Music Manager-Producer Marty Thau Dies at 75
Marty Thau, a pivotal figure in the New York music scene during the ’70s and ’80s who managed the New York Dolls and founded the landmark indie label Red Star Records, has passed away at the age of 75 due to complications from renal failure.
The early years of Thau’s music career marked him as a young executive with an ear for talent and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. After starting out at Billboard as an advertising trainee, Thau took a promo job at Cameo-Parkway Records under Neil Bogart, who later went on to run Buddah (where he again hired Thau). Resigning from his position at Buddah, Thau went on to serve as a partner at Inherit Productions, the company then responsible an artist roster that included Van Morrison and John Cale, and worked as the head of A&R at Paramount.
Thau’s early credentials are impressive in their own right, but it’s what he did next that cemented his legacy. After catching a New York Dolls performance, Thau formed a management company and got them a deal at Mercury, overseeing their career during the years leading up to their dissolution in 1975. In 1976, Thau founded Red Star, quickly signing the rising art-punk synth duo Suicide and co-producing their self-titled 1977 debut. Although it failed to chart, ‘Suicide’ exerted a huge influence on a wide variety of later artists, reflecting a label aesthetic that would go on to nurture the careers of artists such as the Fleshtones, the Real Kids and Richard Hell.
“I’ve always believed there is a fine line between abstract and pure accessibility and that is what I’ve always looked for,” Thau explained during a 2009 interview. “An artist who can be abstract and conventional at the same time and, most importantly, reach people. That’s the magic we all seek. It’s called originality … and, of course, it’s still about songs. That’s the starting point.”
“Marty Thau was always at the center of the New York scene throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s,” said Thau’s ‘Suicide’ co-producer, Craig Leon, in the same article. “Discovering new artists and championing underdogs like Richard Hell, Blondie, the Dolls, the Ramones, and Suicide very early on when the self-proclaimed cognoscenti of the time were shunning them. He is far more important in the scope of New York music of the ’70s than the majority of the pseuds and avaricious record execs who take credit for various ‘discoveries’ who actually did their discovering much later than he did. Working with him on Suicide’s first album was one of the most fun and funniest collaborations I’ve taken part in.”
Thau wrote about his time running the label in the book ‘Punked Up! (Red Star Chronicles),’ and according to Vintage Vinyl News, he was working on a new memoir, ‘Rockin’ the Bowery (From the New York Dolls to Suicide),’ at the time of his death.