Speaker Before we go on Tuesday, the you know, on the subject of Tiffany lamps. So I became a big student of them under David's influence and he actually the whole experience got me to start forming a collection of my own, which when they were totally different direction. But one day I decided it was this beautiful Tiffany lamp in a knotted Lilian's with a different story.

Speaker I told David, I said I had some money from from the albums that I'd been producing. I said, I want this lamp. This is a lamp I want. And there were two very similar lamps. One was fifty five thousand dollars. Forty five thousand dollars.

Speaker And he said, All right, let me handle this for you. So we go up to the dealer shop.

Speaker We walk in. His name was Simon Lieberman. And he was himself a fabulous character.

Speaker We walk in. Hey, John. I guess I bought my bar.

Speaker You know, David said, look at these lamps. I mean, these are both. No, you know, they're so similar. How much are they? She said, well, this one's forty five. That's one fifty five. So he says, what are you crazy? This is the good one. This is the one. The forty five. One should be should be fifty five thousand. Fifty five thousand one I wanted. That should be the forty five thousand one.

Speaker So I'm standing in it. This is Abdulrahim. I'm saying David, are you sure about this.

Speaker Bush's big sit in the corner. Shut up. He said it would embarrass my friend is a joke. He says he just killed the whole thing.

Speaker So he says, all right, George, getting this the good one here. Right. But you're gonna give it to him for that. This. Right. Which is what happened. And then we will get the three of us went back and put it in my little apartment where it trance, it transformed. And actually acquiring this thing was the beginning of my own collecting experience because it was it was like, oh, I like this.

Speaker I like I'd like living like this. I'm like, you know. But anyway, that was it. Sit in a corner.

Speaker Did you notice any way anybody from that period, anybody from that period in music business who had Tiffany lamps one way or another was very possibly influenced by David's mania because David, when he was into something, you know, well, he likes to talk and he likes to talk about it. And here, you know, and and, you know, I mean, I think there are people in in in Hollywood, you know, they just hear he's interested in something they don't know. They just hear Geffen's into it.

Speaker You know, David.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker Right. And he said. Right. Right. Right. There's a whole other story that goes with that. But what I'm struck by is I'm hearing this Clive Davis. This was a time off. And I don't feel that exists today.

Speaker I said, well, of course it does to some extent. You know, it's it's it's all about, you know, there were some interesting mentors then that don't exist anymore, you know? And I had a number of mentors, just like Ahmed was David's mentor. I had David was a preeminent mentor of mine. So was like Jerry Wexler coming at it from a whole other angle. And and many, many others along the way.

Speaker You know, some of them are help you. Some of the relations would last a few months and sometimes are lifetime friends, you know, but but that whole making that connection.

Speaker The thing about David was that he was mentoring everybody in sight. And he was he was younger than half the people he was mentoring.

Speaker You know, he was I mean, this was quite a bit older. You know, Jerry Wexler was a lot older than than me.

Speaker God bless both of. You know, so that was an unusual thing. Well, they were not a match. And did you say, oh, OK.

Speaker Sure. David and Jerry Wexler were not a match. Jerry was a very intellectual person and displayed his intellect in so many different ways.

Speaker And one of the ways we all enjoyed and were entertained by was his limitless vocabulary. I mean, what did he just say, you know? You know, he had five five syllable words for every single one. And Jerry really had a notion of authenticity. And he thought that the real record men were, you know, people grew up on the blues and R and B and, you know, had sort of were real music men. That's that's who you know. And he I think David was coming at it from a different vantage point in a different life experience and bringing a whole different sensibility.

Speaker And I think Jerry and David just were too far apart, too far apart. They were both hyper competitive.

Speaker And they, you know, the Atlantic universe where where David was doing a lot of his is activity at the time was was just not big enough for the for the both of them. David, in Army, there was the match.

Speaker You know, it had an ability to, you know, get upset about something which he rarely showed and then move on.

