On 06/07/06, Tom Fine wrote:
> I didn't link any of the obits I found online because they're all so
> wrong. It would be nice if we could amass some FACTS here and maybe
> present them to AP, UPI and the Los Angeles Times (the most commonly
> linked and used obits).
> Here are a few.
> 1. Mercury was sold to Philips in 1961 or early 1962, not "sold to
> Polygram in the mid-70's" as the LA Times obit says.
> 2. As I understand it (fact check needed), Green disengaged from
> Mercury by the mid-60's and got into real estate development (shopping
> centers in the Midwest, housing in Iran and other places), so he was
> nowhere near the place when late 60's rock acts like the NY Dolls were
> signed, as the LA Times obit states.
> 3. Mercury was cited as being very progressive in their hiring, which
> is true. My mother was one of the first female vice presidents of a
> major record label. Quincy Jones was also among the first black vice
> presidents of a major label. Norman Granz was responsible for many of
> Mercury's early jazz efforts in one way or another, so his attitudes
> were influential from early on. What was very progressive about
> Mercury was that the attitude was, whatever works. If it sold well and
> sounded good, the attitude was they didn't care who was doing it and
> people were rewarded in a meritocracy. I do not think one could say
> all labels, especially the majors, worked this way.
> 4. Green also gave his producers free reign about how they wanted to
> do things technically. He had good A&R people from the start, made
> wise acquisitions in the consolidation wave of the late 40's, got into
> LPs early and encouraged technical excellence in the hifi era. Reading
> the engineering credits on Mercury pop and jazz records is a who's who
> of the "golden era" best-of-breed.
> 5. I think it was wise to sell to Philips when they did. Capitol had
> sold to EMI several years earlier, the payola scandals had made
> promotion harder, many of the post-WWII guys didn't necessarily
> understand what the rock era meant and there were successful rock and
> roll upstarts nibbling hard at the edges. So the time to get out was
> good. Plus there was an economic downturn that led to serious
> discounting (ie Mercury Wing series).
> 6. By the 70's, Mercury was a pretty dormant label. It was absorbed
> into Polygram at some point before the late 70s. It was combined with
> Verve's catalog sometime in the late 70's or 1980's. There were
> actually some very fine reissues of Mercury and Verve jazz records in
> that timeframe, just before CD's came along. Those double-LP
> Verve/Polygram reissues, which go out of sequence (pet peeve) but are
> very well mastered and pressed on nice vinyl, are good and especially
> good are the Japanese reissues that stay in sequence most of the time,
> contain original art most of the time, sound good and are pressed on
> exceptional vinyl.
> 7. Philips reissued some Mercury Living Presence titles in the
> ill-fated Golden Imports series. In the early CD era, some titles were
> issued under the Philips label as part of compilations. The Mercury
> Living Presence imprint was revived when my mother did the CD reissues
> in the 1990's. For all the changing of hands since she had retired in
> 1964, many tapes were still around and many were in good shape. Where
> they weren't, effective remedies could be taken with the titles that
> were issued over that period (100+ CD's).
I bought them all, on the assumption that a complete release was not
likely to happen again.
Not all the LP material was released on CD, however. I have a Brahms
Horn Trio, for instance, on LP only.
> 8. This is pure opinion -- Mercury usually gets overshadowed in
> record-industry histories by larger and flashier Capitol and smaller
> and more-focused Verve/Blue Note/Chess/Sun. Mercury was a true
> path-breaker in many ways. Irving Green was a different kind of record
> executive and a very innovative and interesting man. Because it was
> more wide-angle than many small companies, Mercury's influence is
> perhaps more diffuse, but it touches many corners of the music
> business. The legacy catalog has made money time after time after time
> and a surprising number of old recordings remain in print to this day.
> Philips and now Universal were able to release money-making reissues
> every year they have owned that catalog. That's quite a legacy in and
> of itself.
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