EDITORIAL: In Defense of Claus
by B.J. Major
Yes, that sounds like a loaded title, but it's true and is the
situation I find myself in at present. Not that I believe you are
incapable of making up your own mind, but now it appears we have a book
on the horizon, written by James Last (yes, THAT James Last, the German
bandleader) which does not put CO in a very favorable light. It
puts him in a pretty questionable light, in fact.
The book is "Mein Leben" by James Last with Thomas Macho, printed by
Random House/Heyne books in Germany, September 2006. I have not
seen the book yet myself, but from what I was just told about it from a
contact in Germany who has seen it, there is much misinformation and
the author(s) even incorrectly identifies a photograph of someone who
is NOT Claus Ogerman, as Claus!!
On page 232, there is a story concerning the meeting between Claus
Ogerman and James Last in 1967 in N.Y. It was the wish of one of
James Last's producers that Ogerman should be the American producer of
James Last (for example, to issue the LPs in the U.S.). Last writes
"[. . .]His private life was chaotic. Sometimes he didn't know
where left and right was. Sometimes he was married, sometimes he
had a friend, a seldom figure. Klaus lived in a big penthouse in
New York. . . . After a few drinks, he served coffee where he put
something into it.... All the guests after that had a flash.
Klaus Ogermann produced the american version of the LP "That's Life"
under the title "The Big Brass Of The American Patrol". But then
all the other plans were destroyed because Klaus was too dispersed and
he had to much to do...."
I am greatly offended that someone would write - even out of
spite or jealousy - that Claus Ogerman used drugs of any kind OR that
he gave drugs to others, as implied in the quote above. It is
also pretty much common knowledge that Claus has had the same wife
since 1959; I have no idea where these allegations about being married
"sometimes"; having a girlfriend "sometimes" come from. I don't
know what is happening here, but Mr. Last has a LOT of explaning to
do. Is he disgruntled or envious because Claus has enjoyed such a
successful career for so long a time? Or is it something else
entirely? Is Mr. Last suffering from some kind of memory loss or
mixing Claus up with another person who did these things? You
would think that events like this would be verified before including
them into an autobiographical book.
If Claus were truly doing all the reckless behavior described in Last's
book, I don't see any possible way that he would have accomplished the
sheer volume of work he did in the 1960s (and beyond). Over 60
albums for Creed Taylor on Verve during that time. Not to mention
all the work he did in that same decade for RCA, Mercury, Reprise,
A&M/CTi and other labels. An arranger the likes of which we
have seen in Claus needs a clear head and a focused mind to churn out
the volume and quality of arrangements the way he did back then, for
every Pop, R&B and Jazz star under the sun and then some.
Claus' noted career with Antonio Carlos Jobim also began and flourished
within this same period. I simply don't see how it is possible
that Claus could have used drugs - even recreationally - and
accomplished what he did.
And it did not appear that Claus stopped working for very long from one
assignment to the next (especially if what Gene Lees says about Claus
is correct, where he was writing out the scores in taxicab commutes
going across town from one studio to another). Can you say
Even if I could read German, I would have no desire to read this book
written by James Last; it would make me absolutely sick to read these
allegations about Claus. Buyer beware!