Song publisher and producer Kirshner died early last year, at the age of 76, but his name cropped up again in this February’s tributes to The Monkees’ Davy Jones. He was a prominent figure in the story of the small screen mock mop-tops: the man hired to source material for their TV shows and subsequent albums, ultimately clashing with bandmembers lobbying to write more of their own music.
Numerous takes on music history consequently painted him as a megalomaniac, the cynical puppet master stifling the creativity of Mike Nesmith in particular, but Podolsky’s occasionally fawning book attempts to redress the balance. The author focuses on Kirshner’s knack of finding talent and nurturing it, his Aldon publishing company in New York’s Brill Building providing a springboard for the careers of such writers as Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, and Neils Sedaka and Diamond.
Podolksy is primarily a fan of the songs, enthusiastic and eloquent when writing about specific evergreen hits such as Take Good Care Of My Baby, Up On The Roof and Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, while making only fleeting references to his subject’s own abrasive personality. Kirshner’s drive and single-mindedness (who else was giving teenage tunesmiths a break in the early 60s?) may have put some noses out of joint, but the author rightly acknowledges the role he played in shaping modern popular song.