'Time of the Season' Benefit Concert Celebrates a Record Industry Hero:
The record business showed its human side recently when it came
together to honor a lifetime of achievement by legendary A&R
executive Paul Atkinson, while rocking out to finely-crafted music
from the sixties through the nineties.
In his nearly four decades of success, Atkinson displayed a rare
level of taste, wit, style, charm, and good will. He began as
part of the most inventive of the British Invasion bands, The
Zombies, whose gorgeous harmonies, infectious hooks and intriguing
jazz-pop blend made huge sellers of "She's Not There," "Tell
Her No" and "Time of the Season."
TOP TEN TO TOP A&R
Switching from top ten artist to industry executive, Atkinson
went on to head the A&R departments of three of the top five
major labels, and his contributions range from artist development
and production to global marketing and catalog development in
both the U.S. and Europe.
He signed ABBA, Bruce Hornsby, Mr. Mister, and Michael Penn,
among many others, and worked with Paul McCartney, Aerosmith,
Eurythmics, The Beach Boys, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, Elton John,
Tom Petty and Pink Floyd.
As several people noted during the evening, "He has ears."
Atkinson also launched Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International
label (O'Jays, Three Degrees, Billy Paul) in the UK, supervised
the UK early campaigns for Bruce Springsteen, managed marketing
plans for The Clash and all CBS UK artists, partnered in a syndicated
radio programming firm, and co-founded the first nationally distributed
Internet-based enhanced CD record label and production studio.
Tess Taylor, President of the National Association of Record
Industry Professionals and a member of the blue-ribbon event
committee which produced the tribute, noted that "Paul Atkinson
is the epitome of class, one of the truly kind, talented and
honest people in the record business which makes him rare enough.
He also achieved top-tier success as both an artist and an executive
which he then sustained for over three decades, a phenomenal
accomplishment." This is a testament to his tenacity, skill and
ability to be flexible, maneuver with changes over the years
and stay in the game when so many others - artists and executives
- have fallen by the wayside.
Many would be content to rest on such high laurels, but currently
Atkinson consults Warner Strategic Marketing on the Frank Sinatra
Reprise catalogue. He also produced a 101-song Nat King Cole
Classic Singles Collection boxed set for EMI/Capitol Records,
and has guided several independent labels on talent acquisition.
Health has become a huge issue for Atkinson in recent years,
having undergone two liver transplants, kidney failure (he's
on dialysis and awaits a transplant) and has been diagnosed with
biliary cancer. Medical bills have skyrocketed, hence the need
for a benefit concert.
With the committee of industry professionals working at a feverish
pace, a fundraising concert and silent auction were assembled
in just six weeks. Performers, each of whom has reason to thank
Atkinson for help or guidance during their careers, included
Brian Wilson, Michael Penn, Patty Smyth, Richard Page of Mr.
Mister, Colin Blunstone with Rod Argent, Mickey Thomas, and opener
Bruce Hornsby. Great as many of their performances were, there
was a singular event that transcended everything else.
For the first time on stage in America since 1965, Paul Atkinson
strapped on his guitar and joined vocalist Colin Blunstone, keyboardist
Rod Argent, bassist Chris White and drummer Hugh Grundy, thus
reuniting all five original members of The Zombies.
MONaturally, a standing ovation greeted them, but there was more
than anticipation in the air; there were concerns, too. Could
they pull off those sleek harmonies? Are they still able to mix
pop, jazz, and rock? Hell, some even wondered if they would be
any good at all.
Good did not begin to describe it. They were magnificent. Blunstone
sounds like an ethereal choirboy. White, Grundy and Atkinson
created enticing rhythms. And Argent is a fluid dynamo on organ.
They played just two songs, but it was ten minutes of magic that
no one in the room is likely to forget. Launching into "Time
of the Season," there was a gasp from many in the audience at
how brilliant the band sounded. The song reached intoxicating
heights of emotion. At the final chord, the crowd rose to its
feet with a roar of approval.
With barely time to catch our breath, they unleashed "She's Not
There" and we were on another rollercoaster ride of melody and
elation. And yes, there was a third standing ovation afterwards.
To say that The Zombies were the hit of the evening is an understatement,
but there were other superb performances during the evening,
including those of Page and Smyth, plus a 30-minute mini-concert
from Brian Wilson and his 9-piece ensemble. Sometimes cacophonous
but often enthralling, their new take on Beach Boys classics
is a complete delight.
With emcee Shadoe Stevens smoothly guiding the event, there was
a non-stop outpouring of accolades for Atkinson. This culminated
in Neil Portnow presenting The Recording Academy President's
Merit Award to Atkinson. In addition, dozens of industry professionals
praised Atkinson's character and accomplishments via video, including
Adam White, VP of Communications for Universal Music International,
Walter Yetnikoff, the legendary head of CBS Records, and Paul
Shaffer, currently musical director for David Letterman but a
member of Scandal when Atkinson first signed that band.
JOINING IN THE CAUSE
While the event raised a considerable sum and the silent auction
raised an additional twenty-five thousand dollars, this still
falls short of what is going to be needed. Which is why Warner
Strategic Marketing is spearheading efforts to continue the auction
online via eBay. Watch this space for details on the eBay auction
to follow soon.
Meanwhile, proceeds will benefit the Atkinson Family Trust to
assist with the extreme financial burden placed upon the family
by Atkinson's long continuing illness, with funding also provided
to The Gift of Life of Foundation and United Network For Organ
], both of which promote organ donor awareness.
To take part in helping all these worthy causes, please make
monetary donations to: "Atkinson Family Trust," c/o Klein & Company,
11726 San Vicente Boulevard, Suite 420, Los Angeles, CA 90049.
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