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David Anderle RIP

September 2, 2014

One Wednesday before Thanksgiving about 3pm I was walking across the main A&M lot toward my office in the green bungalow.  David Anderle was leaving for the weekend in his Jeep and I waived to him as was our custom.  He motioned me over to his car and rolled down the window.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Just a few things to clean up before I leave.”

He looked at me with that kind of David look like the kid said the wrong thing but David was too kind to say so.  He said, “You know, when they carry you out nobody is going to say, what a great guy, he worked his ass off.”

I gave him my sheepish smirk which didn’t fool him for a minute.  For further emphasis, he said, “Go home.  It’s Thanksgiving. Whatever it is can wait.”

And I still remember that conversation to this day and will remember it in the next and the next and the next after that.  Both what he said and that he was thoughtful enough to notice.

A lot will be said about David’s resume.  Let me tell you a little about the man.

David Anderle was the glue that held A&M together, particularly after the sale.  He was the institutional memory, the creative direction, the producer’s producer, the artist’s A&R man.  He was the kind of guy who could tell an artist she needed to go back in the studio and make her record–when she was delivering the record she thought she had made.  He was the kind of guy who could let one of his staff take over an important record by an artist who was on the cusp of real stardom and let him completely remix the record, turning what was essentially a tired cliche into an exciting and fantastically successful classic.

He could take an obscure background vocalist and put her out front for what turned into a classic gold single with no album, then calmly put together a team to write and produce a platinum album in record time before the single dropped from the charts.  Because he was a producer’s producer and by the way did I tell you that these records were in completely different genres.

He could sit in front of a movieola with a temperamental superstar director and explain to him why his movie was terrific but it was just too dark for a soundtrack on A&M Records, leaving the director looking forward to another opportunity to bring a soundtrack to David.  And did I tell you that he effectively invented the role of music supervisor years before?

When A&M was sold to PolyGram someone, or several someones, talked David into staying on as the head of A&R.  He didn’t need the money and he didn’t need the headaches of a job he accurately described as a cross between being an accountant and a vice principal.  He just wanted to go home and paint.  And did I tell you he was an accomplished visual artist?

But he stayed on and had another career that would have been the envy of any A&R head at any time before or since.  On the business side, I would tell you that there was every possibility after the sale that the entire label could have lost its identity and fallen apart if it were not for David Anderle.  You didn’t see this from the outside, but you did from the inside.  He had the long term relationships with all the artists, he knew what they could do and what they needed to do next.  He developed relationships with the new artists and they deeply respected him.  I have to say that it was incredible leverage in negotiations to be able to say that our head of A&R has been with the company for 25 years, you go find me any other label that can say that in the “hi and bye” world of A&R.

David was never interested in bidding wars.  He believed that there was a value to being at A&M Records that was not quantifiable in money.  In those days and in that time, he was exactly, exactly right.  All he asked was that his staff find and sign compelling artists who made good records, and maybe sometimes great records.  The sales would take care of themselves.  Once I told one of his A&R staff that it doesn’t matter if you find the band if you don’t sign the band, bringing on that tremendous David belly laugh.  

To my knowledge, David never did one P/L or sales projection on a new artist signing.  Not once.  And guess what–the sky didn’t fall.

David would ask what kind of record do we want to make, where will it be recorded and who will produce it?  Do we want Clearmountain to mix and Bob Ludwig to master?  How much does the artist need to live for 2 years or so.  Do they need new equipment so that they can sound great on their record?  When we got that total budget he decided if that number felt right.  If it did, that was our offer and we pretty much stuck to it.  All the other deal points he pretty much left to me.  And we always assumed that it would take two or three or maybe four records for an artist to find their audience.  Which meant that we had to believe that artist had that many records in them.

David tried very hard to make sure there was a consensus around the table on every signing because we had to work as a team to make these artists successful.  That was an intricate and unpredictable science.

How do you teach these things?  There’s only one way, and that is by example.  It’s a craft.

