met Irving Azoff in college, in Champagne, Illinois. He was booking REO Speedwagon and a bunch of people, and I was a folk singer in a coffeehouse, with moccasins and waist-length hair.
Irving heard some stuff I did, some of the local records I did, and he thought I was good. We were totally on opposite sides of the track. He was a businessman, a capitalist, and a radical musician. I was a little standoffish at first, but as soon as I met him, I knew this was the guy.
Irving respected me as an artist, and as a human being. He knew I wasn't a businessman. I was not the type of person who could deal with record companies all day long. I don't understand economics. I've got a good accountant and they tell me I'm doing fine. I ski and write music. My life was totally different from Irving's. He told me right from the beginning, "You make the music, and I'll take care of the business." I couldn't do what he does to save my life.
The first time we met was when an ex-girlfriend of mine dragged me out of bed and said, "Irving Azoff is out at this bar in Champagne, and he wants to hear you."
I'm going, "Are you crazy? I'm asleep."
She said, "He wants to hear you. Now get up." I'll forever feel gratitude for that woman. So I went out there, and Irving was there, and they brought out this little upright piano. The place was called the Chances Are. It was a fraternity bar, on a Friday night, and the place was going nuts. I'm in the lounge, and a band is playing in the main arena. But Irving listened to me. I mean, people are throwing glasses. One guy smashed his head, and it was all bleeding, and an ambulance came. Police were throwing people in jail. Total fraternity madness, and I'm up there singing my sensitive little art songs at two in the morning. Irving was the only one in there who was listening. And he did listen. He heard every note and every word, and after I finished, he came up and said, "Yeah."
David Geffen had just formed Asylum, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel had just been signed to Columbia, and Irving was trying to sell me.
I was a big fan of Joni Mitchell's. She was a big influence on my songwriting. I'd seen that Geffen had set up this label for singer-songwriters, and I said, "What a great idea. This is where I want to be."
At the same time, Clive Davis had heard about me through Irving, and Clive was offering me a singles deal. I said, "No, I want an album deal, or we don't do it."
Geffen's label sounded like a haven for progressive artists, so I showed Irving an article about Geffen in Rolling Stone, and Irving said, "OK, I'll call the guy."
We got David's number and got him on the phone. He said, "I have no idea who you are, or what you're talking about, but if you send me a tape I'll listen." The rest is pretty much history. Irving went to work for David, and they hollered at each other across Sunset Boulevard.
But the ironic thing was, I didn't go with Asylum. It didn't feel exactly right, and Irving was saying, "Look, there are a lot of places to go here." He wanted to play the record companies, and for six months he just made the rounds. Every day I'd be sitting out in the Valley, in this little apartment, eating chili and waiting for a record deal.
Irving would come home and say, "Well, it's A&M, definitely."
I'd say, "Oh, great. When do we start?"
And Irving would say, "We'll talk about it tomorrow." The next day he'd come home and tell me about another record company.
He did this to me for about six months. Finally I said, "I'll believe it when I see it." In the end, we went with Columbia and Clive, but for an album, not just a single.
I wish I could have known him.
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