Tributes Sire story




I first heard about, and eventually met, Seymour Stein when he was a teenage apprentice working at Billboard as an assistant to Paul Ackerman, who was then the editor. He had already embarked upon what would be one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll careers of all time, coming up to his present success as the guiding genius of Sire Records. It is a pleasure as well as an honor for me to be able to congratulate Seymour, my great and dear friend, on the occasion of this momentous release.

- Ahmet Ertegun

Atlantic Records

Whenever I was in a club in the ‘80s and Seymour Stein was there, I got absolutely no attention. All eyes were focused on Seymour, as everyone lined up with a demo tape and a spiel, desperate to nab the validation of the man who’d signed Madonna. This scenario annoyed the hell out of me at first - but then I got right in line with my demo tape!

- Michael Musto

The Village Voice

I’m outside CBGB sometime in the mid-’70s, hitting notes with Seymour Stein, singing an old doo wop classic. It’s nearing 3 a.m., and Seymour is in full flight, underlining the bass parts and the falsettos and making hand motions for the lead vocal to come in. He knows the music and loves it, and I’m thinking not only how great it is for a record company prexy to sing the music that gave him initial inspiration, but standing outside this hallowed punk rock shrine, I’m also marveling that he brings this same dedication - and will, continually, over the course of the next decades - to his involvement with music on the cutting edge of sound evolution. The now as it becomes future.

He appreciates the concept of “hit” and understands that the greatest triumph in the music business is not that you have that hit, that the hit lodges in our collective jukebox, but that it has something to say about its life and times: the music business becoming art, or vice versa. He molded himself in the image of his great mentor, Syd Nathan, who took renegade musics of the Midwest - blues and gospel and hillbilly - and brought them to the national charts, the singalong that is the Top 40. Seymour encouraged from the outside in, and gave a distributive voice to the creative spirit, allowing his artists to find their idiosyncratic way. Then he’d stay up late with them, as much their audience as their patron.

Hitting the right note.

- Lenny Kaye

Writer/Patti Smith Group

Seymour Stein was the boy genius of the modern music business even before he started his own independent record label. Initially, I seem to remember he concentrated on blues and was one of the first people to recognise the English rock phenomena, which was rooted in the love and admiration of American blues. Later with Sire he was the first to recognise and sign artists whose music influenced a whole generation of musicians and music lovers. He is also one of the funniest human beings on the planet.

- Chris Blackwell

Island Records

I don’t know anyone in the music business who enjoys discovering a new artist as much as Seymour Stein, and I don’t know anyone who anguished more than Seymour in trying to cut through corporate red tape in order to sign and promote new sounds in rock music. My understanding from those who knew him from way back is that even as a kid, Seymour grew up listening to and discovering new music. I can only imagine the satisfaction he must have in music, being able to share his passion with the world.

- Hilly Krystal


When the Rolling Stones and I first came to New York in 1964, Seymour Stein was the open musical door of welcome. He took Keith Richards and me to meet Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which is how the Stones came to record “Down Home Girl.” Forty years later, this past January, I stood in a club in Brooklyn with Seymour on one of the two coldest nights in 100 years seeing Franz Ferdinand start the latest British Invasion. When you stand next to Seymour, you stand next to music - music must be as proud to have him as a friend as I am.

- Andrew Loog Oldham

Producer/Music Manager

Those of us in the indie world of music tend to think we have a monopoly on things like ethics, taste, and artistic morality. The music herein shows how false that point of view is. My experience of one “major” in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, an experience which I feel blessed to have had, showed me that the Warner Bros. of Mo Ostin in general, and the Sire Records of the wonderful Seymour in particular, exhibited more passion for music, more intimate support of the artist, and more honest devotion to the church founded by Robert Johnson and the Devil than any bloody indie label, including my own. Sire Records is quite simply what a record company should be: an unparalleled collection of art nurtured and developed by people with commitment and taste beyond compare. I’m proud to know them.

- Anthony (Tony) Wilson

Hacienda Club/Factory Records

What does Sire mean to me? Well, first of all, we’re talking about much more than just a logo here. Sire has become a true, enduring symbol of so many extraordinary things. For me, Sire represents some of the best times of my life, and the music that defined my own teens. There are three albums that I have probably listened to more than any others - Upstairs At Eric’s by Yaz, Some Great Reward by Depeche Mode, and The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths. How could three of my favorite albums from three of my favorite groups all come from one record label, along with so many other classics? Here’s the best answer to that question in two very important words: Seymour Stein.

