An Interview with Arnie Goodman

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An Interview with versatile Arnie Goodman: The energy of the music is what  comes out of my lenses - Blues.Gr

Arnie Goodman is a music lifer. He’s basically done it all and then some. These days, he’s an accomplished photo-journalist/music photographer (you can check out his work here), but if you go back, the music and record scene of NYC over the last 45 or so years has Arnie’s fingerprints all over it. Once the owner of legendary Brooklyn record store Zig Zag Records, Arnie then went on to have an amazing career in the recording business with Bull Frog Studios, Viceroy Entertainment, Blue Storm Music and now Quarto Valley Records. Arnie has lived the dream of working with and befriending his favorite artists, but make no mistake- he’s earned every bit of it. This last year, Arnie put his photography skills to the test, but in an entirely new way. In the spring of 2020 AKA the early and chaotic days of COVID-19, Arnie took to the empty streets of NYC and took photographs. Now he’s compiled them into his new, upcoming book called Empty. It’s a compelling and harrowing look into the early days of COVID-19, and as we move forward past the pandemic, Arnie’s living history will serve as a stark reminder of what we’ve been through and overcome. For an idea of what his book will be all about, check out this website here for some of Arnie’s NYC photos. They’re pretty chilling. Anyway, I’ve said what I needed to say. Let’s get on with it. Cheers.

Andrew:
Arnie, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

Arnie:
Things have been hard for everybody but life must move on. In the past 16 years, I have reinvented myself through my music photography. Taking this expertise, I am having a book published called Empty, that includes photos I took of the empty streets of New York City from March 2020 through May 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. I also have been working with “Save our Stages.”

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

Arnie:
Early on, as a young kid, the record that caught my ear was the first Elvis Presley record on RCA and “Blues Suede Shoes” was the song. Over the years, I bought a few records and listened to Top Ten Radio. The game changer was in 1968 when I started exploring New York City, especially Greenwich Village. It opened up the world of music to me.

Andrew:
In the music business, you’ve worn many hats. Let’s start with the famous Zig-Zag Records. How did you come into owning the store? Any interesting stories to tell?

Arnie:
Let’s start putting the dots together as everything I did was connected in some way. My first step to opening a record store was becoming a knowledgeable record collector. Again, the stores in Greenwich Village opened up my eyes. There was one store on lower Broadway, across the street from the Strand Book Store called Dayton Records, which was the place that gave me an education on all kinds of music. The store got most of their stock from reviewers trading in their records which gave you a chance to get a lot of music before it even hit the streets. The beauty of the place was the conversation about the music between the collectors and reviewers. Each store in the Village had a specialty. For example, Gramophone specialized in cutouts (discontinued records). Here, I got the chance to befriend the late Lonesome Dave Peverett (Savoy Brown and Foghat). Savoy Brown was playing the Fillmore East that night. Dave was not only a great musician, but an ardent Blues collector. He was the first professional musician I got to know and stayed close to him for the rest of his life. Other stores at the time that I frequented: Max’s Book Store, Discophile, Bleeker Bobs, Free Being, Golden Disk, House of Oldies and Music Inn. The corporate stores of the time in NYC were King Carol and Sam Goody. My main interests were the independent record stores; they are what I modeled Zig Zag records after.

Zig Zag Records | Brooklyn, NY | Record shop signs, Store fronts, Vintage  records

Andrew:
You sold Zig Zag in 1986, right? What led to that decision? My understanding is you toyed with the idea of buying it back in 2011 before it closed for good. Ultimately, why did you decide against that? Looking back, what is Zig Zags legacy within the NYC vinyl community? Would you ever consider owning another store?

