Seymour Stein on Morrissey and Johnny Marr in Times interview

[originally posted in the thread Seymour Stein book "Siren Song" includes The Smiths]

An interview with Stein from the Times of London -

Seymour Stein: the man who signed Madonna (and the rest) - The Times (paywall)
The US pop mogul used Concorde to see English bands and Elton John used his spare room. Sarfraz Manzoor meets the king of Eighties pop

Excerpt:

Two years after signing Depeche Mode, Stein received a phone call from Geoff Travis, who founded the Rough Trade record store and ran a record label of the same name. "He said, 'I have just seen this band and I am so in love with them,' " Stein says. "He then said, 'The only thing I can tell you is that I believe you will love them even more than I do.' " The band were playing in two days' time, so Stein again hopped on Concorde, this time to London, and went to the ICA in London to see the Smiths. Stein describes Morrissey, the band's singer, as "one of the greatest artists I have ever worked with", but he also writes that he "wondered if maybe Morrissey harboured a deep unrequited love for Johnny Marr". What made you write that, I ask. "I do have that feeling," he says. "I could tell. I am pretty sure of it. I could see it and to tell you the truth I felt sorry for both of them because I didn't think Johnny was gay - and he wasn't - and I could feel for Morrissey."

Here's the text for those who can't access the article:

Seymour Stein, the man who signed Madonna (and the rest);
The US music mogul helped to launch the career of Talking Heads, while Elton John stayed in his spare room.

Sarfraz Manzoor meets the king of Eighties pop


It was the summer of 1982 and Seymour Stein was in a New York hospital recovering from an infection. The 40-year-old boss of Sire Records was listening to a demo sent by a friend. Mark Kamins was a New York DJ who had been badgering Stein to let him produce a record. "I thought he had great potential," Stein says, "so I gave him $18,000 to do six demos."

It was the third of those demos that Stein listened to in hospital - a track called Everybody by a young woman who called herself Madonna. "This girl knocked me off my feet," he says (presumably he wasn't lying down at this stage). He rang Kamins and said he wanted to meet Madonna that evening. "I was worried that someone else would sign her," he says. When Madonna arrived at the hospital they agreed on a record deal there and then. "Whoever got Madonna would have success with her," Stein says, "but I was the first to spot her and appreciate her."

It is early evening in Rough Trade East, a record store in east London, and I am talking to Stein before an appearance at the store to promote his memoir, Siren Song. He is 76 and somewhat unsure on his feet - he walks with a stick and is helped to his seat by his daughter, Mandy - but his reputation as one of the greatest music men in history is assured. This is the man who not only launched the careers of Madonna, the Ramones, Talking Heads, the Pretenders, Ice-T and Seal, but also introduced the Cure, Depeche Mode, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Smiths to American audiences.

Stein's career spans the history of pop music, from working for Billboard magazine and clubbing in Studio 54 to being inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and he charts it in Siren Song. It begins in Forties Brooklyn when, as a small boy, he would write down the names of the songs he heard in the weekly chart countdown. Aged 14 he was hired by Billboard to work after school and during the holidays. Later he was headhunted by the record label boss Syd Nathan, who asked Stein, then barely 20, to go on the road with James Brown. "Syd wanted me to keep James out of trouble," he says. "James really liked me. He was very smart, but he was very tough with his band."

Stein co-founded Sire Records in 1966 and by then had started visiting Britain. One night in February 1967 he was in a London club called Middle Earth with Linda Keith, who was dating Keith Richards. Linda Keith told him that a friend of hers was playing - he turned out to be Jimi Hendrix. "What I most remember about that night was that Jimi took his guitar, which I knew belonged to Keith Richards, and broke it into smithereens," Stein says. The guitar did not survive the concert and nor, when she later told her boyfriend, did Linda Keith's relationship with Keith Richards.

On another trip to London Stein met a young EMI staffer, John Reid, who introduced him to his new lover, a musician named Reg Dwight.

Dwight would change his name to Elton John and became a global superstar; he and Stein remained friends. "Elton found staying in hotels annoying," Stein says, "so when he came to New York he would stay in my spare room." On Thanksgiving Day in 1974, before they were due to play Madison Square Garden, Elton and his band visited Stein's apartment with John Lennon, who was to be their special guest at the concert. "Elton was so excited because he idolised John Lennon," Stein says. Everyone ate turkey and pumpkin pie before Lennon asked for silence as he handed Elton a present - it was a gleaming cock ring.

By the mid-Seventies Sire was on its way to becoming one of the music industry's most influential record labels and gaining a reputation for championing punk and new wave - a term that Stein popularised - with acts such as the Ramones and Talking Heads.

