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Beginnings of the A&M Records

A&M Records was formed in 1962 by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. The company named A&M, after Alpert’s and Moss’s initials.

From 1966 to 1999, the company’s headquarters were on the grounds of the historic Charlie Chaplin Studio at 1416 N. La Brea Avenue, near Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, A&M was among the leading purveyors of ‘light’ pop music, with such acts as: Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Baja Marimba Band, Burt Bacharach, Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66, We Five, The Carpenters, Chris Montez, Captain and Tennille, Quincy Jones, and Paul Williams; folk legends Joan Baez, Phil Ochs and Gene Clark, were with the label during the 1970s. However, the label also found success in R&B and funk thanks to piano great Billy Preston who joined the label in 1971. The Carpenters, however, remain the label’s most successful act of the 1970s with upwards of 100 million albums sold worldwide.

In the late 1960s, A&M added British artists through direct signing and licensing agreements. These artists include Joe Cocker, Procol Harum, Fairport Convention, Free, The Move and Spooky Tooth. In the 1970s, under its manufacturing and distribution agreement with Ode Records, A&M released albums by Carole King, Hummingbird and the comedy duo Cheech And Chong. Other notable acts of the time included: Nazareth, Y&T, The Tubes, Styx, Supertramp, Rick Wakeman, Squeeze and Peter Frampton.

A&M’s success sustained during the 1980s with noted acts that included: Falco, Janet Jackson, Atlantic Starr, The Police, Suzanne Vega, Oingo Boingo, Annabel Lamb, Bryan Adams, Joe Jackson and Scottish rock band Gun.

Alpert and Moss Selling A&M to Polygram

A&M was bought by PolyGram in 1989 for a reported $500 million. Alpert and Moss continued to manage the label until 1993, when they felt PolyGram was increasing its pressure on A&M to fit their corporate structure. The sale to PolyGram stipulated that Alpert and Moss had an integrity clause allowing them to control the label’s image through 2009. In 1998, Alpert and Moss sued PolyGram for breach of the integrity clause.

A&M under Universal, death of the legend

In 1998, PolyGram was bought by Seagrams and merged into its Universal Music Group. The consolidation of these two music giants triggered a shake up of labels. A&M was subsequently merged into Universal Music Group’s then newly formed Interscope-Geffen-A&M label group.

The A&M lot on La Brea Avenue was shut down in January 1999 (it is now operating as Henson Recording Studios.) During the farewell celebration, the company’s staff placed a black band over the A&M sign above the main entrance, indicating the death of the company. Most of the company’s workforce (some of whom had been with the company for a decade, or more) were let go, while many of its artists were dropped.

Alpert and Moss sued Universal Music Group in 2000; claiming that they had violated a contractual agreement that stated A&M Records would be allowed to retain its corporate culture. The suit was later settled.

Edited by petershaman on 17 Dec 2008, 15:43

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