Work at studio part2

Frampton says Alpert — the musician — and Moss — the music lover — were always available whenever he wanted to drop in and talk. And he says A&M’s laid-back studios provided a family vibe.

“I never went to college, but I felt I was going to college at the A&M campus. That’s what it was like,” he says. “You’d see The Carpenters going into the studio and one day I saw Sting come in on a motorbike. It was the great place to hang out.”

Frampton says he got to sit in on other musicians’ sessions and was invited to help choose the cover art for his albums. “Word on the street was, ‘We’ve never had it so good here,’ ” he says. “They never once said, ‘You should do more of this,’ or ‘Don’t do that.’ They just let us do our thing. We made mistakes, and we learned by our own mistakes. And that’s sort of unheard of now.”

Nurturing Artists

Frampton’s third album for the label, Frampton Comes Alive, became the best-selling album of 1976. And just as it did with Frampton, A&M stuck with another artist until she finally scored a hit. From her home in England, singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading says success didn’t come until her third album with A&M.

“If you think about that today, after that first album, I don’t think I would have the second album made because people would probably be saying, hang on a minute, how come you haven’t given us that song yet? And the second album came and they’d probably be saying, well, you’ve had two albums and you haven’t done it, ” says Armatrading. “So A&M were very much into nurturing artists.”

Bryan Adams was just an 18-year-old Canadian singer when he got signed to A&M. “Those were great times,” he recalls. “The record business was flourishing; radio was a force. The people who were involved were dedicated to building A&M — which at the time was just an independent label — into a major label. It was a label that took their chances with artists who weren’t exactly mainstream until they found their niche. They took huge chances.”

The label helped launch the careers of Joe Jackson, Suzanne Vega and The Police — as well as Sting. Producer Quincy Jones says he and many other jazz musicians also have fond memories of recording at A&M.

“Honey, are you kidding?” Jones asks. “We recorded ‘We Are the World’ there in the A&M studios, That’s something you never forget.”End Of An Era

A&M continued to produce hits through the 1980s. But in 1989, Moss says, he and Alpert decided to sell their label to Polygram Records for half a billion dollars.

“It was sad because we really wanted to make it bigger,” Moss says. “They bought the company, they said, ‘No changes. There will be no changes. You guys can run it the way you feel like.’ The first thing you hear is, ‘Um, we’re gonna close the Paris office.’ ”

Then A&M’s New York offices were shuttered. Moss says he and Alpert managed the label for three more years before bowing out, unhappy with their new bosses.

“They didn’t appreciate the founder’s way, so to speak, of doing business,” he says. “All of a sudden, they were taking away from us our individuality. And we thought, ‘That’s what you were buying, was the fact that we were different and unique!’ ”

Moss says they knew it was all over when, the week after he and Alpert sold the company, the new owners painted over murals — created by musicians from the San Francisco band The Tubes — on the outside walls of the recording studios. “Now why would anybody do that?” Moss says, shaking his head. “This is great art, this is important art. And they just whitewashed it. And it was like, ‘OK, that’s who they are, these people.’ ”

Moss and Alpert filed several lawsuits against their label’s subsequent owners for violating an “integrity clause” written into the sale. The suits were settled years ago. Since then, Moss and Alpert have donated A&M’s archives to UCLA, and in 2006 the partners were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Today, the label launched in Herb Alpert’s garage is owned by the giant Universal Music Group, which has released a 50th-anniversary collection of A&M artists. To this date, nearly 600 of A&M’s original albums are still available.