Stein's love of British music kept him involved with the music scene across the Atlantic. In the early hours of April 28, 1981, he was flicking through the NME when he came across an article profiling a new English pop group. They seemed worth checking out, but there was a problem: they were playing in Basildon that night and Stein was in New York. "I called up at 6.30 in the morning and asked how much was the Concorde to London for that day," he says. "It was $8,000." Stein flew into Heathrow and was driven to a Basildon nightclub called Sweeneys where he saw the band play. He signed them. Depeche Mode went on to sell more than 100 million records and still fill stadiums around the world.

Two years after signing Depeche Mode, Stein received a phone call from Geoff Travis, who founded the Rough Trade record store and ran a record label of the same name. "He said, 'I have just seen this band and I am so in love with them,' " Stein says. "He then said, 'The only thing I can tell you is that I believe you will love them even more than I do.' " The band were playing in two days' time, so Stein again hopped on Concorde, this time to London, and went to the ICA in London to see the Smiths. Stein describes Morrissey, the band's singer, as "one of the greatest artists I have ever worked with", but he also writes that he "wondered if maybe Morrissey harboured a deep unrequited love for Johnny Marr". What made you write that, I ask. "I do have that feeling," he says. "I could tell. I am pretty sure of it. I could see it and to tell you the truth I felt sorry for both of them because I didn't think Johnny was gay - and he wasn't - and I could feel for Morrissey."

Stein knew he was gay since he was a teenager, but the cultural pressures of his Jewish background - which stressed the importance of marriage and children - led him to date women while also secretly having gay encounters. On his first date with Linda Adler, in early 1971, they ended up sleeping together. He later opened up to her about his sexuality and in Siren Song he describes how, on learning that her boyfriend was gay, Adler "fell into silent shock for about ten minutes ... then erupted into wails of 'No! No! No!', while punching her own head with two clenched fists". All of which makes it surprising that, later that year, the couple married and went on to have two daughters.

Stein also relates a story about a time he met a man with whom he had "the most powerful sex I'd ever experienced". His wife found out, lured the man to a hotel and told him that unless he had sex with her she would tell all of New York that he was gay. The man did what he was told and later she returned to Stein and said, "Do you know who I f***ed, Seymour? I'll give you one guess."

"Linda knew how to get back at me," Stein says. "She did it to hurt me."

Linda was murdered in 2007, bludgeoned to death by her personal assistant. In 2013 Stein's daughter, Samantha, died of brain cancer, aged 40. In his book Stein refers to himself as "the world's most absent father". Do you regret that, I ask. "I have guilt about that," he says. "I could have been a better father. I could have been a better husband, but I had no choice. The main thing in my life was music and this came first."

Stein has been in the music business for more than six decades and still travels the globe in search of the next Morrissey and the next Madonna. Madonna turns 60 next month and when I ask Stein the secret of her longevity, he looks at me as if I have lost my mind. "Isn't it obvious? She is one of the smartest and most talented people. She is very, very, very special."

Many of the artists Stein has signed are rightly recognised as very special, even geniuses, but it takes a certain gift to be able to consistently identify and champion talent. If Stein is a genius, then he is a modest one. "I don't have easily definable skills or talents," he says. "I have ears. I am a fan, I love music and always have."

Siren Song: My Life in Music by Seymour Stein is published by St Martin's Press, £22.99

43972_seymour_stein_rough_trade.jpg


Stein at Rough Trade record shop in London
JOONEY WOODWARD FOR THE TIMES
 
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V

vegan cro spirit 55

Guest
If Drama J was gay, we wouldn't have had half The Smiths lyrics (hell, their whole ouevre) and Morrissey might have ended up a passably content human being... Very nice, very nice, very nice but maybe in the next world. :cool:

None of the lyrics on the Smiths records are about DramaJ. DramaJ had a kissy kissy thing going with another dude at the time. Its in the book, whoever it was it inspired his gay looks, including the gay
Hair Flip.:straightface:

An fing huge gay hair flip hanging right down on his forehead. FFS.:lbf:
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
"In the expanse of time that I have known him, there has never been a partner or long-term girlfriend, or boyfriend. Exactly why this should be so is an enduring conundrum. However, it is true that the longer one lives alone the more one becomes accustomed to, if not steeped in, one’s own marmalade. As one passes into maturity, domestic routine becomes an ineluctable destiny. One might yearn for companionship, but not at the cost of someone marching in and altering a perfectly good kitchen roster that has suited you since Bananarama disbanded."

