In the music business, Allen Klein is both an icon and an enigma. While he has never sought the spotlight for himself, his company, ABKCO Music & Records Inc. has become one of the leading independent treasuries of copyrights and master recordings.
Allen Klein, the youngest of four children was born in Newark, NJ in 1931. As a teenager, he worked at several jobs while attending evening classes including one at Essex County News where he learned about distribution. Ultimately, he graduated from Upsala College in East Orange, NJ with a degree in accounting. Following a stint in the US Army, he clerked for the Manhattan accounting firm of Prager and Fenton and, through a friendship with publisher Don Kirshner, soon was involved in the music business.
In 1957, he began his own business, Allen Klein & Co. A meeting with Bobby Darin started him on the path of auditing record companies on behalf of recording artist clients. He developed a fervent following among these clients based on his uncanny ability to identify unpaid royalties. In 1962, Allen met Sam Cooke and would soon become his manager. On Cooke’s behalf, he secured an unprecedented agreement with RCA Records providing for not only artistic control but Cooke’s ownership of his own masters via Tracey Records, a label that Allen set up for this purpose. That contract forever changed the traditional relationship between label and artist that had been in place since the birth of the industry.
Even before Sam Cooke’s tragic death in 1964, Allen turned his sights to the UK where he became associated with producer Mickie Most (Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Donovan, etc.). He worked with Rolling Stones’ manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham to secure a new contract with Decca (UK) and, would later purchase the band’s master recordings from Oldham. At one time, Allen managed both the Beatles Apple Corps Ltd. as well as the Rolling Stones. Allen Klein, in fact, represented The Beatles in re-negotiations between Apple and EMI in 1969 which resulted in their being granted the highest royalty rate ever paid to an artist up to that time. Later, with George Harrison, he co-produced The Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden the first ever concert event at the facility and the forerunner of every rock fund raising benefit on behalf of a cause or charity. Following the Beatles’ split, Allen continued to work with John Lennon.
Today, ABKCO is one of the leading independent record companies in the world. It is home to critical catalog assets that include recordings by Sam Cooke, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Marianne Faithfull, The Kinks as well as the Cameo Parkway label, which include the original master recordings of such artists as Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Orlons, The Dovells, ? & The Mysterians, The Tymes and Dee Dee Sharp. ABKCO administers Phil Spector Records and its master recordings including iconic hits by The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes, The Crystals and others.
The company’s music publishing division comprises over two thousand copyrights including songs composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, Ray Davies, Pete Townshend and other legendary composers. ABKCO also administers several important publishing catalogs including Phil Soector’s Mother Rer+a Music. ABKCO Music is one of the last significant independent publishers in the industry. Its classic copyrights resonate in contemporary times with recent covers by numerous artists including Rod Stewart and Leila James. ABKCO, in fact, is the co-publisher of Mariah Carey’s recent worldwide #1 hit “We Belong Together” and many of its songs have been performed by contestants on both American Idol and Rock Star.
Through ABKCO’s involvement in Broadway productions, Allen has worked with such theater notables as Edward Albee, Rene Taylor and Joseph Bologna. Its film division produced The Greek Tycoon starring Jacqueline Bisset and Anthony Quinn as well as El Topo and Holy Mountain, the cult classics directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky that are both slated to be shown in a special retrospective program at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. ABKCO was awarded a Grammy® for the DVD documentary Sam Cooke: Legend in 2004 and an ABKCO produced Sam Cooke film biography based on Dream Boogie, Peter Guralnick’s best selling biography of the soul and gospel star, is in the planning stage.
ABKCO, under Allen Klein, is active on many fronts including film and commercial placement of its master recordings and music publishing properties. Its continuing program of releasing lauded compilations and reissues from its catalogs has received high critical praise. At ABKCO, cutting edge technologies including Super Audio, Direct Stream Digital mastering and Surround Sound have been employed to bring new relevance to classic repertoires.