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McCartney: Low-Key With New Album

May 28, 1989|PAUL GREIN

If you're bracing yourself for a big media blitz surrounding the June 6 release of Paul McCartney's "Flowers in the Dirt," you can relax: It will only be a mini -blitz.

The ex-Beatle is on the cover of the new issue of Rolling Stone, and was featured on NBC-TV's "Today Show" last week, but you don't need to worry about seeing him in "Us" or on "Live With Regis & Kathie Lee."

While a McCartney world tour is in the works for later this year, the star and his advisers are being careful not to over-hype the new Capitol album, preferring to let the music speak for itself.

The reason? McCartney had a string of heavily hyped albums in the past decade that were commercial and critical flops. The advisers feared that a big push now could revive memories of past, ill-fated campaigns.

"Once you start waving your banners too high, that's when people respond to it as hype," said Ron Weisner, who is McCartney's U.S. management representative. "It hurt some of his previous product because there was so much visibility. And as a result, now there's almost a show-me attitude. So our idea has been to low-ball it to the point of just letting people hear the music."

Weisner, who formerly co-managed Michael Jackson and Madonna and also manages Steve Winwood, said that McCartney has begun putting a band together for a world tour that would begin in the fall and reach this country at the end of the year.

The relatively low-key launch for the McCartney album stands in sharp contrast to the splashy, hype-laden launchings of the latest albums by Madonna, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.

Capitol President David Berman said that that's because McCartney isn't coming off a blockbuster album as those three stars were. "There's a bit of a rebuilding process that one has to do with Paul," he said. "I think it would have been a big mistake to have attempted to introduce 'Flowers in the Dirt' with something like the Madonna campaign."

Berman, who hosted a dinner party for McCartney and his wife, Linda, last month in his Tarzana home, added, "We all feel that this is the best McCartney album since 'Band on the Run,' so there's no need to hype it."

Joe Dera, who has been McCartney's publicist for 14 years, said that this low-key strategy extends to media and print interviews.

Dera added that he has tried to focus on the music press, notably Rolling Stone and Spin magazines. "We've had offers to do a variety of general celebrity press--Esquire, GQ, Vanity Fair--and have held back," he said. "I wanted writers who know Paul McCartney as a musician as opposed to writers who just view him as one more celebrity."

The early radio and retail response to McCartney's album has been encouraging. The first single from the album, "My Brave Face," jumped to No. 54 in its second week on Billboard's pop chart. And according to Ron McCarrell, Capitol's vice president of marketing, pre-orders from retailers have already topped the final sales tally (about 250,000) of McCartney's last studio album, "Press to Play."

But McCarrell acknowledged that many fans will be skeptical. "We're going to have to prove that there's more than one terrific single on this album . . . to all the fans that might have bought McCartney albums over the last five to seven years and been less than completely satisfied," he said.

By coincidence, John Fagot, Capitol's vice president of promotion, was a top promotion executive at McCartney's former record company, Columbia, through the early and mid-'80s. "I was at Columbia when he delivered that album that he recorded on his porch," he said dryly. "So it's a great relief for me to see Paul McCartney get serious about making great music again.

"You can't hype this kind of artist," Fagot added. "He either delivers the goods or he doesn't. With McCartney, you know within three weeks whether or not you're going to have a successful album. So we resisted the temptation to over-hype it and just treated it as a good piece of music by a guy who's been due. It's like a batter who's in a slump and then hits a home run."

NEWS NOTES: Whitney Houston, Cyndi Lauper and Luther Vandross are among the artists set to perform at an AIDS benefit concert at Avery Fisher Hall in New York on June 9. It's one of three concerts set for the Big Apple that weekend to support the Warwick Foundation, an AIDS charity founded by Dionne Warwick--who will perform at one of the shows with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. . . . The L.A. Weekly is looking for a new music editor for the second time in seven months. Jonathan Gold, who replaced Craig Lee in that position last October, left the publication a few weeks ago. Weekly editor Kit Rachlis said that Arion Berger is serving as acting music editor and is a candidate to replace Gold. Rachlis declined to comment on any change in direction in the Weekly's music coverage.

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