And did I tell you that after David took over, A&M Records had one of the hottest 5 year runs of any record label I can think of.  That little lot was responsible for 1/3 to 1/2 of PolyGram’s worldwide billing for much of that run.  That meant cultivating the artists like Sting, Amy Grant, Soundgarden, Extreme, Aaron Neville and even Blues Traveler who all stepped up, not to mention Gin Blossoms and Sheryl Crow, and tour de force successes by Bryan Adams and Janet Jackson.  And when we were approached by Electronic Arts to license the first use of front line artists in a video game soundtrack, David immediately got that was where our business was headed and backed me 100% on what surely appeared like a lark at the time.  And we paid through the licensing royalties to the artists on a nonrecoupment basis–a deal that put over $500,000 into the artists’ pockets jn 1994 dollars.  

When I finally left A&M to go to a major label in New York, David called me into his office.  “I guess I can’t talk you out of it?” he said.  “Just remember, you don’t know what it’s like to work at a record company.  You’ve only worked at A&M.”  I can’t explain to you exactly what he meant, but after I was gone for about a month, I knew exactly what he meant.  And he was right.

David usually brought new A&R hires down to meet me and would introduce me as a “good friend of the A&R department.”  That vote of confidence meant more to me than a knighthood.

When David finally went home to paint, he’d given us all the inspiration of a creative life well lived.  And we are all the richer for him.  I doubt we will see his kind again.

But I will be looking.

 

  1. September 3, 2014 at 00:06

    Beautifully written, Chris. Well done.

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  2. September 3, 2014 at 07:35

    Very moving. Thanks

  3. Rich Frankel
    September 3, 2014 at 11:01

    Truth well told. Thank you for writing this Chris.

  4. Paul Nelson
    September 3, 2014 at 11:21

    Beautiful remembrance, Chris, and thanks also for giving us insight into what it was like to work with one of the great record men – I doubt that we get to see any like that anymore.

  5. Jonathan Anderle
    September 3, 2014 at 12:33

    I don’t know what else to say except thank you so much.

  6. September 3, 2014 at 13:13

    Well done Chris! I couldn’t have said it better.

  7. September 3, 2014 at 14:54

    Perfect Chris. Thank you.

  8. Jonnie Forster
    September 3, 2014 at 16:23

    Very nice Sir Lancelot.

  9. September 4, 2014 at 01:44

    A great tribute to a visionary music man.

  10. September 4, 2014 at 13:15

    Wish we had the opportunity to have met him – and it would certainly be a sadder world if there not more like him; an artist who understands artists.

  11. September 4, 2014 at 22:57

    Chris, great piece, SO sad to hear David passed and my heart just has to say something.

    Al Cafaro and Jim G. changed my life by introducing me to David and asked him to mentor me to re-build a Film/TV soundtrack department, as in the mid 90’s the soundtrack biz was on fire.

    I’m not gonna’ lie, the first meeting I had with David was not comfortable. He told me all the negatives of why he never wanted to deal with soundtracks again. But I just HAD to work for him, so I just kept showing up at his office everyday as I needed to work for this low key legend.

    You see amongst all the artists that David A&R’d, he also produced some of the BIGGEST soundtracks of all time. Monsters like Pretty In Pink, Breakfast Club and Good Morning Vietnam just to name a few! David was so unimpressed with all the Hollywood bullshit that was involved in the game. He had been there and done that and did not want to go back, but as they say 50% of life is just showing up, so thats what i did everyday! Soon he opened up and slowly I dragged him back in. Together, under his guidance we had much success; gold & platinum soundtracks, Grammy soundtrack nominations and even an Academy Award nomination !

    It was the salad days of the record & soundtrack biz and working with David and his awesome assistant Ellen was a joy. Having success at one of the greatest labels of all time, working on the original Charlie Chaplin Lot under the tutelage of a legend, WOW ! It was probably the 3 greatest years of my music career (and i’ve had almost 30 years of great ones.)

    David, thank you so much for teaching me everything and changing my life, you taught with a combo of irony, grace, integrity and above all the wry sense of humor that Chris touched on.

  12. Sue DeBenedette
    September 5, 2014 at 18:49

    Chris – your story is beautiful. He touched all of our careers and hearts. His door was always open and he was such a great mentor. Thank you!

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