Casablanca Records

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Casablanca Records was a record company founded in 1973 by Neil Bogart , which was initially financed by Warner Bros. Records and was the first band to sign the group Kiss . Other well-known artists of the company were Donna Summer , Giorgio Moroder , Village People and Parliament . The company was based at 8255 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles . From 1976, Casablanca Records was a division of Casablanca Record & FilmWorks , Inc.


1973 founded the Neil Bogart label Casablanca Records, the first financially by Warner Bros. Records was born. He probably chose the name for two reasons: Since Warner Bros. held the rights to the film Casablanca , there were no legal problems using the name for the label, and he probably liked the identity of the name between him and the main actor in the film, Humphrey Bogart . Originally he wanted to name his company Emerald City Records .

Bogart had previously been president of the Buddah Records label, founded in 1967 , which was based in New York and belonged to the Viewlex group in 1973 , where Bogart found his work not sufficiently recognized, mainly because Viewlex kept an eye on the Buddah management and Bogart was required to report.

He had hired his friend Jeff Franklin to look after the funding of his own record label in the fall of 1972, and Franklin managed to get Warner Bros. ' Management wanted to at least listen to Bogart's ideas. Bogart met with the media giant's top managers, Vice President Ed West and two Co- Chairmen Mo Ostin and Joe Smith, and convinced them of his new company and his early exit from Buddah Records (his contract was still valid for three years) finance. He took his second cousin, Larry Harris, who was named Senior Vice President & Managing Director, with him to manage his new company, along with Cecil Holmes and Buck Reingold, who, like Harris, had also worked for Buddah.

Bogart signed the group Kiss on November 1, 1973 as the first artist of his new company and began to look for other artists. He had since moved to Los Angeles , where he initially ran his company from home. Casablanca's first release was Bill Amesbury's single Virginia .

Casablanca's first office was in a two-story house at 1112 North Sherbourne Drive in Los Angeles (now the seat of a law firm). After Bogart had reached an agreement with Warner Bros. in August 1974 that Casablanca should become completely independent and that he bought his company out of the contract with Warner, he was faced with the problem of providing the personnel previously provided by Warner for the company's operations and above all had to pay. Casablanca hadn't had a big hit so far, Kiss' first three albums KISS , Hotter Than Hell and Dressed to Kill hadn't been particularly successful, and Bogart's mindset as to why only climb a mountain when you can reach for the stars didn't matter lighter.

At Casablanca, it was common for records to be shipped in far higher numbers than orders had been placed - which in the case of Casablanca's first "big" album, Here's Johnny ... Magic Moments From the Tonight Show , meant that Bogart had one Millions of pieces were pressed and delivered, but actually only 500,000 albums could be sold. The word hype seemed to have been invented for him, but he countered critical statements about this business policy with the words:

"Hype. What a fabulous misused word. If you overestimate something and it succeeds, you are a genius and it wasn't hype; if you overestimate it and it fails, then it's just hype. "

The problem with Casablanca's delivery policy was, among other things, that a "100 percent return policy" was used in the 1970s, which meant that dealers could return unsold goods for a full refund - this also applied to goods that dealers offered as a discount free of charge, so that, for example, one had officially shipped ("sold") 750,000 of a record across America, but got a million copies back - a big minus business, as in the case of Here's Johnny ... or later the solo albums of the KISS- Members.

Together with the sum that Bogart raised to take over Warner Bros. shares in Casablanca, he owed $ 2,500,000 after that disaster until Kiss' album Alive! suddenly sold 2.5 million copies in 1975 and Donna Summer, who had recently received a contract from Bogart, released Love To Love You Baby .


