From The Mail Bag: Sade

Here are a couple of posts on the Sade story:

From Ron McCarrell, former head of Marketing and my boss at that time:

Great story on Sade!

I remember poor Lee Barrett.  When his deficiencies became so apparent, I was asked by Paul Russell (CBS UK MD) to sit in on a meeting in his office in London where me, Paul, and Helen fired Lee.  It was emotionally devastating to him, because as you said he was a pal of the band from back in the old ‘hood and was completely blindsided.  I then set up meetings with Helen and Bill Graham, Bob Cavallo, a few other potential managers, but as I recall she didn’t go with anyone until Roger Davies entered the picture a few years later.

It’s also interesting to note that Sade first cut a few demos for RCA in the UK, who passed.  Enter Muff Winwood and the rest is history.

From Steven Reed, a former CBS Records Executive and Long-time Producer/Entrepreneur:

Thanks Dan, for sharing those great stories about Sade.  It reminded my of the very small part I once played in helping the marketing efforts for Sade’s Love Deluxe album.  Having been an executive with CBS Records (later Sony Music) at the time Dan and company were releasing Sade’s first two albums, I was quite familiar with the band, their stunningly beautiful lead singer, and the very effective and efficient marketing efforts on the part of Epic Records.

Perhaps it was because I knew just how careful Dan was with his artists to ensure everything was done as sensitively and professionally as possible, that he entrusted this small project to me.

Given the extremely limited availability of Helen and the band, Dan asked me to go to LA to shoot a video interview with Sade that could be used for a multitude of purposes: an EPK, a VH1 to One (artist documentary), and even some questions submitted by various shows including one from the UK.

Knowing how exacting the band and management were about Sade’s image, my director Allie Eberhardt and I scoured the city for an appropriate location for our shoot.  We wanted everything to look just right to complement the beauty, elegance and style that Helen Adu embodied so naturally.  We finally settled on a new and very upscale hotel on Sunset Drive and accepted the terms imposed by the hotel’s sales manager.

The next day our crew arrived – lights, dollies, the whole works.  Unfortunately, the hotel general manager saw us loading in and went ballistic. Seems he had not been informed and was irate that his team had allowed us exclusive use of a beautiful, public room off the lobby for our shoot.  Knowing we only had one day to get this done, and how important this shoot was to Dan, the Label and the artist, I mustered all of my powers of persuasion, accepted all responsibility and somehow managed to convince the GM to allow our shoot to continue.  But he was NOT a happy camper.

Soon, our set was ready; we turned on all our film lights and – promptly set off the hotel’s silent fire alarm!  The manager, who really hated us by this time, came running in with his chief of security thinking we were burning the place down.  Once he realized it was simply the heat from the lights, he turned off the silent alarm (this would be key shortly!) and – after yet another lecture – allowed us to continue.

No sooner had he left than one of the film lights exploded, shooting burning hot fragments everywhere and starting little fires all over the ultra-expensive custom carpet of this fabulous room.  Our crew dashed left and right stamping out flames, but the carpet was severely damaged.

Sade was due to arrive any minute, Epic Records counting on us to use this small window of opportunity to get the shoot done, and the GM would surely throw us out on our ears if he knew what had happened.  Uh oh. What do we do now?!?!  If I told the manager, that would be the end of the shoot.  But the carpet was already burned.  Why not just wait until we were done to let him know?

I directed our crew to quickly move whatever furniture we could to cover as many of the burn marks as possible while still making the room look great on camera.  Then I assigned crew members to stand on the remaining burn spots whenever anyone from the hotel came through.   And we all did our best to look calm, cool and collected when Sade arrived.

My director, Allie Eberhardt, has always been one cool cat.  Somehow, he remained unfazed by the chaos all around him.  He was charming as always with Helen, and never lost his concentration in establishing a rapport, eliciting a terrific interview, and also working with our camera, lighting and audio crews to ensure everything looked and sounded first rate.  The interview did go very well.  Helen, her band and management were pleased, and we had delivered for the Label.  Phew!

By the way, throughout our entire ordeal, Dan remained cool and confident – or at least that was what he projected to us!  Believe me, the majority of record execs would not have handled things nearly as well.

So in the end, even though we had insurance to cover a new, custom-made carpet, I got an earful from the GM, was called every name in the book, and would never be allowed back to the hotel.  But, we got the job done.   When you have an opportunity to work with an artist like Sade, you knew he was trusting you and counting on you, and you simply could not let him down.  Thanks again Dan!

(Join the conversation by emailing Dan@musicbizzfizz.com. I will summarize the input in a future Music Bizz Fizz blog.)

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