Two winters ago, Jimmy Iovine's father passed away at Christmas time and, as the Los Angeles-based record producer (Pretenders, Simple Minds, U2) recalls, "it was devastating. He was my best friend, so I needed to do something. I decided to do this album and it made me look forward to Christmas again."
"This album" is "A Very Special Christmas," released this week on A&M Records, where Iovine is the major in-house producer. The all-platinum lineup, which disregards label affiliations, includes Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi and U2, Madonna and Whitney Houston, Run-DMC, Sting and others. The album will benefit the International Special Olympics, which helps one million mentally handicapped people in 73 countries. Only two of the tracks were previously recorded; they were available only as B-sides of singles.
Rock 'n' roll Christmas records have been around since Phil Spector's classic collection, "A Christmas Gift for You," but in recent years there have been no concentrated efforts from mainstream rockers. "I always thought it was an album that needed to be made," says Iovine. "I never liked one-person albums, and I wanted different voices -- guys and girls -- singing all these great songs. But I didn't want to keep the money." Iovine's wife, Vicky, worked with the Special Olympics in Los Angeles, and after they met with founder Eunice Shriver and her husband Sargent and discovered the organization was always in need of funding, "that's when the album found its focus and became real."
Iovine says artists were immediately responsive to the project, which ended up taking more than 400 hours of studio time. Because he had to work at the performers' convenience, "I made myself available for a year," and he ended up producing seven of the 15 cuts.
Like the artists, all of the song publishers have donated their royalties to the Special Olympics. Retailers around the country, who have ordered 800,000 copies of the record, are supporting the project with strong promotional campaigns and by donating large portions of their profits on this record to the charity. A&M is contributing all receipts after out-of-pocket marketing and production costs, and Iovine also expects strong radio support, starting at Thanksgiving. "They need programming at Christmas time," he points out, "and all these artists are still very hot. I can't imagine not playing Madonna, Whitney Houston, Bruce Springsteen and U2, can you?"
U2's cut, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," is representative of the spirit of the album, says Iovine. "It's fairly obscure, probably especially in Ireland, but Bono's daring, he's always pushing, and he said, 'Let's try that.' This album was a release for artists, a chance for them to let their hair down, have a good time and do things that they can't do in their careers."
A Change for Cates Cates, which has been bringing quality jazz to Alexandria over the last few years, will close its doors on Sunday with singer-pianist Mark Murphy in residence, but owner Ben Hiatt says the club "will reopen with the same name in the Tenley area around Wisconsin and Van Ness next March or April." The move, forced by a redevelopment project, was expected, and Hiatt says, "Our goal is not to lose too much of our customer base. Most of our customers seemed to come from that area. You know how jazz lovers are -- they travel. We got some support from Alexandria, but we did a study and found that 60 percent of our customers came from 10 miles or farther. We're looking forward to being in a high-density, high-traffic area for a change."
In its new location. Cates will expand from 2,700 square feet to 6,800, meaning another 100 seats in the jazz room. Hiatt will also open another space, the Chicago Room, "and we're going to feature some blues. Nobody in town is really doing it and we think there's some pretty good blues artists in town."
New Spin, Old Stone Spin, the feisty music magazine, will spin back into view next month after its separation from Penthouse International six weeks ago with only its October issue scuttled. Bob Guccione Jr. remains as editor and publisher and has brought in a new associate publisher and advertising director (Richard Keech, formerly the advertising director at Penthouse). Robert Keating, Spin's special projects editor, moves up to executive editor. A special year-end double issue hits the newsstands Nov. 17.
Meanwhile, Rolling Stone's special 20th anniversary issue, No. 512, hits the streets Oct. 20. It'll be a biggie, 310 pages and perfect bound, with a special cover price of $4.95 and a shelf life of six weeks, rather than two. It will carry new interviews with many of the major figures from the last 20 years in music (Dylan and Springsteen, Jagger and Richards, Stevie Wonder, Sting and Pete Townsend) as well as figures from the worlds of politics and entertainment. There will also be a best of the "letters" column and a classic photo gallery.
This is the last of four special issues celebrating Rolling Stone's anniversary, but ABC is planning a Lorne Michaels-produced special Nov. 24. And Friendly Press has just published "20 Years of Rolling Stone: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been," a 464-page coffeetable book edited by Rolling Stone founder and publisher Jann Wenner.