Beserkley Records was founded by Matthew King Kaufman along with members of the Bay Area band Earth Quake. Kaufman was a law graduate who became co-manager of Earth Quake, and helped them sign with A&M Records in 1970. After experiencing frustration at what he saw as A&M's incompetence in handling the band , and winning some compensation for the unauthorised use of Earth Quake's music in the movie The Getaway, he set up Beserkley Records, in 1973. Kaufman produced virtually all of Beserkley's output throughout its existence, often in association with Glenn Kolotkin, less frequntly with Kenny Laguna.
For the first two years of its existence, Beserkley only put out singles. The first release (in late 1973) was Earth Quake's version of the Easybeats' "Friday On My Mind".
Initially none of the Beserkley singles were especially successful, but in 1975 some were assembled, together with newly recorded tracks, into the album Beserkley Chartbusters Vol. 1. As well as tracks by Earth Quake, this included tracks by power pop group The Rubinoos, Jonathan Richman and Greg Kihn. Richman's recordings were his first as a solo performer (after the disbanding of the original Modern Lovers) and included the first released version of "Roadrunner" by Jonathan Richman, backed by Earth Quake.
Kaufman and Richman had previously worked together on the Modern Lovers' sessions for A&M in 1972. In 1976, Kaufman licensed those recordings, together with the ones the band had made around the same time with producer John Cale for Warner Bros., and released them on Beserkley as a highly acclaimed album, The Modern Lovers. Though neither Richman nor the Modern Lovers made the American charts, they were quite successful in the UK, with the singles "Roadrunner (Once)" and "Egyptian Reggae" making the UK top twenty.
Other 1970s Beserkley acts had less commercial success, although The Rubinoos made the US charts, hitting #45 with a cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" in 1977. As well, Earth Quake made the lower rungs of the American LP charts with their second of four albums for Beserkley (1976's 8.5, which peaked at #151).
Beserkley's records were initially distributed by Playboy Records until about 1977 (and during part of 1976, Playboy itself was distributed by CBS Records, and Beserkely was included in that arrangement, taking it from a small independently distributed label to briefly being a part of the huge CBS distribution system), then by Janus/GRT until 1979 and subsequently by Elektra.
Beserkley's major breakthrough came with Greg Kihn, who sang backup on Earth Quake and Richman records before forming his own band. Beginning with his third album (1978's Next of Kihn), Kihn regularly made the American album charts and received steady airplay on FM radio. By the end of 1980, Kihn was the only artist on the Beserkley roster, and in 1981 he had his first top 40 hit with "The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em)". Kihn's early 1980s albums Rockihnroll (1981), Kihntinued (1982) and Kihnspiracy (1983) all reached the top 40 on the LP charts, and his 1983 single "Jeopardy" became Beserkley's biggest-ever hit, peaking at US #2.
The label's demise was relatively swift. After several years of success, Kihn's 1984 single "Reunited" flopped (peaking at #102) and the parent album Kihntagious stalled at #121 on the charts. Beserkely founder Kaufman then essentially dissolved the label and allowed Kihn to sign with major label EMI, where Kaufman would continue to act as Kihn's producer.
The Beserkley catalogue was licensed to Rhino Records in 1986. Kaufman later operated the Son of Beserkley label for a time in the 1990s; his current label is called Fun Fun Fun Recordings.(WIKIPEDIA)
The first thing the world at large heard by Jonathan Richman didn't feature the Modern Lovers at all. These four tracks are credited to just 'Jonathan Richman', though he is backed by Earth Quake on 'RoadRunner' and 'It Will Stand' and by The Rubinoos on 'The New Teller' and 'Government Center'.
Shortly after the LP was released, a single coupling the Chartbusters version of 'RoadRunner' with 'Friday On My Mind' by Earthquake was released in the US
Roadrunner was also released as a 7" in the UK by United Artists in August '75, this time with 'It Will Stand' on the b-side. It become a cult favorite, but nothing more. The arrangement of 'RoadRunner' loses the organ and uses acoustic guitars, taking it is a long way from 'Sister Ray'. It was recorded live (with one overdub), features some great ad-libbing and is a fantastic performance. 'Government Center' (also cut live, this time with no overdubs) is more suited to this new arrangement, while of the new songs, 'The New Teller' is a fab song about Jonathan's crush on a bank teller sung with such verve and feeling it becomes irresistible. Finally, 'It Will Stand' is a cover of a soul/doo wop track by the Showmen which may seem odd until you realise 1) it's about rock 'n' roll, and 2) it's a favorite of Iggy Pop that was introduced to Jonathan by Kim Fowley.
These four tracks are not the only ones on the LP featuring Jonathan - he can be heard clearly singing back up on Kihn's 'All The Right Reasons'.
Beserkely's set up was incestuous, with either Earthquake or the Rubinoos playing on every track, giving the LP a unified sound. It was a simple power-pop sound that harked back to the bubblegum era and heralded punk and new waves return to simplicity. It was both out of date and ahead of it's time. Jonathan would sometimes sing live with the Rubinoos around this time, coming on for a few songs, often including 'The New Teller'.
Earthquake Friday On My Mind
Greg Kihn All The Right Reasons
Jonathan Richman The New Teller
Jonathan Richman RoadRunner
Earthquake Tall Order For A Short Guy
Jonathan Richman Government Center
Jonathan Richman It Will Stand
Greg Kihn Mood Mood Number
Earth Quake (Sitting In The Middle Of) Madness
Ripped from LP at 320 kbps