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The autobiography of America’s greatest living record man: the founder of Sire Records and spotter of rock talent from the Ramones to Madonna. Seymour Stein is America's greatest living record man. Not only has he signed and nurtured more important artists than anyone alive, now sixty years in the game, he's still the hippest label head, travelling the globe in search of th The autobiography of America’s greatest living record man: the founder of Sire Records and spotter of rock talent from the Ramones to Madonna. Seymour Stein is America's greatest living record man. Not only has he signed and nurtured more important artists than anyone alive, now sixty years in the game, he's still the hippest label head, travelling the globe in search of the next big thing. Since the late fifties, he's been wherever it's happening: Billboard, Tin Pan Alley, The British Invasion, CBGB, Studio 54, Danceteria, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, the CD crash. Along that winding path, he discovered and broke out a skyline full of stars: Madonna, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Madonna, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, Lou Reed, Seal, and many others. Brimming with hilarious scenes and character portraits, Siren Song’s wider narrative is about modernity in motion, and the slow acceptance of diversity in America – thanks largely to daring pop music. Including both the high and low points in his life, Siren Song touches on everything from his discovery of Madonna to his wife Linda Stein's violent death. Ask anyone in the music business, Seymour Stein is a legend. Sung from the heart, Siren Song will etch his story in stone.


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The autobiography of America’s greatest living record man: the founder of Sire Records and spotter of rock talent from the Ramones to Madonna. Seymour Stein is America's greatest living record man. Not only has he signed and nurtured more important artists than anyone alive, now sixty years in the game, he's still the hippest label head, travelling the globe in search of th The autobiography of America’s greatest living record man: the founder of Sire Records and spotter of rock talent from the Ramones to Madonna. Seymour Stein is America's greatest living record man. Not only has he signed and nurtured more important artists than anyone alive, now sixty years in the game, he's still the hippest label head, travelling the globe in search of the next big thing. Since the late fifties, he's been wherever it's happening: Billboard, Tin Pan Alley, The British Invasion, CBGB, Studio 54, Danceteria, the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, the CD crash. Along that winding path, he discovered and broke out a skyline full of stars: Madonna, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Depeche Mode, Madonna, The Smiths, The Cure, Ice-T, Lou Reed, Seal, and many others. Brimming with hilarious scenes and character portraits, Siren Song’s wider narrative is about modernity in motion, and the slow acceptance of diversity in America – thanks largely to daring pop music. Including both the high and low points in his life, Siren Song touches on everything from his discovery of Madonna to his wife Linda Stein's violent death. Ask anyone in the music business, Seymour Stein is a legend. Sung from the heart, Siren Song will etch his story in stone.

30 review for Siren Song: My Life in Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    John Spiller

    "Siren Song" by Sire Records head honcho Seymour Stein is the 1975-1985 analog to Joe Boyd's excellent autobiography "White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960's" or maybe Jac Holzman's "Follow the Music". If you enjoy books about the "business of music" or are simply a huge fan of punk/new wave/indie music from the mid 70's to late 80's, you will find much to enjoy. Stein describes himself as a music fan first and foremost with vinyl running through his veins. He parlayed a weird obsession with B "Siren Song" by Sire Records head honcho Seymour Stein is the 1975-1985 analog to Joe Boyd's excellent autobiography "White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960's" or maybe Jac Holzman's "Follow the Music". If you enjoy books about the "business of music" or are simply a huge fan of punk/new wave/indie music from the mid 70's to late 80's, you will find much to enjoy. Stein describes himself as a music fan first and foremost with vinyl running through his veins. He parlayed a weird obsession with Billboard Magazine into a job working under Syd Nathan at King Records. (If you know who Syd Nathan is, then you, too, should read "Siren Song".) From there, he created Sire Records and made his name by signing The Ramones, Talking Heads, Madonna, among others. (Making his seed money for the label through Focus and Climax Blues Band!) Throughout the book, Stein takes pains to align himself with other "music first" executives such as Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler of Atlantic against profit driven music execs such as Mo Ostin of Warner Brothers. There are interesting vignettes on Dee Dee Ramone trying to seduce him, meeting Madonna for the first time in the hospital as he was being treated for endocarditis, and the fraught interpersonal dynamics of Talking Heads. He doesn't hide the warts. He admits to being a largely absent father to his two daughters. He had a combative relationship with his ex-wife, Linda Stein aka Linda Ramone. He was a big cokehead. Warts and all, Stein seems like a genuinely nice person, which has to be some kind of accomplishment for 50+ years in the music business.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dimitrije Vojnov

