1974: The Promotion Man – New York City, by Dave Morrell (2015): Books

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In 2014’s Horse Doggin,’ Dave Morrell led readers on a journey through his transition from passionate music fan to Warner Bros. Records’ East Coast promotions man. The second in a planned multi-volume memoir, 1974: The Promotion Man – New York City chronicles Morrell’s earliest experiences promoting singles and learning the business. In addition, he discusses his friendship with John Lennon, a result of Morrell’s local fame due to his extensive Beatles collection. While Morrell shares the good times hanging with his musical idols, he also paints a vivid picture of the 1970s music business.

After Dave Morrell was moved to the promotions department, he quickly learned how to court radio program directors and record store owners, persuading them to air an artist’s latest single or carry a specific album. Morrell’s easygoing manner and obvious enthusiasm for music charmed his targets and delighted Warner Bros. with his rapidly developing promotional skills. At just 21, the new WB Promotions Manager for New York had to learn on the job. Those interested in learning about the music business will find The Promotion Man particularly useful, as he reprints notes he took during one of his first meetings, such as “Know your radio station inside out” as well as four of the “Ten Commandments for Set-Up”: “Get the music heard!!!”

Dave Morrell then leads readers through his experiences promoting singles such as Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis,” Jethro Tull’s “Bungle in the Jungle,” and America’s “Tin Man.” Tales of hanging out with Deep Purple on their private plane, and sharing a joint with Ron Wood in the back of a limo are also entertaining, as Morrell clearly appreciates just how fortunate he was to be in that position.

Beatles fans will appreciate his stories about collecting Beatles bootlegs and occasionally meeting up with John Lennon. Tales of visiting Lennon at Record Plant East and hearing early versions of cuts from the Rock ’n’ Roll album provide rare glimpses into Lennon’s creative process during this time. Perhaps the best section of 1974: The Promotion Man – New York City occurs when Dave Morrell recalls visiting Lennon and then-girlfriend May Pang at their New York apartment in 1974, showing the couple as well as former Beatles publicist Derek Taylor footage of the Beatles’ famous Washington Coliseum concert.

As images of the group playing “This Boy” flickered on the window shade, Lennon bounced up and down in excitement. He then pulled out a very rare record at the time: the Beatles’ then-unreleased recording of “How Do You Do It.” “It was out of this world,” Morrell writes. “A REAL Beatles song, fully produced, that no one had ever heard.”

Morrell was also lucky enough to have attended Elton John’s Madison Square Garden Thanksgiving concert, where he surprised the crowd with a very special guest: John Lennon. The two performed “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” and Morrell marvels at Lennon’s reinvigorated attitude and strong appearance.

As with the first volume, 1974: The Promotion Man – New York City is written informally, resembling a diary. Its appeal lies in the core story of a young music fan becoming an insider in the music business, yet he never lost his youthful enthusiasm for his idols. A specific section best exemplifies this theme: as Morrell entered the limo with Wood, he writes, “I had never felt like this before. Two years ago I was pushing that mower in the cemetery down Newark.”

Instead, Dave Morrell was able to live his dream, but not without learning lessons along the way.

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