The veteran manager releases “Listen Out Loud: A Life in Music – Managing McCartney, Madonna and Michael Jackson” on June 3.
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He managed some of the biggest names in music – and now he’s ready to reveal some of their biggest secrets.
Legendary music manager Ron Weisner, who has worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Gladys Knight and Quincy Jones, is releasing an in-depth candid memoir, which offers a rare first hand look behind the scenes of the careers and lives of the music giants he had worked with during his 40-years run.
Described as “an honest story of my involvement with these remarkable artists and the play-by-play: the good, the bad and, sometimes, the very ugly”, the book, titled “Listen Out Loud: A Life in Music – Managing McCartney, Madonna and Michael Jackson”, will be out June 3, from Lyons Press/Globe Pequot Press.
Ron Weisner began his career in the 1960’s at Buddah Records before going on to work as manager to some of the most influential artists of the era.
He managed Michael Jackson from the late 1970’s until 1983 and saw him through his game-changing multi-platinum albums ‘Off the Wall’ and ‘Thriller’. He counselled Curtis Mayfield when the singer was paralyzed in a 1990 stage accident. He admired Paul and Linda McCartney and disliked Madonna, with whom he has worked during the frantic early years of her career. And he was “scared shitless” of Phil Spector.
A sampler of some of the saltier no-hold-barred anecdotes in the book:
On Madonna’s behavior while shooting her ‘Like a Virgin’ video: “Every time we packed up the cameras, she bitched. Every time we got into a boat, she bitched. Every time she had to wait for setup, she bitched. ‘You’re all a bunch of fucking idiots, ‘ she’d tell the Italian crew, who was busting its collective hump to get her video in the can. ‘You’re wasting my time. You’re wasting our time. Now quit sticking it to me and hurry up.’ I asked Freddy, ‘What the hell’s her problem? We’re in Italy. It’s more fun than being in Long Island City. What does she have going on that’s better than this?’ He just shrugged.”
On Weisner’s decision to let the intractable singer go, when divvying up clinets with his former management partner: “When we got to Madonna’s name, I said, ‘You can have her. You belong together.’ The second those words left my mouth, I felt like a huge … weight had been lifted from my shoulders … I didn’t like Madonna and Madonna didn’t like me. Don’t get me wrong: I have a lot of respect for her as an entertainer and a businesswoman. She learned early on how to manipulate the press, create controversy, push everything up to the edge and beyond and turn it into commercial domination. I knew that if she didn’t implode, the sky was the limit. And I was right. I just didn’t want to be around it.”
On Paul McCartney’s feud with Michael Jackson: “Michael spent a lot of time grilling Paul about how he built his publishing catalog. Paul, an easy going guy, answered every question patiently and in great detail, not knowing that three years later, Michael would buy the Beatles catalog right out from under him. Paul felt betrayed … and the two didn’t speak until 1989, when I got them together while I was managing McCartney. They made their peace, but it was an uneasy one.”
On Michael Jackson’s happiness: “Do I think Michael Jackson was a normal person? Absolutely not. Do I think he was a pedophile? No. Do I think he had issues? No question. Do I think he was an unhappy guy? In a lot of respects, yes. Do I think he would’ve been happier if someone were looking out for him from the minute he left the Jackson Five until he died? Emphatically, yes.”
On Jackson’s planned intervention: “Michael on drugs was a shadow of his sober self, and even after the way he dumped me, I still cared about the guy. So I called LaToya and told her, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s get him fixed. I’ll put together a team, I’ll arrange for an airplane, I’ll find the right facility. I’ll put everything in place and pay for it myself’… On May 15, two days before the kidnapping – and yes, that’s exactly what this was, a kidnapping — I got a call from LaToya, who was, to put it mildly, freaking out. ‘You gotta stop it, you gotta stop it, you gotta stop it!’. So I stopped it all: the airplane, the rehab facility, the team, everything came to a halt. I don’t know if the snatching … would’ve lengthened Michael’s life … but at the very least, it would’ve given him a chance.”
On Jackson’s obsession with lightening his skin on photos and album covers: “No matter how the pictures came out, his first comment was always along the line of, ‘Can we lighten my skin tone?’.
In order to keep the peace, the art director tweaked the shots to make him look incrementally less black. The first pass wasn’t light enough for him. Nor was the second pass. Nor was the third. Looking at the fourth version of the photo, I said, ‘Michael, you’re not white We’re not going any lighter. Accept it’. And he did. But not the next time around.”
The book includes a foreword by Gladys Knight and an introduction by Quincy Jones, who writes: “Listen Out Loud reminded me why Ron Weisner is my brother from another mother. Like me, he’s not afraid to do something just because it hasn’t been done. This is a must-read for music industry professionals, musicians, listeners . . . Hell, this book is a must-read for anybody!”