    PESMA SIRENE Simora Stajna, osnivača diskografske kuće Sire i čoveka koji je praktično bio vodeći popularizator britanske indie muzike u Americi krajem sedamdesetih i tokom osamdesetih, čineći je globalnom, zatim čoveka koji je uveo pank u ozbiljna i dostupna izdanja, pokrenuvši izadavanje umetnika okupljenih oko kluba CBGB, a povrh svega čoveka koji je imao vinil u venama, izašla je kod nas u izdanju Mascoma i prevodu koji potpisuje njegov vlasnik Slobodan Nešović Loka. Mascom je bio zastupnik W PESMA SIRENE Simora Stajna, osnivača diskografske kuće Sire i čoveka koji je praktično bio vodeći popularizator britanske indie muzike u Americi krajem sedamdesetih i tokom osamdesetih, čineći je globalnom, zatim čoveka koji je uveo pank u ozbiljna i dostupna izdanja, pokrenuvši izadavanje umetnika okupljenih oko kluba CBGB, a povrh svega čoveka koji je imao vinil u venama, izašla je kod nas u izdanju Mascoma i prevodu koji potpisuje njegov vlasnik Slobodan Nešović Loka. Mascom je bio zastupnik Warnera još od devedesetih a preko Automatika je profilisao našu power pop scenu nastalu pod uticajem Britpopa. Danas je Loka Nešović medijska ličnost što zbog nastupa u emisiji Ivana Ivanovića, što zbog kontroverzi sa Rastom i Bojanom Vunturišević, ali izdavanje ove knjige je svakako njegov povratak korenima i onome što je i njega karakterisalo kao diskografa, a to je jasno profilisan repertoar kojim se bavi. Simor Stajn je poslužio kao inspiracija za seriju VINIL koja je što se mene tiče jedan od najsjajnijih i nažalost prerano ukinutih dragulja u istoriji mreže HBO, a maltene je ironično na koji način je HBO odigrao ulogu i u ulozi stvarnog Simora Stajna. PESMA SIRENE nije tabloidni, tračerski materijal. Naprotiv, Simor Stajn sa dosta ukusa, takta a pre svega dara za pripovedanje govori o ljudima sa kojima je radio, stvarajući utisak kao da nas je sa njima pobliže upoznao, bez da nam ih zaprav u bilo kom smislu demistifikuje. On ih sagledava kroz muzički domet, i kroz biznis i to je zanimljiv ugao gledanja. Stajn je ređen 1942. godine, stasavao je radeći za Bilbord magazin i za Sida Nejtana, legendarnog osnivača King Recordsa. Kroz njegovu knigu defiluji mnogi velikani diskografije od Moa Ostina do Dejvida Gefena i Ahmeta Ertegana. Susreću se mejdžori i indie izdavači, ali u celom tom biznisu, Stajn maestralno vodi svoju ličnu priču i svakom poslu - a on jeste pre svega bio biznismen sa ukusom za muziku, pronalazi vrlo jasnu ljudsku dimenziju. U tom smislu, posle čitanja knjige, osnovni utisak je Simor Stajn kao ličnost sa burnim ličnim životom (i to sa ponajmanje opisa drogiranja i haosa, to se samo nagoveštava) ali sa itekako mnogo neobičnih a opet krajnje ljudskih problema koji pokazuju da čak i kad je neko antologijski diskograf, to ne znači da nema neke krajnje uobičajene lične probleme i nedoumice. Nisam siguran koliko je biografija Simora Stajna zanimljiva onima koji nisu ljubitelji muzike, ali sam uveren da čak i oni neće zažaliti što su uzeli da je pročitaju.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Debra Komar

