And Party Every Day
by Larry Harris w/ Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs
The liner notes found inside the cover of And Party Every Day boast that, “Casablanca Records was not a product of the 1970s – it was the 1970s.” That may seem like a rather bold, over-the-top claim, given the ever-changing fads, social climate, political turmoil, and excesses of the era. However, it’s fairly accurate.
Casablanca Records’ first signing in 1973 was a brash new hard rock act from New York City called Kiss. As a diehard teenage Kiss fan working in my neighborhood record store on Florida’s East Coast during the 1970s, I was completely aware of the mighty Casablanca label, the unbelievable hype surrounding its various high profile artists and the man “behind the curtain,” Casablanca’s president, the late Neil Bogart.
Author Larry Harris was Bogart’s right hand man at Casablanca from its inception in 1973 until his timely exit in 1979 – just as the “fat lady” was stepping up to the mic. Harris’s mantra throughout the book’s 300-plus pages is that “perception is reality.” Along with Bogart, Harris helped create (and sell) the “perception” that Casablanca was the most successful label on the planet. And by the late 1970s it was – except for one small detail. Despite generating monthly sales in the tens of millions during its heyday and having some of the biggest names in the biz on its roster, the label was always broke. How can that be, you might ask? Well, in short, Bogart’s three favorite words were spend, spend, spend! Bogart was adamant that his label always be “perceived” as being successful. Casablanca execs all enjoyed lavish salaries, drove Mercedes sports cars, and only traveled first-class. But full-page, chest-thumping ads placed in all of the top weekly trade publications ain’t cheap. Plus, the label was financing extravagant tours and paying out huge advances to many of its top-name acts like Kiss, Donna Summer, Parliament, and the Village People. This fiscal irresponsibility was a key factor in the label’s ultimate demise.
Despite the allure of the sex, the drugs, the top-name acts, and Bogart’s chutzpah, Harris is the nucleus of this bona fide page-turner. His first-person accounts of Casablanca’s meteoric rise from obscurity into the industry’s stratosphere, and its inevitable, yet heartbreaking, crash are riveting. In fact, Harris’s insider stories are so compelling, and he, himself, such a fascinating character, the reader may truly be left wanting more. And therein lays the book’s one shortcoming. As an admitted, old school pop/rock music nerd, I sometimes felt left hanging on the edge of my seat without getting a “nut.”
Harris refers to Kiss’s breakthrough 1975 album Alive!, yet makes no mention of the accompanying Top Twenty single, “Rock and Roll All Nite.” This may seem like a minor detail, however, that song broke the album which literally saved the label in its early days. It has been rumored over the years that Bogart played a key role in inspiring the song’s creation, and I was eager for Harris to reveal the inside dope on what has become this legendary band’s signature tune. Even the book’s title comes from a line in that very song: “I-ee-yi, wanna rock and roll all ni-ee-yite – AND PARTY EVERY DAY!” Casablanca later branched into the field of film production with Casablanca Filmworks, spawning one of my all-time favorite movies, 1979’s Foxes (starring Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster). Although Harris does reference the film, I would have gleefully devoured more info. I would have also enjoyed a little more dish on another of Casablanca’s signings: the glam band Angel, which Harris accurately describes the “anti-Kiss.”
Co-authors Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs are certainly no strangers to the Casablanca story. In 1994 Gooch served as executive producer and creative consultant on Inside the Casbah, a documentary about Casablanca Records. Furthermore, Gooch and Suhs’s 2002 book, KISS ALIVE FOREVER: The Complete Touring History, is a well-written account of Casablanca’s top cash cow. The authors have earned stellar reputations for being research junkies and their impeccable attention to details really helped bring Harris’s stories to life.
Casablanca ultimately became known as “The Disco Label,” but it actually boasted an array of artists ranging from rock and pop to country and R&B. Consequently, you don’t have to be a disco fan to be drawn to And Party Every Day. In fact, you don’t even need to have lived through the self-indulgent 1970s to be seduced by Harris’s scandalous show biz tales. And should he ever publish a sequel, filling in a few Casablanca gaps and recounting his likely fascinating post-Casablanca exploits, I’ll be the first in line to snatch up a copy!
Backbeat Books: http://www.backbeatbooks.com