It had taken weeks of letter-writing and phone calls to finally get in touch, but I now had Don Kirshner on the other end of the line. Don Kirshner – the guy who had revolutionized pop music in the early '60s with his publishing company Aldon Music, where he had employed writers like Carole King and Neil Diamond (even a young Paul Simon), who had created The Monkees in the late '60s and hosted Don Kirshner's Rock Concert on TV in the 70s. If I was going to do a show on the history of the record business in the '50s and '60s, I knew he had to be in it.
I asked Donnie if I could interview him for my show. His first question (he was from the record business, after all) was “How much are you going to pay me?” (And, to be fair, he wasn't the first who had asked.) I gulped. CBC's usual honourarium for "expert" interviews is tantamount to cab fare to the airport. I gave him the rate, trying to aim for the limo ride end of the scale. There was the longest of long pauses at the other end of the line. (Donnie later told me had had just received $10,000 from the BBC to do an interview for them on the Monkees.) Finally, he said "Let's talk about the money later. What did you have in mind?”
From that inauspicious beginning blossomed what turned out to be a true friendship, which lasted until Donnie's untimely death in January of 2011. Donnie was in many ways the epitome of the record business of the early '60s and '70s – canny, always looking for the big opportunity, but also romantic, a bit idealistic, childlike in some strange, uniquely American way. He represented the business that in a few short years moved from the Shirelles and Chubby Checker to the Beatles, Dylan and Hendrix.
The story of that transformation is at the heart of Twilight of the Gods, program three.
Robert Harris is the producer of Twilight of the Gods.
Listen to Inside the Music on Radio 2 on Sunday 3 p.m. (3:30 NT) and Radio One on Sunday 9 p.m. (9:30 NT)
Twilight of the Gods part one: the dawn of the recording industry
Twilight of the Gods part two: the birth of jazz and country
Don Kirshner, Shaper of Hit Records Dies at 76
Remembering Don Kirshner, who influenced pop from the Brill
on Jul 14, 2012