During the 1970s and '80s, the music business was dominated by a few major labels and artists such as Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand and James Taylor. They were all under contract to CBS Records, making it the most successful label of the era. And, as the company's president, Walter Yetnikoff was the ruling monarch. He was also the most flamboyant, volatile, and controversial personality to emerge from an industry and era defined by sex, drugs, and debauchery.
Having risen from working-class Brooklyn and the legal department of CBS, Yetnikoff, who freely admitted to being tone deaf, was an unlikely label head. But he had an uncanny knack for fostering talent and intimidating rivals with his appalling behavior, usually fueled by an explosive combination of cocaine and alcohol. His tantrums, appetite for mind-altering substances, and sexual exploits were legendary. In Japan to meet the Sony executives who acquired CBS during his tenure, Walter was assigned a minder who confined him to a hotel room. True to form, Walter raided the minibar, got blasted, and seeing no other means of escape, opened a hotel window and vented his rage by literally howling at the moon.
In Howling at the Moon, Yetnikoff traces his journey as he climbed the corporate mountain, danced on its summit, and crashed and burned. Reflecting on the sinister cycle that left his career in tatters and CBS flush with cash, Yetnikoff emerges with a hunger for redemption and a new reverence for his working-class Brooklyn roots.
©2004 Walter Yetnikoff with David Ritz (P)2004 Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.