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Monday, November 30, 2009

For Those Who Like To Read, I Salute You: And Party Every Day (The Inside Story Of Casablanca Records) by Larry Harris

I always search for the most interesting books to read, especially when I'm heading on a week's vacation. So it was off to the Barnes & Noble in Princeton to find some great reading material last week. Going into the store, I actually intended on picking up the Bill Simmons Book Of Basketball which I had already read the first few chapters while lounging in Borders the week before. But knowing that this B&N has perhaps the best music-related books in this area, I first set sail toward the music section. I'm always searching for the intriguing music facts books or a biography about one of the bands I love because I can never know enough. Glancing through the section, I caught sight of a book titled And Party Every Day! Figuring it was a KISS-related book, I picked it up to see what this book was all about. To my delight, it was an inside history of the rise and fall of Casablanca Records written by Larry Harris who was one of the principal owners of Casablanca Records. This was the guy who had signed KISS to Casablanca and had a hand in their success. I had been waiting years to read this, and decided to go with this instead of the Bill Simmons book.

For those who aren't aware of Casablanca Records, here's a brief recap. Neil Bogart was the man most responsible for the rise and fall of Casablanca Records during the 1970's. Bogart was a former pop artist that eventually became a record exec at Buddhah Records and was influential in creating bubblegum pop music. He knew how to promote better than anybody at that time, and wanted to use those skills to run his own label. With the backing of Warner Brothers, he and some other guys including Larry Harris founded Casablanca Records. With Warner Brothers totally hovering over his day to day activities and having a set timetable on new record releases, he wasn't very happy. Yet, it eventually worked out where he and his partners were able to buy the label outright from Warner Brothers, and work their own operation. Casablanca's first big signing was KISS, a band that nobody thought would ever make it in the business due to their unique costumes and make-up. Bogart and crew would have the last laugh as KISS would become the biggest rock band in the world. Casablanca also became the number one disco label in the 70's with key artists on their roster including Donna Summer, The Village People, and Santa Esmeralda. In 1976 Casablanca merged with an up and coming film company named Filmworks run by former Columbia exec Peter Guber. The new entity Casablanca/Filmworks churned out some big 70's movies such as The Deep, Thank God It's Friday, and Midnight Express. Yet bad accounting practices, overspending, poor performance, and the death of disco led to the eventual demise of Casablanca. 1980 saw Polygram, who had become the co-owners of Casablanca in 1977, push Bogart out the door of the label he created. Ironically, the day he left, the #1 song on on the charts was a Casablanca song, Do That To Me One More Time from Captain & Tenille. Neil Bogart eventually died of cancer at the young age of 39. Although he was an influential figure in the history of pop music, he has never really been honored for his contributions.

Larry Harris was a cousin of Bogart's who became one of the co-owners of Casablanca and was responsible for creating and marketing some of the biggest stars in music history. He details the inner workings of Casablanca in full detail and provides an inside glimpse into how the music business worked in the 70's. And Party Every Day goes into detail about the sex, drugs, and debauchery that went on in the Casablanca offices. The book discusses the impact of KISS to the label, how important the KISS Alive album was, and the disaster of the KISS solo albums. The book discusses Giorgio Moroder and the discovery of Donna Summer. The book details how the label used payola and bribery to get their records on the radio, and to have the Billboard charts skewed in their favor. The book discusses Angel, one of their rock acts that was given a lot of time but never found mainstream success. The book talks about George Clinton and Parliament, the Village People, Paul Jbara, and Marc Bolan. The book talks about the ease of creating successful disco acts like Santa Esmeralda, Love & Kisses, and Meco and how disco music was an easy method of making money. The book talks about Bogart's crazy ideas, his fondness for his family and employees, and his quest to rule Hollywood. We also hear stories about Studio 54, Cher, Bogart losing his creativity signing acts past their primes, and the dog eat dog conflicts between the key players. The book also confirms Scott Shannon's influence on establishing Beth as a hit song for KISS. The end of the book details where the key people from those days are now, as well as a full catalog of all of the albums that Casablanca released.

I was so disappointed when I got to the final pages of And Party Every Day! I honestly didn't want this book to end because it was so rich and full of facts I didn't know or had forgotten. When that happens, I know I just finished reading a classic. I might have had some personal interest in this book that skewed my opinion, but I honestly believe this is the best book I have ever read about the music business. Larry Harris pulled no punches and held nothing back about his experience at Casablanca. His dirt about KISS was much needed to hear from somebody not currently in the KISS camp. I gained a whole new perspective of how dirty the music business was, and how the power of the radio DJ has totally been taken away from them. If you are a fan of disco music, KISS, or the record industry, I highly recommend this as a must read. Again, it's the best book about the music business I have ever read, and probably one of the ten greatest books I have ever read.

Final Grade: A+ (The best insider book about the music business that I have ever read!)


  1. Hmmm...I want to check this book out. Too bad the bookstores here suck ass.

  2. try to get it on-line, it's probably cheaper anyhow. If you have a super B&N in your area, they should have it.