Everyone agrees that Blind Melon's debut album on Capitol Records is one of the surprise hits of the season.
The question is: Who deserves credit for it?
Is it vindication for Hale Milgrim, who was head of Capitol when the L.A.-based band was signed in 1991?
Or is the album's success--nearly a year after its release--a triumph for Gary Gersh, who was hired in June to replace Milgrim after his forced resignation?
Some industry observers see the whole thing as a belated victory for Milgrim, who had maintained for months that the band had star potential and that it was only a matter of time before sales kicked in.
But others say the turnaround came only after Gersh moved in and made massive cuts in the artist roster, focusing the company's resources on the album.
Shortly after Gersh took over, MTV moved the video of the band's song "No Rain"--the one featuring that cute little "bee girl"--into heavy rotation and the album exploded. It's currently No. 3 on the national sales chart.
Milgrim downplays the whole issue of naming a victor in the success story, saying only that the band's breakthrough should be gratifying for everyone involved.
"When (Capitol A&R vice president) Tim Devine brought me to see the band in a small rehearsal hall, I knew we were seeing something very special," he told Pop Eye. "When our video department showed me 'No Rain,' I knew we had the tools for major success. We can all spread the credit around any way we want to, but the reality is Blind Melon is one hell of a talented band."
Gersh also sidesteps the conjecture.
"I think there's credit due all the way around," he says. "Hale and his staff for the job they did sticking with the record for a long period of time and the new staff for getting rid of records by artists that are not relevant to the future of this company. We focused on the ones that matter, and in that focus we made Blind Melon the No. 1 priority."
Ironically, the situation is similar to the one Milgrim experienced when he replaced David Berman as Capitol president in 1989. Berman, now a senior executive at Geffen Records, had signed Bonnie Raitt to the company and was still on board when her "Nick of Time" album was released. But he was gone by the time it became a major hit, virtually sweeping the 1989 Grammy Awards and going on to sell nearly 4 million copies.
Whatever, the timing of Blind Melon's success may be perfect for Milgrim. He is believed to be a top candidate to replace Hollywood Records President Peter Paterno, who is leaving the post in November.
"It's certainly an excellent card to be holding at the bargaining table," says one top industry executive. "Hale's worth rose right along with Blind Melon."