Seymour, thank you for the music that carried me through my adolescence. Thank you for signing Madonna, thank you for your support of Maverick. Most of all, thank you for being a life-changing teacher and a friend.

Your fan,

Guy Oseary

Maverick Records

The Queen of England should bestow knighthood on Seymour. Only Seymour gave America The Pretenders, The Smiths, Modern English, Laid Back, The Undertones, Plastic Bertrand, M’s “Pop Muzik,” and many more. In return Seymour gave the world the Ramones, Talking Heads, and a little girl that became the biggest star in the world.

His respect for club DJs and all things underground is incredible. Seymour’s door is always open. I walked in and played him Madonna, he believed in me, gave me a deal, and the rest is history.

I love you, Seymour - you’ve got the best ears, and you’re from Brooklyn.

Always and Forever,

- Mark Kamins


Seymour Stein had the good sense to sign the Ramones. Their unique sound had an enormous influence on us as a young band - it still does. Sire has brought a lot of great music to a lot of people, and we should all be grateful for that.

- Adam Clayton


The thing about Seymour is his humanity and decency - and I have my own debt of gratitude. My company, Sub Pop, just completed one of its most successful seasons even after years of struggling. I trace our renewal back to a dark time in the late ‘90s when almost everybody had written my company off - except Seymour. With a few bits of advice and some well-timed advocacy, Seymour came to the rescue with wisdom and belief. He’s certainly my mentor.

- Jonathan Poneman

Sub Pop Records

I love Seymour and think of him often. I also miss his razor wit and bitchy humour. We would often spend long, drunken nights at our house in London, and Seymour would keep us entertained the whole evening with stories and anecdotes on the movers and shakers within the music industry and who was doing what to whom. There aren’t that many, if any, presidents, vice presidents, or MD’s of any major record labels who would fly out overnight to Toulouse, France, to hear the finishing flourishes of a near completed album, or who would fly around the world just to see a band perform live - a rare thing indeed!

The main thing is Seymour is a complete music fanatic and seems genuinely to care about his artists’ welfare and longevity; a real Supertrooper. He knows a good song when he hears one - just ask Madonna! Our memories of recording and working with Sire and with Seymour at the helm are some of our happiest and most cherished. It is a pleasure to see Seymour any time, any place, and his catfights with Daniel Miller are legendary.

Love and Respect,

-Andy Bell


Seymour is a maverick, an original, and a true one-off - a discoverer of unique talent who has made both artists and songs into legends. He helped give Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” one of the longest-ever stays in the American Top 100, and in so doing gave it a place in the Guinness Book Of World Records. Sadly, there are not enough Seymour’s in the music business today.

- Marc Almond

Soft Cell

Seymour is a true music lover. It always amazed me how he would know every word to every doo wop song we threw at him. Our dinners together were always events and often ended in a brief history of doo wop.

- Martin Gore

Depeche Mode

Seymour is and has always been an independent thinker and being. He had the courage to sign the type of bands that I grew up listening to, when everyone else was scared and baffled. I often bump into Seymour in NYC, and he always brings a smile to my heart. I am reminded of a story. After Depeche Mode played a show at Radio City Music Hall, Seymour came into the crowded dressing room. I felt a hand gently brush my ass. Seymour looked at me and whispered into my ear, “You should get that ass insured.”

- Dave Gahan

Depeche Mode

      A Dozen Reasons Why We Love Seymour Stein

  1. When Seymour called to offer us a record deal in 1975 and we told him we weren’t ready to record yet, he persisted until we did sign with Sire in 1977. Then he took us all out to Patrissy’s in Little Italy for a huge Italian dinner.
  2. Seymour has an encyclopedic knowledge of music and at any moment he might burst into song.
  3. Seymour knows a great band when he sees one, and he knows a great song when he hears one too.
  4. Like Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler, and Chris Blackwell, Seymour is a truly gifted record man.
  5. Seymour came to our wedding in tiny Washington, Kentucky. He was dressed in white from head to toe.
  6. Seymour is wilder than most of his artists.
  7. Seymour’s got soul.
  8. With Tom Tom Club on Sire, we got our first gold album in the USA.
  9. James Brown calls him SEEMOE!
  10. When radio in the USA refused to play punk, music, Seymour said, “It’s not punk, it’s NEW WAVE.”
  11. When Talking Heads reunited to perform at our induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Seymour had tears of joy streaming down his face.
  12. Seymour always did right by us, and when people say that Talking Heads would not get signed in today’s business, we know that Seymour still would. That’s the truth.

