Feb 17, 2014

More on Marty Thau

Just in case you don't know anything about Marty Thau, I wanted to share some info about him here. Since word about his death got out last night, a whole lot has been forthcoming. Former New York Rocker editor, Andy Schwartz, had the following to say about him:

Today, many friends and acquaintances (both on Facebook and in the so-called "real world") are mourning the loss of MARTY THAU, who died 2.13 of renal failure (initially reported as a heart attack) in Petersburg VA at the age of 75. Although we were not close friends or in regular contact, I had known Marty since 1977. My magazine New York Rocker gave a lot of ink to the acts on his Red Star Records, a streetwise, seat-of-the-pants operation that gave entrée into the music business to folks like Roy Trakin and Miriam Linna. In addition to offering sincere condolences to Marty's family and friends, I'd like to add a few thoughts of my own:

-> A Bronx native and NYU alumnus, by the end of the Sixties Marty Thau was an experienced and valued promotion man, first for Cameo-Parkway and then at Neil Bogart's Buddah Records. He then became one of three partners in Inherit Productions, another being Lewis Merenstein who (on behalf of Inherit) produced the seminal Van Morrison albums ASTRAL WEEKS ('68) and MOONDANCE ('70) as well as John Cale's VINTAGE VIOLENCE and LPs by Mama Cass Elliot, Glass Harp, and Biff Rose. (Bob Schwaid was the third partner in Inherit.)

-> In 1972, Thau became head of A&R for Paramount Records. With just one or two successful signings, he would've been well-positioned to land a major-label senior vice-presidency and carve out a lucrative career in what we used to call "corporate rock."

-> Instead, Thau experienced a Damascene conversion upon seeing the New York Dolls at the Mercer Arts Center. He resigned from Paramount, assumed personal management of the Dolls, and never looked back.

-> In the first years of the NYC punk/new wave scene, Marty Thau was one of the very few seasoned record-biz veterans to enthusiastically connect with the sounds emanating from C.B.G.B. and Max's. If we're talking not ex-hippie musicians or rock critics turned a&r men, but old-school hustlers with Brill Building and indie-label roots, only Marty, Seymour Stein, and Richard Gottehrer readily come to mind.

-> Thau played a largely unheralded role in the earliest recordings by Blondie, the Ramones, and Richard Hell & the Voioids. “He is far more important in the scope of New York music of the ‘70s than the majority of the pseuds and avaricious record execs who take credit for various 'discoveries' who actually did their discovering much later than he did.” – Craig Leon, co-producer of Suicide with Marty Thau.

-> The Fleshtones, Suicide, and Real Kids were Red Star's "marquee" acts. None of them got rich, but then again, neither did Marty Thau. I can't remember any of these musicians ever having a bad word to say about the man -- and to me, that speaks volumes about his honesty and integrity.

-> Remarkably, well past age 70 and after having undergone major surgery in 2010, Thau was still in the game. In July 2012, he organized the "Red Star Rocks It!" festival as an outgrowth of what local journalist Tad Dickens called Marty's "big interest in Roanoke's small and under-appreciated but vibrant indie scene."

-> Something I haven't seen mentioned in other Facebook tributes is that Marty Thau left behind an unpublished memoir entitled THE RED STAR CHRONICLES (KEEPING THE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL DREAM ALIVE). I have only a synopsis, from which the above Craig Leon quote is taken -- but *that* is a book I'd like to read in full. Meanwhile, there's a Red Star rising in the heavens tonight. Thank you, "Chairman" Marty Thau.

Also, Roy Trakin, mentioned in Andy's piece above, wrote a nice obit for Billboard. It can be read here.

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