insistence I was careful to only relate the facts of the case, letting people come to their own conclusions.
When the New York Post called my lawyer last week, I initially refused comment, as it was my desire to litigate this case in the appropriate forum—the courts. As McKenzie has chosen to take this matter to the media, I now feel obligated to respond, if only to clear the record.
This case is ONLY about recovering the money I spent with Peter McKenzie. McKenzie claims that I’m suing him because I couldn’t sell the material--but other than one item I purchased on behalf of James Musser at Skyline Books, and a harmonica in a signed case later sold to Musser, I never tried to sell any of these items (in fact I planned on keeping most for my personal collection.) Both of the items James Musser purchased have been forensically examined and found to be authentic. In fact, I have spent approximately $14,000 on forensics in this case to date.
The article claims McKenzie has been selling me memorabilia since 1991—however I never spoke to him or communicated with him in any way before December 2006, and never purchased anything from him until January 2007.
I care very much about my reputation and good name. I’ve worked hard to build my business, and care passionately about my clients and fellow collectors. I’ve been a collector of rare records and music memorabilia for 37 years, and a record business executive for many of those. I still on occasion consult for record companies, as well as the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, and the Experience Music Project in Seattle. I was a curatorial consultant to the recent museum exhibition “Bob Dylan’s American Journey.”
In other words, I don’t take any of this lightly. I’m very upset that I bought material that an expert found wasn’t authentic. But I’m very happy that I didn’t sell any of it—that would have troubled me terribly.
So there it is—the story in a nutshell. I hope people find this instructive, and once again, it's a reminder that you can never be too careful. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions, do your own research, know who you are buying from, and always insist on a guarantee of authenticity, with no time limit !
June 24, 2008
Forgive the terrible pun, but here is a truly “Killer Queen” collectible--a handwritten letter sent by the Queen frontman Freddie Mercury to Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, the legendary music executive who signed Queen. As you may know, Queen is one of the most collectible groups in the world. And any artifact related to Freddie Mercury is highly sought after.
Mercury sent this letter to Holzman in 1973, as the band was finishing "Queen ll," thanking him for his "genuine interest (in Queen) from the very start." Holzman was very aggressive in pursuing and signing Queen, which he wrote about with great eloquence in his excellent book "Following The Music" (if you’re a fan of Elektra, or it’s artists, I can’t recommend this book more highly. Holzman signed many extremely important artists, including The Doors, Tim Buckley, the Butterfield Blues Band, The Stooges, the Incredible String Band, Judy Collins, and many more.)
The full text of the letter reads: "Dear Jac, Just thought I'd drop you a line to say we're all absolutely bowled over at the reaction with which Queen are happening in the States. I'd like to thank you, personally, for your genuine interest from the very start. Both Brian and John have recently excelled themselves in their performance and presentation, and you'll be pleased to know that they don't make it look so easy anymore. I hope you like "Queen ll." We've worked like demons on it, with a lot of sweat and blood gone into it, but it's been worthwhile. Brian, John and Roger send you their fondest. Looking forward to seeing you again soon, Love, Freddie Mercury."
As you might imagine, artists don’t often send record executives this kind of personal letter of thanks. Jac was touched, and kept the letter it in his files. Recently Jac decided he'd like to sell this letter, and use the proceeds to fund a music scholorship in Freddie's name. He's asked Recordmecca to sell it on his behalf, and we will be conducting an auction for it on Ebay beginning June 16 (check here on that date for a link.) The minimum bid will be $9,999.
When collecting autographs and letters, the important things to consider are the provenance (where did the item originate, how has it come to market), content (in the case of a letter, does the text relate to why the writer is famous, or shed light on their career or work), timing (when in the writer’s career does it date from), format (typed letters are less desirable than handwritten ones; personalized stationery adds value) and of course who the seller is and what kind of guarantee of authenticity they offer.
In every way, this letter is a home run. It comes from the original recipient, a famed record executive who signed Queen, and who has written a two-page letter of authenticity to accompany it. The content and date couldn’t be better; Mercury writes just as Queen has broken big in America, to the man who made it possible, expressing his sincerest thanks. The format is equally impressive—this is completely handwritten on die-cut Queen stationery. And of course, we guarantee everything we sell to be authentic with no time limit.
This is as unique and historic a Queen collectible as we've ever seen. If you would like more information or to be notified when our auction takes place, please email us.
A great day indeed--the lead in the Associated Press story said it all:
NEW YORK - Thanks to, rock 'n' roll has finally broken through the Pulitzer wall. Dylan, the most acclaimed and influential songwriter of the past half century, who more than anyone brought rock from the streets to the lecture hall, received an honorary on Monday, cited for his "profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.
