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The Label: The Story of Columbia Records Hardcover – February 27, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; annotated edition edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560257075
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560257073
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,197,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1948, Hungarian-born engineer Peter Goldmark unveiled for Columbia the creation of the 331/3long-playing microgroove record, revolutionizing the music industry. In this comprehensive history, Marmorstein (Hollywood Rhapsody) offers an overview of those events in the context of a complete company history spanning a dozen decades. He documents the 1889 origins of the Columbia Phonograph Company and subsequent technological plateaus, from cylinder recordings to single-sided and double-sided discs, followed by the LP, stereo and the dawn of the digital era. Along with company mergers, he profiles music makers from Bessie Smith to Bob Dylan and looks at the innovative album art of Jim Flora ("a post-nuclear Miró") and the creation of logo designs. He turns up the volume when writing about the men behind the music, from "witty and plugged-in" president Goddard Lieberson to acclaimed producers John Hammond and George Avakian. Along with an earful of audio archives and oral histories, Marmorstein leafed through recording contracts, sales reports, job sheets, memos and personal correspondence. The 35 pages of bibliographic notes indicate the exhaustive research that led to this authoritative history. 16-page photo insert not seen by PW. (Mar. 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Marmorstein's exhaustive study of one of the world's most venerable recording labels must cover nearly every wrinkle in Columbia's long history and varied corporate existence, which may be either good or bad for readers, depending on their tolerances for the likes of Billy Joel, Mitch Miller, and other mainstays. Those only casually interested in the company's corporate side may also find the tome's length daunting, but Marmorstein's writing is hardly ponderous. It also takes awhile to do justice to a business that has endured for more than 90 years, in the process bringing such certifiable greats as Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson, not to mention hosts of jazz and classical stars, to iconic status. Moreover, Columbia has employed some of the most notorious figures in the music biz over the years, such as the storied Clive Davis and the perhaps odd but always interesting Tommy Mottolla, who foisted Mariah Carey on an unsuspecting public. A book to please music-history and music-biz-history mavens alike. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

GREAT book and a must read for record collectors.
Brian H. Williams
Written in a way that is entertaining yet incredibly informative.
T. Sexton
There are some glaring errors in just the first seven pages.
Irwinbay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By ann kern on February 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
THE LABEL has to be one of the finest ever books about music, the music industry, and pop culture. And it has to be the coolest looking! It traces the history of Columbia Records from the invention of the phonograph to the present, and all the greats are there: Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Barbra Streisand, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, Billie Holliday, Michael Jackson, Janis Joplin, Benny Goodman, Sinatra, Horowitz, Kostelanetz, and on and on! And of course Walter Yetnikoff and the ever-present Clive Davis. What a feast -- you won't want to put it down! The writing is very graceful and astute, filled with fascinating details about deals and star-making and egos, trends and manias and feuds and so on. And the book, with its multiple photo sections and 50 pages of footnotes, is impeccably researched.

Music fiends are going to adore this book - what a great gift idea! I'm giving it to several of my music-fanatic friends, 'cause I know they'll REALLY like it. Very hip. GREAT COVER. A book to disappear into for days...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By C. Zimet on March 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is amazing. I literally couldn't put it down. And I thought I pretty much knew a lot of record business history. My father in his youth was a record promoter for Columbia (and then Decca Records) and used to tell me stories when I was a kid. They were nothin'...in comparison with this. And daddy never told me any of the real history of Columbia. I did know that when I grew up I wanted to be a recording artist and I only wanted to record for Columbia.

Unfortunately, the closest I got to that was doing backup in the '60's for a few artists who were signed to the label. But the studio singers rarely saw or heard the full scoop on behind-the-scenes machinations. So, what I didn't know then, I've found out from this book. Bravo to Mr. Marmorstein for his research. It's so in-depth! And I got a kind of perverse thrill from knowing that though a lot of this book reads like great fiction, it's all amazingly true. Just bought another copy for my son who's a musician and record producer. As far as I'm concerned, this should be required reading for every potential and existant artist, producer, arranger etc., not to mention every music lover who is capable of reading.

For me, Columbia was and always will be THE label and this book truly does it justice!
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Format: Hardcover
Barely a chapter into this almost 600-page long history of the venerable record company, which sports its famed red label on the cover, I've already learned more than I ever knew about the origins of the modern recording industry. Columbia Records was actually founded in 1888 by Edward Easton, a stenographer and principal in the company based in Washington, D.C. (hence the name), which manufactured Graphophones, an early forerunner of the victrola, originally used for office dictation. Just like today, the technology came first, and uses for the invention only came later. The fact that music could be recorded and played back on wax cylinders was virtually an afterthought (Thomas Edison, with his competing phonograph, felt music "demeaned" his invention), as the label was launched with a selection of John Philip Sousa marches recorded by the U.S. Marine Band and black singer George Washington Johnson, dubbed the "Whistling Coon" after his hit of the same name, brought to the label by prototypical 19th century A&R man Victor Emerson. What's striking is the role technology played in the growth of the industry, and how the format affected what was recorded and distributed, a factor still in place today in the wake of the digital revolution. A fascinating read that I have just dipped into, but will keep you abreast as I get deeper. - Roy Trakin
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Victor M. Linn on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Though there were several insignificnt accuracy errors, none of them take away from the superb, almost scholarly quality of the research. It is a fascinating and riveting look at the entire background at what, at least, was the gold standard of recorded music. Sadly it was sold off, as a one shot, short term basis attempt to improve a then sagging balance sheet of CBS. One of the worst financial decisons ever made by the Tischman group that bought out the Paley interests. It is clearly a decision that would never have been taken by what had previously been virtually flawless policies under the stewardship of Paley and Stanton.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Irwinbay on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book primarily for information on Columbia's early history. So far I have been extremely disappointed. There are some glaring errors in just the first seven pages. Page 5: The Volta Graphophone Co. was organized in Alexandria, VIRGINIA - not West Virginia. Page 7: Emile Berliner patented the microphone that made the telephone practical well BEFORE he began work on the Gramophone.

My focus on Columbia's early history probably make me more sensitive to errors in this chapter. I haven't read the whole book but I suspect that the author's focus was probably on Columbia's later history and its better known artists and personalities. Columbia's early history was likely added to round out the project. Unfortunately, it reads like an afterthought. I hope that as I read further I won't be so distracted by mistakes that should have been caught by the editor.
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