- Chris Frantz and Tiny Weymouth, 2005

Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club

I had a few Sire records when I was a kid; the first one was “Piss Factory” in a picture sleeve. Seymour came over to meet us in London the night we placed the ICA and sang us some songs by The Shangri-Las and The Cookies. When I went to New York for the first time, he took me down to 48th Street and bought me my red Gibson 335. Those were really early days for us; he was one of the only people in the whole of The States who got it. We wanted to be on Sire.

- Johnny Marr

The Smiths

Legend has it that one of the reasons we were signed jointly to Korova Records in Britain and Sire Records in the USA was that Seymour thought I was the most beautiful dude he’d ever seen. I would like to categorically confirm the story. Seriously, Seymour wanted the Bunnymen because he has the best taste and ears I’ve ever known. The fact that he was usually in Nashville whenever we came to New York is incidental - the man is a true legend and is as mad as you need to be, to be Seymour Stein. Always a gentleman. Lots of love.

- Ian McCulloch

Echo & The Bunnymen

Seymour has unique vision and taste. Given less than half a chance, and without a moment’s hesitation, Seymour would be more than happy and able to give anyone who cares to listen a note-for-note, lyric-for-lyric rendition of every song here. Thank you, Seymour, for the inspiration, the advice, the laughs, and above all, the weight-loss tips you’ve given me over the many years we’ve known each other and worked together.

- Daniel Miller

Mute Records

Seymour is a true renaissance man, a connoisseur of great music, art, food, and life. His early appreciation of great musical artists has been to all of our benefit. I was a fan of Seymour’s taste in music way before I knew who Seymour even was. When Seymour signed Ice-T, he admitted he didn’t fully understand what Ice did, but he knew it was great. I don’t fully understand how Seymour does what he does, but I know it is great.

- Jorge Hinojosa

Rhyme Syndicate Management

Sire Records and the Ramones were a perfect fit. Seymour Stein understood that the band was fostered by a love of primeval rock ‘n’ roll, just as he was. He stood by us through thick and thin, and believe me, there was a lot of thin. Another label (if they would have signed us in the first place) would have dropped us in the blink of an eye. Sire opened its doors to, and nurtured, many young and innovative bands. They also had respect for the past, reissuing many vital, historic records. Seymour Stein was very important to the whole ‘70s New York scene, and Sire Records set the pace that influenced the musical culture of the last quarter century.

- Tommy Erdelyi (Ramone)

information from around 1850 to the present better than anybody. The information is in his brain because he really cares, passionately, about the subject… songs! That’s what has always driven him and Sire Records.

With Thanks, Respect, and Admiration,

- Andy Paley

In 1977 Andy and I were recording in Santa Monica at the Beach Boys’ studio, Brother Studio. Seymour came up with the idea of the Paley Brothers covering the old Ritchie Valens tune “Come On Let’s Go” with the Ramones backing our vocals. So Johnny, Tommy, and Dee Dee came into his studio. Brother had a VERY mellow vibe at that time. It was all stained glass, wind chimes, herbal tea, etc. There was a big fish tank in the control room with all these beautiful tropical fish slowly floating along in the water, all peaceful. The Ramones started playing the basic track to the song, and the whole building shook. All the studio staffers came running into the control room, panic-stricken and wondering what the hell was going on. I noticed that all the fish had swum down to the bottom of the tank and burrowed into the gravel. They were hiding. “Come On Let’s Go” is definitely one of my very favorite recordings that I was involved with. I’m singing the high lead and Andy is doing the low harmony. Other than the basic track of Tommy, Dee Dee, and Johnny, there is just Andy on organ, me on tympani (really roto toms), handclaps, and vocals. Looking back, I wish we’d done a whole album of tracks like that with the Ramones.