It was the first time Pulitzer judges, who have long favored classical music, and, more recently, jazz, awarded an art form once dismissed as barbaric, even subversive.
"I am in disbelief," Dylan fan and fellow Pulitzer winnerMe too. The Pulitzer committee has finally done the right thing. At the top of this post is a mid-60's bumper sticker (by San Diego Poster Print) from my collection that pretty much says it all, don't you think ? said of Dylan's award.
And on the subject, if you're anywhere near the Los Angeles area between now and June 8, make it your business to see the final stop of "Bob Dylan's American Journey, 1956-1966" at the Skirball Cultural Center. While I'm far from an objective observer (having been a curatorial consultant and lender to the exhibit) this first ever authorized museum show devoted to Dylan is nothing short of astounding. It includes more than 150 awe-inspiring Dylan artifacts (his first acoustic guitar, and original typed/handwritten lyric sheets for "Blowin' In The Wind" and "Gates of Eden",) rare audio (the only known tape of his debut concert at the Carnegie Charter Hall,) rare video (outtakes from "Eat The Document" and much rare live and interview footage,) and other incredible things you'll never see anywhere else (Woody Guthrie's t-shirt that he wore at Brooklyn State Hospital, and his original lyrics to "Grand Coolie Dam.") I've seen the exhibit numerous times, in Seattle, New York, and now here, and this installation is by far the best. I doubt you'll ever have the opportunity again to see this amazing collection of Dylan artifacts, film, and tape--so do check it out (free admission on Thursdays too.)
That's it for now. Congratulations Bob !
I love reading contemporary accounts of the birth of rock--I find it fascinating to see what people (and "critics") thought about the bands and the music as it was happening. In that light, these pages from the August, 1967 issue of Mojo Navigator Rock & Roll News are particularly interesting.
Mojo Navigator was arguably the first rock fanzine; begun in 1965 by David Harris and Greg Shaw, it chronicled the San Francisco/Bay Area rock scene, and later, the rock music scene at large. Issues are extremely rare, as it was available only by subscription and at a few retail outlets. And of course, few people kept these kind of things for long. I've reproduced here the cover of this issue (Vol 2, No. 2) and some particularly interesting pages. First, a 3 page joint review of the debut albums from The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, and Country Joe & The Fish. With benefit of hindsight, all three are today regarded as psychedelic rock classics (and in my opinion, masterpieces.) If you don't own these, and are interested in the San Francisco scene, get them (and the debut albums by Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, and Steve Miller Band) and you'll have a pretty great picture of how important and vital the music coming out of this area was. In all 3 cases I think David Harris of the Navigator gets it right.
Next is Harris' review of the UK issue of Jimi Hendrix's debut album "Are You Experienced" (not yet released in the US, though he'd just played the Monterey Pop Festival and Fillmore.) Most fans of rock guitar and psychedelic music would agree this album is probably the most auspicious debut of all time. And Harris, most definitely, gets it right again, when he begins his review "Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell are without a doubt the most important musical, and in some ways, dramatic, happening in the world today." Yes, he was going out on a limb, considering Hendrix at this time had only had 1 single ("Hey Joe") released stateside at the time of his writing. But he was absolutely correct. This article/review is filled with interesting and little known trivia, such as Hendrix, "when asked to perform certain songs from the album, admitted he had forgotten them, and them, and stated that he had made them up at the session and had never played them since !" I've been a Hendrix fanatic and collector for 37 years, and have NEVER heard that story. Just shows why it's so fascinating to read accounts written while history was being made. This issue also features a very early interview with the Doors, but we'll leave that for another time & place.
Anyway, hope you enjoy this. If you do, or don't, or have any input as to the kinds of things you would like to see here, please write me at: Recordmecca@earthlink.net or post a comment below.
I love little ephemeral pieces of paper that look like nothing important, but that chronicle a historic moment--in this case, one where there was no turning back. Here's an article torn from the October 26, 1969 issue of the New York Times, about a "bootleg Bob Dylan record with an unmarked white cover and blank labels selling briskly around the country and Canada." This of course was "Great White Wonder," the first-ever rock music bootleg (yes, there had previously been some private pressing jazz and classical bootlegs, but never anything mass produced and sold on this kind of level.)
This was the warning shot across the bow; the first of thousands of bootlegs to follow, and of course no artist has been bootlegged more than Bob Dylan. The double disc Great White Wonder, or GWW as it's popularly abbreviated, mixed tracks from Dylan's legendary "basement tapes" recorded at his house in Woodstock and The Band's nearby house "Big Pink," songs recorded in December 1961 in Minneapolis (the "Minnesota Hotel tape",) a track from the Johnny Cash TV show, some studio outtakes from '63-65, and an interview with Dylan and Pete Seeger. You can read more about the exact contents on the excellent "Bob's Boots" site.
