First as booking agent and then as personal manager for
Parliament-Funkadelic during our wildest tours, David Libert
was Mission Control for the Mothership.
—GEORGE CLINTON, Dr. Funkenstein
David Libert had such a long and interesting career in the music business that his friends encouraged him to write a book about it, so he did.
The result is an autobiography 50 plus years in the making, aptly entitled Rock and Roll Warrior, recently released on Sunset Blvd Books. It tells the story of David’s life as a popular international performer, singer/songwriter, tour manager, booking agent, producer, and drug dealer on the Sunset Strip. It’s a story so wild, so crazy, and so over the top that it can only be true. You can’t make this stuff up!
In his book, he shares with the reader (and with you) unvarnished, no-holds-barred stories of his life in the rock ‘n’ roll fast lane on the road, backstage, on private jets, and inside notorious after-show parties with music legends in the era of free-spirited, hard-driving rock ‘n’ roll and R&B. It’s life on the road in technicolor. A roller coaster ride behind the scenes of the good, bad, and ugly in the music business in the past
It was an honor to speak with one of the industry’s biggest names, the co-lead singer of 1960s pop hitmakers The Happenings. We began with the end of the book, where David reflects on the business today and says in Chapter 33,
“The music world had changed.” People were simply not buying CDs anymore. Even digital downloads were becoming nonexistent. In addition to SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify, kids can now subscribe to Apple Music or Amazon Music. For just $10 a month, they could use these streaming services to listen to almost every song ever made.
We hear all the time how hard it is to make a living today in music, and we wondered how David felt about the business as it is now.
David- Like everything in life, things evolve. The music industry has evolved to the point where it is much more difficult to make a living as a musician, let alone eke out an existence. I don’t blame anyone for paying $10 a month, and you can ask Alexa for virtually anything ever recorded. I don’t blame the customer for taking advantage. Why would you want to then go and pay for the CD? Is it unfair? It is the way it is. I mentioned in my book that I was hit when SiriusXM and Pandora said in 2009 that they were no longer required by law to pay artist royalties on any song recorded before 1972. My royalties then dropped by as much as 90%. I was helpless to change the situation. But a few of the guys I knew didn’t feel at all helpless, so they made the decision to take action. Do you recall Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, a.k.a. Flo and Eddie? On several of Alice Cooper’s tours, these two ex-Turtles served as the opening act. Due to SiriusXM’s nonpayment of performance fees for their former Turtles’ hit singles, Flo and Eddie sued the company for $100 million in 2013. They also brought a comparable claim against Pandora, which they won, and we all got a nice paycheck from that. Then Congress passed the Music Modernization Act, which meant that streaming artists got a bigger share of the money. But it will never be as it was, and I’m happy I lived in the golden age when we had record collections, and the record collection gave us an identity through what we had in our collection.
We love vinyl here at the magazine too, but some of us are quite old! We noticed that one of the first management gigs David got was with a band called “Rare Earth,” which we like here at Rock the Joint Magazine. They were, from memory, the first white band to be signed to the Motown label.
David- Rare Earth were a great band and a great bunch of guys. It was a lot of fun working with them. As a matter of fact, the next job I had after that was tour manager for Alice Cooper, and my first impression on day one was that I had made a huge mistake leaving that nice, comfortable, fun job with Rare Earth for this insanity!
David moved from a music career with The Happenings, who had a number of top ten singles stateside in the sixties, to the management role. It was interesting to read in the book how that move developed.
David- There were things prior to Rare Earth. I worked for a New York management company as a house booker for a Long Island club, then as manager for a couple of bands, and then for several months with Rare Earth.
For sure, as we know from the magazine, it is a business where you have to have connections and one connection leads to another! We asked whether being in The Happenings made things in management possible for David initially.
David- Yes, that was a big part of it. But another big part was that I was not only in The Happenings; I was also managing the band at the time, so I had a double dose of how the whole infrastructure worked. From booking agents to concert promoters, I met people of consequence, and that was really helpful. Also, the band had several hit records, and I had some notoriety, so it all helped.
