The Tim Buckley Archives


Becoming Elektra
The True Story Of Jac Holzman’s Visionary Record Label

by Mick Houghton

The house that Jac built, brick by exquisite brick

Working closely with Elektra founder Jac Holzman, veteran writer Mick Houghton has produced that rare kind of book which succeeds on every front. He recounts in exquisite detail the founding of the label, started 60 years ago, with as much attention lavished upon the formative years as on The Doors’ golden age, complete with full discography and illustrated with an eye-blasting gallery of album sleeves, historic correspondence and photos.

Holzman chose Houghton to write this remarkable story after working on 2006’s Forever Changing box set when, according to the latter, “Jac started realising what he had achieved with Elektra.”

The result perfectly encapsulates the enigmatic, unpredictable spirit of a label which has instigated musical sea-changes and tantalised collectors for decades. (The story stops in 1973 when, having already sold Elektra to the Warners Group, Holzman moved on, feeling he had achieved all he’d wanted and no longer felt the challenge.)

The story begins in the early 50s, with Holzman opening a Greenwich Village record store after starting Elektra in college, releasing early folk, blues, Jewish folk, world music, Spanish flamenco, sound effects and jazz through to the 60s folk boom which sparked the label’s first golden age, with names including Tom Rush, Phil Ochs, Fred Neil, Judy Collins and the groundbreaking Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

After signing Love, then The Doors, Elektra shifted focus to the West Coast, spearheading the psych revolution, then inadvertently kickstarting punk in 1969 after Holzman sanctioned the signing of MC5 and The Stooges before ever actually hearing them.

The anecdotes are relentless and intriguing, including Pat Boone being first to cover Tim Buckley with Song To The Siren and Neil Young pulling out of producing Love’s Forever Changes. Elektra are one of the few labels to merit a whole book’s devotion and Houghton has done Holzman’s uncanny visions more than proud.

© 2010 Reviewed by Kris Needs/Record Collector

In Becoming Elektra, author Mick Houghton names two chapters after Tim Buckley albums. Chapter 18 is called Happy Sad and consists largely of Tim's musical progress on Elektra, as well as shorter sections on his Elektra contempories Tom Rush, Judy Collins and David Ackles.

Chapter 22 - the final chapter - is called Goodbye and Hello and tells Jac Holzman's story after he left the company he founded.

© 2010 Mick Houghton/Jawbone Press

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