James Maker

"I have at times felt his acute loneliness and it is seemingly an unbridgeable emptiness. It is not diabetes or an insufficiently warmed-up fishcake in Carcassonne that will undo you (as it nearly did me), but loneliness. Loneliness can suffocate you with the sheer weight of hourly, if not minutely, desolation. In a conversation that endeavoured to map the geometry of seclusion, I said, finally, ‘I think you have to be more socially available.’ ‘What do you want me to do, hang above Henley-on-Thames in an air balloon?’ In the absence of a partner, I believe the stockpile of all that unspent love and desire has been, if not sublimated, discharged into the world as fusillades of epic biography. But, it’s not all Hebridean weather fronts stacking up and waiting to roll in to darken one’s dawn. Morrissey bears his inner solitude manfully and, despite it, is rarely without that sabre-like sense of humour. Simply, he is the funniest person I have ever met."

Is this from Maker's memoir? Beautifully expressed, but so deeply sad. Can it really be the case? I know Jake didn't last 2 minutes but was Tina "long-term"? Damon? God, it's bleak to think that's true.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
None of the lyrics on the Smiths records are about DramaJ. DramaJ had a kissy kissy thing going with another dude at the time. Its in the book, whoever it was it inspired his gay looks, including the gay
Hair Flip.:straightface:

An fing huge gay hair flip hanging right down on his forehead. FFS.:lbf:

Does anyone else reel with disbelief at such a comment being posted on a MORRISSEY forum??
 

Peppermint

Well-Known Member
Is this from Maker's memoir? Beautifully expressed, but so deeply sad. Can it really be the case? I know Jake didn't last 2 minutes but was Tina "long-term"? Damon? God, it's bleak to think that's true.
It is indeed beautifully expressed, but how reliable, that's the question. We know from his own words in Autobio that Jake lasted 2 years; he admitted to being with Gelato (although not others like Peter Hogg); Tina... well, I'm not wholly convinced, but he's claiming it was a 'relationship'. And then there's Damon, from whom he seems inseparable. I find it inconceivable that there haven't been others, once he got the bit between his teeth (so to speak) after the Smiths ended.

I like James Maker, but one thing that's for sure is that he can always be relied upon to defend Morrissey in public. And since Morrissey has built his whole career on the 'lonely, loveless' narrative, it's not a huge stretch that that his close and ultra-loyal friend would be helping to defend his brand in this way.

I can't think of any other explanation, because even if this was written long before the revelations in Autobio, EVERYBODY knew about Jake, at the very least. Are we to believe Maker didn't?
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
I can't think of any other explanation, because even if this was written long before the revelations in Autobio, EVERYBODY knew about Jake, at the very least. Are we to believe Maker didn't?

I'm sure he knew, but 2 years isn't "long-term" so that doesn't change his statement really. Part of me hopes it's all exaggerated, but who knows?I find it sad, too, that you could know someone for 30-odd years and still come to the conclusion that they're an enigma with layers upon layers of themselves hidden.

Elsewhere in his memoirs he compares Moz and Johnny to Lennon/McCartney and then, "later", to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
It is indeed beautifully expressed, but how reliable, that's the question. We know from his own words in Autobio that Jake lasted 2 years; he admitted to being with Gelato (although not others like Peter Hogg); Tina... well, I'm not wholly convinced, but he's claiming it was a 'relationship'. And then there's Damon, from whom he seems inseparable. I find it inconceivable that there haven't been others, once he got the bit between his teeth (so to speak) after the Smiths ended.

I like James Maker, but one thing that's for sure is that he can always be relied upon to defend Morrissey in public. And since Morrissey has built his whole career on the 'lonely, loveless' narrative, it's not a huge stretch that that his close and ultra-loyal friend would be helping to defend his brand in this way.

I can't think of any other explanation, because even if this was written long before the revelations in Autobio, EVERYBODY knew about Jake, at the very least. Are we to believe Maker didn't?

We know absolutely nothing. Every 'relationship', as you put it because Moz actually never uses this particular word, is described in such a vague manner that you can interpret it one way or another.
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
Is this from Maker's memoir? Beautifully expressed, but so deeply sad. Can it really be the case? I know Jake didn't last 2 minutes but was Tina "long-term"? Damon? God, it's bleak to think that's true.

I certainly think Morrissey is (was) very fond of Tina as a living human being and person. My personal view now is that at the time he met her, he tried to do the "right things" according to the environment he grew up in, that is enjoy female company and establish a family. That didn't happen. It seems that he got cold feet at some point and I believe that is what the song "Friday Morning" was about. Soon after he left, he was scootering around Rome with his Gelato. Autobiography was vague on this part, and left us with more questions than answers. Was Tina "long term"?
 

