Casablanca Records: the name means many things to many peo­ple.  For some, it was the stan­dard-bear­er of dis­co music and the last gasp of bal­ly­hoo in the record biz.  For oth­ers, it was the tri­umph of the vul­gar­i­ans and a text­book exam­ple of show busi­ness excess run amok.  The lat­ter def­i­n­i­tion sticks more often, thanks to the wide­ly read por­trait of the label and its founder, Neal Bogart, in Fredric Dannen’s record-label expose Hit Men.  Thankfully for Casablanca fans, And Party Every Day has risen to sup­port the for­mer def­i­n­i­tion… and it hap­pens to be a very enter­tain­ing read.

This fast-mov­ing chron­i­cle was penned by Larry Harris, Neil Bogart’s right-hand man dur­ing the Casablanca days (and also his cous­in).  As a result, it has a real insider’s point-of-view as it walks us through the his­to­ry of this infa­mous label, start­ing with Harris’s days as a pro­mo man for Bogart dur­ing his stint as the head of Buddah Records.  When Bogart decides to be his own man, they head to Los Angeles, where Casablanca begins as a sub­sidiary of Warner Brothers Records.  Bogart soon real­izes that WB sees his upstart label as lit­tle more than a tax write-off so he dis­en­tan­gles him­self from the par­ent com­pa­ny and goes inde­pen­dent.

… And this is where the real fun begins.  Harris keeps the pace rolling at break­neck speed as Bogart deft­ly side­steps his cred­i­tors and spends mon­ey he doesn’t have while build­ing Kiss up to super­star sta­tus and dis­cov­er­ing the likes of Parliament and the Village People.  There are nar­row escapes from cer­tain doom, like an attempt to sell a pricey dou­ble-album of audio high­lights from The Tonight Show that almost crip­ples the label.  There are also eye-open­ing tales of per­son­al excess, includ­ing depic­tions of how pot, coke and quaaludes were con­sumed like can­dy by Harris and every­one else who worked at the label.

Suspense is main­tained through­out the book because Harris con­sis­tent­ly points out how the bot­tom could have dropped out at any moment dur­ing the label’s mete­oric rise.  He takes the read­er inside the com­plex finan­cial shenani­gans used to keep the label afloat as they spent osten­ta­tious­ly to cre­ate the illu­sion of wealth (exam­ple: Bogart had to use a line of cred­it at a Vegas casi­no to make one month’s pay­roll).  Harris also shows how a rela­tion­ship with an edi­tor at Billboard was used as lever­age to keep their pro­duct high in the charts and how their record-ship­ping prac­tices with dis­trib­u­tors could give the illu­sion of plat­inum-lev­el sales.

Additional fun is pro­vid­ed by detailed accounts of Casablanca acts, both suc­cess­ful and for­got­ten.  Hard rock/AOR buffs in par­tic­u­lar will be hap­py by a decent amount of pages spent on the tra­vails of cult-fave act Angel, a gift­ed act who nonethe­less suf­fered due to hav­ing all the wrong breaks.  Harris’s writ­ing, assist­ed by Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs, has a crisp, easy-flow­ing style that bal­ances facts and gos­sip in an engag­ing man­ner that makes the pages turn quick­ly.

Harris also dish­es dirt in an enter­tain­ing way, includ­ing a fun­ny sto­ry about how Merv Griffin stole the idea for the hit t.v. show Dance Fever from them AND pro­duced it using a set he conned the Casablanca folks into build­ing for a pro­mo appear­ance on his talk show.  Additional juicy sto­ries are sprin­kled through­out the page count, cov­er­ing every­one from Curtis Mayfield to Rodney Dangerfield.

However, the most impor­tant thing Harris does in And Party Every Day is reha­bil­i­tate the pop­u­lar image of Neil Bogart.  He’s hon­est about Bogart’s fail­ings — par­tic­u­lar­ly, how his belief in the label’s bal­ly­hoo ulti­mate­ly brought it all down dur­ing its final days — but he also makes an excel­lent case for Bogart’s sales­man­ship, com­mer­cial instincts and will­ing­ness to take gam­bles on new tal­ent and new employ­ees.  Bogart still comes off as a bit of a rogue… but he’s the good kind of rogue, a tal­ent­ed and like­able guy who liked to help oth­er fel­low strivers and some­one who would have been lots of fun to work with.

In sum­ma­tion, And Party Every Day is a great from-the-horse’s-mouth tale of one of schlock music’s finest record labels as well as a fas­ci­nat­ing glimpse into the last days of the record business’s “Wild West” era.  If only mod­ern pop­u­lar music was as fun as this book…

Promo ad for the book that includes a killer ani­mat­ed com­mer­cial for the Parliament album Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome: