Russ Regan: Visionary A&R Man and Bold Record Executive
By Harvey Kubernik
Russ Regan, a titan in the record business and a visionary A&R man, died in Palm Springs, California on Sunday, May 27th of cancer, at the age of 89.
His daughter Rachael Grace announced his passing with a Facebook post, “he fought a good fight and had an extraordinary life.”
Regan is survived by his wife of 30 years, Sheryl, children Marc, Rachael and Daniel, sister Margaret and son-in-law Eric. Regan’s family requested that in lieu of flowers, acknowledgement be given in Russ’s name to his favorite charity, the Recording Academy’s MusiCares.
Over a 60 year career Regan worked with some of the biggest names in the music business, including the Beach Boys, Hugh Masekela, Neil Diamond, Elton John, Barry White, Olivia Newton-John, and the Alan Parsons Project.
Cave Hollywood asked our resident wordsmith and author Harvey Kubernik to provide a tribute to Russ Regan, a friend of his the last half century. Harvey sent us an archive oral history he had conducted with Russ the last few decades. We’re displaying it in full.
Courtesy of Harvey Kubernik Archives
During the last 25 years I conducted a series of interviews with Russ Regan, portions appeared in three of my books: Turn Up The Radio, Pop, Rock and Roll in Los Angeles 1956-1972, 1967 A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love, and Inside Cave Hollywood: The Harvey Kubernik Music InnerViews and InterViews Collection, Vol. 1.
Born in Modesto, California, Russ Regan, born Harold Rustigan, came to Los Angeles in 1957 to be a singer and a songwriter.
“In 1959 I was signed to Capitol Records L.A. at the time was basically a big and small community. It was a city but not crowded yet. Not congested. You could move around and people were much more friendly. You could get anyone on the phone then. An A&R man at a record label was happy to see you and listen to your music.
“I met Sonny Bono, who was a sleeping giant. He was a sponge that absorbed everything. He learned the record business from Art Rupe at Specialty Records. Sonny understood production but he didn’t become a great producer until he went to work for Phil Spector.
“In 1960 we met Lester Sill, Modern Records promo and sales man and so much more. Later he started a label Phil and then worked with the Monkees. Lester knew a good song. He enabled things to happen. He enabled Sonny and I to make a record together with the Checkmates that Jack Nitzsche arranged. Hal Blaine played drums on it. Alan Freed put it on KDAY radio when he was in town during 1960. I’d spend weekends with him and his family in Palm Springs. He took the rap for a lot of people.
“Jack Nitzsche was a brilliant arranger. I knew about the role of the arranger. From Jack to Gene Page, also brilliant. Paul Buckmaster later with Elton John. The arranger is important. Sometimes you have to play the song to a skeleton without any meat on it. The arranger comes along and puts the meat on the skeleton. It all comes together. An arranger takes a song for what it is and builds something around it and gives it life and dynamics.
“Sonny said to me that I should be a record promoter and I then met George Motola who got me a job at Buck Eye Records in L.A. in November 1960. It was a distributor. They were located on Pico Boulevard across the street from Record Merchandise. A woman from Cleveland owned it and that’s why she named it Buck Eye. The recording artists and record label executives would come to Buck Eye. Barney Ales from Motown.
“The first record I promoted was ‘Please Mr. Postman’ by the Marvelettes in 1961. I also worked with the Supremes, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, and Marvin Gaye. Believe it or not, Marvin Gaye had moments of greatness on stage or he could be lousy. And I’ll tell you why. He really didn’t like performing. It was a job to him. It can’t be a job for a performer. People don’t realize this. You can’t be up there thinking you are working.
“Barry Gordy, Jr. used to come to town. He taught me about hooks in songs. And that people buy records because they have to love them, not like them. There used to be record hops at high schools. One time at Jefferson High school I took Marvin Gaye in Watts. He had never been out there before. The girls attacked him. He lost one shoe of his penny loafers. We went to Fairfax High School. Groups played in the auditorium.
