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- Posted on Oct 15th 2010 11:15AM by David Chiu
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The singers-songwriters made an appearance at Elektra Records' 60th anniversary celebration Thursday night at New York's 92Y. The event, which featured Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman, was a discussion on the history of the label, whose roster has included such artists as Judy Collins, the Doors, the Eagles, Carly Simon, Television, Metallica, Anita Baker, Keith Sweat and Bjork.
Browne and Merchant spoke about their experiences on Elektra: Browne as an up-and-coming artist in the early '70s, and Merchant as the lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs in the mid '80s. Afterward, Browne played 'My Opening Farewell,' a song off of his 1972 self-titled debut, which was released on the label. Merchant then followed by singing Browne's 'These Days' with Browne providing instrumental accompaniment.
Earlier in the program, Holzman was interviewed by writer and Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye about the label's origins. A video montage was shown that covered the years Holzman headed Elektra from 1950 to 1973 and included performance clips of artists ranging from Phil Ochs to Queen. "I was drawn to [Queen's] Freddie Mercury and 'Keep Yourself Alive,' and the artists who were close friends of mine," said Holzman of his first thoughts after the video presentation.
Elektra started out as a folk label around the time of the advent of the LP record and entered the rock market in the '60s beginning with Paul Butterfield. Holzman said that he went to L.A. to find a band that was meant for him and came across the group Love, which was fronted by singer Arthur Lee. "There is Arthur Lee on the stage with those prismatic glasses," remembered Holzman. "It was great. I knew I found my band."
Through Lee, Holzman discovered the Doors in 1966. "I kept going back [to see them]," he remembered, "and I got it all. I went back and introduced myself." He recalled singer Jim Morrison checking out the U47 microphone in the studio and saying "this is Frank Sinatra's microphone." "We went and made the record in seven days," said Holzman.
Holzman also spoke of his experiences with another Elektra act, the Stooges. "I get this band in the studio," he recalled. "There were no songs. I said, 'Go home and write some songs.' And [there] came 'I Wanna Be Your Dog.' It was of the moment, it was raw and it still has resonance."
The Elektra founder, who also started the Nonesuch label in 1964, addressed what is currently going on with the music industry, particularly at a time when artists today are producing records by themselves. "Record making has been democratized," he said. "There are choices. I am encouraged by the people who do this."