VARIOUS ARTISTS: Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story: CD/DVD Box Set

Jun 22, 2007

There’s been a discrepancy for quite some time when trying to agree just how big a cock the major labels suck, referring to how they treat and go about their business with their artists. I’d be the first to agree that the majors have certainly shown their colors for a number of years, proving that their signed artists, no matter how talented they may be, are simply dispensable and can be dropped faster than the weight of a coke addict. Very few labels, and I mean very few, have seen their artists’ vision and intent through from the very first day they’ve decided to sign them, and Sire was thee label that provided artists with an outlet to do so. Seymour Stein, who founded Sire in 1966 with his partner Richard Gottehrer, went on to sign and build a staggering catalog of artists that left an undeniable impression on rock’n’roll to come, especially in the later ‘70s with what he called “the new wave of rock.” In the ‘70s alone, we have Mr. Stein to endlessly thank for signing bands like the Ramones, Saints, Dead Boys, Talking Heads, Voidoids, Rezillos, and the Undertones, to name a few. Stop and think for a second if he hadn’t signed these artists—it makes my sphincter pucker to think what might’ve happened to the future of rock, not that it wasn’t already choking itself to death with self-indulged solos and pap during that time. Even though the aforementioned artists didn’t have millions of units flying off the shelves, Seymour stayed headstrong to his love of music, and it really started to pay off in the ‘80s with his signings of such artists as the Pretenders, Madness, the English Beat, Madonna, the Cult, Depeche Mode, the Cure, and Echo and the Bunnymen. He even gave the Replacements a major label chance in the ‘80s by signing them on (this was even after the ‘Mats released three LPs and one EP on the Twin/Tone label), believing to this day that they are one of the greatest American rock’n’roll bands, even if they never got their just due. That said, this three-disc (and one DVD) collection is a long-overdue and welcome sight to the guy writing this review. The three CDs contain tracks from the all of the mentioned artists, as well as a whole lot more, and the DVD contains production vids from the lot as well. I think a lot of people are going to really be surprised with just how many artists were signed with Sire upon checking this box out. The sixty-five-page book included with this is beautifully done: fully illustrated histories of the included artists, tons of quotes and stories of those associated with Sire, as well as intros, including two from Seymour Stein and Richard Gottehrer. Fantastic job here, Rhino—it’s awesome when someone in the industry who truly deserves props gets some, and you guys did Seymour & Co. right with this. I was actually lucky enough to bump into Seymour at the Ramones’ thirtieth anniversary show in Hollywood last year while we were both looking at the glass cases full of Ramones memorabilia. I remember shaking his hand, humorously remarking that this night probably wouldn’t have happened had he not signed the Ramones. With a big smile on his face and that Brooklyn accent, he said, “Well, they were the easiest decision I had to make in fifteen minutes for signing a band.” What I’ve admired for years about Seymour Stein isn’t how much of a successful business he’d made for himself, but how he went about doing so with artists who he honestly believed in with a label like Sire. Honesty—now there’s a word some labels should take to heart. By doing so, they just may change rock’n’roll.

 –dale (Rhino)

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