6 - Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Motown PR pioneer
Twi-hards, where art thou?
Al Abrams to
speak at Bentley
book signing today
By JEFF WARANIAK
Famed wordsmith Bob Dylan
was once quoted referring to
up-and-coming Motown singer-
son as "Amer-
ica's greatest With Al
living poet." Aixm
But where and
when Dylan Todayat 3p.m.
actually said Bentley Historical
those words is Library
sible to figure Free
out - because
Dylan never actually said them.
Motown Records's first
employee and National Promo-
tion Director Al Abrams fab-
ricated the famous "greatest
poet" quote as a stunt to gain
attention for Robinson's latest
In his new book, "Hype &
Soul: Behind the Scenes at
Motown," Abrams recounts
these and other clever market-
ing ploys as he tells the story
of Motown's early years. He
describes the genesis of Berry
Gordy, Jr.'s Motown Record Cor-
poration from his own point of
view as the company's first PR
Abrams will discuss his book
and his experiences promot-
ing Motown artists like The
Supremes, The Marvelletes,
Marvin Gaye and Smokey Rob-
inson at a book signing at the
University's Bentley Historical
Library today from 3 p.m. to 5
Much of the material for
Abrams's book, including his
original press releases, photo-
graphs and personal scrapbook,
are in the Bentley archives
where Abrams first began sub-
mitting his Motown memo-
rabilia in 1998. The Bentley is
committed to documenting the
history of the state of Michigan
- a pursuit Abrams has come to
admire as a contributor to the
library's Motown history col-
"I wanted my material to be
available to all kinds of schol-
ars and researchers," Abrams
said in an interview with The
Michigan Daily. "Other people
had contacted me (about acquir-
ing documents), such as the
Hard Rock Cafe, but I couldn't
envision some of these great
documents up on a wall in a
restaurant covered in spaghetti
sauce. The Bentley is really the
best place for all of my stuff to
According to Abrams, the job
of a promotional director in the
1960s was much more laborious
than it is now. Abrams said he
envies today's PR personnel in
the music industry, who have
the Internet at their disposal.
He explained the complicated
process album promotion used
to involve, which included the
now-defunct manual type-
writer and the uncertainty of
whether a press release would
make it to its intended recipient
However difficult the job
may have been, Abrams suc-
ceeded from the start. It was a
combination of boldness, tenac-
ity and a little foolishness that
won Berry Gordy, Jr.'s attention.
When Abrams, a young Jewish
boy from Detroit, first came to
Motown's mostly black record-
ing studio in 1959, Gordy pre-
sented him with the challenge
of getting an unknown artist
named Kenny Powers on the air.
Abrams took Powers's record
directly to a radio station and
persistently asked the DJ to play
it. After refusing Abrams for five
hours, the DJ finally played the
record and, as luck would have
it, Gordy had his car radio tuned
to the station playing Kenny
Gordy offered Abrams the job
the next day, thinking he must
be "a promotion genius," as
Abrams put it.
Abrams knew it was simply a
"The reason I probably suc-
ceeded in getting records on the
air at first is that I didn't know
what could be done and what
couldn't," Abrams said. "I was
just too naive to know the dif-
Abrams still enjoys listen-
ing to the music of Motown, but
he doesn't actively seek out the
songs he helped get on the air.
He doesn't need to - Motown
tunes can be heard everywhere,
from the radio to the grocery
"Music is global and Motown
is global, too," Abrams said.
"You can't get away from it, but
that's not a bad thing."
For Abrams, every Motownhit
brings back a memory. This is a
sentiment fans all over the world!
can relate to, whether they were
involved in the music industry or
were just avid listeners.
"There's that phrase of
Motown being the 'soundtrack
of our lives,' and it's completely
true," Abrams said.
Despite sounding like a pub-
licist's slogan for a new Motown
"golden oldies" collection,
"the soundtrack of our lives" is
one Motown-related slogan -
unlike the Dylan quotation -
that Abrams didn't fabricate.
By SEAN CZARNECKI
For millions around the world,
November was eclipsed by a
single night - the premiere of
"Breaking Dawn - Part 1." At
midnight on November 18th,
theaters throughout the coun-
try were filled with loyal fans as
the global phenomenon that has
seized popular culture slowly
drew to an end.
But what did this scene look
like in the Ann Arbor area?
When I arrived at Rave 20
in Ypsilanti, I wanted a quirky
story. I wanted angry middle-
aged book club members wield-
ing a battering ram to knock
down the doors. Hell, with the
media's coverage of girlish mobs
swarming Robert Pattinson, I
expected it. I expected there to
be two different lines for Team
Edward and Team Jacob to pre-
vent a riot. I expected to see
tweenage hearts melting at the
mere sight of Pattinson's card-
I'm not a fan of "Twilight." As
I rode to Rave 20, I was expect-
ing airhead responses - "Umm,
like, I'm Team Edward, but only
when Jacob keeps his shirt on," a
friend of mine joked.
Instead, I walked into this:
fans being welcomed in from the
cold; quiet, orderly lines and the
room's small talk punctuated by
the sound of chattering teeth.
Even more bewildering - there
were men present. As a "Twilight"
outsider, I had always assumed
that these premieres were an XY-
prohibited event. I would think
these men were forced to go by a
But that was not always the
case. In one of the lines stood a
young man named Chris Man-
ning, a Target employee, waiting
patiently with his arms crossed.
"I'm here for the film," he
explained simply. "I'm a fan."
Well, that's understandable
enough. But now for the real test
of fanhood, the great existential
question of our time: Was this
I'm sorry ... Ive been cheating on you with Sookie.
hed fan on Team Edward another movie, another $10
m Jacob? spent on a ticket.
just a movie to me," he As Manning so aptly put it,
ith a shrug. "I enjoy it. "It's entertaining."
ertaining. That's what it's There are overzealous "Twi-
:ed to be." light" followers, but as my expe-
r walking around a bit rience taught me, this is just
[ran into another unlikely another Hollywood trend.
arrett Davis, a sophomore And there have been worse
shtenaw College. Davis fanbases. Take "The Birth of a
*d over the others in his Nation," a Southern antebellum
o naturally, I assumed film that idealized the Ku Klux
Klan and even romanticized
slavery. And people are worried
S .-ight about a little crush?
W gI do concede there have been
m la disturbing incidents taking place
because of celebrity obsession,
hysteria. and that's an issue not to be taken
h i lightly. But the amount of hatred
this series garners seems hardly
proportional. While "Twilight"
he hated "Twilight" and does lack considerable literary
m1y here because he was merit, how much can really be
d into going. accomplished by websites like
ll, I didn't like it at first, twilight-sucks.livejournal.com?
ere's action in it," Davis Or by hurtling weightless insults
There's also romance and at the actors and writers or call-
o it's a movie for everyone, ing fans stupid?
It actually seems counterpro-
that's how it was for most ductive. Calling someone else
night. While the gender ignorant only reveals your own
overwhelmingly leaned ignorance. And regardless of
I females, not even they what we might think, they'll con-
ed to be devoutly attached tinue watching these films and
films. For even the hard- reading the books. I could think
ans, it's another night, of worse things happening.
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RELEASE DATE- Tuesday, November 22,.2011
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