Most people in the business know about Seymour’s great instinct for spotting new trends and new talent; they may know about his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music history and lyrics, about his great ear for songs. What many may not know about is his great heart. It shows in the absolute delight he takes in singing every word to the most obscure song that somehow comes up in conversation, in recounting the story that goes along with recording, the principals involved, all the details lovingly recalled. But beyond his love of music, there is his character. I have never had a friend more loyal, more patient, more honest, or more generous. I count myself very fortunate to be able to consider him my friend.

Thank you, Seymour.

- Jonathan Paley

I moved to New York when I was 18. I landed a job as a coat-check clerk in Manhattan’s trendy Nell’s nightclub. One hot summer night back in 1987, Seymour came to the club. I was introduced to him by Johnny Dynell (a legendary New York DJ), and I was so excited, I almost couldn’t speak. My first words to him were, “Seymour Stein, I have been waiting to meet you my entire life.” He smiled and answered me with, “Well, that couldn’t have been too long.”

Long story made short: Seymour signed me to Sire Records. He took a risk with me because he was known for signing cutting-edge artists, and here I was, a teenage pop singer. I went on to record three albums for the label, sold over 2 million collectively, and achieved a #1 Billboard Top 40 song.

Seymour always encouraged me. He used to tell me my strength was in my songwriting. He used to say, “It all begins and ends with the song.” Seymour has been my teacher and my inspiration. Today we work together at Warner Bros. Records (I am VP of Top 40 Promotion and A&R). I am grateful to have been given the gift of music and grateful that Seymour was there to open the door for me. Every day we work together is a blessing, and I cherish our friendship. He truly is a genius.

- Tommy Page

I will be forever grateful to Seymour for spending his money in a vain attempt to make us world-famous pop starts - a position at which we flopped with great might. But Seymour took it all in stride, knowing that real rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t always sell.

- Paul Westerberg

The Replacements

It was Greg Shaw who introduced me to Seymour. Sire Records was just starting to take off, and Seymour was his own A&R department. He alone found and signed all the groups - the Ramones, Talking Heads, Richard Hell, Dead Boys, Radio Birdman, Flamin’ Groovies, Madonna, etc. Way ahead of his time, he was like Phil Spector. You see - it was all him! If he heard there was anew band that was happening in Antarctica, he’d go there to check them out - and if it was true, he’d sign them on the spot. You must realize that Syemour did this at a time when regional areas were not scouted by the majors anymore; this made Sire Records very important to American pop culture and makes Seymour a true hero of that culture.

He gave us (The Groovies) our big break. We did our best work with Sire. On behalf of The Groovies and myself, I would like to thank Seymour - for all that he did for us and for all he has done and will continue to do for American music.

- Cyril Jordan

The Flamin’ Groovies

Seymour Stein is basically the most intuitive and passionate music executive I have ever met. He is always looking for something that is cutting-edge, unlike most music executives that are trying to copy what is hot at the moment. You gotta respect that.

- Ice-T

Seymour seemed to me one of few remaining old-school record men. There is good and bad that goes with that appellation. Syd Nathan, for example, was one of those; back in the ‘60s he saw that he could get R&B groups signed cheap and he could sell those sides on the same trips when he sold hillbilly music… and as a result he brought us Chuck Berry, James Brown, and a lot more. Well, Seymour may have been of the same mold - he saw an opportunity in the “punk” acts coming out of N.Y. and U.K. in the mid- to late ‘70s and tried to sign as many bands as he could as cheaply as he could. Almost everyone else was being supercautious, so the field was pretty open for Mr. Stein. Unlike a lot of people in the record business today, he could hear a song. He could name songs by the various bands he signed. Not only could he name them, he could sing them. He’d have a few drinks and would start singing songs, songs from all eras - Talking Heads songs, obscure R&B singles, Brill Building songs - you name it, he knew them all. Musicians were impressed; this weird guy seemed to know and love music!

A few years later Seymour signed Madonna, another downtown hopeful, who i hope made for him the money he didn’t make from the Dead Boys and The Undertones.