Speaker Jerry was a guy who took it all personally. He took everything, you know, in good ways and not such good ways. You know, there's a great scene in the movie, Ray, which Ray Charles has decided to leave Atlantic and Ahmet and Jerry are sitting there and Ray is telling them, and he was the cornerstone of the label and probably the greatest artist that either one of them ever had the chance to work with.

Speaker And in the movie. And I wasn't there. I don't know how accurate. But in the movie, it shows Ray saying, you know, you guys have told me everything, including how to do this this business thing.

Speaker And this is just a better thing for me. The ABC, where he was going and Ahmed smiles like an approving parent, says, we wish you all the best. And Jerry storms out of the room. That was Jerry. And David could relate to Ahmed. They could fight. They could they could tussle and so forth. But it was all it it didn't somehow, wasn't it? It didn't take on that personal edge with Jerry. There was an edge. There was an edge.

Speaker Was there any truth to the story? David, the story goes right. I think it was stills out of his rise office and said you got to stay so that the story basically took him by the scruff of the neck.

Speaker I don't know if that's how he became heard about it. Yeah.

Speaker Well, you know, people were people were threatened and jealous of of David Walter Yetnikoff. Very good. I had a period of time where we were very friendly.

Speaker And Walter had a violent mouth. I mean, just his whole way of talking about people was so aggressive.

Speaker And you really had to understand Walter. And he knew that David and I were very friendly.

Speaker And he would say the most insulting things about David when we were together. How is your friend doing?

Speaker You know, just she certainly had, you know, just all all of that ugly stuff, you know? And I would always stop him if he can't. You can't talk like that, you know, in front of me, period, you know, whether it's about David or any anybody else. And he was going, oh, you know, it was like an obsession with him, how much he hated this little you know, I don't even want to.

Speaker It's just not my way to to get involved with the labeling that he was using. And I finally said, you know, I mean, I know, you know, Walter.

Speaker I said, this is the smartest guy I know.

Speaker I said on the phone. When the phone rings and it's him and I answer the phone, I say, Hello, genius.

Speaker I've been doing that from a week after I met him. And that's still how I answered the phone. And I said, instead of sitting here and acting like an ass and talking the way you do.

Speaker And in no good in whatsoever an embarrassing me and just trying to get a rise out of me because, you know, I love him.

Speaker And you should think about going into business with him. That might be a good thing for you to do. So about a month later, he said to me, you know, I ran into him at some party. So it was the first time I wasn't nasty to him. Well, that's a good start.

Speaker And the next thing you knew.

Speaker He'd made a deal to distribute David's new label on the court on CBS International.

Speaker David left Varner's for international purchases and went with Walker and they had until they had a traumatic ending.

Speaker They had a very productive relationship. So I take a you know, that was a little that was a little matchmaking of my own, you know.

Speaker And he said it was you. Right. All right. You know, and whatever it was.

Speaker I'm.

Speaker It eventually, eventually, to a certain point.

Speaker They were able to relate to each other in a productive way for a certain amount of time, and then it unwound. You know, it just wasn't meant to be a long term thing. But Ahmed Walter did 180 degree from just being totally homophobic and outrageous and destructive to forming a very solid relationship with him in any degree. Well, you know.

Speaker You know, he David, is is it is that for me as a teacher and you just said, you know, that he could be known as a screamer and in nineteen seventy seven or so late 70s, and he was spending a lot of time in New York and I was living in New York. And you know, if we were both I was working at night producing records and so we both Freedonia de la Times, we'd have lunch and David was collecting Tiffany lamps at the time and I was just would tag along just fine when we needed. He had two places he would eat at in New York at the time. Perles Chinese restaurant and Patsy's Pizza on one hundred and seventy two Street, First Avenue. And the great thing about eating with David at the time was you never had to water because David orders for you. You don't ask you just pearls. Bring me this. Bring me that. Bring me this. We share everything. You take one and we try something that's not on, you know, something else on the menu here, says John, I've been eating here for 20 years. I know exactly what the best things on the menu are. This is what we're getting. So. So anyway, then we go from there to we go over to shop. A wonderful woman named Lilly Nestle and she invented the Tiffany lamp market. And David had many Tiffany lamps and like he does with everything that he enjoys. He tells his friends about them. And so he had many people who were now going to the store and the other small number of other shops and collecting Tiffany. So he was Lillian's greatest client. So he happened to have this one lap he wanted to give back. He didn't he didn't want it anymore. So we go in this shop, which is a fairly narrow, deep shop.