Casablanca was suddenly on a solid financial footing, and in 1975 the company moved to the former "Gold Star Studios" at 8255 Sunset Boulevard . Bogart had the entire block between Roxbury Road and Sweetzer Blvd. as well as the buildings on it. In the same year the company began producing so-called "promotional films" to support their artists. Long before MTV popularized music videos, Casablanca Records was making music videos. The first clips were made for Kiss ( Rock 'N Roll all Nite and C'mon and Love Me ), Donna Summer ( Love to Love Me Baby ) and Parliament ( Do That Stuff ). In 1976 PolyGram acquired a 50% stake in the company for an estimated $ 15 million, while Casablanca merged with FilmWorks, founded by Bogart's long-time friend Peter Guber, to form Casablanca Record & FilmWorks . Bogart remained president while Guber became chairman of the board . Casablanca FilmWorks produced from 1977 to 1980 the films The Deep (German title: " Dieiefe ", 1977), Thank God It's Friday (" Gottseidank, es ist Freitag ", 1978), Midnight Express ("12 Uhr nachts", 1978) , Foxes ("Jeanie's Clique", 1980), in which Bogart's daughter from his first marriage, Jill, played, and The Hollywood Knights (1980), also the TV productions "The Making of 'The Deep'" (1977) and " The Donna Summer Special "(1980). Thank God It's Friday won an Oscar for the song Last Dance , and Midnight Express won two Oscars in 1979, namely for best adapted screenplay ( Oliver Stone ) and for best film music (Giorgio Moroder).

Kiss had released the album Destroyer in 1976 , but it sold badly. The group was a sensation as a live act, but no one really seemed to want to buy their studio albums, and radio stations weren't interested in them either. That all changed when Beth was released as Destroyer's third single, and sales suddenly began to move, and Beth became Kiss' first top ten hit in the United States, on both Billboard and Cashbox .

With the ulterior motive of Peter Mühldorfer , a Munich artist and friend at the time, Donna Summers, to move to Los Angeles with her, Bogart founded the Casablanca ArtWorks division in 1976 , which was to run a gallery. He bought a container full of works by the sculptor Alexander Calder at a ridiculous price and offered Mühldorfer to exhibit his own works in the new gallery. When Calder died on November 11, 1976, the ArtWorks gallery was just opening; At the same time, however, it turned out that Calder had let other artists work for him, so that many things bore his name but did not come from him, which greatly reduced the value. ArtWorks was forgotten as quickly as it began, but Mühldorfer and Summer had actually moved to Los Angeles, and Bogart had achieved his goal.

Casablanca had released 16 albums in 1976; in 1977 there were three times as many. One of the reasons for this was Bruce Bird, who was hired in January 1977 as "Vice President of Promotion". Bird recruited a team of the best promotional people from other companies to Casablanca, whom he lured with Mercedes limousines, first-class flights, salary increases and assumption of moving costs.

Descent and end

The label's decline began in 1978 after the four members of Kiss had each released their own solo albums, all of which hardly found any buyers, but had been pressed and delivered en masse. The United States also suffered from an economic crisis that also hit the record industry badly. In 1979, Larry Harris left the label on the very day that Donna's Summers Bad Girls became number 1 on the Billboard charts . Between August 1979 and February 1980 Casablanca released no fewer than 36 albums, most of which went down on the market without a sound. The commercial exception during this time was the world hit Funkytown by Lipps, Inc. with Cynthia Johnson as the lead singer. Funkytown was a number 1 hit in numerous countries, including a. in the United States and Germany.

Another artist of this phase, who later gained notoriety in other fields, was Phylicia Allen, who recorded the 1978 album Josephine Superstar for Casablanca. The record gained no meaning, but Allen later became known to a wide audience in her role as Claire Huxtable through the Cosby Show under her married name Phylicia Rashad and was awarded the Tony Award .

Bogart drove the expansion despite the bad financial situation of the label and founded the country label Casablanca West in Nashville with Snuff Garret . Two singles and an album by Carol Chase were released on the label, then Casablanca West disappeared from the scene. At the same time, the disco wave began to ebb, sales plummeted, and Donna Summer sued Casablanca Records and the Bogart couple for contract termination and $ 10 million in damages for lost revenue.

On February 8, 1980, Neil Bogart's era at Casablanca Records ended; it is unclear whether PolyGram dismissed him or resigned because of different representations. He founded Boardwalk Entertainment Corporation with his wife and signed Joan Jett & The Blackhearts , Ringo Starr and Night Ranger , among others . The label released a total of 88 records (singles and albums) until its bankruptcy in 1983; Bogart died of lymph gland cancer in 1982 at the age of 38. Donna Summer sang at his funeral; her legal dispute with Casablanca and Joyce Bogart was settled out of court shortly thereafter. Summer had yet to record another album for Casablanca and fulfilled that obligation with She Works Hard for the Money .

