Elektra hits 60 — art and commerce in perfect harmony

The label’s masterpiece? Love’s third album, 1967’s Forever Changes.

Elektra records is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, and as far as independently-minded, hugely successful labels are concerned, it’s managed to surf atop six decades of musical mayhem with great aplomb, maintaining a textbook mix of art and commerce — from Love and the Doors, through the Stooges, MC5 and New York Dolls, to Charlotte Gainsbourg, Björk and Cee-Lo Green.

Ever the canny operator, Elektra founder Jac Holzman is still at the helm of the Warner-owned label, and is celebrating his offspring’s birthday with the launch of a new website that reflects the sheer breadth of talent he’s enabled over the decades. Expect much ‘I didn’t know that…’ type of brain-prodding and superlative artwork from longtime art director, William S Harvey, including the examples given in this post…

Interviewed by Music Week, Holzman revealed that Elektra’s early days were made easier by his release of a morse code learning course on a vinyl album, which “sold close to 1m copies” over the company’s first five years and put it “on a very solid financial footing from which we could try anything”! Holzman also gave Music Week his top ten tips for running a successful label, which make for fascinating reading, not least his on-the-money assessment of building a successful brand: “Build a reputation as a label people can trust — Be fanatical about the quality of every aspect of the process.”

Now for some of Elektra’s back pages…

Holzman was the first label CEO to utilise the power of billboards to advertise his imprint’s acts. The debut Doors LP was trailered by a billboard on LA’s Sunset Strip, which reportedly made Love head honcho, Arthur Lee, so jealous that he demanded the same courtesy…

The Stooges, looking suitably deranged, during the recording of their Fun House LP.

The late Tim Buckley, father of the more celebrated and equally gorn Jeff, ran the musical gamut from folk to funk…

Fred Neil, writer of the perennial Everybody’s Talking, later became a recluse and dolphin activist…

Salient advice: do not print this type of advert in your local paper, featuring an Elektra logo, unless you want to be dropped from the label’s roster!

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