Arnie:
I loved owning Zig Zag records! Several things led me to selling Zig Zag. I tried to grow the business by branching out with outlets in other locations (Glen Cove, Long Island, 89th St. Manhattan, Franklin Square Long Island). It never really was as successful as I planned. My interests were starting to go other places. I was never a fan of CDs; for me it was all about the vinyl and the 12 by 12 cover format. It started to occur to me that vinyl was slowly disappearing. In 1986, we were working with a lot of bands and artsits like Savoy Brown, Mick Taylor, Paul Di’Anno and Blue Cheer. They were touring all over the world and I wanted to be a part of it. It gave me an opportunity to see the four corners of the world. Travel would include Japan, South America, Europe, Australia, Israel as well as all 50 states. In 2011, if I had known Zig Zag was closing in Brooklyn, I would have considered buying it back. I was collecting records and saw the renewed interest in vinyl all over the world, especially in Japan, the home of the CD. When I came up with idea of opening Zig Zag in 1974, it was the period of time when New Wave music and Disco was coming into vogue, which were not my main interests in music. My thinking was that Brooklyn could support a great collector’s music store. The legacy of the store was built around offering imported records mainly from the UK and hard to find and out of print records. Also, our goal was to offer the record to our customers ahead of any other record store. We sponsored and supplied import records to WNEW Scott Muni’s Things from England (The Who, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Genesis, Duran Duran, Slade, Jethro Tull, Judas Priest). This legendary radio show was on every Friday afternoon and listened to by every hardcore Rock fan in the tri-state area. At that period of time, it was common that many records came out in the UK months before they came out in the USA. The major labels tried to stop imports from coming to the USA. They wanted to stop parallel imports. The UK pressing and packaging was superior. In many cases, the tracks on the UK album releases were different from the US releases. An example of this was the first Clash album. We did carry imports from other parts of the world other than the UK. Japan was also a key country. For example, Cheap Trick at Budokan released in 1978 in Japan, was the record that broke Cheap Trick throughout the world. Another important release at the time, which never released in the USA, was Beck Bogart and Appice Live in Japan 1973. Over the years, we also bought some major record collections. Our goal at Zig Zag was to find vinyl that was not commonly found at any other store. We also were the first record store to offer instore appearances on a regular basis with many artists and bands. The first appearance was Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith band. It was built around a compilation Lenny put together called Nuggets. Over the years, the music market changed. In the early years, we basically sold Classic Rock, Blues and New Wave music. During the New Wave period in 1976, Stiff Records put out a single by Motorhead called “Leaving Here/White Line Fever” and that was the start of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It opened up the market for Heavy Metal. This led the way for Zig Zag to start selling many Heavy Metal releases. Consequently, the instore appearances were built around Heavy Metal bands. The first appearance was with Iron Maiden in 1981 when their first album had just been released in the USA. This was followed by Motorhead with the Lemmy/Phil Taylor/Eddie Clark lineup in 1982 (right after this appearance this lineup broke up, and they played their last show the next night at the Academy of Music). It was the end of the classic lineup era of Motorhead. You can go to YouTube and see the legendary instore appearances of both Iron Maiden and Motorhead (link to Motorhead here and Iron Maiden here). This was followed by in stores with Girls School, Motorhead (Brian Robertson lineup), Loudness, Krokus, Raven, Mama’s Boy, King Diamond, The Rods, Twisted Sister, Venom, Metallica and my favorite – Fastway. Another factor in the success of Zig Zag was the connection with L’Amour the “Rock Capitol of Brooklyn.” We were their main ticket outlet, which built up our clientele.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged my home and destroyed my infamous 11 thousand piece record collection, memorabilia and all the back stock I had accumulated over the years. It had been a labor of love for 50 years collecting vinyl around the world- gone with a powerful surge of Mother Nature. This put to rest my collecting days and the thought of ever opening another store.

Andrew:
After you sold Zig Zag, from 1988-1990, you were president of Bull Frog Studios, and you worked with the likes of Rory Gallagher, Metallica, Alice in Chains, and more. What can you tell us about that experience?

Arnie:
Bull Frog Studios was a product of a few things coming together. I was partners with Sigmund Batruc and owned a building at 547 West 27th St. Manhattan. In those days, Chelsea in NYC was a haven for hookers and drug dealers. We had plenty of room and we were working with a lot of bands on the management side (Savoy Brown, Mick Taylor, Pete Brown, Paul Di’Anno). It gave us a great private space for pre-production and rehearsal of all the bands. Word got around about our location and we brought in Cliff Evans (Tank) and Paul Aaronson to run the studio. They in turn, brought in many outside clients. Our first client was Circus of Power. The two most interesting clients to follow were Bo Didley (Mike Vernon) and Al Di Meola. We eventually sold the studio to Vinny’s Music.

Andrew:
From 1992-1998, you were president of Viceroy Entertainment, and from 1998-1999, you were the head of A&R at Mystic Music. You signed the likes of Alvin Lee, Steve Hackett, Savoy Brown, Mountain, and more. How did you end up in those roles? How did they prepare you for what came next?

Arnie:
Viceroy Entertainment was a product of my experience in working with numerous labels. I had developed a camaraderie with many artists, and with it came an understanding of their needs. With that knowledge, I felt I could be more conscientious in the recording and promotion. Key Factors in being able to start Viceroy: a) Ben Elliot, a great engineer, who owned Showplace Studios in Dover NJ- this gave us access to a state of the art studio and for the right price, b) Pete Brown, lyricist for Cream and a great producer- produced many of our albums, giving us credibility and c) we had a direct relationship to most of the artists we recorded, we made the deals directly with the artist. Our first major artist that I signed was Alvin Lee. I just called Alvin up at home one night, talked a little music and made a deal for the Zoom album (George Harrison). That’s how deals were made with most of our artists (Kim Simmonds, Leslie West, Robert Gordon, Hubert Sumlin) to name a few. There are always disappointments in the music game. One such example, I thought The Sunset Heights record Texas Tea produced by Pete Brown should have been a break through album. Unfortunately, it never reached its goal. But, we were well ahead of the game! Viceroy’s best work was Rattle Snake Guitar – The Music of Peter Green produced by Pete Brown. It had the last two tracks recorded by Rory Gallagher. It remains an infamous record. It revived Peter Green’s career. Mystic Music came into play in 1998 when many companies were going public to raise large amounts of money. Greg Russell of Mystic Music offered me stock options and great contract to bring over the Viceroy Catalogue and run his A&R Department.