“People like to discover things. The Bahiri Brothers would go into Mississippi with wire recorders and record talent. Barry Gordy offered me a job but I didn’t want to move to Detroit. I’m a California guy. And I was taught a lot about the record business by Berry Gory, Jr. became a promotion man three years 1961-1964. I learned the value of a song,. And the hooks of a song. Every Motown hit has hooks in it. It starts with the opening, you can always smell the opening of a Motown record.
“I hung around Candix Records in 1961. The Dix brothers were from California. My good friend Joe Saraceno worked there as an A&R guy. And Joe called me at Buck Eye maybe late ’60, probably ’61, ‘I want you to hear a record on the telephone.’ And he played me this record that sounded like a Jan & Dean rip off. It’s a new group I got called the Pendletons called ‘Surfin’ and I’m changing the name to the Surfers.’ ‘Joe, there is already a group on Hi Fi Records called the Surfers. You are not going to be able to get that name.’ So Joe says, ‘Well, give me a name.’ I initially suggested the Woody’s. You know, Woody Wagons.’ ‘I don’t like that.’ ‘Call them the Hang Tens.’ ‘No.’ ‘Then call them the Beach Boys because that’s it.’ That’s how they got their name. A true Hollywood story. I was a body surfer at the time and at the beach all the time.
“About a month after we put the record out it started breaking out. And Murry Wilson called me one day and wanted to me me on Hollywood Boulevard. “I know you named my boys and have been a good guy. Murry Wilson to me had a split personality. He loved his kids, and he pushed his kids, but I had never seen a father who was more jealous of his kids. He was absolutely jealous of Brian.
“I loved Brian and he loved the Four Freshman. I would go with the band to Balboa Park, The Steve Allen Show. We were friends. Up until ‘Good Vibrations’ Brian would never put out a record until I heard it first. He would come to my apartment on Crescent Heights. He sang ’In My Room’ acapella. Oh my God! What a gut-wrenching song it is. Brian and I would eat at Aldo’s. We were big on hamburgers. Dolores on La Cienega was great with car hops.
“Here’s a true Hollywood story. Murry Wilson brought me ‘Surfin’ Safari’ and said, ‘Russ we’ve gone from Candix to Era Records. Herb Newman’s label. He and Murry did not hit if off. Murry came to me one day and said he was looking for another labelWhen I took the Beach Boys around Los Angeles in 1961 to A&R people, ‘surf music is a dying fad and it will be over in a couple of months.’
“I then called Nik Venet at Capitol Records who was in A&R. I had walked the streets with and knew very well. He was a damn good record man. I phoned him. ‘I want you to know what’s going on I have this record by the Beach Boys.’ ‘Why me?’ ‘Well, number one, you’re my friend and I think this can be a hit record.’
“So I sent Murry over there. I set up the meeting and Nik. Venet then called me at Buck Eye. ‘Your right. This is a hit and I’m gonna buy it.’ And Murry gets on the phone and says thank you.’ I felt great and validated when they blew up locally, nationally and globally.
“The only money I made from the Beach Boys was when Murry came to me and asked me to promote ‘Surfin’ USA’ for $300.00 I said, ‘Tell you what, Murry. I think it’s a number one hit. Let me get $200.00 now and when it goes to number one make it $400.00. I took it to number one. I would go to radio stations, bring coffee and donuts to DJ’s at KFWB and KRLA. Dick Moreland at KRLA was one of the great program directors. And he had great ears. He recognized a hit and a lot of radio guys didn’t use the word hit. Nik Venet and I remained friends until the last couple of years of his life.
“When Brian played me ‘Sloop John B.’ for the first time in his car, ‘Holy shit!’ This guy is not just doing ordinary songs. Brian Wilson to me is a true genius. I went to some sessions in 1963, 1964, ’65. United. Studio 3 which was a very small studio. Chuck Britz was the engineer. And Brian was such a perfectionist that he would record over and over again.
