This Article Originally Published May 2000
by Michael Laskow
It was a blustery winter evening in February, 1964. I was nine years old. My family looked like the cast of the Wonder Years—Jackie Kennedy hairdo, and all the rest. I was wearing my Roy Rogers flannel P.J.s. and anxiously waiting for the Alka Seltzer commercial to end in anticipation of the Beatles playing their first song on the Ed Sullivan Show.
They took the stage and transformed my life. By the end of the song, I knew what I wanted to do with my life—make records! I took a roll of toilet paper and stripped all the tissue off. I covered the cardboard roll with tin foil, and poked holes in the end to make it look like a microphone. I got out my plastic four-stringed, Elvis Presley guitar from Woolworth's, and for the rest of that night (at least in my mind) I was the Beatles.
My parents enrolled me in the Evelyn Brue School of Guitar. They bought me the now classic, Stella acoustic guitar in sunburst finish. I really wanted a Fender Mustang, but I didn't complain. By the time I was twelve, I started playing in garage bands. I quickly realized that my talent was in organizing the band and working out the arrangements. I wanted to become George Martin, not Paul McCartney. The first time I saw a picture of Geoff Emerick at the console with George Martin standing beside him, I could barely contain myself. I can still shut my eyes and see that photo.
Slowly, the dream began to slip away. I went off to college, and was probably headed for law school until one fateful day in 1974 when I ended up in the lobby of Criteria Studios in Miami. I overheard the owner say, "We need a kid to sweep these floors, and clean the bathrooms." I jumped out of my chair and proclaimed, "I'll do it!" They kicked me out.
I called five times a day for five days. Finally on the twenty-fifth call of the week, a gruff voice came on the line and said, "You're driving my receptionist nuts. If I interview you for this job and you don't get it, do you promise not to call here anymore?!"
I promised. I was interviewed. I got the job. I cleaned toilets and swept the floor. I wrapped cables. It was an "internship," which meant that I worked about eighty hours a week for free. I loved every second of it.
I worked hard. I asked a lot of questions, and learned quickly. I moved up the ladder to become an assistant engineer, then a first engineer, and a few years later, I began producing records. My childhood dream was becoming reality. I worked with Eric Clapton, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Cheap Trick, Neil Young, and lots of other great artists. I even got to engineer for George Martin.
Between gigs with the "stars," I worked with a lot of local artists and songwriters. It wasn't unusual to come across some spectacularly talented people. They all had one thing in common. After they finished their demos, they couldn't get anybody to listen to them. Record labels didn't accept unsolicited tapes. After running in to one of my favorite unsigned artists at a 7-11 late one night in 1978, I made a mental note to myself to someday solve the "unsolicited" tape problem.
I took the plunge in 1992. I waved good-bye to a high-paying job and handed back the keys to the company Beamer. I wrote a business plan, and luckily, my closest friend, Michael Lederer ponied up the cash to start the company. He's my partner in the company.
I thought that the idea for TAXI was so good that thousands of musicians would join in the first year. I was wrong. People thought TAXI sounded too good to be true. Starting a business was harder than I thought. Much harder.
My wife decided to go to graduate school at the same time I was starting the company. We essentially had no income. We moved into a one bedroom apartment. We racked up some staggering credit card debt. We literally ate rice and beans, and pasta with grated cheese for about a year and a half. We couldn't afford to go out to dinner, so for special occasions, we would go to the Mexican restaurant on the corner and split a coke at happy hour in order to eat the free nachos. Birthday presents were out of the question. Going out to see a movie was a distant memory.
It took hundreds of eighteen hour workdays, and several years to do it, but we proved to musicians and the music industry alike that TAXI was a viable concept, and a much needed service.
The point to this touching little story? Perseverance works! I never gave up. No matter how bleak things looked, I would never allow myself to quit. And if you do the same, I guarantee that it will change your life. I know. Been there—done that.