    Readable and for the most part entertaining (how interested you might be in the childhood of a relatively unknown person depends on your taste...). I suspect that, like me, most people will be reading this because of Stein's role in "discovering" bands like Talking Heads, Ramones and other NYC greats from the 70s. There are some good stories scattered throughout but not enough to warrant a full book. I was left frustrated and wanting more. It is clear Stein has his favourites and is curiously si Readable and for the most part entertaining (how interested you might be in the childhood of a relatively unknown person depends on your taste...). I suspect that, like me, most people will be reading this because of Stein's role in "discovering" bands like Talking Heads, Ramones and other NYC greats from the 70s. There are some good stories scattered throughout but not enough to warrant a full book. I was left frustrated and wanting more. It is clear Stein has his favourites and is curiously silent (or has been "edited" into civility) on a few key characters. Stein has no problem speaking his mind on some people in his orbit but is evasive on others. He is surprisingly honest about his homosexuality, his marriage and his absentee fathering. His ego is large and often on display but I was left with the sense that the music mattered most.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve Erickson

    A worthwhile read, but pretty self-serving and shallow. Some of the most interesting passages deal with Stein's youth at the indie King label, which is best known for releasing James Brown's early music but put out a lot of pioneering early rock'n'roll. The long run Sire had before punk gets short shrift; the Ramones and Talking Heads really made the label's name, as well as the indie bands it licensed from UK labels like 4AD, Creation, Mute and Rough Trade (such as the Smiths, Modern English, M A worthwhile read, but pretty self-serving and shallow. Some of the most interesting passages deal with Stein's youth at the indie King label, which is best known for releasing James Brown's early music but put out a lot of pioneering early rock'n'roll. The long run Sire had before punk gets short shrift; the Ramones and Talking Heads really made the label's name, as well as the indie bands it licensed from UK labels like 4AD, Creation, Mute and Rough Trade (such as the Smiths, Modern English, My Bloody Valentine and Depeche Mode.) Stein speaks with great pride about being able to sell half a million copies of every Smiths album with no commercial radio play and minimal US touring. Of course, Madonna was Sire's best-selling artist, and he writes about her initial rise (she was only offered a three-single deal at first.) He also writes with pride about signing Ice-T but neglects to mention the controversy over "Cop Killer," which first led to that song being dropped from Body Count's album and the rapper then getting kicked off Sire. The final chapters of the back are a great documentation of how major label consolidation and monopolization have made it impossible to run a label with the kind of personality Sire had in the '70s and '80s now: he discusses the way Sire's deal with Warner Bros., which began in 1977, enabled the Pretenders and Talking Heads to reach a level of commercial success they couldn't have achieved with independent distribution, but in the 2000s, Sire got folded into other Warners-owned labels and he lost control over it until he was able to run it as a commercially marginal pseudo-indie (he mentions the artists recently released on Sire, and I'd never heard of any except Paul Shaffer and Cyndi Lauper.) And around the time this book was published, Stein quit Sire altogether. Considering that he's now 76, that might have been his decision to retire or he may have been forced out. Stein discusses his personal life, including how homophobia led him to marry a woman and his feeling that he never exactly "came out" (although he talks frankly about his gayness), here, and his thoughts about his gayness are not totally woke by today's standards, but they're probably honest for a man born in the 1940s.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Rich

    Easily the best record exec book. Nobody did more to bring punk, new wave, and weird UK indie bands into the homes of mainstream Americans as Stein. His tales of his early years at Billboard and King records is also of great historical value. A must for any serious music geek.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christopher McQuain