Speaker And I don't know what we're doing.

Speaker We're just we're just going over. Right.

Speaker And he says Lillian was this tall. And she was from Eastern Europe. And she'd invented this thing. I mean, Tiffany lamps, she had invented it as a market. So says Lilly, you know, the first leap you sold me, I want you to take it back. You know how you told me you would always take it back and the price paid for it, which was around 30000 thousand dollars, as I recall. So little says, you know, David, I didn't actually say that about this slam. You know, dealers a lot of time with collectors. You know, they said, well, we'll always take it back because it's common. And she she she said that. But I didn't say about this one.

Speaker OK. So World War Three began right there.

Speaker You have never seen a scene like this. I have not seen a scene like this in my life. They start going up and down the length of the gallery. There are a few other people in the gallery there huddling up against the wall. This is as you're pointing to this for. Oh, look at you. I got to tell you, though, that the people are huddling up against the wall.

Speaker And I my heartbeat is into a dangerous zone, you know, and.

Speaker And Lillian is yelling back at David. She's she's as tough as he is.

Speaker And, you know, and he wants you to take this letter back and she's not. And he starts throwing the kitchen sink at her. You know, all the businesses brought her. And then he says, I'm just standing there.

Speaker And he says, you know, I could ask John to say that that's what he heard. Right. That, you know. Because I done so much of the time, he said. He said I would never do that. He would never do that. So finally after I leave, I walked out. It was too too much for me. Then I go back in because I want to know what's happening. So finally, the surrender by Lilyan takes the form of I'm not paying the shipping. The lamp was in California. I'm not paying the shipping. That's the surrender. Now, one thing David taught me about negotiation and he taught me almost everything I know is when you when you hear what you're going to hear. You leave. There is no advantage to to staying an extra you. How's the family and so forth. You go. So out we go.

Speaker Now we're walking down 57 street with ten steps out of the shop.

Speaker And he says to me, you know, when I bought the lamp. I paid the ship.

Speaker She's buying the lamp. She should be paying the shipping.

Speaker And he turns around and he starts to walk back. So I said, well, I them as going to be. Before we go back and just question, I said, how much is the shipping? I don't know what. What's the shipping lamp? What does it say? Seventy five dollars. So I took out my wallet.

Speaker I said, listen, let me give you the seventy five dollars is worth it to me. And do not have to go back into the store. Which gentleman that he was. He didn't take it you know. So that was, that was one of my early early exposures to the design dynamic. David Geffen.

Speaker Can I go now? Exactly. Idea. All right.

Speaker And let me say that I, for better or worse, under trying to understand exactly what he was doing and was able to replicate it for many years as it is as closely as possible.

Speaker But they don't talk, you think, cutaway shots. All right, now what we're getting is just thinking about it.

Speaker They talk to me about his mother and I think, you know, I heard what the familiar stories about, you know, I said, David, you know how because any negotiation, I think anybody who knows a or is dealt with will tell you that he just has a natural genius for it.

Speaker And he said, well, you know, he would go with his brother, like, say to Bloomingdale's and his you know, his mother might be buying, you know, some underwear or some whatever, some, you know, household. But he said if you ever tried to negotiate in Bloomingdale's with a counter person, you know, you're trying to buy a shirt, you know, Brooks Brothers shirt. So. Well, it's a hundred twenty dollars. I'll give you eighty five dollars for it.

Speaker It's not that it's not the normal thing. Mom would do that.

Speaker So he when he was 10 years old, was was absorbing, you know, this you know, that sort of aspect of things. And he has a very distinctive style of negotiation, in my opinion, which is.

Speaker Hee hee hee. He tends to.

