What is the Legacy?
Though Tommy Mottola resuscitated the Casablanca logo in recent years, and has released albums by Lindsey Lohan, Mika, and Ryan Leslie, the present-day Casablanca is related to the Neil Bogart-era in name only. The years 1974-1980, when Casablanca and its artists ascended to the world stage, are the soundtrack to Casablanca’s true legacy. What is that legacy? A maverick company? Landmark music? Bigger than life? All of the above and so much more.
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Holmes: The legacy? It’s hard for me to put that in words. I wish I could. It was a wonderful company and a wonderful place to be. It will live on. The lore of it will always be around.
Jenkins: I would say that Casablanca’s legacy, to me, will be forever rooted in a label that took a chance on diverse music and was run by a guy who took chances. It was reflected in the whole way the label was run. There’ll never be another Casablanca Records. That, to me, that’s the legacy. They did things their own way. It was run by music people. It was the perfect label. I can’t think of any label that could have been better for us to be at during that time in our career where we needed a label that was just like us, that was different, that took chances, that was eclectic, that was out there. It was unique for its time and times were unique even back then. It was perfect, man, it was perfect.
Millington: Even the name Casablanca, what does it conjure up? Nightclubs and intrigue!
Gomez: Casablanca gave you the freedom to be you. They let a lot of people do things that a lot of record companies wouldn’t do. I don’t think on another label the Village People would have had the success that they had. There were no barriers. Neil would actually try out all of his stuff with his entourage. He would have a party and then throw things on. If he thought it was taking off with his entourage, he knew that he was in the right direction. His entourage had their fingers on the pulse of the music.
Hodo: My fondest memory about our years with Casablanca was the circus of characters that Neil Bogart had turned into the top label of its time. We loved everyone in the company. I think Casablanca’s legacy is one that will never be repeated. That is unless another Neil Bogart comes along. It was the label of its time.
Aucoin: It was the kind of company that always glorified the artist, really cared about the artist. It wasn’t just craziness all the time. It was a lot of work but a lot of good people.
Esposito: It shows me that when you believe in something, no matter what anybody says, you got to follow your beliefs because they did things that everybody thought wasn’t possible. They had some great talent. They created something that no other record company had. It was a great time. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I’m glad I was there to be part of it.
Blackmon: Casablanca was left of center, for sure. All I know is that you can count on half of one hand the companies at that time that had that the courage to do what Neil Bogart did.
Summer: I think Casablanca’s greatest legacy may not be one that the world recognizes. I think its emotional legacy lives on in the people that were on Casablanca.
Prestwood: I think that Casablanca will be known for being one of the most creative environments as well as having talented people that worked in the industry. I really do believe that. I believe that Casablanca was a record company where we built talent. The amazing thing about it is that we passed it on. We didn’t just do things for ourselves there, we gave back to others. It was so full of love. That’s one of the main things that I would say about it. It was a company that was so full of love, where everyone respected one another and we were all on equal footing. There was none of the stuff you would find in other environments. It’s one of the most talented and creative companies that ever existed. Along with all the other things that they may say about it… it was basically just a place where you walked through the door and you felt something special in that place. When you came into that place, you were in a whole other environment, a whole other dimension. It had a dimension of its own. The talent and the people that it brought together were just phenomenal.
Jim Watson (National Promotions Coordinator): The people I worked with were the best and we pretty much all cared very much for each other. I wish those days had never ended. We were a family. When you bring good people together with a man at the helm with the vision and drive all of those that are lucky enough to be in the boat make the vessel sail even without any wind.
Esty: It was like being thrown into another world and I had no fear. In the end, I just plowed on and did it. I had never taken an orchestration class or an engineering class or anything like that. I’d write these parts and then just play them. We had great musicians and singers.
Nathan: It was certainly a real pioneer in the area of dance music. KISS aside, and KISS had an amazing run, the legacy that Casablanca left on the dance floor certainly can’t be denied.
Bennett: With the advent of the Internet, I realize how many people really enjoyed that music more than I knew. I think people need to dance again. Human beings need to dance and sing. We just sit in front of our damn computers now. Everybody’s miserable and afraid. It’s this collective consciousness of fear. The music needs to get joyful again.
Tom Nikosey (Designer): I would say the legacy of Casablanca was maybe the intro of disco on a national and international scale. Disco took its roots from all kinds of things. I think it became an entity in itself in the music industry. Casablanca really did it or at least they started it big time. Disco didn’t last a whole long time. The true hard rock and rollers and the jazz artists, they were thumbs-down on disco because it was mass-produced music or manufactured music. Now it has its place in music history and it’s kind of cool. It’s fun. It harkens back to a better time, to be honest with you.
Patterson: It was one of a kind. It was loose and everybody was into getting it done.
Chotin: It was an opportunity to work for a man who had foresight and was really ahead of the time and would allow you to think outside the box. I know that’s kind of a cliché. It taught me to trust my instincts on things. It taught me how to integrate different skills, different aspects of business.
Castle: A lot of great music and a lot of great memories. A lot of really fine people who were executives and creative people that had a certain magic that they contributed to the industry at that point in time. The legacy is all the great music that came from the label, the art direction, the time itself-that era was what was captured. The art reflects the lifestyle of the time. I think that says a lot, a lot for Neil Bogart and a lot for Russ Regan, both great guys.
Perry: Casablanca was a family. It was a great family. We went out there, we did the job, I did the job. I never got called out because my expense account was too fucking high. We cared about each other. We took that label from nothing to the legacy it is now.
