23 March 2004
No love in the room
Apparently there's no love for Arista Records, which after nearly thirty years ceases to exist as a record company this week and becomes simply another BMG imprint.
Arista was built from the remains of Bell Records, acquired by Columbia Pictures from Larry Uttal in the late Sixties. Uttal remained with the company for five years, departing in 1974; Clive Davis, just fired from CBS, took over at Bell and instituted the name change. The first single of note on the nascent label was "No Love in the Room" by the Fifth Dimension, which "bubbled under" the Hot 100 briefly before disappearing. It was the group's last record for the company.
The hits started coming soon enough: Melissa Manchester's "Midnight Blue", Arista's sixteenth single, was the label's first Top Ten. (The first Number One was "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers.) The German conglomerate Bertlesmann Music Group acquired Arista in 1979, and despite a revolving door in Arista's boardroom, the label remained successful under the BMG umbrella for twenty-five years. But with Big Music in seemingly irreversible decline, BMG apparently decided it had too many labels, and chose to keep RCA, Jive and J (which is run these days by yes! Clive Davis). There will still be releases on the label, but the shots are being called from somewhere else.
The ranks grow ever thinner.