We recorded “Hanging On The Telephone,” “When You Find Out,” and two other songs at a studio in San Francisco’s Chinatown, then put it out on a 45 rpm record on our own label, and it was a little record with a big hole. We sold about five copies in the first month. The great radio station KSAN played “Hangin’,” “When You Find Out,” and “Working Too Hard” on New Year’s Eve. Then we moved to Los Angeles, driving that cold night down Highway 101, and arriving in L.A. on the morning of the first day of the new year, 1977.
Desperately wanting to get things going, our drummer Paul went out every day, going around Hollywood, trying to hustle up some business, and after a few days, he told us a manager wanted us to meet. The guy’s name was Raymond Albert.
Albert had a tiny little office in a decrepit old fire trap of a building off of Hollywood Boulevard, near the Cahuenga Newstand. There was barely enough floor space in there for all four of us to crowd in. He sat behind his desk, a fortyish man with short brown hair and a chin-strap beard, wearing a khaki safari jacket over his large upper frame. He spoke in a deep voice, seemed very strong, and gave off the impression of a subdued or capped energy.
We talked for about 10 minutes in his office. He loved the record, just loved it, really thought something could happen, if we were willing to take his advice. We asked about the dozens of boxes stuffed with Gorilla toys, lined up and stacked along the walls, and he enthusiastically told us about his latest project. He had put a record out, on his own little label, a novelty single: “Oh! Kong” or something like that, capitalizing on the year’s big re-make of the King Kong movie. It was going to be huge.
He asked if we were hungry, and then, at his suggestion, the meeting adjourned down the stairs and through the alley to the Two Guys From Italy restaurant next-door.
We got a booth in the dark back room at Two Guys, and the meeting continued. Albert ordered a couple pizzas and pitchers of beer. He wanted to know: “Are any of you guys married?” We ate and drank, talked nonsense about the music world. Albert had some theories and talked big. He ordered a lot more beer, and we drank all he ordered.
Ninety minutes or so later we were all drunk, and the restaurant was starting to empty out. Albert picked up the tab, then pulled his briefcase out from under the table. Funny, I hadn’t noticed he had that with him before. He opened it up, and pulled out some paper and set it in front of me. “It’s a very simple contract, you’ll need to sign it now so I can get on with things for you,”
I tried to focus on the typewritten page in front of me. We weren’t expecting this. It made me very uneasy.
” Go ahead, take some time and read it,” he said, “or if you want, I’ll explain it. This is a standard management contract, the same contract that everyone in the business uses.”
“Raymond, It says here the term is for 10 years. That seems like a really long time,” I said.
“That’s the industry standard.” Raymond assured me. “And once the record’s a hit, time will be flying by.”
I looked around the table at my partners. Paul and Jack were looking down at their copies, reading. Everybody looked wasted, rumpled, bemused.
“Raymond, I don’t think we can sign this, it gives you fifty percent of the songwriting royalties for ten years.”
“It’s commonplace procedure, you guys. The usual rate. I need to be protected too. I’m gonna make you guys into big stars. I need to get something, a piece of the pie. And remember, one hundred percent of nothing is nothing. You gotta give something up if you want to make it to the top.”
Paul caved in. “He’s right. I think we should sign.”
“I can’t sign this,” I said, though I felt like I might be blowing my big chance.
The table went silent. Raymond was getting angry now. “You mean to tell me you guys get me out here, I buy you pizzas and beer, and now you’re not gonna sign the contract! You’ve gotta be kidding me! Sign that contract!” He was really getting worked up.
“I might be drunk but I’m not gonna sign this crap,” I said.
Paul was dismayed, but we hung together, and finally, over Raymond Albert’s ever more intense objections, we split. And that’s how the Nerves handled their first big opportunity in the music business.