1970 MGM Records president Mike Curb Announces
MGM Records president Mike Curb announces that his label is dumping 18 acts that “exploit and promote hard drugs through music.”
Curb, 25, makes the announcement in the trade magazine Billboard. The headline: MGM Busts 18 Rock Groups.
“Drug groups are the cancer of the industry. Their effect on young people who are their fans or followers is devastating. When they appear smashed out of their minds and describe musically a great experience they had on LSD, they are glorifying hard drugs. I credit hard drug record acts with hundreds and hundreds of new young drug users.”
The announcement puts MGM in the good graces of the Nixon administration, which has been pushing labels to purge drug references in songs. Rock musicians and their listeners have long vilified Nixon (the archetype of the stone-faced authority figure), but the overdose deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix have made the mixture of drugs and music a hot topic.
Curb is the youngest head of a major label, and also leader of the Mike Curb Congregation, a group of 20 singers that make wholesome music. His conservative stance makes him an outlier in his industry, and by labeling wide swaths of musicians as “drug groups,” he alienates many in music. “Drug groups’ track record is very poor for staying together, for showing up at concerts,” he says, making the case against signing these acts.
Nixon praises Curb, saying, “Your forthright stand against drug abuse is a responsible contribution to the welfare of your country and specifically to the millions of young Americans who buy records.”
MGM has alienated many artists by flooding the market with re-issues and “greatest hits” compilations. Frank Zappa, The Velvet Underground and Tim Hardin have all left the label.
The 18 groups dropped by MGM are never named, but one act that remains on the roster is Eric Burdon, the former Animals frontman whom John Lennon dubbed the Eggman. “Isn’t that the sickest pile of bulls–t you ever heard?” his manager tells Rolling Stone when asked for comment.
The MGM anti-drug crusade continues into 1971 when the label releases a series of public service announcements to radio stations with Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke, Lorne Greene, Lily Tomlin and Jonathan Winters delivering sober messages.
Curb goes on to have a #1 hit in 1972 backing Sammy Davis Jr. on “The Candy Man” with The Mike Curb Congregation. In 1978, he is elected Lieutenant Governor of California and serves office until 1983, when he returns to music with Curb Records. His artists include Tim McGraw, LeAnn Rimes, Andy Williams and The Four Seasons.