Thursday, March 27, 2008

Peter Jay Philbin

Peter Jay Philbin, Cyndi Lauper, ht
CBS Records Convention, Hawaii, '83

Last week, I had lunch in Manhattan with Peter Philbin and his son, Michael. Peter rarely leaves Los Angeles, so I jumped at the chance to catch up with a good friend I rarely see, these days. We first met when I was working at CBS in London and he at Columbia in Los Angeles. He had come over to sign a UK act to the label but they were messing him around, acting all arrogant and wouldn't play him any songs, either on tape or in rehearsal. I suppose I must have banged on and on about my latest discovery because we both flew up to Edinburgh to see The Psychedelic Furs at the American company's expense, my travel budget at the time not being sufficiently large enough for luxuries like plane rides. He had enjoyed 'India' from their first album and the show impressed him enough to promise a Stateside release. Little did I know - apart from one secretary, Spock, and one product manager, Ricki Ostrov - the band were reviled by the rest of the Columbia staff, who didn't 'get' them or even want to. Mickey Eichner objected strongly when Peter announced at an a&r meeting following his trip that he had picked up the Furs, reminding him that he, not Peter, was the head of the department and therefore decided who was released on the label. Peter reminded him (in a private talk, later) that he had also turned down Abba, another one he could have gotten for free from a CBS affiliate and furthermore, that Mickey had wanted to drop Bruce Springsteen - not only before the Born To Run album, but also after 'Born To Run' (the song) had been delivered. To be fair, there was hardly any support for Bruce at Columbia and when he was doing publicity, Peter's belief and constant badgering on Bruce's behalf played a crucial part in him staying there. Anyway, never during their time at the label were the Furs given any kind of priority in marketing or promotion and therefore, only managed to reach #77 on the Billboard Pop Charts with 'Love My Way'. I watched Scandal, Loverboy, Buckner & Garcia (remember 'Pac Man Fever'? - didn't think so), Tommy Tutone and a slew of others have money thrown at them from all sides while Richard Butler and his crew slogged around the country trying real hard to get a break.

1 comment:

another said...

Peter's name came up quite a bit over the weekend. I'd invited my friend Stephen Paley to see musician/producer Kenny Edwards. Paley had worked at Epic in the 70's and remembered Peter campaigning at Columbia Records to get Karla Bonoff signed. So Paley & Edwards, who'd produced those Bonoff records for Columbia, had much to discuss.