“Then I went from Buck Eye to Record Merchandise. Rack jobbers, records in stores, always very important. I was at Record Merch from 1963 to the end of 1965. It started to get easier getting record product into chain stores and other record shops.
“In 1965 KHJ changed their format to Boss Radio. I loved the RKO radio programmer, Bill Drake. He understood programming as good as anyone I ever met. He understood one thing. Play the hits and keep the talk down to a minimum. He understood the repetition of Top 30. He called me and explained to me before KHJ went Boss radio that he was going to go up against KRLA and KFWB. ‘We’re gonna do it.’ I told him after he mentioned ‘Boss Radio’ that ‘Bill, I’m not a radio programmer. I’m a record promotion man. And kids ain’t using the term Boss anymore. Boss is old hat.’ And Bill says to me, ‘I’m bringing it back.’ And he did.
In the second half of 1965, Russ Regan had 11 of the Top 30 records on Boss Radio. And, I just didn’t promote my own records. If I heard a hot record on another label I would tell Bill about it. He was the first pop station to play Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’ after I told him it was a hit.
“In 1965 and 1966 I’m still good friends with Sonny Bono. I see them explode on Atco/Atlantic. I was with Sonny when he met Cher. And that was the beginning of Caesar and Cleo, who then cut ‘Baby Don’t’ Go’ which would up on Reprise Records.
“I am going to the Sonny & Cher sessions all the time. I was at Gold Star when they did ‘I Got You Babe.’ Studio A. Barney Kessel and Don Peake were always there. Watching Sonny produce and record was like watching Phil Spector in another body. It sounded like a Phil production. At the playback I said to Sonny, ‘this is it Sonny. You’re gone.’ Cher was always nice. That thing blew up right in front of me. I loved hearing them on the radio. I used to bump into Ahmet Eretgun at the Beverly Hills Hotel and we would talk. I was a friend of Sonny right up until the end. At his funeral I was interviewed for CNN,
“Sonny was a very good songwriter. He was what we call a commercial songwriter. He had a big hit with Jack Nitzsche with Jackie DeShannon on ‘Needles and Pins.’
“In October 1965, I get a call from Joe Smith, who I knew when he was a DJ and worked in record promotion. ‘Russ, Bob Krasnow just resigned from Loma Records and we need somebody to run Loma. General manager and $300.00 a week. I was making $400.00 a week at Record Merch. And he says, ‘You’re gonna take a pay cut because you’re gonna learn how to be an executive. You gotta treat it like you’re going to college. Damn it. I need an answer right now.’ OK. ‘Now that I’m your boss you gotta learn to say no to your fuckin’ friends.’
“True story. In the first six months I bought 3 records from my friends and all three went in the tank. Joe calls me up. ‘You haven’t learned to say no to your friends have you?’ I signed a blues artist to Loma, which was named after the street it was on. It was a division of Warner Brothers and started as a way into the R&B record market. J.J. Jackson was on the label, Lorraine Ellison that Jerry Ragavoy produced. In L.A. Mo Ostin and Joe Smith were very personable guys and very human and approachable. They were not sitting in ivory towers. They would get excited about music.
“I noticed the growing development of the LP away from the 45RPM. FM radio really starts in 1967, although my friend, DJ Dave Diamond was really doing some wild and different programming all during 1966 on KBLA.
“The beginning of FM radio was like being a CD manufacturer was like watching digital downloads come into the picture. What the hell is going ion here? What is this new technology? What is this new distribution system? They are now distributing more music on FM instead of AM radio.
“At Loma I gave ‘That’s Life’ to Frank Sinatra to record. Kelly Gordon a songwriter gave me it. He played a little piano. He brought me the demo of ‘That’s Life’ which had already been recorded by O.C. Smith. It was just a hit in Houston, Texas. Kelly wanted to record it. But I told him it was a Frank Sinata hit. ‘Be my guest.’
