Santa Claus Goes Modern : Xmas & Music, A Lethal Combo

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This has been some kinda week for learning and yearning. Not only did I find out the excruciating Trans-Siberian Orchestra were led by dudes from Mike Piazza's 4th or 5th fave band, Savatage (above), but Leftsetz has the scoop on the TSO's unlikely genesis (link courtesy Vinyl Mine).

So Jason’s all coked up. And not being able to look at the four walls, knowing he’s going to be up all night, he goes miles to a friend’s house, to do more blow, to get him to the sunshine, until he has to show up at Atlantic for work.

And this guy, he keeps pitching Jason this AWFUL band. Heavy metal noise. Every night, while they’re doing coke, this drug buddy says you’ve got to sign SAVATAGE! Finally, to get the guy off his back, Jason offers him a deal, under one condition, the guy doesn’t harangue him about the act ANY MORE!

And it’s not like Savatage is doing well. After a couple of albums, the deal is the band delivers a record, that THEY pay for, and Atlantic puts it out. The relationship has run its course. But then Jason gets a call saying Scott Shannon is ALL OVER THE RECORD!

Jason protests that this is impossible, that Savatage is a horrible heavy metal band, their record is NEVER gonna appear on Top Forty radio. But then the report comes in that Scott Shannon is TALKING ABOUT THE RECORD, how fucking GREAT IT IS!

Turns out, at the end of the last album, there’s a Christmas track, and THAT’S garnering all the action. So Jason gets Savatage’s producer, Paul O’Neill, on the phone, and tells him to make a whole ALBUM of Christmas music, to come up with a new name, that they’ve got a GOLD MINE! Soon Paul calls back and says he’s got it, "Trans-Siberian Orchestra", what does Jason think?

Jason says he’s clueless, after all he’s a Jew, but it seems fine to him.

But what breaks the record big, after it’s finally recorded, is the appearance on Rosie O’Donnell. Jason calls Bob Daly, who at the time oversees both music and TV, and the TV division produces Rosie’s show. Jason leans on him. And Bob goes around the bookers and gets TSO on the show.

And then all hell breaks loose. A platinum album. Then another.

So some things that start poorly end well. Jason was in rehab when Savatage recorded their debut, he was not heavily invested. He stayed with the band as long as possible, until it no longer made financial sense. And then, when confronted with a moment, a seeming accident of fate, he CAPITALIZED ON IT!

Oh, at first it was difficult. Not working the Savatage album with the Christmas track, there were no PROMOS! Atlantic had to ship sales copies, of which there were very few. But the true genius was in recognizing that this was not an anomaly, that there was a nugget here that was representative of an entire GOLD MINE!

So every Christmas since, for ten years now, Trans-Siberian Orchestra sells hundreds of thousands of albums. And goes on tour, to the point where there are now TWO touring companies, playing ARENAS! Cash is thrown off, people get rich, THIS is why you’re sitting there and Jason’s up in Aspen.</em>

Ahem. If you're hankering for an Xmas musical experience of an entirely different sort, WPRB's Jon Solomon will be doing his annual holiday 24 hour marathon this Sunday.