Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cuts for Cooky: Peter Grant

I've been thinking of a way to broaden this category, so here's the first stab, a mention of Peter Grant.

Dude was so much larger than life that before a schlep like me had the slightest inkling of the way the world turned, I'd heard of Grant. It was probably in passing; a mention in one of the 70's staples like Creem or Interview (before it turned into the ho-rag it is), and no doubt in connection to reading about Led Zep. To call Zep's manager "just a manager" is like calling John Wooden "just a coach." He's that important.

That's Grant with Page and Plant. His claim to fame is the payouts he secured for Zep, reportedly 90% of the gate. This is of course impossible these days, but he was shrewd enough to know he had the biggest act in the business and he leveraged that fact to the hilt.

Even more was his personality, one that didn't suffer fools easily. His no nonsense approach in conjunction to him being physically huge (read: fat) led to his reputation. Put it this way; I didn't know the name of any other manager back in the day.

I think that's Bill Graham in the pic too.

The 60's and 70's were pivotal for obvious reasons, and it boiled all the way down to business. Take sports and Curt Flood's landmark stance for free agency, an historic act that forever changed pro sports. So too with Zeppelin and popular music, which with them paved the way for many other things, not the least of which is the shift from singles to AOR, or album oriented rock. That in turn led to making over radio stations, our MTV and Internet back then, and the way they approached playlists and advertising. It was not uncommon to tune into LA's mainstays KLOS, KMET or the legendary KPPC (always hard to get a clear signal on the latter, though) and hear full albums from back to front, often with a small break just to flip over a record.

DJs were also given freedom to create their own playlists and some would play lesser known tracks. This was how I taped a live performance of Zep's short-lived precursor, the Jimmy Page-led "New Yardbirds." On that tape I recorded Zep's mainstay, Dazed and Confused, which was flying under the banner then of I'm Confused and in a slightly less pretentious form.

History repeats itself, and now radio solely concentrates on singles - that's where the pr is. Concerts are now huge for the most mediocre talent; need I name names?

Lawyers run everything. [rolls eyes]

Here's a great story, whose truth I can't vouch for. It comes courtesy of the source for the first pic, one "Dara Lawlor," at:

This is a great rock ‘n’ roll story. It’s about Led Zeppelin boss Peter Grant’s exchange with a hotel manager as he was settling the bill following a typical night of room thrashing. The hotel manager was jealous that they were able to throw tvs out the window and not face the consequences.

Grant looked him in the eye, smiled, and said something along the lines of “you’re frustrated aren’t you?..I bet you’d love to do it too….Here have one on us” and added an extra $490 to the bill. The manager promptly ran up stairs and fired a tv from the top floor!

It wasn't all milk and cookies back then, and Zeppelin would have been a success with or without him. Yet there's no doubt among Page, Plant and Jones that their mega success was in no small part due to the fiercely loyal Peter Grant, the manager who changed the game.