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Karl Engemann Comments
Karl Engemann
(Capitol Records Executive)

(In 1960, Karl Engemann joined Capitol Records as a producer. As he laughingly recalls, while he produced a few hits, he didn't think he was going to be one of the all-time great producers. So in early 1962, when the opportunity arose, he moved into business affairs at the label, feeling that it would be a perfect position from which to learn more about running a record company. In 1964, at A&R head Voyle Gilmore's behest, he rejoined the creative side, and when Gilmore left to start his own production company, Karl took over the AE&R department. From 1967-1971, he was Vice-President of A&R for Capitol. In the quarter century since then, he's enjoyed a long and successful career in the record and entertainment business. He eventually turned to personal management, and he has been Marie Osmond's manager for nearly two decades.)

Karl: "Actually, when I first heard the Beach Boys, I was at Capitol, but they were on another label. It was a record called 'Surfin' on Candix Records, and when I heard it on the radio, I remember thinking how Capitol needed a group like that. A few months later in 1962, I was in my office. Business affairs was on the same floor as A&R.

"Nik Venet came rushing in; he was really excited. And I knew from past experience that when he got enthusiastic it really meant something, because he had such a 'great ear' for new talent and songs. At a very young age, he had already established a track record as a producer. So when he said, 'We've got to sign this group before they get out of the building; I knew I had to listen. And then he played me 'Surfin' Safari.’ We both fell over. It was incredible. It was just what we were looking for, and, of course, we immediately made them an offer. And shortly after that, Nik started working with them.

"In those days, they were bright-eyed, young, energetic guys. I don't think anybody realized the genius of Brian Wilson yet. He quickly became a prolific writer and producer. It was wonderful to be involved with 'the boys' and have them come into my office and play new things they had recorded. Or sometimes, at Brian's invitation, I would go to his home and he would sit at the piano and play me the latest songs he was working on. On one memorable occasion, the piano was 'in the sandbox,' What a sweet guy. And very generous. The others were real contributors, but he was the 'main man.'

"Of course, once Brian began producing the group's records, they stopped working with Nik. Even so, Nik always remained supportive of Brian's ambitions as a producer. So the way it now worked was that they would simply deliver the finished record. Because of a relationship that I had developed with Murry and Audree and the guys, I was assigned as the company's liaison with the group.

"With regard to Pet Sounds, I can remember when that album was delivered. On first listening, I knew it was different but it was so well done, and Brian was so enthusiastic about it, he was so in love with it, that you couldn't help but be excited. But then, it was played at a sales meeting, and the marketing guys were really disappointed and down about the record, because it wasn't the normal 'Surfin' U.S.A.' 'Help Me Rhonda,' 'Barbara Ann,' kind of production. History has proven that the Beach Boys were right, and since then Pet Sounds has been embraced as a truly classic album."


“What I suspect happened, and this is just conjecture on my part because it was so long ago, is that because the marketing people didn't believe that Pet Sounds was going to do that well, they were probably looking for some additional volume in that quarter. There's a good possibility that's what happened.

"Anyway, my real forte was dealing with artists and producers and making them feel comfortable so they could achieve their ends. And sometimes, particularly when the label wanted something that the artist didn't, it wasn't easy.

"But none of my titles or what I did is important. What matters is that in the 1960s, when the Beatles were at their creative and commercial peak, the Beach Boys were also right at the very top. And the music the Beach Boys made, particularly on Pet Sounds, was at the creative forefront of that whole period. It was a pleasure to be involved in that part of musical history."

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