It's been a bad year for Westword profile subjects. This summer, two of them, Johnny Clyde Copeland and Jeff Buckley, died. And last week brought another victim: First-rate blues guitarist and vocalist Luther Allison, who succumbed to cancer complications in Madison, Wisconsin. He was 57 and had appeared in Denver only a few months ago as the headliner of this spring's Denver Blues Festival. Folks with online access can get a sense of his gifts by visiting the Westword site--the address is at the bottom of this column--and checking out contributor Linda Gruno's Allison profile ("Paris Blues," September 27, 1995).
Also no longer among the living is one of the unsung geniuses of twentieth century music, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who lost his long battle with AIDS earlier this month in Lagos, Nigeria, at the age of 58. He will be remembered for giving an international audience its first taste of Afro-beat (to Western ears, his work suggests a rhythmically orgasmic musical marriage of James Brown and John Coltrane) and for his bold political actions, for which he was arrested on numerous occasions. But he was also a showman par excellence, as the cover to Shakara, above, demonstrates. On it, some of Fela's wives (he once married 27 women at the same time) display their bare breasts while the man himself sits among them clad only in a pair of blue underwear, with his crotch thrust toward the camera. Ah--so that's why so many people go into music...
When Barry Fey sold his remaining portion of Fey Concerts to Universal Entertainment last week ("The Long Goodbye," August 14), no one doubted that personnel changes at the firm would follow--but the departure of Pam Moore, the company's longtime booker and Fey's right-hand woman, came as a surprise even to her former boss. "I had lunch with Jay Marciano [Universal's president] on the Friday before the announcement, and we were talking about Pam taking over," Fey says. Instead, Moore gave Marciano her notice later that day and last week announced publicly that she was leaving the organization for which she had worked for nineteen years.
The reasons behind Moore's decision were quite simple: "Bottom line, I just couldn't come to terms with Universal," she reveals. Moreover, she has a lot of other balls in the air. "I'm already working on a project in New York that I can't talk about at this time," she says, "and I've been approached by a lot of folks interested in me consulting for them." She also is looking forward to simplifying her love life. She's married to Bill Betts, once the program director with KBPI-FM/106.7, but his career took him first to California and later to Pennsylvania, where he is now located. The two of them have maintained a commuter relationship for years, but now they're going to be able to live under the same roof. "I'm moving out there within the month," she says. "And it'll work out fine, because it's only two hours from New York."
Moore joined the Fey combine (then known as Feyline) in 1978, filling numerous jobs before being elevated to the number-two position. Before long, her steely will in contract negotiations became the stuff of music-industry legend. Virtually everyone who griped about Fey's tactics directed the same complaints at Moore. But Moore maintains that she never did anything below board: "I think a deal has to be fair, and I have always found Fey Concerts to be fair. If someone tells me that they're not happy, I try to find out why and make it work. But I will never give away the store. We still have to remain in business."
"The acts will take everything they possibly can, and there's a time when you have to stand and say, 'No more,'" Fey elaborates. "And Pam can do that. She would really fight. Maybe you could intimidate her in the beginning, but not anymore." He laughs. "Working with me is like boot camp. It makes you ready to face almost anything. And, you know, some people would rather talk to me rather than her, because she's tougher than I am. Before she would go out of town, she would say, 'Don't you make any deals when I'm gone,' because she was afraid I'd be easier than she'd be."
Although Fey admits to being uninterested in most Nineties acts, Moore says she's still passionate about contemporary music; she calls Tool one of her favorite bands, and notes, "I don't spend my time listening to classic rock." Although she has no hard-and-fast plans to work for Universal beyond a number of projects she agreed to oversee in order to smooth the transition necessitated by her departure, she says that she and Marciano left the door open for future collaborations. In the meantime, she expresses pride about her accomplishments in the area, particular in regard to Red Rocks. "One of my first jobs when I started here was to develop Red Rocks as a concert venue," she says. "And I think I've done that. My first year, there were 8 or 10 shows there, and one year recently there were 54."
Another key player at Feyline during the Seventies and Eighties, Chuck Morris, is the man many locals expect to take over Fey/Universal in the near future, and Morris, whose management company handles clients such as Big Head Todd and the Monsters, is doing nothing to pour cold water on such speculation. He admits that he has been in discussions with Universal about the possibility of coming aboard, and he expects that some kind of announcement may be made within the next month or so. If Morris winds up sitting behind the big desk, expect a change in tone at the operation. "Barry and I have had a wonderful relationship for a lot of years as friends and business associates," he says. "But our styles differ quite dramatically."
One last Fey item: After last week's issue hit the streets, I received angry calls from two of Fey's sons, Geoffrey and Jeremy, regarding the profile of their father. Specifically, they objected to a paragraph in a section of Fey-related rumors about a rumor that Geoffrey had been fired by ex-Fey Concerts employee Nate Feld for pilfering $2,000 out of proceeds from the T-shirt concession at a 1994 Pink Floyd concert. Both insist that the incident never happened and that Geoffrey was not even present at the show in question. I pointed out to them that the segment was clearly described as a rumor and that it was immediately followed by Fey's comment that "it didn't have anything to do with Geoffrey." But they were not placated. So on the odd chance that someone is so monumentally stupid as to be confused about the meaning of the word rumor (something I very much doubt), let me state for the record that Geoffrey strongly denies the charge that the story never made.
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By the way, the only member of the Fey clan who was not pissed off at me over this matter was Barry, who had not the slightest clue why his sons were so upset. "I told them it was just a rumor," he said. "But I guess it's good that they're sticking up for each other."
Westword and Backbeat: Bringing families together.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@. While you're online, visit Michael Roberts's Jukebox at www.westword.com