Rock Reads: 'Run-Out Groove: Inside Capitol's 1980s Hits & Stiffs' by Dave Morrell

by Kevin Wierzbicki

Not only is Morrell one heck of a writer; he has lots and lots to write about. With a lengthy career as a promotion man for various major record labels behind him, this book, the fourth in his archives series, covers his decade spent as the Capitol Records rock promotion guy in the New York City market. With a personality that gained him favor not only with the radio station programmers that he pitched records to but also with the artists who made them, Morrell interacted with an incredible group of movers and shakers and performers. In more than 60 brief chapters (mostly two to half a dozen pages) Morrell relates his adventures promoting records by and his time spent with the likes of Duran Duran, Iron Maiden, Graham Nash, Donny Osmond, Fee Waybill of the Tubes, Carole King, salacious punk band the Plasmatics and dozens of others.

A major Beatles fan and collector, Morrell especially relishes relating his interactions with all four individual Beatles and Yoko Ono. John Lennon had given Morrell his personal copy of the Beatles Yesterday & Today album with the rare "butcher block" cover and autographed it for him; the book chronicles Morrell's efforts to get the other Fabs to sign it, and the end of the book reveals what happened to the collectible. Morrell even tells about his personal visit to Liverpool, which didn't work out as he had envisioned, but that still managed to feed his Beatles-loving soul in unexpected ways.

Morrell has a great sense of humor that comes across in his writing and some of the funniest moments are in the numerous chapters that detail the weekly conference calls the promo staff had with the big bosses who worked at the Capitol Records Tower in Los Angeles. The bosses, who Morrell amusingly refers to as "rumpdogs," were not much into carrots; they preferred the stick. Incessantly nasty to the promo men in their demands for radio station adds (songs added to playlists) and attempts to chart records at #1, the calls were rife with put downs like "you're an embarrassment" and "you suck" and lots of language that can't be reprinted here. One boss even got the nickname Mr. Cattle Prod, not only for his abrasive personality, but also because he had an actual cattle prod in his office and threatened to use it.

Those who don't know how the record promotion game went in this era (gifts of albums, satin jackets, autographed guitars and primo tickets helped to grease the wheels) will come away with a good understanding, and many fans will be envious of the gig Morrell had. Fortunately for all Morrell really has a knack for translating the fun into the written word so everyone can tag along here on his wild, star-studded decade.

Order your copy here.

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