ALLEN B. KLEIN
Allen B. Klein (December 18, 1931 – July 4, 2009) was an American businessman, talent agent, and record label executive, most noted for his tough persona and unethical practices. He founded ABKCO Music & Records Incorporated in 1961. As manager of the Rolling Stones, he controversially acquired sole copyrights to all of their music composed before 1971. In 1979, Klein was sentenced to two months in jail for tax evasion after it was discovered that he had defrauded both the Concert For Bangladesh and UNICEF. (More from Wikipedia)
The most famous lawsuit that I know of in the rock world involves “My Sweet Lord”, a hit single from George Harrison’s 1970 double-album All Things Must Pass that became the best-selling single in Great Britain in 1971. Bright Tunes Music Corporation – which owns the rights to the Ronnie Mack song, “He’s So Fine”, a major hit for the Chiffons in 1963 – filed suit in February 1971, saying that “My Sweet Lord” plagiarized that song.
After the judge ruled that George Harrison had “subconsciously” plagiarized the earlier Chiffons song, the case took a bizarre twist: The hearing to determine damages in the case was delayed for another five years (to the month, as with the original delay in the lawsuit); but by then, George Harrison’s one-time manager Allen B. Klein had purchased Bright Tunes, so he was now the plaintiff. Klein arranged a settlement whereby Harrison himself would purchase the Bright Tunes company for the same price that Klein had paid – $587,000 – and that would be the end of it.
* * *
The Beatles’ somewhat anti-capitalist stance over this period is hardly driven by some sort of Marxist-Leninist tendencies as the band’s detractors might imagine, but it is rather a natural reaction to the scandalously brutal plundering of royalties from even top recording artists that had become routine among recording industry practitioners for decades. As one of the most egregious examples, one of the Rolling Stones’ managers, Allen B. Klein tricked the band into signing over the rights to all of the music that they had recorded (through 1971) with Decca Records. (The Stones were Decca’s lucrative consolation prize when they passed on signing the Beatles). Klein’s label, ABKCO Records is frequently encountered on Stones records, including one of their rarest albums, Metamorphosis.