“So I went around my office and it was next door to Mo Ostin. ‘Mo, let me play you this song. I think it’s a hit for Frank Sinatra.’ Mo, God bless him. Puts it on, and says, ‘Russ. This is a smash for Frank Sinatra.’ He asks his secretary and assistant, ‘Donna. Get me ABC Messenger Service.’ He sent the dub over to Frank Sinatra. It went to his home after he called Frank. He had the direct line.
“Two days later Mo Ostin calls me on the intercom. ‘You sitting down? Frank loves the song. He’s gonna do it.’ Initially Jimmy Bowen was going to produce it but he got Ernie Freeman because he felt there was an R&B kind of feel. So we all went to United Western. I was invited. He did it in two takes. Never met him. I watch it go down. Jimmy Bowen acknowledged me. I walked on to Sunset Boulevard. ‘Thank you God. This is a smash.’ Frank was my idol. The record got released 30 days later. It took off like a rocket ship. By October’66 it was a top four record on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. That could only happen because it was done in L.A.
“Then Frank flew me and Mo to Las Vegas where he was playing the Sands Hotel. Mo and I took his wife Mia Farrow to dinner at the Flamingo to see Trini Lopez. He was also on Reprise and she was a Trini Lopez fan. Then we came to the midnight show of Frank at the Sands and we’re sitting ringside. Right? And he belted out ‘That’s Life’ and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Incredible show. It was his anthem before ‘My Way’ replaced it.
“After the show we were all invited to have a 2:00 am supper at the Chinese restaurant at the Sands Hotel. Sinatra is sitting next to me. I’m calling him ‘Mr. Sinatra.’ And he asks, ‘Can I call you Russ?’ ‘Sure!’ until 4 in the morning and everyone at the table knew I found the song. Mo and I flew back home at 10:00 am the next day.
“Two weeks go by after this incredible night and I walk into Martoni’s restaurant to hang out with the record company guys. And there is Frank Sinatra sitting there with Julie and his guys at a booth. I walk up to him, ‘Hi Mr. Sinatra’ ‘Get lost kid.’ So I start walking way, my heart was broken, ‘Get back here Russ. I know who you are.’ Frank Sinatra got me good.
“In December of 1966 I went to UNI Records. Ned Tannen called me. There was an agent at MCA, John Hyde, from The Lloyd Thaxton Show. MCA had the show and I used to take records to Lloyd and John Hyde who ends up working for Ned Tannen. One day Lew Wasserman says to Ned, ‘I want to start a new record label, Universal City Records to go up against Decca ‘cause Decca is old hat and we got to start something new. Ned I want you to run it.’ And he’s not happy about who is going to be the national promotion man for UNI.
“John Hyde says, ‘I know this guy Russ Regan who would be a great guy for this.’ So I meet with Ned and John at the old Cock ‘N’ Bull on Sunset Boulevard. Ned Tannen an hour and a half later says ‘You’re hired.’ You want the job you got it. I was a promotion man for six months with no hits that were being picked by a group of A&R. ‘Russ, I think I made a mistake when I brought you here. Lew says I got a 100 thousand left to get this label off the ground. We’ve gone through nine hundred thousand dollars. Can you do it?’ ‘Yes. But I have to pick the hits.’ ‘You’re the new general manager of UNI.’
“The first record I picked was by the Rainy Daze, ‘Acapulco Gold’ that Dave Diamond sent to me. Dave also sent me ‘Incense and Peppermints.’ ‘Acapulco Gold’ took off and we sold 150,000 copies and Bill Gavin in his trade said it was a high grade of marijuana we were advertising and the record died a slow death. Dave calls me and says ‘I have a record they will never figure out.’ Send it over. Frank Slay produced it and brought it to me. I purchased ‘Incense and Peppermints’ by a basically unknown group called Strawberry Alarm Clock.
“We put it out and after three weeks I get a call from Henry Stone, the distributor in Miami. ‘I just wanted to call you and tell you in Sarasota, Florida if it can be number one here it can be number one anywhere.’