    Most any young American in the period from the late '70s through the '80s had their life changed by at least one Sire record (Talking Heads! The Pretenders! Madonna! Depeche Mode! And, of course, THE SMITHS!), and this book is worthwhile for any of that crew. It's more an oral history (transcribed as much as co/ghostwritten, one suspects) than anything you'd call written, and the tale teller veers from crass to treacly, but at least he is honest about his own million shortcomings and general rat Most any young American in the period from the late '70s through the '80s had their life changed by at least one Sire record (Talking Heads! The Pretenders! Madonna! Depeche Mode! And, of course, THE SMITHS!), and this book is worthwhile for any of that crew. It's more an oral history (transcribed as much as co/ghostwritten, one suspects) than anything you'd call written, and the tale teller veers from crass to treacly, but at least he is honest about his own million shortcomings and general rat-race obnoxiousness, and the many juicy tidbits excavated from behind-the-scenes history regarding some of the recording artists who mean so much to many of us make the pages turn swiftly and pleasurably, however superficial and not exactly literary the pleasure.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nestor Rychtyckyj

    It’s hard to believe that the music industry will produce somebody else like Seymour Stein. His sixty years in the music business is a lifetime of changing tastes, changing times and technologies and massive disruption in the industry. He has signed and released massively popular albums by artists like Madonna, but I first heard of Seymour Stein when the then-independent Sire Records released the first Ramones album in 1976. Seymour Stein was not trying to start a musical revolution – he just wa It’s hard to believe that the music industry will produce somebody else like Seymour Stein. His sixty years in the music business is a lifetime of changing tastes, changing times and technologies and massive disruption in the industry. He has signed and released massively popular albums by artists like Madonna, but I first heard of Seymour Stein when the then-independent Sire Records released the first Ramones album in 1976. Seymour Stein was not trying to start a musical revolution – he just wanted to release an album by a band that he thought deserved a wider audience. That was his life-long ambition: to find new artists that he thought should be exposed to the world (and sell these records). Record sales only validated his belief in his own judgement and in the fact that a good song will eventually triumph. He was not a musician or a producer and didn’t care how technically proficient the musicians were and he was convinced that this gave him an advantage. The list of artists that Stein discovered would (and does) fill a book, but he built his reputation by discovering unknowns such as Madonna and the Talking Heads. The book is a straightforward monologue detailing the life of Seymour Stein from his childhood where he first became involved with the music industry as a 15-year old “intern” at Billboard to his current position still running Sire Records. He takes great effort in thanking the many people who helped pave his way to success along the way and gives us an inside view of the music industry. This view is fascinating when he and Richard Gottehrer create the label in 1966 and watch it grow; however, the corporate infighting that characterizes Sire as a branch of Warner Bros Music is much less compelling. Seymour regrets selling Sire to WB in many ways, but also realizes that bands like the Talking Heads would never have been as successful if Sire was still an independent. Sire will always be known as the label that broke “new wave” (Stein himself made up the term to placate nervous American music executives who were scare of “punk rock”), but its most successful signing was Madonna. He defied management by signing Madonna and has extreme respect for both her artistry and business acumen. If you’re looking for a book with a lot of crazy rock & roll stories – this really isn’t it even though Dee Dee Ramone does get a few mentions. Once the artist is signed Seymour moves on to the next artist; somehow he misjudges Blondie and their potential, but most of the time he keeps producing hit after hit for his bosses at WB. His personal life is always secondary to his work and his love of music resonates throughout the entire book. It’s a fun read, but I would have wanted more about the music and less about the corporate doings at Warner.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Don

    Ironically, I read this book just a few days after it was announced that Stein was leaving Warner Music Group, his record label home for the last 30 plus years (probably involuntarily). Stein is probably the last living participant in the '50s-early '60s era when independent record labels thrived in the U.S. and had not yet been overwhelmed by the "major" labels. That era, and those independent labels, were full of colorful characters. I had, for a long time, hoped that Stein would write about t Ironically, I read this book just a few days after it was announced that Stein was leaving Warner Music Group, his record label home for the last 30 plus years (probably involuntarily). Stein is probably the last living participant in the '50s-early '60s era when independent record labels thrived in the U.S. and had not yet been overwhelmed by the "major" labels. That era, and those independent labels, were full of colorful characters. I had, for a long time, hoped that Stein would write about that era and this autobiography certainly covers that ground. While he doesn't devote as much time and attention to that period as I would have wished, he does give some real insight into the independent label scene. One flaw--this book could have used better copy editing. I noted several errors that should have been caught and corrected. For example, he refers to the (very much alive) Roy Bittan of the E Street Band as "the late Ray Bittan", and at the back of the book he refers to Jerry Goldstein as "Jerry Goldstone". I'm sure there are other errors here.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jon Chaisson