As far as I know, the first article about Great White Wonder appeared in the September 20, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The New York Times article may have been the first article in the "mainstream press," and certainly doesn't anticipate what was to come--but who could have. Bootlegs are today a part of record collecting life, and the advent of the internet has made them both easier than ever to find, and virtually impossible to stop.
"Outtakes" were once considered by artists and record labels to be material unworthy of release--the unwanted byproducts of making a record. They are now compiled and released with great regularity, poured over by obsessive collectors and archivists looking for clues into an artist's process and intentions. And in my opinion, that's a very good thing. Dub and Ken, the makers of Great White Wonder (see the wikipedia article on GWW) doubtless had no idea what they were starting when they made their crude double album with the plain white cover. But they were clearly on to something big.
Al who ? Al Aronowitz, that's who. Aronowitz was a critic for many New York and national newspapers and magazines, and at the center of so many scenes in the 60's. He was the first manager of the Velvet Underground. He famously introduced The Beatles to Bob Dylan (and brought the joint to their meeting that resulted in the Beatles getting high for the first time.) As his 2005 obituary in the Washington Post said, "in the '60s and '70s Al Aronowitz knew everyone worth knowing. The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Pete Townshend -- he either wrote about them, befriended them or both." And he was especially close to (and an early supporter of) Bob Dylan.
Here's a letter Aronowitz wrote to San Francisco Chronicle music critic (and Rolling Stone c0-founder) Ralph J. Gleason in August of 1967. Aronowitz tells Gleason, also a friend and supporter of Dylan "just was up to visit dylan, listened to some practice tapes he and his group laid down, all great new songs, but dylan'll probably throw em away rather than record em. i'd like to buy his wastebasket." He's referring to "the Basement Tapes" here--and his evaluation was right-on. I'd like to have bought his waste basket too ! Aronowitz then talks about Dylan manager Albert Grossman, fills in Gleason on gossip about the diggers (SF activist group) activities in New York, mentions Allen Ginsberg hanging with Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney in London, asks Gleason if he saw George H (Harrison) when he visited SF (San Francisco and the Haight Ashbury during the summer of love.) And that's just the first paragraph !
Aronowitz was certainly in the middle of it all during the 60's. I love this kind of revealing correspondence. Read more about Al Aronowitz here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/02/AR2005080201920.html
Happy new year everyone ! Sorry I've been slow on the posts, but here are some photos that will hopefully make up for it. These are one-of-a-kind Polaroids of the Rolling Stones and their founder, Brian Jones, that came from the collection of Linda Keith. Linda Keith was a girlfriend of both Jones and Keith Richards, and had another, very important role in the history of rock.
While the Stones were touring America in 1966, Linda Keith (a blues fan) wandered into a Greenwich Village club and saw "Jimi James and the Blue Flames." James was, of course, Jimi Hendrix and Keith was extremely impressed by his guitar playing. She befrended Hendrix, and set about to help him get a record deal. She took Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and Sire Records founder Seymour Stein to see Hendrix, but neither "got" him. She didn't give up, however, and next took Animals bass player Chas Chandler to see the guitarist. Chandler was blown away, and quickly signed Hendrix to a management contract and took him to England--and the rest is history.
These first of these photographs was taken at the famous session for the Stones psychedelic masterpiece "Their Satanic Majesties Request"--it's the only outtake from that session I've ever seen. Michael Cooper took the photograph for the album cover, and this was a test polaroid he took during the session. The other two photos were taken during a trip Keith took with Jones to Sri Lanka in the late 60's. All three are unpublished and to my eye, pretty fantastic.
Brian Jones was the visionary who put the Rolling Stones together, but because he wasn't a singer or songwriter his critical contribution to the band is often overlooked. If you don't know about him, check out his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Jones
And while "Satanic Majesties Request" is often written off as the Stones failed attempt to answer "Sgt. Peppers," I think it's one of their best albums (and certainly their most adventurous.) I know I'm out of the mainstream here, but "Sgt. Peppers" was never my favorite Beatles album--important yes, but never one I listened to very much. "Satanic" for whatever reason has compelled me since it's 1967 release--it's certainly darker and more psychedelic than the Beatles album--maybe that's got something to do with it. I'm listening to it as I write, and it still sounds adventurous and classic 41 years later. If you don't know it, check it out on iTunes, where you can listen to the first 30 seconds of each song free.
Give it a shot--if you're a fan of psychedelic rock, I don't think it gets better than this.