“I went to see RKO chain radio programmer Bill Drake at the Shoreham Towers at his office and said, ‘Bill, this is make it or break it time for me. This record is number one in Saratoga, Florida. You got to trust me and just put it on KHJ for me. And if it don’t hit in three weeks take it off.’ It took off like a rocket ship and became number one. My first million-selling record.
“I had signed Neil Diamond to UNI Records after his Bang Records contact. I knew Bert Berns. Ned Tanen at UNI got a call from Neil’s lawyer. Ned said, ‘Russ, what do you think of Neil Diamond?’ ‘I love him.’ ‘Russ, I’m warning you. He has been turned down by five record companies because he wants to have three albums of year guaranteed.’ They considered him a singles artist. I said, ‘Let’s give it to him. I want it.’
“We put him on at the Troubadour and did a live album. I thought he could be a great star and I always focused on the songs. Even at UNI I could pick up records, what would be considered psychedelic, The Rainy Daze, ‘Acapulco Gold,’ and the Strawberry Alarm Clock, ‘Incense and Peppermints’ and then the songwriters who wanted to become singers or be album artists. In 1968 I signed Hugh Masekela and he had a big hit with ‘Grazing in the Grass.’ I later was Vice President of UNI/MCA Records.
“UNI was on Sunset 8255 Sunset Blvd. Casablanca Records in the early ‘70s moved in there and Neil Bogart ended up in my office. I would eat breakfast at the Continental Hyatt House hotel every morning.
“Lenny Hodes, a song plugger for Dick James Music. I knew of Dick James, he was the Beatles’ publisher, but had never met him. He bought me this package and said, ‘DJM had a licensing deal with Larry Uttal of Bell Records and they passed.’ He was with (songwriter) Roger Greenaway.
“Lenny said, ‘I’ve shopped this everywhere and it’s been turned down by five record companies. They think he sounds like Jose Feliciano.’ I took it and around 6:00 pm that night I put it on. It was The Empty Sky album. So I listened to it. ‘Oh my God. This guy is good. What the hell is the problem?’ His voice and I loved the songs. ‘Skyline Pigeon’ and stuff like that. ‘Lady Samantha’ was in there.
“I called Lenny, and said, ‘I like this artist. What’s the deal?’ And he said, ‘If you like him Russ you got him nothing.’ ‘OK. So I said, ‘I want him and I want to sign him.’ Now, he calls me the next day and says, ‘I just talked to Dick James and we have a deal. But Dick wants you to buy another act along with this kid. We’re giving you Elton John for nothing and Dick wants $10,000 for Argosy.
“I replied, ‘Because you guys are so nice to give me Elton John for nothing I’ll buy this other master for ten thousand.’
“Then, before I could put out the Empty Sky album, I get the advance of the Elton John’ album. It came to me in the mail. I liked the Empty Sky album and here comes the Elton John album. And that’s when I shut the record label down for a couple of hours, brought the employees, sales and marketing, A&R, everybody, 30 people sitting on the floor of my office. I looked up to the sky and said, ‘Thank you God.’ I had never heard an album that good in my life. I played the album and everybody went out of their minds. That album had not even been out in England yet. Three Dog Night covered some Elton tunes. The first Elton John record deal was a three year deal, three albums.
“I had talked to Ray Williams, who had put Elton together with (lyricist) Bernie Taupin at Dick James Music, and earlier worked for Liberty Records in the U.K.
“I equated that Elton John album to like Pet Sounds, it was so good. There was a buzz building at the company and we had to figure out a way to launch this act. And we had seen what had happened to Neil Diamond at the Troubadour who really got launched out of the Troubadour. Neil was incredible there. Elton John to America. Dee Murray, Nigel Olsson, Bernie Taupin wanted to come over.
“We got Neil Diamond to introduce Elton that first night at the Troubadour. I was busy at the label. Publicist Norman Winter got a double-decker red English bus to pick the boys up at LAX him up with a banner at the top that read ELTON JOHN HAS ARRIVED. He brought them back to the Continental Hyatt House Hotel.