- David Byrne

Talking Heads

A Soundtrack for Self-Culture

I met Seymour when I was a book clerk in Beverly Hills. We struck up a conversation about silent films. I told him I was interested in acting and filmmaking. He told me he was in the record business and invited me to see a new band he had just signed called the Ramones. That fall I got accepted into NYU’s undergrad drama department and moved to New York City. I looked Seymour up, and he invited me to another gig for another band he had signed, Talking Heads. As I sat in the back of Max’s Kansas City, spellbound, watching David Byrne belt out “Psycho Killer,” Seymour turned to me and said, David is going to be a big star.” I thought to myself, “Hell, yeah!”

Over the next couple of years Seymour came to see me in a couple of plays and saw some of the short films I had made. He was always encouraging.

After NYU I moved back to L.A. and started getting my first parts in low-budget movies like Mortuary. I would get together on occasion with Seymour and have a meal or see one of his bands. About this time I hooked up with a musician name Andrew Rosenthal. We teamed up as a duo and re-formed Martini Ranch (a band Andrew had played in). Videos were all the rage, and since I wanted to make films, we decided to be this vidoe/art band. Our first effort, “How Can The Labouring Man Find Time For Self-Culture?,” turned out well enough for Seymour to put it on Sire as an EP. From there we recorded an LP, Holy Cow, which featured a single called “Reach” with a video directed by James Cameron. Because Martini Ranch was an amalgamation of many guest musicians, we didn’t tour and relied solely on the videos for exposure.

Around this time, my acting career started to take off, and because I really wasn’t a musician (I contributed lyrics, did some vocals, and made the videos for the band), I decided to pursue the movie business full-time, and that is what I have been doing ever since. Along the way I have worked with Seymour on other projects. With the help of Andy Paley (another Sire alum), Seymour produced the soundtrack for my movie Traveller. At present, he is a music advisor on my latest directing effort, The Greatest Game Ever Played.

As anyone who has ever pursued a recording, theatre, or film career knows, it can be a very discouraging road. I think I speak for all of the artists who have been represented by and associated with Seymour over the years, in so much as when he believes in someone’s talent, he believes all the way. He will not be swayed by pressure or popular opinion. I believe that this positive, unflagging support is what has driven many of us to succeed when we might have lost faith. His great talent comes from a deep, deep love of what he does - finding and nurturing talent.

The physical legacy of this boxed set speaks for itself, but for Seymour Stein it has always been and will always be about “the quest.”

Here’s to you, Seymour - long may you ride.

- Bill Paxton


How to Succeed in the Record Business: A Sire Case Study

It was 1987 and I was a freshman at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. I was 17 years old. A student who worked as a deejay at the school’s radio station heard that I was into rap and had some connections in the music business. Truth is, I only knew one person: Nile Rodgers! A good person to know, since he was the hottest record producer in te world at the time! So this deejay played me a record by two so-called white rappers; one from Bennington and another from Harvard. They referred to themselves as BMOC (Big Men On Campus). I thought it was a good name for a rap group, and the record was a catchy remake of Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music White Boy”! So being an entrepreneur, having been inspired by Tom Cruise’s character in Risky Business, I said to myself, “What the FUCK.” I dreamt of being a film director since I was eight years old and thought, Why not? Music was a big part of the process of making movies! If I failed and couldn’t succeed in music or film, I always knew my mom was still going to love me no matter what!

Six months later I found myself in a small 12-track jingle studio mixing “Play That Funk” with a producer/rapper by the name of MC Breeze from Philadelphia. I called a family friend who dabbled in the music business as an entertainment attorney - Jewish, of course, with a year round George Hamilton tan to boat. When I arrived at his apartment on East 52nd Street, he answered the door n the smallest pair of bikini briefs imaginable, with a chestful of hair and a tire around his belly. Was this guy going to advise me on how to break into the music business or was he going to ask me to get down on my knees and start praying like in Midnight Cowboy? I felt like a regular Joe Buck! It was surreal, to say the least. He did eventually put a robe on, but his balls did hang out of his tighty whities as he told me I had to get ahold of a few thousand dollars, not for a retainer but to press up a few thousand records that I could sell out of my dorm and get played at some college radio stations - most likely at NYU, Harvard, and of course Bennington, if they even had a radio station!