Hart-Winer: It was true entertainment. It was music, visual. It was this magical slice of time that produced so much happiness. It introduced everybody who worked there to think outside the norm and not in any perverse, weird way. Look at the possibilities. Look at what can be done. It doesn’t hurt to be outrageous sometimes.
Worrell: I used to get sick of hearing “Flash Light” because they’d play it all the time. I thank God for the hit but then every time you’d turn the radio on, there’s “Flash Light”. Even to this day, friends in Los Angeles, they’ll call and say, “Guess what’s on the radio? They’re playing ‘Flash Light’. They pumpin’ you up man.”
Brooks: People still call me and say, “‘After Dark’ is on!” They’re still playing it. We had a great run. All the artists I can say were really talented. Whether we got the chance to really grow was the question. It was such a happy time that will live forever. When anybody plays any of the material, from that time, it was a happy time and people were in love the music. They were in love with each other.
Sudano: The label defined that era in that moment in time. It was a great time because it was a lot of fun but at the same time it’s kind of like the shooting star that goes up so fast and it just blows up. There were a lot of people who went down—it was the same thing in the ‘60s—but we have the remnants of a great memory and great music.
Moroder: I’m thankful to Neil Bogart and the crew of Casablanca first, for giving me a chance to release my first product in the USA and then, sticking with me for a long time.
Hudson: They made some really good music, first and foremost, with a stable of unique – if you look at that roster, the talent was very diverse but there was a common thread in it and you know what it was? We were all natural performers, from Donna to KISS to Angel to my brothers and I to Parliament. The legacy is really good music and really good live performers. Neil was the utmost believer in getting your butt out there onstage. When Neil saw my brothers and I perform for the first time, he came backstage and he said, these are the kind of acts I should sign all the time. Whatever you did, blew me away. The legacy would be the music and the performers, when all is said and done, and Neil being a renegade. The guy broke the glass ceiling at the time.
LaRue: There’s a lot of fucking landmark music that came from Casablanca. It changed the music of the world. It simply did. Everything since has been affected by the music that was made at Casablanca during those four or five years.
Rodriguez: When I think about Casablanca, I think about all the creativity, I think about uniqueness. I think about thinking outside of the box. I think about the fun we had doing it. I also think about the fact that it prepared me. It continued to open my mind and open me up so that anything is possible. To be timeless, you have to be open. That experience of openness and dreaming and thinking of the possibilities, that really came from Casablanca.
D’Ariano: It’s the disco label of all time, of eternity. It was the apogee of disco. If that music is out of vogue at the moment, grab a hold of The Casablanca Records Story (1994) box set and throw that stuff on in your car and crank it up. It’s like listening to the Benny Goodman Band or the early Elvis records. It’s just classic music of an era. Neil was the greatest promoter in the history of the music business but if it wasn’t in the grooves, it wouldn’t have happened. It’s a combination of great music and the great promotion of it.
Wayne: The legacy is that there are people who know what the public wants, likes, and will buy. There aren’t that many people anymore because a lot of people who once had that power have either died or lost interest in continuing.
Klein: Casablanca Record and Filmworks was a one of a kind label thanks in such a major way to Neil Bogart and his P.T. Barnum ways. Advertising played a much bigger role in the marketing of their music than any other label’s marketing. All the other labels would rely on pay-for-play whereas Neil really integrated commercials. Neil used the commercials with this whole bigger than life sound that we got with Ernie Anderson to really make the label have a presence that was major. He was a combination of a huge record company, a television network, and a movie studio all in one. Neil really understood the importance of marketing and specifically using commercials to give his label the presence of a real major entertainment entity. He did it very successfully. I owe a big part of my career to him and to that label.
Wheeler: Casablanca was a time and place. I don’t think Casablanca will ever really work as a brand again. I think that’s one label that should have been put to bed when it was over. What happened during the times of Casablanca and through the dance music era, it taught many people from that era of time how to hear a hit and know when the public is just going to jump. What it taught you was to be so tuned into the streets that you could recognize a trend before it happened and you’ll find in the history of the music business that many people that came out of the disco era actually had very successful careers working street music, whatever trend was coming, you could feel it, you knew it.
Smith: Casablanca has left the worldwide public a legacy of music that will never ever again be matched or topped for what it represented, what it gave, the happiness and joy and yet there’s still so much of it that people don’t know about. People’s love and commitment will never be matched. They were absolutely glory days. I love music and there hasn’t been anything like it since.
Rodriguez: To me the legacy is the spirit of not being afraid to open up a new chapter in music. The legacy, we will talk about the music, we will talk about the artists, but also the legacy is in the people that were part of that movement – Neil Bogart, Bruce Bird, Jheryl Busby, Ruben Rodriguez, Larry Harris, Cecil Holmes. The legacy that the people involved with the music were just as creative as the artists. I think that was one hell of a combination. The artists were encouraged to do their thing. We always wanted to do something different and unique, like our artists. Look at the label – the way it was done, the colors. That’s classic. It’s a gorgeous piece of art. You go back even to the days when radio spots were on Casablanca, Neil had one particular voice at the time where you would hear the voice of Casablanca. The imaging was a very key factor. To be special in the marketplace, to dare to be different, to be excited about it—that, to me, is the legacy. At Casablanca, we didn’t just come to work, we’d come to make a difference. The same thing held true for Casablanca, the label. It came to make a difference.
Goldman: It was a bevy of ideas that had no bottom and no ceiling. In terms of painting the building, Neil always made sure it was shocking pink.