“And then the next day they were going to have a sound check at the Troubadour and I was so darn busy I couldn’t make the sound check. So I sent Rick Frio who was working for me at Uni. After the sound check Rick Frio calls me and says, ‘Russ, you’re not gonna believe it. We got one here. We got one!’
“I was ringside opening night in late August 1970. There was Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, Mike Love, Danny Hutton, Randy Newman, Mickey and Samantha Dolenz, Henry Mancini, Graham Nash, David Crosby, Van Dyke Parks, and Rodney Bingenheimer. Leon Russell, Denny Cordell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Brian Wilson came other nights.
“I went out of my mind. I couldn’t believe I was so lucky to have an artist like Elton John. It wasn’t a feeling like when Brian (Wilson) would play me his records before they were released. It was beyond that. Brian playing me his records in advance was a great thrill. And a wonderful experience. But this was something euphoric. That evening was totally euphoric. I was so high naturally that I didn’t come down for three days.
“I met Elton after the first show along with Bernie and the band. I went every night. I called everybody in town. Robert Hilburn’s review of the show in The Los Angeles Times was incredible. It happened at a time where a great review in a paper could help radio exposure. I didn’t realize Elton John was a superstar until the Troubadour.
“Then what happened was Elton John took off. And don’t forget we hadn’t put out the single yet. When I came back we released ‘Your Song’ as the single. I loved that song. Now get this. I was being second-guessed. Everybody was going with ‘Take Me To The Pilot.’ I loved that too, but ‘Your Song’ is the hit. So guess what, that 45RPM, if you can ever find one, ‘Your Song’ as the A-side and ‘Take Me To The Pilot’ as the B-side. ‘Cause everybody thought I was crazy putting out ‘You Song.’ ‘They’re gonna flip it!’ And they never did because ‘Your Song’ was a smash.
“I knew the combination of (producer) Gus Dudgeon and (arranger) Paul Buckmaster was fantastic. There were always arrangers on the hits I promoted in the late 1950s and well into the ‘60s. And, Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, if you analyze them, were incredible. He was way ahead of everybody. For a 21 year old kid at the time he was amazingly talented.
.“I also knew FM radio would embrace Elton John. Absolutely. I also helped arrange the 11-7-70 Elton John syndicated FM radio broadcast that was done out of New York. Phil Ramone’s studio. I gave it the green light to do it and that’s why it happened. It was later released as an LP. I then got accused of putting out too much product. I said, ‘Look, with this kind of artist you can never put out too much product.’ [In 2017 the album it was reissued with bonus tracks from Universal Enterprises Inc.]
“I’m at UNI/MCA for another couple of years including Tumbleweed Connection and the single of ‘Rocket Man.’
“I then heard a song by Olivia Newton-John, ‘If Not For You,’ in 1971, that was written by Bob Dylan. It was previously recorded by George Harrison in 1970 on his All Things Must Pass album. I heard her version on an acetate. Somebody brought it to me. I heard it and made the deal. I paid $25,000.00 for that record and was second guessed. That’s a whole other story. I loved it and I was put down for buying it. ‘She’s too plastic, beautiful and will never happen.’ So I said, ‘She’s beautiful, she’s not plastic and it’s gonna happen big time.’
“In 1972 I was in the original meeting at MCA with George Lucas, Wolfman Jack, and Ned Tanen on American Grafitti. George was there looking to assemble the soundtrack. And I knew American Grafitti ‘cause I’m from Modesto, California myself, where George was from. And I cruised 10th Street myself, so I knew that story.
“I first knew Barry White as a producer and writer on records by Bob Keene on Del Fi, Bronco and Mustang Records.
“Rick Frio at Uni/MCA was my sales manager and Larry Nunes was a big rack jobber. Larry knew me but he called Rick because he felt he couldn’t get to me for some crazy reason. Larry brought ‘Walkin’ In The Rain’ to Rick Frio and he buzzed me on the intercom. ‘I’ve got a record over here you ought to hear.’