Amy

from the Ice Age to the dole age
I certainly think Morrissey is (was) very fond of Tina as a living human being and person. My personal view now is that at the time he met her, he tried to do the "right things" according to the environment he grew up in, that is enjoy female company and establish a family. That didn't happen. It seems that he got cold feet at some point and I believe that is what the song "Friday Morning" was about. Soon after he left, he was scootering around Rome with his Gelato. Autobiography was vague on this part, and left us with more questions than answers. Was Tina "long term"?

I'll never hear Friday Mourning the same way again - I always thought it was about the fans but I prefer your interpretation. Wonderful post.
 

Peppermint

Well-Known Member
Elsewhere in his memoirs he compares Moz and Johnny to Lennon/McCartney and then, "later", to Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
There you have it - James has a fabulously acerbic turn of phrase, in much the same way as Morrissey, and while it lends colour to his reminiscences it does make him (in my view) a bit of an unreliable witness. When words are this much fun, why worry about whether they're strictly accurate? Just my view.
 

Surface

Vegan Cro’s parents regret the condom splitting
Does anyone else reel with disbelief at such a comment being posted on a MORRISSEY forum??

He’s a troll trying to provoke reactions though, he has zero interest in Morrissey or Marr. David runs one of the few sites that allows anons to post freely and scum like Vegan take advantage of that and literally troll their lives away.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I certainly think Morrissey is (was) very fond of Tina as a living human being and person. My personal view now is that at the time he met her, he tried to do the "right things" according to the environment he grew up in, that is enjoy female company and establish a family. That didn't happen. It seems that he got cold feet at some point and I believe that is what the song "Friday Morning" was about. Soon after he left, he was scootering around Rome with his Gelato. Autobiography was vague on this part, and left us with more questions than answers. Was Tina "long term"?

Have you seen pictures of Tina and her family? She looks totally out of place between all these Iranian beauties. She is beautiful but she dresses like a guy and wears her hair like a guy. Maybe All The Lazy Dykes is about her.
 
V

vegan cro spirit 55

Guest
He’s a troll trying to provoke reactions though, he has zero interest in Morrissey or Marr. David runs one of the few sites that allows anons to post freely and scum like Vegan take advantage of that and literally troll their lives away.

Quit answering your own anon posts FFS, Skiny is calling. Needs service.:womenholdinghands:
Hurry.:dancers:
 

Peppermint

Well-Known Member
We know absolutely nothing. Every 'relationship', as you put it because Moz actually never uses this particular word, is described in such a vague manner that you can interpret it one way or another.
He lived with a man for 2 years (that much is certain). I don't think Jake was just helping out with the rent, nor do I think they were playing Scrabble every night. You don't need to know every infinitesimal detail to understand what's obvious.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
He lived with a man for 2 years (that much is certain). I don't think Jake was just helping out with the rent, nor do I think they were playing Scrabble every night. You don't need to know every infinitesimal detail to understand what's obvious.

Thinking and knowing are two different things.
 

Eldritch

Well-Known Member
He’s a troll trying to provoke reactions though, he has zero interest in Morrissey or Marr. David runs one of the few sites that allows anons to post freely and scum like Vegan take advantage of that and literally troll their lives away.

Indeed. I have never seen vegan.c***face posting anything even vaguely meaningful, never mind insightful, about Morrissey or The Smiths. Just racist bullshit with the amount of emojis no sane person would use.
 
V

vegan cro spirit 55

Guest
Future Smiths book will have to now deal with the strong possibility that DramaJ may have been the gay member of the Smiths. I have provided abundant circumstantial evidence as well as visual evidence, i.e. the Gay Hair Flip.:bride:

Who else can claim to have made such a discovery?:rock:
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
Have you seen pictures of Tina and her family? She looks totally out of place between all these Iranian beauties. She is beautiful but she dresses like a guy and wears her hair like a guy. Maybe All The Lazy Dykes is about her.

Well I have seen pictures of Tina with Morrissey at a record signing event in LA around 2000. Tina looked like a very professional woman to me. And that's totally different from the glamorous female top models which you would more commonly associate with LA. All The Lazy Dyke could be about her.
I never looked for pictures of her family though. As far as I know, her father is a prominent intellectual / dissident from Iran and that is telling me too much.
 

Mayfly

Well-Known Member
I'll never hear Friday Mourning the same way again - I always thought it was about the fans but I prefer your interpretation. Wonderful post.

Thank you. His better lyrics are usually multi-layered, open to different interpretations, with changing colors and meanings over the course of time.
 

gordyboy9

its not me its you.
Thank you. His better lyrics are usually multi-layered, open to different interpretations, with changing colors and meanings over the course of time.
if you ask M he will say Friday mourning is about dying on a Friday.people on here look into lyrics too much and try and bend it to what they want it to be.
 

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