PolyGram named Bruce Bird as the new president of Casablanca, but the problems of the label did not diminish: Both Kiss and Donna Summer had contracts that were linked to Neil Bogart and provided that both artists could dissolve the contracts if he did Should leave company. Summer left Casablanca and joined Geffen Records . Casablanca was in ruins because at that time both Village People and Parliament were artistically exhausted, and so the label tried to at least hold Kiss. In April 1980, the group got a new contract for six albums, combined with the assurance of an advance of 2 million dollars per record. On May 20, the album Unmasked was released . Only a few weeks later, the group announced that Peter Criss had left the band , he had not worked on Unmasked anymore.

In November 1980 Cecil Holmes left the label, in December of the same year PolyGram laid off 25 more employees, Casablanca was operated with only 25 employees. In 1981 Casablanca moved to New York, the label was used almost exclusively for the release of soundtracks and re-releases of the newly acquired label "20th Century Fox Records" by PolyGram. The success of Casablanca after 1980 remained marginal, with the exception of the soundtrack to " Flashdance " 1983, which was sold over 6 million times - Casablanca's biggest sales success ever. At that time, however, Casablanca Records consisted of almost nothing but a name on the door and two phones.

In 1985 PolyGram closed the chapter "Casablanca Records" after the last release, the soundtrack for A Chorus Line (November 18, 1985). By then, 289 albums by over 140 artists had been released on Casablanca Records.


Casablanca Records had a massive impact on the position of its albums and singles in the charts. In the first chapter of the book about the history of the label, Larry Harris describes how, on July 21, 1978, Bill Wardlow , who is responsible for the US charts at Billboard Magazine , badly berated Bill Wardlow for making the soundtrack album Thank God it's Friday did not reach the top position in the charts as promised by Wardlow, but instead Saturday Night Fever from the RSO label took the top spot. Harris continues: For the past two years I had been in control of the Billboard charts and was able to significantly influence the positions of our records to create the impression that our company (... ) and our artists (...) were the hottest in the music industry.

The influence of the magazine, which at that time was still struggling with seven competitors ( Cashbox, Record World, Radio & Records, FMQB, The Gavin Report, The Bob Hamilton Radio Report and Booby Poe's Pop Music Survey ), was enormous: Large retail chains like KMart or Walmart , they only bought products that were listed on the Billboard charts. If a record was not represented there, the label and artist could be sure that their products would not be found on the shelves of these chains, which could mean the loss of five to six-digit numbers for the first orders.

Casablanca therefore influenced the notation of the records ( Payola ) with cash payments and "invitations" to responsible persons like Bill Wardlow , which among other things led to four Kiss albums in 1977 ( Alive !, Destroyer, Rock and Roll Over and Love Gun ) were in the top 100 at the same time - of which at most two actually deserved to be nearly as high in the hit lists.


Casablanca Records owned and operated several sub-labels in order to be able to market different types of music in a targeted manner. Below is a list of the labels and the artists they represent

  • Chocolate City Records (R&B), 1975–1982, founder and director: Cecil Holmes
    • Cameo, Blacksmoke (also known as Smoke), Brenda & the Tabulations, Vernon Burch, Starpoint, the 7th Wonder, Townsend Townsend & Rogers, Randy Brown, the Funkateers, Rosco & Mabel, Kevin Moore.
  • Millennium Records , 1977–1978, founder: Jimmy Ienner (Ienner lost all of his artists to Casablanca due to a contractual error when he terminated the distribution agreement at the end of 1978 because they were bound to Casablanca in the distribution agreement).
    • Meco, Godz, Brooklyn Dreams
  • Parachute (disco), 1976–1979, founder: Russ Regan
    • Lalomie Washburn, David Castle, Morris Jefferson, Randy Brown, Stonebolt, Shel Siverstein, Tilt, Sidney Barnes, Liquid Gold
  • EarMarc Records (Disco), 1979–1980, founder and director: Marc Paul Simon
    • Duncan Sisters, Carol Lloyd