So as I left, I devised a plan to go to Miami Beach and ask a few associated Jewish organized crime figures if I could borrow some gelt! One of my asks would of course be my grandparents and several other residents of buildings on Collins Avenue. So As I arrived in my hometown of Miami Beach formy finance trip, I got a call from Al, my new entertainment attorney. He said, “Get back here, kid, I got you a meeting tomorrow with Seymour Stein, the president of Sire Records!” You know he said, “Sire,” Madonna’s label! I said, “Great, is this Seymour guy gonna give me the few thousand dollars I need to press up the records?” He said, “Better than that; if he likes the record he’s gonna give you money and put it out!” I was ecstatic! “Sounds great, I will be back tomorrow for the meeting!”

So I arrived at the 20th Floor at 75 Rockefeller Plaza, and I was greeted by a cute dark-haired Jewish girl with the sweetest demeanor - Sandy Alouete, the secretary to the president of Sire Records. If I felt like Joe Buck meeting my attorney, walking down the halls I definitely felt like Charlie Sheen’s character in Wall Street going in to meet Michael Douglas’ character, Gordon Gekko! I was escorted into Seymour’s cluttered office by Sandy and introduced to Seymour. He immediately asked how old I was, because even though I was at the ripe old age of 17, I actually looked 12! I noticed a poster of the rapper Ice-T on the wall; it was the one with Darlene (his girlfriend at the time) wearing a bikini and holding a gun, a big gun! When I asked about Ice, Seymour lit up and screamed Sandy’s name, “Sandy… Sandy… [louder] SANDY!” “Yes, Seymour,” as she turned the corner into his office. “Please get Brett a copy of Ice-T’s record and get me Jorge Hinojosa on the phone.”

As we waited to be connected to Jorge (Ice-T’s manager), Seymour started asking about my life and where I came from and was I bar mitzvahed? I would answer but tried to get back on the subject of my group BMOC, the reason I came there in the first place. But every time I would mention the group, he would retort with a question about me: “What was your bar mitzvah parsha, do you remember it? I remember mine,” he said! As he started to recite his parsha, I had a feeling of déjà vu and I said, “Shabbos hagadol.” “That was mine as well!” Well, that must have been the right thing to say, because immediately he told me that he had two daughters and he would love it if I would meet them! I was ready to meet some nice Jewish girls, but I didn’t have what I wanted: a deal…

At the end of my meeting, I got what I wanted - a record deal for BMOC! My first deal ever, and I was just 17! Wow, that was so easy! Was it because we shared the same bar mitzvah parsha? (For the Gentiles, parsha means “portion”; the portion of the Bible that is read in a ceremony in Temple in front of the entire congregation on the day a young Jewish boy becomes a man!) Unfortunately for Seymour and myself, our parsha was one of the largest, almost an hour long! Or was my luck due to the fact that Seymour was looking for a nice Jewish boy for one of his daughters? Was the $15,000 I got for my singles deal a down payment ON THE DOWRY?! I don’t think so! Regardless, it felt good TO SUCCEED!!

BMOC ended up quitting the business after their first single and decided to start a magazine called The Source. They quit rapping, and I decided to focus on what I should have been doing all along - going to class to learn film! Even though we only sold 10,000 records, Seymour stayed my friend and has supported me and believed in me ever since!

It’s been 18 years since I first walked into those doors at Sire. Seymour Stein opened the eyes of a 17-year-old pisher to a world I knew nothing about and made me feel like a star! His confidence in me, without him realizing it, gave me the confidence I needed to succeed in my future. My dreams of making films did eventually come true, and he has been at almost every one of my premieres, including for my first student film, which he attended with my mother and a long-time mutual friend of both of them, Pete Bennett, the legendary promotion man for The Beatles and Rolling Stones.

Ironically, I did get another chance in the music business… Sire put out the soundtrack for my movie The Family Man! A DREAM COME TRUE!

- Brett Ratner

Video/Film Director & Producer

Seymour almost single-handedly helped infect American youth with the thing we call punk rock. We all know the bands he introduced the world to, from Madonna to my Creation bands. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Seymour is my role model in the music business. He just truly loves music.