Speaker Come up with a very relevant and very fair proposition. And he gets it on the table first and then he sticks with it.

Speaker He he said, OK, when he makes a proposition is it's always your first reactions. That sounds reasonable.

Speaker And then, you know, the normal thing as well. OK, but what about this? What about that? No, it's reasonable. And there he is.

Speaker Of course, he you know, he knows when to hold them, knows when to fold up and all of that.

Speaker But he is he has a very distinctive style when record companies would generally would be offering everybody X for a new contract. When he started his record company, it was X plus three.

Speaker But the other record companies that the customer our business grew up of, once you had success, people renegotiated well, take it was a slow re negotiator. He he was more than fair to begin with. But then he he'd like to.

Speaker That's that. He'd like to stay with what. What would happen. Right now everybody else is sort of. Well.

Speaker Well, well. Well really. You're a young artist. You have no leverage but will increase you later on.

Speaker You say you're a young artist. I'm going to give you an excellent deal from day one. But sort of. I'm not in a big rush for you to come back and say it, but now I want more. After we had the success. So the psychology of how you approached it was was very distinctive.

Speaker You know, why do you think that? Was it partly out of. She's a shrewd guy. And also, do you think partly out of some desire?

Speaker Yeah, I do. I think that he he he was, you know, the music and artist that he worked with and gravitated towards in the late 60s and 70s.

Speaker It was all stuff that he just really liked. And he he he finds himself in this spot of being helpful and respected by artists was incredibly significant, too. And he certainly wanted to feel a special connection from them and with them. And I think he meant to you know, he meant to part of that was fair with them.

Speaker Now, in the course of any all his personal slash business relationship.

Speaker So in the course of it, you know, you get into you get into you're going to get into your share of arguments no matter what. But I think that she you know, he worked with and signed, you know, artists that all had a distinct point of view.

Speaker And the overall tone of what they did was it was what he could relate to.

Speaker He wasn't signing cash. He wasn't signing big heavy English rock bands. He could relate to, you know. That wasn't him signing Joni Mitchell. You know, he was he was he was putting the Eagles together. He was he was Jackson Browne. He you know, that their sensibility was what he could connect with. You know, connected to him. Yeah.

Speaker Well, I listen, I can't I don't know what person of the ones I just mentioned who I know very well.

Speaker Is Jackson, who I had a chance to work with. Which which was thrilling, thrilling experience.

Speaker And in 1977. And he loved it. You know, his every Jackson Browne album long after David Geffen had departed from the active music scene. When I mean, I was to pick him up last credit, every album. And thanks always to David Geffen. David Jackson felt giving him his his his his platform, his his stage.

Speaker And David was different than many of the music entrepreneurs of his time. He came from so many different backgrounds.

Speaker But David was not a guy who sort of grew up loving, you know, every loving rock and roll. You know. Think David was more of a song, you know, almost like more Broadway.

Speaker You know, you get more excited about something like that. And so he brought his own sensibility into it.

Speaker So, I mean, what's this you're saying? I'm really struck by both.

Speaker I mean, maybe he's four years older than Mike. I think he's 67.

Speaker Well, he was born it was born in 43 and I was born in 47. So what would you tell?

Speaker The point is, you were both really young.

Speaker Yes, immediately since I was in all of him, you know, I was trying to think of when we first met and, you know, I was a journalist in the 60s and I was one of the first rock critics journalist.

Speaker And I wrote until well into the 70s before I became a record producer and then later a manager.

Speaker And so I met David, I am sure at a time where I was writing and I was wrote a tremendous amount and I would write about artists that he and Roberts is his management partner were managing.

Speaker And in general, I liked a great deal of the music that they were releasing. They had involvement in.

Speaker And I was just trying to remember the first time we spoke on the phone or whatever. And I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Speaker I just know from the very first time you spoke, we just, you know, it was just easy, was just fun and, you know, it was just relaxed. He was it he was somebody who inspired or even back then, you had some sense of it because because I'm an intense person and on the intensity meter next today that I would register like a one in relation to his tan. There's nobody more intense. There's nobody more. When he is he's focused on something you can't out focus him. He is, you know, and I just you know, I didn't realize that at the time, but I was just learning from him right from the beginning. Right from the beginning when I went into it in nineteen seventy four in my search to go from journalism into getting into more behind the scenes work and especially be record producer. That was originally, as is somebody growing up in the 50s, of course. What did I want to be.