Distribution agreements

For the following labels, Casablanca Records took over the marketing in the United States:

Design of the labels

The Casablanca labels stuck to the sound carriers changed over time. There are seven different labels:

  • Casablanca / Warner Rec. "Bogart" label (1974) - The label was only used in 1974 when Warner was distributing the Casablanca phonograms. It shows the Casablanca lettering spanning a stylized kasbah . To the left of the kasbah is a drawing of Humphrey Bogart with a hat, coat and cigarette.
  • Casablanca "Bogart" label (1974–1976) - Identical to the first version, but there is no reference to the distribution by Warner Records.
  • Casablanca "Bogart" label (1976) - Identical to the previous labels, plus the address of Casablanca Records
  • Casablanca Records "Casbah" label (1976–1978) - Bogart disappeared from the label, the Kasbah moved, more visible, into the background; In front of the building there are several palm trees and camels. The Casablanca lettering continues to span the Kasbah.
  • Casablanca Record & Filmworks Label (1977–1980) - After Casablanca Records & Filmworks was founded, the Kasbah became a film set . The gates of the kasbah have been opened, cameras and spotlights are shown in the foreground between the palm trees. Here, too, the lettering spans the kasbah.
  • Casablanca Record & Filmworks / PolyGram Label (1981) - Identical to the previous label; however, PolyGram is now named as the copyright holder.
  • Casablanca Record & Filmworks / PolyGram Label (1982) - identical to the previous label, but with PolyGram's New York address


In 2000, the Casablanca name was revived in a joint venture between Tommy Mottola and the Universal Music Group . In a Billboard article, Mottola said the name choice was a tribute to the original label, but that there was no further relationship with the original company.


  • Published in 1994, Mercury Records , the collection The Casablanca Records Story . All relevant artists of the label with the exception of Kiss and Angel are presented on a total of four CDs, some of the pieces are even available as 12-inch mixes . This CD set is now a sought-after collector's item. (Casablanca / Mercury 516917)
  • In 1996 the VHS cassette Inside The Casbah - A Visual History of Casablanca Records , a 70-minute collection of promo clips released by Casablanca Records over time, was released.
  • The former Casablanca building at 8255 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles is now the headquarters of the Boardwalk Entertainment Group , which was founded in 2011 by Timothy Scott Bogart and Evan Bogart, the sons of Neil Bogart.
  • Ironically, in 1981, Casablanca Records moved into the same New York building where his former employer, Buddah Records, resided in Bogart's day (810 Seventh Avenue).

supporting documents

  1. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records. P. 35.
  2. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records. P. 35.
  3. ^ Loose Talk: The Book of Quotes from the Pages of Rolling Stone Magazine, 1990. Original text: Hype. What a marvelous, misused word. If you hype something and it succeeds, you're a genius, it wasn't hype; if you hype it and it fails, then it's just a hype.
  4. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records. P. 93.
  5. ^ Post-Kiss, the Village People and Donna Summer, Neil & Joyce Bogart Redo Their Own Lives . People Magazine. May 20, 1980. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  6. ^ Obituary to Neil Bogart, Billboard Magazine, May 22, 1982
  7. IMDB entry on Casablanca Filmworks
  8. ^ Post-Kiss, the Village People and Donna Summer, Neil & Joyce Bogart Redo Their Own Lives , People Magazine, May 26, 1980
  9. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records , page 154
  10. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records , p. 159
  11. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records , page 252
  12. Info at
  13. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records , page 253
  14. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records , pp. 254/255
  15. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records , page 255
  16. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records
  17. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records , p. 256
  18. ^ And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records, p. 210
  19. Casablanca label labels . KissFAQ. Archived from the original on January 20, 2012. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved September 25, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  20. ^ Article in "Billboard" on the founding of Casablanca


Former Senior Vice President & Managing Director of Casablanca Records, Larry Harris, published a book about the history of the label in 2009 together with journalists Curt Gooch ( "Performance Magazine" ) and Jeff Suhs ( "The Original Entertainer" ):

  • And Party Every Day - The Inside Story of Casablanca Records ; Larry Harris, Curt Gooch, and Jeff Suhs; Backbeat Books, 2009; ISBN 978-0-87930-982-4

Web links