And Party Every Day – The Inside Story of Casablanca Records – Larry Harris (Backbeat Books) Book review
When you think music of the Seventies, you inevitably think disco. And no record label was more closely associated with the genre than Casablanca Records. In And Party Every Day, Larry Harris, who helped found the label with his cousin, Neil Bogart in 1973, chronicles the rise and fall of this influential record company. No label in the history of recorded music had such monumental success, yet saw it all crumble so quickly.
Harris spends the early part of the book on the lean early days when the company was searching for a hit and struggling to keep its doors open. Soon after starting, they stumbled on the band Kiss (the book’s title is a reference to group’s “Rock n’ Roll All Nite”). Kiss may now be one of the biggest concert draws, but then, they were just a loud band with strange makeup that no one understood or wanted to take a chance on. The fact that Bogart and Harris both bought into the Kiss idea without trying to change them was crucial to the band’s success. Harris states “without Kiss, there would be no Casablanca,” yet without Casablanca, perhaps there would have been no Kiss either.
As the title suggests, there was a great deal of partying going on in the company offices. Drugs were ingested like candy – it’s a wonder any business was conducted at all. Yet, for awhile, the label had a knack for taking artists that no one else wanted and turning them into gold (the Village People, anyone?). The story of Donna Summer’s accidental success is extremely interesting (it is her “Love to Love You Baby” which came out on Casablanca that is widely considered the first ever disco single). Casablanca was also home to the odd, but insanely talented George Clinton, whose Parliament created some of the funkiest tracks of the Seventies. Again, a larger label would’ve tried to mold him into something – Casablanca just let him do his thing. There were also plenty of artists that didn’t work as well. Harris talks a great deal about the time and energy spent trying to launch pop metal band Angel, who were just a little too early for their time.
As the Seventies drew to a close, the success and good times began to unravel. Poor decision-making led to disastrous results (especially brutal was the hit the label took by releasing the four solo Kiss albums simultaneously). As the disco trend waned, so did Casablanca. Yet, thirty years after its demise, the label is still lauded for its independent spirit and crude business tactics (especially sobering is Harris’ tales of being able to manipulate the Billboard charts). The continued success of Kiss is directly attributed to Casablanca, and many of the label’s artists are still played on dance floors worldwide. Anyone wanting to understand the excesses of the late Seventies should pick up Harris’ excellent book. –Tony Peters