Monday, February 17, 2014

Marty Thau, 1938-2014

I was saddened to learn of the death of Marty Thau, a rock and roll and pop manager, A/R man, producer, and visionary who had a fascinating and influential career in the music business. Most famously, Thau discovered and managed the New York Dolls, but he'd already carved a thoroughly impressive career by trusting his hunches. His first job was a yearlong stint at Billboard magazine as an intern. In 1966, Al Rosenthall recruited Thau to do promotion for the recently reactivated Cameo /Parkway label which placed an amazing twenty-eight records on the Billboard chart in their first year, including singles by Terry Knight and the Pack, the Five Stair Steps, Bob Seger, the Rationals, and the super hit “96 Tears” by ? and The Mysterians. A year later when the owners of Kama Sutra Records started Buddah Records, Neil Bogart from Cashbox magazine brought in Thau as Vice President of Promotion. At Buddah, the hits came fast: from 1967 until 1970, “Green Tambourine, “Oh, Happy Day,” “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy,” “Simon Says,” “1, 2, 3 Red Light,” “Indian Giver,” “Chewy, Chewy” and other terrific tunes invaded transistor radios and put Bubblegum on the map. Buddah grossed an astonishing thirty million dollars in one year alone. In early 1970, Thau left Buddah and moved on to Inherit Productions, where as a partner he was instrumental in selling Van Morison’s Astral Weeks and Moondance, John Cale’s Vintage Violence, and an assortment of other work from artists including Cass Eliot and Mike Bloomfield. But the climate of popular music was transforming, and in 1972, Maurice Levy of Roulette Records asked Thau if he would helm Levy’s new singles-only label. Among the first bands Thau envisioned for the label was the New York Dolls, whose over-the-top attitude performances leapt outrageously out of the softened musical climate. Thau later formed the trailblazing indie label Red Star Records, which released music by Suicide, Real Kids, and the Fleshtones.

I was fortunate to have been able to talk to him at length about his career for Sweat. He was a great interview: he lived in Brooklyn at the time, and the walls of his office and hallway were lined with gold records. He was honest, generous with his time, genuinely interested in and supportive of my project, and patient. During the production of the book, he was very helpful with fact-checking, and never hesitated to answer a question for me or place me in touch with a key industry figure. After Sweat was published in 2007, we became virtual buddies. He'd moved to Virginia to be nearer to family, and we stayed in touch. He worked on his memoirs, and kept his finger on the pulse of music. He was a big supporter of Sweat, privately and publicly. I'm grateful to have gotten to know a warm, friendly person. His career in the music business that I and so many others love was original, integral, and enduring. RIP Marty Thau.
The Chairman, Marty Thau, with, from left, Miriam Linna, Peter Zaremba, and Keith Streng, 1978

Top photo via Urban Image.

1 comment:

lil m said...

thanx for the notice about Marty's death. Although I did not know him, was aware of his contributions to the 70's New York Music Scene...