Speaker I wanted to be a rock star but look at me.

Speaker The odds weren't great, you know. And I was a realist.

Speaker So after, you know, having a couple of bands while I was in college and realizing I wasn't realistic.

Speaker So then I started so well, I want to be part of the game here.

Speaker And, you know, so and record producers were becoming, you know, significant figures, which there was a great model of Phil Spector at that time was, you know.

Speaker And so I started learning about that in one way or another. I hooked up with Bruce and I'd been working with since 1974, 1977, Bruce.

Speaker And we talked about his my managing him.

Speaker He had had these past managers that hadn't worked out and he had no manager. We'd make two records together. We were best friends.

Speaker And he said to me, well, why don't we give it a try for six months?

Speaker You know, I said, why? So I said, well, I'm dying. And you that's what you know, let's let's let's do that.

Speaker And I said, I've got to tell you something. I have no business background whatsoever. I just I know you know that.

Speaker Right. I know you know that. But I just want to repeat it so there's no confusion.

Speaker So he said Bruce said, well, you're a smart guy.

Speaker It's not rocket science and we trust each other and you'll learn the rest. And I learned the rest from David Geffen.

Speaker That it's the troops.

Speaker Everything you say, I'll be on the air.

Speaker Well, look, I think I've got to go a step further. It did just demonstrate how that worked. Work was hilarious.

Speaker When we made the album The River, and it called for some financial discussions with Walter Yetnikoff, who is a big figure in a certain phase in David's life, couldn't figure in my life at a certain point in time. And I wanted to get his particular type of increase for Bruce in connection with this double album. So I called up David and he said, well, what's my best approach here? So he said, well, give me all the facts and tell him everything. And he says, well, call Walter and just say this. And he he said something. I don't remember what it is right now. Lost in the mists of time. So I say, okay, I just.

Speaker This is it. This is the message I give.

Speaker He says, yeah, just call him up. Be very calm. Just say, Walter, this is what we need for this project. This is. And he's gonna give it to you.

Speaker Was the net effect of this was very substantial. So David says, do you understand?

Speaker You understand the concept and it was a little tricky and I am a smart person, but I wasn't quite getting it, you know? So he says we'll send it back to me.

Speaker So I say it back to him. So she's not you're not getting. What do you need to get? My friend is an idiot. I want you to write it down. Now we're talking about a sentence. Just write it down. I'm going to dictate to dictates the sentence. OK.

Speaker Now, I'm not even thinking about what it means because I call it Walter. Walter, how are you finishing the album? We're going to deliberate this day, by the way. Could you do this for me? Right. So just let me think about it.

Speaker Fine. Fight on the cause. Calls mooses. That's that's great. We'll do that.

Speaker That was it. I said, this is this is great. I said, I got you know, I got to keep talking to this guy over here because this is this is how it works. So I progressed past.

Speaker I'm what I want. You know, if Bruce is watching, I want him to know that I progressed past that particular stage, you know?

Speaker But I think that you probably couldn't.

Speaker I don't think I won't.

Speaker And I preferred wounder preferred being sort of a little in the middle of things as opposed to a observer commentator, which I thoroughly enjoyed for the 10 or more years that I did.

Speaker And but I was ready to go.

Speaker I don't know, you know, with the with the stories are a little long. And I know that the show's going 90 minutes of two hours. But I am going to tell you a story about the transition from journalism to the other side.

Speaker OK.

Speaker So, you know, David and me would be sporadically in touch. We've got periods where you're talking all the time and in periods he's in L.A. I was in New York. You know, it just comes and goes and so forth.

Speaker And I am looking to get a job at a record company. And he now has he's putting together asylum records. Clive Davis, who was another wonderful and supportive friend of mine. He was putting together Arista.

