Robert Christgau: Money Isn’t Everything: Fred Goodman’s “The Mansion on the Hill”

I read already Fortune’s Fool, now I am in the early parts of Goodman’s previous book, Mansion on the Hill. Overall, it is a very engaging read, well written and filled with amazing facts and stories and characters. In a deeper level, the book has some flaws, which are well articulated in Robert Christgau’s very fun-to-read review:

An excerpt about Springteen:

The author’s small interest in such distinctions very nearly wrecks the Springsteen sections, where it is difficult not to suspect some unstated personal animus against the artist and especially Jon Landau. Since Goodman is a stickler about conflicts of interest, I should note that I knew Landau slightly way back when and was once close to his sometime associate Dave Marsh, an intimacy that suffered a permanent crimp in 1975, when I publicly accused Springsteen of not being God. He isn’t, and no matter when you think he peaked, it’s reasonable to believe his best years are past. Nevertheless, Springsteen has proven both more vital and more moral than skeptics would have deemed possible. While a return to the wordy sprawl Landau excised from his music in the late ’70s might be refreshing long about now, Goodman’s attempt to paint this uncommonly honest and idealistic rock star as an irrelevant hypocrite simply isn’t convincing. A failure to vote is hardly proof that you don’t care about the working class.


Geffen is a fascinating figure, and if no one has yet satisfactorily explained his synthesis of solicitous empathy and ruthless greed, much less what it portends about the way we live now, that’s excellent reason for Goodman to try. He organizes the facts expertly, with special attention to both the fiscal machinations underlying Geffen’s empire and the unflappable charisma that has discouraged any but the most foolhardy from getting in his way. Starting off at Hustler U., a/k/a/ the William Morris mailroom, Geffen discovered–as had Grossman, several of whose acts Geffen briefly booked–that a passion for music was a shrewd businessman’s most bankable asset in hippie-era rock. Having established his bona fides with his immensely remunerative representation of Laura Nyro and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Geffen created a record label he dubbed Asylum for such Los Angeles soft-rock icons as Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and the Eagles. Delighted to have a killer deal-maker shielding them from the stink of lucre, these unsullied souls were shocked when he sold their safe haven to Warner Bros. for $7 million in 1972. But this was hardly the first time–or the last–that big-money transactions for Geffen’s clients ended up profiting him even more.

via Robert Christgau: Money Isn’t Everything: Fred Goodman’s “The Mansion on the Hill”.

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