    An excellent memoir from one of my heroes from the music biz. He talks about his humble beginnings as a teenage intern at Billboard to his move to King Records and finally creating Sire in 1977. Over the course of the next two decades he'd sign an amazing number of core bands from the early days of alternative rock -- and coining the term 'new wave' because 'punk' didn't quite fit. He can be coarse and unrelenting towards many of his former associates, but it's never with malice. A fantastic sto An excellent memoir from one of my heroes from the music biz. He talks about his humble beginnings as a teenage intern at Billboard to his move to King Records and finally creating Sire in 1977. Over the course of the next two decades he'd sign an amazing number of core bands from the early days of alternative rock -- and coining the term 'new wave' because 'punk' didn't quite fit. He can be coarse and unrelenting towards many of his former associates, but it's never with malice. A fantastic story of one of the best A&R men out there.

  10. 5 out of 5

    John Lyman

    I respect Seymour Stein immensely and am so grateful to him for helping bring some of my favorite music into my life. It’s great to read his story. The book is full of names, record labels, and all sorts of music industry tributaries that I found a little difficult to follow. It was great to learn how SS evolved and became the icon he is now. I had forgotten what happened to Linda. Her story is reminiscent of Selena's tragic demise.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Don Gorman

    (2 1/2). This is a good but not great memoir. What is great is the music history involved. That, and the evolution of a young Jewish kid from New York who follows his dream and is able to live it. Music is one of my main interests, and this is another important read for me. Lots of interesting stories, lots of bands and records you have never heard of, but lots of hidden gems as well. Music historian nuts rejoice!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Len or Len

    I didn't know anything about the author, the founder of Sire Records, despite the fact that he discovered Madonna, The Ramones, The Talking Heads and Ice-T, among others. He also had a tumultuous personal life, eventually leaving his wife after fathering two kids and realizing he was a gay man. Very well-written, he comes off open and honest about his crazy life and thankful he gets to work a job he has always loved.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gordon Prescott

    Siren Song: My Life in Music by Seymour Stein is an o.k. autobiography about supposedly the greatest living record man. There are some juicy tidbits about Madonna and David Byrne from the Talking Heads. The Pretenders and The Ramones are also part of the acts he discovered. He’s not a very likeable personality and the writing is perfunctory.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    Full of details about the record industry and the life of one of its all-time great A&R guys. That said, this is a tough read if you're not particularly interested in how all that sausage gets made. I reviewed Siren Song for The Current. Full of details about the record industry and the life of one of its all-time great A&R guys. That said, this is a tough read if you're not particularly interested in how all that sausage gets made. I reviewed Siren Song for The Current.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Larry

    Wonderful story about a true music business legend. Couldn’t put it down. Loved all the stories about his passion for signing bands and the dirt he dishes on so many other big music business characters. If you are a Sire Records fan this is the story told by the guy who created it all.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Kho

    Amazing behind-the-scenes look at the indie music industry of the '70s/'80s/'90s by the founder of the Sire label and the ears behind the discovery of acts like Talking Heads, Madonna, Echo, and so many more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell Kaufman

    A tale of life in the music business. If you ignore Sy's self-promotion, it is an interesting history and indictment of the big business of music.

  18. 5 out of 5

    patty ramona

    What a life story chock-full of heart and soul.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Walters

    Before they were Blur, the group was called Seymour, after a 1963 novella by 'The Catcher in the Rye' author J.D. Salinger. Their record company, Food (which knew something about awful names), made them change it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Renee Alloy

  21. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Zuern

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gillian

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  24. 5 out of 5

    Billy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heather Willensky

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  27. 4 out of 5

    Dick Wingate

  28. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

  29. 5 out of 5

    Evan Cohen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marisa

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