Lemmy at ZigZag records
Lemmy of Motorhead at the now legendary instore appearance at Zig Zag Records

Andrew:
Speaking of what came next, in 2000, you began your own label, Blue Storm Music. You’ve had a lot of incredible releases come through it as well, such as albums by Asia, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Peter Green and many others. What led to the decision to found your own label? What were your goals, and have they progressed/changed as you’ve moved forward 21 years later?

Arnie:
Blue Storm Music came about as a result of Mystic Music failing to go through with their plans of going public. I got back my catalogue and started my new company. I owned Viceroy so Blue Storm Music was nothing new for me. Working with Peter Green was a great experience; I had the experience of taking Peter to my mother’s Passover Seder. My favorite project of the Blue Storm period was the John Lee Hooker tribute album From Clarksdale to Heaven, which included Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Mick Taylor, Gary Brooker, LLC (Lyons, Lee and Converse) and it was produced by Pete Brown. I also had the pleasure of working with Zakia Hooker. My goal has always been the same- to make great records and promote the artists to reach a larger audience and sell product.

Andrew:
You’ve got a history in PR as well, right? Tell us more about that.

Arnie:
My history was more marketing than PR. Currently, I am working with a great new label called Quarto Valley Records, where the roster is Edgar Winter, Savoy Brown, Immediate Family, Sean Chambers, Acoustic Cream, and Deborah Bonham. Marketing has become social media.

Andrew:
Tell us more about your photography, and what got you into that.

Arnie:
Photography- over the years I have always shot photos but never in a serious way. It so happened that I lost almost all my film photos in Hurricane Sandy. Two things changed all that in 2004, when I was working on the LLC (Lyons, Lee and Converse) album in Nashville at Quad Studios. I brought my camera with me to shoot some photos of the sessions. However, the film plate in the back of my camera was scratched. So, I brought the camera to Wolf Camera to see if they could fix it. It was a Leica camera, which they could not fix. I was with Ric Lee (Ten Years After) and he said to buy a digital camera, he would help me with it; however Ric did not know anymore about digital than I did. We could not even get the camera out of program mode. The photos I took were horrible. The big change in my life of photography came in 2005 when Suzanne Cadgene and myself started Elmore Magazine. The photos I took in the early days of Elmore magazine were terrible. However, the photo editor of Elmore magazine Matt Helminski, led me in the right direction to acquire the technical skills needed to become an accomplished photographer. My first cover shoot for Elmore was Richie Havens. Over the years, my photos have been used in Classic Rock, Mojo, Blues Matters, Vintage Guitar, The Blues Magazine, Living Blues, Blues Blast, Guitar World, Goldmine and on album covers by Savoy Brown, Solomon Hicks, Biscuit Miller, Thank You Les Paul. I have also been the house photographer for Blues Fest International, Jack Bruce Tribute and The Iridium the home of Les Paul. The last project I just finished is a photo book called Empty that documents the Empty Streets of New York City from March 2020 through May 2020.

The Empty Streets of New York City | The Iridium
Image Credit: Arnie Goodman

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the betterment of both the fans and artists alike?

Arnie:
The biggest problem in the music world today is streaming. The artists are getting little of the piece of the pie. Fans have to buy copies of their favorite artists’ work and buy tickets to their live performances. It is a must to support these great talents!

Andrew:
Opinion question. In a world dominated by capitalism and social media, can indie artists really, truly get ahead? How do we keep the playing field level so that everyone has a chance to succeed?

Arnie:
Indie Artists can only a get ahead if they have financial backing in the way of Joe Bonamassa.

Andrew:
Are you only into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music? How big is your collection these days?

Arnie:
I lost my collection of 11 thousand records in Hurricane Sandy. Most of the music I get these days are from artists I am working with. I prefer to shop at stores, however, most record stores today are mostly selling used records with a few reissues. In NYC, the place to get new vinyl is Barnes and Noble and the selection is below par.

The Empty Streets of New York City | The Iridium
Image Credit: Arnie Goodman

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

Arnie:
A few albums that mean the most to me are Savoy Brown- Blues Matters. Ten Years After- Sssh. Rory Gallagher- Irish Tour. All 3 albums are Blues Rock albums, which is my favorite genre of music. I got to hear them when they were first released and still love them today!

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you.

Arnie;
Artists who mean the most to me are Kim Simmonds, Leo Lyons, Andrew Duck McDonald, Pete Brown, Rory Gallagher, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. I have done some great work with all these artists and have been lifelong friends.

Andrew:
Last question. You obviously love music. That said, what does music mean to you? How important of a role has it played on your life in general?

Arnie:
Music has been everything to me. The live experience has been the most important element. I hope it comes back soon. I have been lucky enough to have had a real relationship with most of my favorite artists. I can relate to places to this day where I saw some of my favorite artists for the first time and where I bought their first album. Thanks for the memories!

Interested in checking out footage of the legendary Motorhead instore appearance at Zig Zag Records? Check out the video below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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