Shocked and saddened to hear last week (April 26 2018) of the passing of Brad Morrison. Brad was my first “boss” in the music industry. In 1990 I started working with Brad at Absolute A Go Go Records & Miracle Management. He was about to release new albums from Tiny Lights (Hoboken NJ) and The Vestrymen (Amherst MA). He was also managing Miracle Legion (New Haven CT) and Shelleyan Orphan (UK). Over the next 5 or so years I worked with him, part-time, at a little office in Oakland NJ that he shared with his dad and his business. When people ask me what I did, I always say “I did everything but say yes and sign checks.” And I did. In my time there we also released records by or managed Phish (Burlington VT), The Figgs (Saratoga Springs NY), Black Sun Ensemble (Tucson AZ), and Spiral Jetty (New Brunswick NJ).
I didn’t notice it at the time but I was learning “the business” the whole time. And to this day, almost 30 years later, I still put the lessons learned to use.
We had a lot of fun in that office, went on road trips to check out bands, spent *a lot* of time packing up LPs (and later CDs) to be mailed out to hundreds of music writers and DJs, counted up bags of loose change to pay for postage. I even remember one day when I spent hours assembling hundreds of 7″ singles by The Figgs because the outer sleeve had die cut “windows.” The plant refused to insert the singles because the windows would get caught in their machinery. The day of a thousand tiny paper cuts. I can remember days when we had to (without the internet or cell phones) find Miracle Legion a new tour van in the middle of Colorado after they hit some animal. Figuring out how to get Spiral Jetty gear for a UK tour during the hottest summer on record. Trying to get Black Sun Ensemble’s Jesus Acedo on the phone (which was far more difficult than anyone would believe). I remember the day I answered the phone to find the legendary Geoff Travis of Rough Trade UK on the other end. The day that someone from Elektra Records called to let us know that people may contact us about “defective” Lawn Boy (Phish) CDs. Seems when Elektra remastered it for their CD release the title track was somehow mastered at a slightly slower speed. The day that Andy Gill of Gang Of Four called because he was being hired to produce 2 Miracle Legion songs for the soundtrack to the movie “A Matter Of Degrees.”
I was also in the office when he came back from the Rough Trade Records bankruptcy hearing in NYC. We, and many other tiny labels, had a P&D deal (pressing & distribution) with them. When they declared bankruptcy all of their assets went up for sale. LP/CD/Cassette back stock, original cover art, promotional materials, photos, all of it. If it wasn’t being held as collateral by another creditor it was up for grabs. If you had cash, you could take anything home. When he got back to the office I remember him saying that it “was the saddest day he’d ever spent in the music industry.” Tiny, broke labels were losing anything of value that belonged to them as “cut out vultures” were buying pallets of back stock – pennies on the dollar. Brad was always kind of an ornery guy (as anyone who had to deal with or record with him would attest), but I think that day really broke his heart. He was nothing if not passionate about music and getting the best out of people making that music. And hoping that other people, lots of other people, would hear what he heard. We did everything a 2 man operation could do for those records and those bands. Some would be considered a success, most would not, but we didn’t half-ass any of it. We tried.
After he “retired” (which didn’t last long!) and moved to a farm house in upstate NY we hardly ever saw each other, and I’m kinda bummed about that. I only made it up to the farm twice, I think. I hope he knows how much I appreciated that he took in a recent college graduate who cold called him about a job that didn’t exist. Because I really do appreciate all of it. Looking back I realize how much he actually taught me. I appreciate that he took the time to introduce me to so many people, many of whom are still in my life.
I’m celebrating my 30th anniversary in the radio and music business this year and damn near all of what I’ve learned goes back to those days in the small, smokey, rope and floatation device filled office above a deli just off the highway in Oakland. Many of my oldest and dearest musician and industry friends I met because of Brad.
In case I never said it, I thank you Mr Lee, I thank you.