I reckon that everyone who reads Caught by the River will own a record on this label. I hope that’s true anyway. I’ve not read the book yet but the label has released many of my favourite records and knowing Mick as I do, it’s easy for me to recommend it. We’ve got copies in the shop and we’ll follow this up with a review real soon.
Becoming Elektra: The True Story Of Jac Holzman’s Visionary Record Label. By Mick Houghton
Becoming Elektra tells the story of one of the world’s great record labels, the man who created it, the artists he signed, and the stimulating, turbulent times in which it came to prominence. Founded by 19 year old hi-fi enthusiast, Jac Holzman, while he was still a student, Elektra began as a tiny independent folk-music label in October 1950 and grew to become a major artistic and commercial force. With the latest incarnation of the label thriving in the 21st century, the book is released to coincide with a global celebration of Elektra’s 60th year at elektra60.com.
This meticulous and engaging book brings to life the golden years of the label, from 1950 to 1973, drawing on exclusive archive sources and new interview material with key Elektra recording artists and associates, including Judy Collins, Ron & Scott Asheton of The Stooges, all three surviving members of The Doors, Tom Paxton, Tom Rush, John Sebastian, Herb Cohen, Bruce Botnick, Roger McGuinn and Van Dyke Parks. At the heart of the book is Jac Holzman himself, who spoke at length with author Mick Houghton, talking freely and with great insight and honesty about the label he created.
In the 50s, Elektra pioneered folk music with such artists as Jean Ritchie, Josh White, Theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand and Bob Gibson, and prepared the ground for the commercial folk boom at the end of the decade. That placed the label in pole position to sign many of the folk-influenced performers of the early 60s, including Judy Collins, Fred Neil, Tom Paxton, and Phil Ochs, before it introduced college audiences to electric blues with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Holzman’s particular innovations and lateral thinking also saw him create the first ever music sampler in 1954, devise the first commercial sound effects library and found Nonesuch Records, which revolutionised the marketing of classical recordings before pioneering world and electronic music.
Then, in the mid 60s, Elektra embraced rock music, but typically continued to discover and nurture a remarkably wide range of artists such as Tim Buckley, The Doors, Love, Bread, The Incredible String Band, David Ackles, Carly Simon, The MC5, and The Stooges. In 1970, Holzman took the decision for Elektra to become part of what soon became Warner Communications, alongside the Atlantic and Warner Bros. labels, and in 1973 left the company he founded. Elektra Records continued to thrive, first under David Geffen. Pursuing a highly successful career in other areas, Holzman retained his ties with the music industry and is today a Senior Advisor to the Warner Music Group.
Becoming Elektra is a fascinating tale of how quality sound, imaginative artwork, and artistic daring combined to win the affection and respect of record-buyers and artists alike. The six colour sections in the book include a complete colour discography featuring every album sleeve during the Holzman era, many rare photographs and fascinating memorabilia – letters, royalty statements, catalogues, memos etc – provided by Holzman himself.
Beginning this summer, Elektra’s 60th year will be celebrated online, with everyone invited. A unique, ever-evolving web presence, curated by Jac Holzman, will be live at elektra60.com. The website will be built around a user-controlled timeline with about 100 artists important to the history of Elektra featured. As the viewer moves horizontally and chronologically along the rich, immersive timeline, they will interact with features such as audio streaming, lyrics, videos, discographies as well as many other digitized artefacts and curios.