- Alan McGee

Creation Records

Seymour is a music aficionado in a world increasingly at odds with the spirit that drove the pioneers of the great record companies of the ‘50s and ‘60s. He retains that spirit of doing something simply because it inspires him and he recognizes its artistic merit. He doesn’t need a marketing blueprint or a SoundScan printout to tell him whether he loves a band. It isn’t as easy as you think to retain that fanlike innocence when it comes to responding to music. For me it is the primary virtue of a great A&R man and a brilliant label boss. Seymour is both and proved it time and time again. Long may he continue.

- Geoff Travis

Rough Trade Records

Seymour Stein took great interest and was very supportive of The B-52’s from the beginning. He has one of the best ears in the music business: the Ramones, Pretenders, Smiths, etc., etc. - all my favorite groups. All the groups he discovered created important music that is still exciting and will stand the test of time.

- Fred Schneider

The B-52’s

When Beggars Banquet first started releasing punk records in 1977, Seymour’s was the only American label in sight. He got English new wave in a way that no one else really did, collected it devotedly, and understood and supported the ethos of British independents, of that era and later, like no other. One of the things I have always valued about Seymour was that he was always out there, at gigs, on convention floors… he may have had ivory towers, but he didn’t stay in them!

- Martin Mills

How odd and exciting to be 21 and have Seymour Stein come up to our hometown of Scarborough (the Toronto suburb that provided the inspiration for Mike Myer’s Wayne’s World), sign us to Sire Records in front of a crowd of fans in front of City Hall, and then pile into our parents’ cars with us to celebrate at a local buffet restaurant. In retrospect, I’d like to hide under the bed in embarrassment at our provincial, if charming, idea of honest good times. Still, Seymour saw through it all. This record mogul who shuttled between Studio 54 and CBGB was just as comfortable in our fresh-scrubbed little world. He would take us out for long dinners between sets at New York’s Bottom Line, teach us not about punk and new wave, but about Lefty Frizzell and Faron Young. He had just signed Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich and saw us as some kind of natural extension of the history of Sire, and now we felt even more at home. He’d sit in the front row at our shows and sing along, weep, and fall asleep, all within the space of a few songs. His idea of A&R was saying, “If the ladies are happy with it, then I’m happy with it.”

- Steven Page

Barenaked Ladies

I was fascinated by Sire Records ever since I bought their “New Wave” compilation n 1977 and was introduced to classics like “Shake Some Action” by The Flamin’ Groovies. And then in the early ‘80s, Bobby “O” told us about flamin’ Seymour Stein (‘round about the time Seymour signed Madonna) and how much he lived English music like Soft Cell. And then Seymour wanted to sign us, but we were on EMI. But finally he got us for an album in the late ‘80s.

We’ve always loved his unparalleled knowledge of music, his dry humour, and his late-night stamina, even if he always falls asleep in the limo on the way home. Seymour is a legend, one of the few genuine “music men” in the music industry, and the Pet Shop Boys are proud to have been part of his story.

- Neil Tennant

Pet Shop Boys

In the spring of 1993 I moved from Leeds, England, to New York City armed with a pair of drumsticks and a few half-baked notions of rock superstardom. A year later me and my band Spacehog sat in Seymour Stein’s office at Rockefeller Plaza as he divided up a paper napkin and wrote out his phone number for each of us. Later that evening we were treated to his rousing rendition of “Donald Where’s My Trousers?” at dinner. It was at that moment that I knew that Sire Records was the home for us. Thank you, Seymour, for your faith and vision in our band and our brief brush with rock superstardom.

- Jonny Cragg


If there’s any truth to the butterfly effect, then this butterfly’s wings in the form of an exotic and highly perceptive music industry legend contributed to some changes in the lives of many. From Boy Toy fans of Madonna to the tight jeans and biker jackets of the Ramones, and certainly my own world, all have benefited from the atmospheric disturbance caused by that breath of fresh air instigated by two small words housed in one prolific gentlemanly talent: Seymour Stein. He is a song man who knows when he hears a good one. When my band Spacehog was faced with the pleasant decision of choosing a record label, there was for once unanimity. Asked by our manager, as we filed into his office one by one, “Who would you choose?” “Seymour,” came the instant reply every time. Like the spinning Sire logo in the middle of my beloved Talking Heads and Smiths LPs, Seymour is for me, and always will be, a constant light at the center of an otherwise much darker music industry universe.

- Royston Langdon


Beggars Banquet

Yes Sire!

-Brian Eno