“So he came to my office and I bought it in four minutes flat. I had never heard a record like that in my life. It was incredible by Love Unlimited and the first time I heard Barry White’s voice. His voice blew my mind and the girls were great on it. It came out on UNI and went to number one on the R&B charts. Top ten pop. We sold a million records.
“I left UNI Records on July 6, 1972. I left because I wasn’t being treated right. Abe Somer, a lawyer, was representing 20th Century Fox Records, called me. I was not going to leave the label and was going to stick it out. But I got this call from Abe, ‘Are you interested in leaving MCA?’ ‘Where do you want me to meet you?’ I met him at his law firm in Century City.
“I got a phone call after I was at 20th Century Records after a week. ‘Russ, why did you leave?’ And I told him, they weren’t treating me right and I left.’ And Barry said, ‘Well, I was going to record next.’ I said, ‘Barry, I didn’t even know you could sing.’ So he came over to see me and said, ‘Russ. I can sing. And I want to make an album.’ ‘OK. I’m the president of the company. What’s it gonna cost to make this album?’ So six weeks go by and I get a call from Barry White.’Russie, he used to call me Russie, can I come and see you?’ And I said, ‘what do you want to see me about?’ ’Well, I want to talk to you.’ So he comes over to see me. I signed him.
“Very seldom you get one of a kind. Barry White is one of a kind. Have you ever heard a voice like that? I saw the impact when he played live. I gave him everything. He had self-confidence. One of the magic elements to Barry White’s songs are great melodies and simple lyrics. They are not complicated songs.
“As President of 20th Century Records, I signed Carl Douglas, Maureen McGovern, and the Alan Parsons Project.
“The music I signed and a lot of the records from 1956-1976 are heard today because it’s great music. Don’t forget: Great artists have durability, too. The Van Gogh’s of the world. People pay millions for Van Gogh’s or Picasso. Greatness survives long term. And I did great music. Not good music. We had great music.
“I know the durability of good songs and good records. And how rock music could work in a soundtrack. One of the keys to a great soundtrack is people wanting to experience the movie at home or in their car. That’s why soundtracks sell.
“In 1980, I became Polygram Records’ General Manager of West Coast Operations. I oversaw movie music and soundtrack albums. I approved every song on Flash Dance. ‘The Morning After’ from The Poseidon Adventure. ‘Love Like This’ from The Towering Inferno, both won Academy Awards. I approved the songs for Chariots of Fire, The Karate Kid, This is Spinal Tap, A Chorus Line and All the Right Moves.
“In 1986 I returned to Motown in 1986 as President of the Creative Division and very involved on Smokey Robinson’s successful comeback effort; the platinum selling album One Heartbeat. I was there until 1988 until the company was sold.
“After leaving Motown, in the nineties I worked for U.S. based Quality Records, Velocity Entertainment and was on the advisory board of SMC Entertainment, Inc.
“Sometimes I fill a void out there. When I signed Elton John, or Olivia-Newton John my basic and number one philosophy in A&R, then and now is that I look for something that no one else is doing at the moment.”
“A song is like movie. But a movie-without a great script you can’t get a great movie. I don’t give a damn how good your actors are. It’s the same thing with a singer. If a singer doesn’t have a great song. It’s always about the song.
“It goes back to Brian Wilson when I named the Beach Boys. I met him and said this kid is unreal for age 19. And Bernie Taupin is a great story teller/lyricist, and he was about 21. All these guys wrote great lyrics and great songs. Some great writers that have come into my life.”
Russ Regan estimates that the recording artists he has signed and collaborated with have generated retail sales of over one billion records worldwide.
“Success has many cousins and failure is an orphan. I’ve had a lot of success and a lot of people sort of jump on my bandwagon and take credit.
“The record business is in turmoil at the moment but it will settle own. People love music in their lives and need music in their lives, in spite of games, movies and everything else, and other types of entertainment out there, they still need music. Music companies will survive but they will have to change their business model. That’s all.”
Russ Regan told a music industry conference in 1983, “Someday you’ll go to a concert and by the time you leave you’ll be able to buy the recording of that night’s show.”