Allen Klein died yesterday at 77. He was famous for being John and Yoko’s lawyer during the breakup of the Beatles. Needless to say, he came across as a bad guy back then in 1970. Everyone thought he was whispering negative things in John Lennon’s ear. Maybe he was. Who knows?
Klein is also famous for controlling two major music catalogs: those of Sam Cooke, and of the Rolling Stones through 1971.
But back to the Beatles. Klein did play dirty. In Steven Gaines’s great Beatles book with Peter Brown, the Beatles’ publicist, called “The Love You Make,” the authors claimed that Klein caused a scuffle during a contentious meeting that had him, Lennon and Ono on one side and Paul McCartney with his distinguished father-in-law/attorney on the other.
But time does heal all wounds, and in the end Klein got past his Beatle skirmishes. He became an excellent repackager of Cooke’s and the Stones’s catalogs. His company, ABKCO Music & Records, also released Phil Spector’s famous “Back to Mono” box set. Regardless of what Spector has done in his later life, “BMono” remains a seminal document in pop music history.
I have to credit Klein for telling me something very important back around 1990. He pointed out out that because of the Songwriters’ Act of 1927, John Lennon’s heirs would receive larger portions of his publishing royalties than Paul McCartney once their copyrights came up for renewal. He was right, and the law has always vexed Paul, who gets less for songs like “Yesterday” than Ono and Sean Lennon.
ABKCO also released one of the great pop records of all time, “96 Tears,” by Question Mark and the Mysterians. You can see it on their website, www.abkco.com. Allen Klein, rest in peace.