In the book, David notes that he went into a band initially for the girls! And he reminded me of a Gene Simmons story about how he was watching Ed Sullivan one day and heard all these girls screaming, and it was The Beatles. It pulled him into music.
David- I remember seeing The Beatles, and prior to that, I remember Elvis, and I don’t think I watched these people and wanted to do the same. I think they seemed distant and unattainable. On television, I used to be fascinated by The Beatles and Elvis Presley, but Elvis couldn’t be shown below the waist because he wiggled too much, but now I see the publicity stunt. I listened more to doo-wop, to bands like The Diablos or The Chesters, and I loved the harmony. I found myself hanging out on the corner with those who loved harmony. And girls seemed to like this, and we would listen to bands on the radio and feel we could do just as well if not better.
We had to mention Suzi Quatro, as we all love Suzi over here, she is an absolute one-of-a-kind, and she signed her biography for me at the time it came out. So it had to be asked if David had a Suzi story to share.
David- I love Suzi, and I got to know her fairly well as she was a favourite of Alice’s; she was a support act for him a few times. One advantage if you were a support act for Alice was that you, the band, and crew all got to fly on the plane with everyone else. So the opener flew with us to ensure that everyone arrived on time, and we were one big family. But Suzi was never comfortable flying; she never liked flying, but she wasn’t going to refuse free flights. Anyway, I worked myself into the deal with the lease of the plane so that I would get flying lessons, just when it was already up to altitude and flying high and under the watchful eyes of the crew and pilot for a few minutes. But I stepped outside the cockpit, and there was Suzi, and in her sweetest voice she said, “You know, David, I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t fly the plane any more.” I became a passenger again, and she is a lovely girl, Suzi.
There are sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in this book, but the sheer professionalism of putting on the Alice Cooper tour came first. David notes this in his book, and we commented on how the Alice tour always needs the highest level of professionalism as it is a theatrical experience.
David- Absolutely it had to be. This is a business, and it was my job to ensure it all ran like a well oiled machine. People see the long hair and what they perceive as craziness, they think its one big party. But it is a hard job, and everyone depends on everyone else to give it the best shot. It is a business, that’s how we make money, and I would tolerate nothing less. I tried to show that in my book; I wanted it to be informative, to show behind the scenes. I did not want to write a salacious, tell all type of book, I wanted to inform and be introspective. I think I accomplished that.
He does, and we identify it as a great read on the business. It also shows how hard it is to lead a conventional lifestyle in the music business at all. Is David happy with how things turned out?
David- I’m incredibly lucky, the madness and ups and downs of my life and the ups and downs of my business, by pure dumb luck, I live a nice life with my girlfriend Angie and three rescue dogs. I landed on my feet, and I don’t regret it. People are curious about the 1970s music business’s attitude toward women. You certainly could not have those times now; times have changed, and rightly so. However, these girls were part of the group of people surrounding the bands, and the girls were there around the band because they wanted to be, but you could not have that today. Then was then, and now is now.
And having worked with so many different bands and genres, we had to ask who David still placed on high, who does he admire as the top of the tree?
David- My band is the Rolling Stones; they do it all better than anyone else. They have been at it for so long, they have it down to a fine science. I never get over being fascinated by them. They are my favourites!
And there we have it. We have linked the book here, and it is a roller coaster ride through rock n’ roll. Maybe we will leave the last word to Alice Cooper!
While looking back at the WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE tour, there was only one person who could have been the road manager. David Libert was somehow on the same frequency as the cast and crew’s collective madness. If the fires of insanity were burning, David Libert was fanning the flames. Every morning’s flight began with roll call and the ‘ball’ scores.
By Benny (the Ball) Benson
Mark C Chambers
And Readers, do stay around on the magazine and have a go at the quiz
and check out some more great music books in our Amazon music book shop