Re-The Arista Book

Happy that you read the book and that you mentioned my name. But that’s not really necessary or encouraged.  A good press agent cedes the spotlight to the client who, in this case, is author Mitchell Cohen.  His name wasn’t mentioned in your piece so that’s what I’m doing now.  He is also the editor of and one of the primary contributors to The White Label Promo Preservation Society: 100 Flop Albums You Ought to Know


That book is noteworthy to me insofar as quite a few of my friends/clients/family participated serendipitously (meaning I have nothing to do with it) including Arthur Levy, Gregg Geller, Tammy Faye Starlite. Keith Hartel, Joe McEwen, Tom Vickers, Ben Merlis. David Fricke, Lenny Kaye, Ira Robbins, Marshall Crenshaw, Billy Altman, Dave DiMartino, Susan Whitall, Jeff Tamarkin, Russ Titelman, Jim Farber and maybe some others that have slipped my mind.

At any rate, as they promo guys used to say, “thanks for the spins.”


Bob Merlis


Thanks for giving Steve Backer some much deserved love. I look forward to reading this. He was a music man, a record guy who loved his art-in his case- jazz. Arista Freedom much like Steve’s output at Impulse! Records veered toward the avant-garde, making it an even more curious association. Steve cared about the art form, the music and the artists. A really decent human being, who I was privileged to call mentor and friend.

-Ricky Schultz


Steve Backer made so many great jazz records with full investment from the major labels— first for Impulse and then Arista. I remember his visits to the New England Music City store that I managed in Boston, excited that he had made a deal to license Sun Ra records from the musician’s El Saturn label, or that he had signed Anthony Braxton. He was a true inspiration who showed me that record labels could be convinced to fund great music, at least when no one was paying all that much attention. Seriously, the idea that you could make records for a modest budget and at least break even on them was once a part of record label consciousness, and many wonderful records were made that way.

Scott Billington


I met Jerry Mangalos back in the mid-2000’s. It was at the Cat Club on Sunset. We played there and went the following night when the Starfuckers were playing (Slim Jim wasn’t there tho…).  We hung out back where the smokers were.

He had some interesting tales about Clive and the whole Milli Vanilli thing.  He invited us to a party at Phil Spector’s house when Mr. Spector was out on parole. My artist at the time declined saying he didn’t want to get shot too…  Kinda wish we’d have went.



Thank you for this recommendation. I just pre-ordered. Larry Uttal was my boss at Private Stock. What a dear man !

Kathy Rowe


Having worked directly with Larry Uttal at Private Stock Records from ‘75-‘77, I can attest to the shear genius and humanity of the man. Larry placed a value and faith on the people around him (many times to his detriment).
He also enabled us to speak our true opinions when he legitimately didn’t not the course to take in buying a master or signing an act. “Tell me what you really think. Faint heart never won fair maiden, Louis”.
He actually took my opinion and bought a $5k master after I back my word with the promise that he could take whatever he didn’t make back out of my salary.
“Now you’ve skin in the game, Louis. I’m going to buy you that master.”  Oh shit, what have I done?  No worries.  It was “A Fifth of Beethoven” by Walter Murphy.
Special note here, Larry Uttal (along with Neil Bogart), deserve to be in The Rock &Roll Hall of Fame. Larry Uttal put 45s on almost every turntable in America and should be recognized for that.

Thank for recognizing a true music business innovator.

Louis Lewow
Johns Creek, GA.


All valid commentary on Larry/Bell and Clive/Arista. I would just like to shed some light on David Forman. Yep, his solo album had some hefty hype (he is a great singer) and he went on to form a popular Neo-Do Wop group called Little Isidore and The Inquisitors but the point here is to talk about where I see David these days. With film and television being one of the few music business islands remaining above water and keeping musicians working, I find myself laying down drum tracks for period piece Netflix or HBO type series more and more. If there is music from the 50s through the 70s, David Forman is usually sitting in the control room off to the side of the console as a consultant to the Music Supervisor. David is the go-to pro who informs either the supervisor or the engineer bits like, “tempo is too fast,” “guitar sound is too distorted,” “more reverb on the Spector era horns” or, “the top harmony would not be a Bb minor.” He is a pop music historian and heavily relied on here in New York to keep the music honest. On a somewhat recent session for Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I hung out after finishing my drum tracks to watch David chime in on period correctness with regard to a Wall of Sound rhythm section, complete with a horn and string type sonic landscape. It’s always an education to witness.

Rich Pagano


I have my own little history with Clive. After making Batdorf and Rodney records with Ahmet Ertegun and David Geffen, this was a whole new experience. Ahmet and David nurtured songwriter/artists and tried to build their careers and then we signed with Arista. We were one of the early signings for Arista and Clive loved us but there was a catch, he was more interested in hits and after Manilow’s success with Mandy, he thought he had the gift of finding hits for acts that were written by other songwriters. His deal was the band gets 8 and I get 2 and so it was. After our history as an FM act, Clive wanted us to break out with an AM hit single. He made us record You Are A Song and Gentler Time,  both written by Jim Weatherly. We didn’t really like them but that was the deal but they were not hits for us. About a year later, he rushed us into the studio to record Somewhere In The Night which was released as a single in the fall of 1975. It started out great entering the charts at #80 but Helen Reddy released her version and they both cancelled each other’s out and Barry eventually got the hit. Soon after, Mark and I split up and I formed Silver. He made us record a song we all hated, Wham Bam Shang-a-Lang which we all hated but it became a hit single that made it to #16 nationally. We dreaded singing it every night on the road as our “big hit”. Ironically, in 2017, the record was picked as one of the songs for the Guardians Of The Galaxy ll movie which got us over 10 million plays on Youtube and made the band some money. So, as much as I didn’t love his formula, he did hit magic twice with that one.

John Batdorf


I’m really happy you wrote about this, and I can’t wait to read it. Did I miss something, or did you not mention that the book was written by Mitchell Cohen? As you may know, Mitchell started his career as a critic at publications like Film Comment and Creem, and then shifted into A&R and had a long and very successful run at Arista, Columbia, and finally, Verve. He’s a brilliant guy and one of the kindest and best people I know. Also: people may be interested to know that it’s the first book to be published by Trouser Press Books, a new indie imprint run by Ira Robbins, founder and publisher of the late, great, and highly-influential Trouser Press Magazine.

Wishing you all the best,

Regina Joskow

Rounder Records


Thanks!  Happy you enjoyed and shared the read!

Mitchell Cohen did his homework!  “Looking for the Magic:  New York City, the ’70s and the Rise of Arista Records”, is so well written and researched!  How do I know?

I was at Bell in the early ’60s, back in ’74 when a friend asked for a favor. The favor,  assist Clive Davis at Bell for two weeks as  she was going with Larry to Private Stock.  So, I said yes because I just left RSO and wanted to hang, but since it was ONLY for two weeks!  It was a yes!  26 years later, 2000, I retired from Arista!

To reiterate, Mitchell did his homework and wrote this wonerful book with love, passion,  knowledge and respect!  I do recommend if you were around!  You’ll enjoy the read!

Thanks Bob!

Rose Gross-Marino


Oh, Mitchell Cohen! Say no more. He knows his stuff. I will read this. Thanks Bob.

Richard Pachter


Friends have been texting me about your piece on my Arista book, and I want to thank you for picking it up and sticking with it. The Bell and Jazz parts were so much fun to research and write, because those are relatively “untold” stories. I call this book an Arista Records “remix”: bringing up things that were always there, but overwhelmed by other more prominent elements.
With much appreciation,

Mitchell Cohen

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