Fred Goodman

So How'd We Keep Score?

In an industry notorious for its payola scandals, dodgy bookkeeping, and rampaging egos, divining the 25 best-selling albums of all time is a true challenge. While the No. 1 standing of Thriller is virtually indisputable, figuring out what comes after that and why is one of pop culture’s great parlor games. As such, some questions begged to be asked:

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Big money for Jimi Hendrix

The more money you make, the more you can sing the blues,” Jimi Hendrix told talk-show host Dick Cavett dismissively in 1969. The groundbreaking guitarist with the legendarily laissez-faire attitude about finances lived mostly hand-to-mouth even at the height of his short career, which ended with his death from a drug overdose at 27 in 1970. Yet because of the skyrocketing popularity of his music during the past decade, Hendrix is, in effect, now looking to seal a multimillion-dollar deal — 22 years after his death.

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The decline of Wilson Phillips

The frustration in Carnie Wilson’s voice is obvious as she discusses the much-rumored breakup of Wilson Phillips. ”At this point we love what we’re doing,” she says a little defensively, ”but it’s very hard. I’m going to do this as long as I’m meant to — and as soon as I don’t enjoy it, I’m going to stop. I want to get into voice-overs.”

Voice-overs? A member of Wilson Phillips, the golden girls with the platinum pedigrees, making anonymous pitches on beer and car commercials? Sure, it’s a living, but just how far can the gilded have fallen?

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Billy Joel's rock suit

Will Billy Joel overturn some record-industry applecarts with his $90 million lawsuit against the business’ most powerful attorney, Allen Grubman? The suit alleges that Grubman made deals he knew were to Joel’s detriment in order to benefit himself and Joel’s former manager, Frank Weber. It specifically charges Grubman and his firm, Grubman, Indursky, Schindler & Goldstein, with fraud, malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract.

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Shrinking the CD box

In the game of the CD packaging, the score is now: environmentalists 1, record retailers 0. After years of intensifying pressure from ecological activists, artists, and consumers, the recording industry has vowed to scrap the larger packages in which most compact discs are sold. By April 1993, CDs will no longer come wrapped in the oversize cardboard ”longboxes” most people promptly throw away. No single design has been chosen to replace the longbox, but the new packages cannot be larger than a jewel box, a hard plastic container that comes inside longboxes now.

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Why so many boxed sets?

It’s unlikely that many in the record industry will look back on 1991 fondly: Between the cautious spending of recession-battered consumers and the reluctance of radio to take a chance on new artists, labels haven’t had much to celebrate this year; indeed, Atlantic and Mercury have greeted the Christmas season with layoffs. But one of the few bright spots has been the surprising success of lavish — and expensive — boxed sets.

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Bruce Springsteen's backstage battle

While the reticent Bruce Springsteen has been even more reclusive of late (his only musical foray since 1988’s Tunnel of Love and Amnesty International tours was a benefit concert in L.A. last November), he hasn’t exactly been dormant. Holed up in L.A. with his wife, Patti Scialfa, and their year-old son, Evan James, Springsteen has recorded at least 40 tracks for a new, as-yet-untitled record for Columbia, his 10th all told. The 42-year-old is also trying to put behind him a nagging flash from the past — an ugly lawsuit filed by two former roadies.

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