New York, NY (July 27, 2016)—A noted producer for the likes of The Clash and Blue Öyster Cult, Sandy Pearlman died in Marin County, CA, early on Tuesday, July 26, of pneumonia, following months of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage last December. He was 72. Pearlman’s colorful, multifaceted career also included stints as a music critic, professor, band manager, studio owner, label head, lyricist and more. Under these and other various roles, he was ultimately the recipient of 17 gold and platinum records.
Born in the Rockaway section of Queens in New York City, Pearlman began writing for early rock criticism magazine Crawdaddy in 1966, and often claimed he was the first to use the term “heavy metal” as a genre descriptor. A year later, in an effort to get some poems he’d written turned into songs, he began working with a Long Island band, Soft White Underbelly, which he soon began managing, working with the act through 1995.
When the fledgling group signed to a major label, its name changed to Blue Öyster Cult, and Pearlman produced or co-produced a run of seven studio records and four live albums during his time with the band. Pearlman would go on to at various times manage acts as disparate as Black Sabbath, Romeo Void, The Dictators (who he also often produced) and early MTV staple, Aldo Nova.
In 1978, CBS Records’ U.S. arm asked him to produce the second album of an up-and-coming UK punk act, The Clash; the resulting album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, became the seminal group’s U.S. debut.
Throughout the 1980s, he leased various studios in San Francisco, including rooms at The Automatt and Hyde Street Studios, the latter of which was where he founded Alpha & Omega Studio in 1986. Eventually moving to 150 Bellam Street in San Rafael, CA, the facility offering 72-track recording. Acts that recorded there over the years included BÖC, Joe Satriani, Todd Phillips and Exodus, among others. In 1989, Pearlman became president of 415 Records; the label, having already seen its heyday with early alternative acts like Translator, Red Rockers and Wire Train in the mid-80s, was renamed Popular Metaphysics, but shuttered in the early 1990s.
Undaunted, Pearlman continued on, eventually co-founding e-music.com in the late 90s during the first Dotcom Boom. The site was among the first to sell music digitally via downloadable files, starting in 1998 with MP3s. In more recent years, Pearlman had turned to music industry education, notably as the Schulich Distinguished Chair of Music at McGill University in Montreal, and as a visiting lecturer at numerous universities, including Harvard, UC Berkeley and Stanford, and at various national music seminars include the SxSW Festival.