Backstage: My Gold Records

Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares stories of memorable rock 'n' roll encounters that took place in our local environs. This week: Every picture tells a story... 

In last week's column, I betrayed the fact that I am indeed quite the obsessive collector, owing to the fact that when it comes to collecting music, I'm a bit like the alcoholic who can't turn a blind eye to the next drink. I feel compelled, then, to add an addendum and rattle on this week about

the stuff that graces the walls of my office and my music room -- some of

which passes as décor.

The mementos that bring me the most pride are my gold records, each a

badge of recognition for my contributions to furthering the success of specific artists and their recordings. These

trophies were given to radio stations, retailers, and promotion people

(on occasion) for their efforts in helping the sales of a particular

piece of product. Album sales in excess of 500,000 copies earns "gold," and the million mark is

certified "platinum." I have eight of these awards -- one is a duplicate

-- that I helped some artists sell a hell of a lot of albums and likely

helped boost their bank accounts in the process.

The collection includes the first single I helped secure airplay for from Jimmy Buffett's Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. It's probably the single most prized possession of all my mementos. It keeps company with platinum albums from Bob Seger -- Stranger in Town, Nine Tonight, and Against the Wind -- all of which proved among the best-selling albums of Bob's career. Seger was no slouch when it came to best-selling LPs, and to his credit, Bob's longtime manager, Punch Andrews, always remembered the folks behind the scenes who helped get him there. He was a great guy, but I still don't have any idea why he was called "Punch." 

Two of the other discs that take up wall space on my office pay tribute to Billy Squier, one of those artists whose time on the charts was relatively confined to the early and mid-'80s. The platinum record I received for In the Dark was given to me by virtue of the fact that it hosted the hit "The Stroke," a fiery riff of a record that made Squier a momentary sensation. I was subsequently awarded a platinum album for the follow-up, Emotions in Motion, but I suspect it sold well only because it was still riding the momentum of its predecessor. I doubt that the single it bore, "Everybody Wants You," is still remembered by anyone other than his hard-core fans. 

The most unlikely contender for room on the wall is the gold disc I received for an album by a Canadian hard rock outfit named April Wine. If anyone has something suitable to trade, let's just say my reward for pushing the album The Nature of the Beast is certainly up for grabs. I would venture to say that even among the Canadian populace, April Wine is scarcely remembered. The Guess Who, they were not. 

I've got a couple of platinum singles as well, and I have to admit they're also kind of nifty. One celebrates the sales of the Knack's "My Sharona," while the other pays homage to Dr. Hook's sales of "Sexy Eyes." Come to think of it, though, I don't even recall how that latter tune went.

There are other trophies from my record company days as well, although they take the form of plaques for the most part. They were given to mark the success of Neil Diamond's soundtrack to the Jazz Singer, Paul McCartney's somewhat dubious effort London Town, and the chart-topping single "You Don't Have to Be a Star" by the ex-Fifth Dimension duo of Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. They were a nice couple, as I recall. They even bought me lunch, which at the time meant as much to me as getting that award of recognition.

My office walls also share space with several songwriting honors. Try not to be too impressed -- I never got more than an honorable mention, although I still swear to this day that my lyrics were appropriated for the Urban Cowboy hit "Looking for Love." That line about "looking for love in all the wrong places..." -- I came up with that thing, and right after I submitted it as an entry, out pops that one-off hit from Johnny Lee. He gets the money and recognition, and all I got was this damned piece of paper. Damn it, Johnny Lee; you owe this Lee big time.

I've got a load of autographs, gracing everything from napkins and business cards to the standard publicity photo. Most of the people I met at one time or another -- people like Paul McCartney, Bryant Gumbel, Mike Wallace, Ray Davies, Roger McGuinn, Al Stewart, or the ill-fated original drummer of the Beatles, Pete Best. On the other hand, I also have signatures from folks I never met, such as Elton John, Michael McDonald, former Byrds bassist Chris Hillman, Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and the late British bluesman John Martyn. It's kind of weird that most of them signed off with a cursory attempt at making a connection, wishing me well or offering me thanks when clearly none was due. Hell, for all these folks know, I could be an ax murderer or something equally sinister. Still, the gesture is always appreciated.

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Lee Zimmerman