Where did Elton and John Lennon hang out before appearing at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving in 1974? Whose guitar did Jimi Hendrix break? What sort of party guest was Bob Dylan? Who was so shy, he'd leave the control room to sing vocals--so no one could stare at him through the window?
The answers can be found in Siren Song, a new autobiography (out on June 12) by the co-founder and chairman of Sire Records. Seymour Stein also explains how cheesecake opened doors for him in London and why his first encounter with Madonna took place in a hospital room. In addition, he recalls being ''knocked sideways'' by the Ramones' energy; wooing Ice-T by playing calypso records; and scrawling one band's initial contract on a napkin.
Like Elton (a frequent overnight guest, along with his manager and boyfriend at the time, John Reid), the writer was drawn to music at a young age. He'd rush home from shul to catch Make Believe Ballroom on the radio, which featured the week's Top 25 hits. The boy memorised lyrics and religiously kept a notebook of the show's playlist with chart numbers and factoids. It worried his mother, who wondered what would become of him.
Neither of Seymour's parents ever learned of another passion. The New Yorker realised he was gay but got married and had two daughters. Their union was stormy at times, but after their divorce, they remained friends. Sadly, Linda Stein, who became known as a realtor to stars like Elton and Sylvester Stallone, was murdered by her personal assistant. Six years later, Seymour and Linda's daughter, Samantha, died after battling brain cancer.
The author admits to feeling guilty about resorting to nannies and not being around when his children were growing up. But he doesn't regret his career chouce.
This year his company turned 50 and enjoys a reputation for impacting the lives of Lou Reed, k.d. lang, Soft Cell, Seal, the Pretenders and many others. Even today at the age of 75, Stein is actively involved in music and considers his ears to be ''forever young.''