Speaker I had created a relationship with Bruce and I had started to work on the Born to Run album with Bruce.

Speaker So Clive had come to me and he had said, when you finished with Bruce that I would like you to come and work for me at Arista. And I will make you my number one assistant.

Speaker Whatever, John, you will learn the record business in 18 months. This will be your graduate school. You're going to walk out of here with a, p, h, d and you can stay together with me. And if and if you want to go a different way, you will. This will be a great thing that you'll feel with.

Speaker And I believe them. And in reality, Clive trained many, many of the best executives that are out there.

Speaker This is a 1974. So I said to Clive.

Speaker OK, great.

Speaker And we shake hands on. So I'm going to go make Bruce record. Now, Clive song Bruce. When he was at Columbia. Bruce had made two records that had not done well. There were great records. They hadn't done well. And this was the make or break record for Bruce.

Speaker So a month or so goes by and here comes David into New York. I get a phone call from I am really mad at you.

Speaker Well, jeez, you know, he said, I want you to come see me.

Speaker Sure. You know, where where should we meet? He's come over to the Pier Hotel where used to stay before he he he had Charlie watched me build this beautiful jewel like apartment right next to it, right near the pier.

Speaker So I, I, I go over and he says, you're gonna go to work for Clive Davis.

Speaker So I said, well, you know, I'm working on this Bruce Springsteen, Springsteen.

Speaker So I said this this guy I'm working on this album. You know, I just believe in this guy. So he says you're going to go to work for Clive Davis.

Speaker You didn't even come to me. And let me offer you something. I'll make you the head of asylum on East Coast. I'm gonna have a big department there and you're going to be in charge and you can sign anybody you want and you can go produce anybody you want.

Speaker Geez, I don't know what to say. I can't really you know, I shook hands with Clive on this.

Speaker So David jumped out of his seat. He grabbed me. And I can. I can.

Speaker He jumps out of a seat.

Speaker He grabs me and he says, let me get this straight. You are going to destroy your life because you shook hands with somebody. Somebody watching John Wayne movies. Are you out of your mind?

Speaker That's no way to eat. What what makes sense? What's the right thing to do? Tell me about shaking hands. What is that?

Speaker Is it that this is in high school? Now my head is spinning. I mean, I'm all right. And we the conversation goes on for a few days. And Clive is upset because Bruce record is dragged along.

Speaker And, you know, Clive thought I was going to make an album for three weeks and then I'll go to work for him. So he's calling me. Where are you? I need you. The album is taking five months.

Speaker Geffen is calling me this. Are you going to do this? Of which I was not. Listen, I. Davis wants me. David Geffen wants me. The truth of the matter is, what I'm really interested in is Bruce Springsteen.

Speaker So finally, I say to David, you know what?

Speaker I am not going to go to work for Klein. And I'm not going to go to work for you. I want to work with Bruce. I want to do this album. And then I want him to do his next album. And what I really believe is that this is it.

Speaker This is what you believe in. This is what you want to do instead of working for me. He would rather do this, right. So I said, yeah.

Speaker Yeah. He says, great. How do I get Bruce Springsteen?

Speaker So I said, David, you don't even know who you he barely knew who he was. I mean, you never listen to Bruce Springsteen. So he said, yeah, like I said, you know. Didn't I tell you I want to put you in charge of the label on the East Coast. And I told you you could sign anybody you want. Right.

Speaker So if you want this guy so much, that is more important for you to work with him than to take this incredible job that I'm offering you. Me. David Geffen is offering to you.

Speaker Then guess what? I want that guy. I don't need to hear the record.

Jon Landau Interview #1
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-cr5n873j3x, cpb-aacip-504-ms3jw8799t
"Jon Landau Interview #1, Inventing David Geffen." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 02 Oct. 2009,
(2009, October 02). Jon Landau Interview #1, Inventing David Geffen. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Jon Landau Interview #1, Inventing David Geffen." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). October 02, 2009. Accessed May 24, 2022


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