Veteran Producer Pens Book About Making Hit Records in the Glory Days of Rock

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The cover of the Turn It Up! book from Tom Werman

Longtime music industry executive Tom Werman has written a book about his days as a producer for some of the biggest recording artists of the ’70s and ’80s. Turn It Up!: My Time Making Hit Records In The Glory Days Of Rock Music (Featuring Mötley Crüe, Poison, Twisted Sister, Jeff Beck, Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick, And More) arrived November 21, 2023, via Jawbone Press. It’s available to order here.

Growing up in the Boston suburbs, Werman was deeply affected by pop music from a young age. He long dreamed of a career in music but it almost didn’t turn out that way. Dutifully following the path his parents had laid out for him, he earned an MBA from an Ivy League school and immediately took a plum job with an ad agency working on campaigns for a laundry detergent and a peanut butter brand. What he was doing and what he really wanted to do couldn’t have been more different. In 1970, he sent a letter to CBS Records boss Clive Davis and had a series of meetings with various members of the team. After three months, Werman was finally offered a meeting with Davis. As Werman tells Best Classic Bands, “It was like a seminary student having a meeting with the Pope.” Werman told the legendary exec that he wanted to be in A&R (which stands for Artists & Repertoire, the department that signs acts, helps them find suitable songs. matches them with the right producer, and guides them through the recording process).

Although there were no open positions at CBS’ flagship label, Columbia, Davis offered him a job as an A&R assistant at the company’s much smaller Epic Records where, at the time, only Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds and Sly and the Family Stone had achieved prominence.

Within years, Werman, now an “A&R man,” as the industry referred to them, tipped his bosses to such then-unknown acts as an early version of KISS, as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rush. For various reasons, the label chose to pass on all three. Soon enough, though, a hard-working midwestern band named REO Speedwagon became his first signing.

“I flew out to Champaign, Illinois and was met by Irving (Azoff, the veteran artist manager and music industry executive who managed the band early in his career) who took me to the Red Lion Inn that night, where the band blew the roof off,” he says. “That turned out to be a good one.”

Werman soon signed Ted Nugent, Cheap Trick and co-signed Boston, for Epic, and produced albums for many of them. His years of producing Cheap Trick span such classic rock favorites as “Surrender,” “I Want You to Want Me” and “Dream Police.”

Tom Werman (back row, 2nd from L), with Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander, Tom Petersson, Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos, and various Epic Records staff members (Photo: Tom Werman Archives; used with permission)

Related: Our interview with Werman on those early years with Cheap Trick

Just over a decade after he joined Epic, Werman became an independent producer, where he produced landmark albums by Mötley Crüe (Shout At the Devil, Theatre of Pain and Girls, Girls, Girls, each of which sold over four million copies in the U.S. alone), Twisted Sister (the three-million seller Stay Hungry featuring their anthem, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”), Poison (the 5x Platinum Open Up And Say … Ahh! that includes their signature song, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”), and many more. Werman’s record-making résumé includes twenty-three Platinum- or Gold-selling albums and cumulative sales of more than 52 million copies.

After bearing witness to several sea changes in the music industry, Werman retired from producing in 2001 and reinvented himself as an award-winning innkeeper in Massachusetts’ Berkshires. And that might have been that—until an off-the-cuff rebuttal to a disparaging critique of his role in making the Mötley Crüe album Girls, Girls, Girls on a music website led to a fortnightly column and now this book—an engaging insider account on how some of the best-loved albums of the 1970s and ’80s came to be.

Read Part 1 of our interview with Tom Werman on his Epic years here. Part 2, including the making-of Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” the bizarre chapter of Twisted Sister, and plenty more, is coming soon.

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 27 September, 2023, 00:12

    Can’t wait for that book. I would love to read about his time with the Nuge in the 70s.

    I just hope he doesn’t end the book by waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette.

    Reply this comment
  2. I Was There.
    #2 I Was There. 28 September, 2023, 00:43

    Also on Epic label in those early days: Donovan and Spirit.

    Reply this comment

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