The Musical Mbas Are Bullish on Their First Public Offering
They call themselves the world's first pro-business rock 'n' roll band, and they're more tuned in to the Wall Street Journal than Billboard. So naturally the MBAs' first LP, an irreverent and inventive parody of commerce, is titled Born to Run Things.
One doesn't need a business degree to appreciate the MBAs, but it helps. From the gospel-inspired Jesus H. Chrysler ("You can't get to heaven filing Chapter Eleven") to a danceable rap take-off called Do It on the Floor to the Eastern-influenced The Tao of the Dow ("If the master assumes the lotus position/His yearnings for earnings will come to fruition"), the MBAs "sing about life when the chips are blue."
The album's liner notes impart a wealth of information about the band, including the fact that the chorus of their signature song was written between courses at the Four Seasons, as well as where to send away for MBA special zero-coupon nonmaturing bonds and personality profiles of each member. Bass player Franklin Mint, 23, is turned on to "debt-equity swaps and women with breeding." Vocalist Manny Hanover, 26 (named after Manufacturers Hanover Trust Co.), favors emerging growth companies and is turned off by bracket creep. Drummer T. Bill Raitt, 27, detests third-party checks, while Holden Gaines, 24, shuns overregulation and illiquidity.
Actually, only two of them hold M.B.A.s, although all four have jobs in business. Manny and Franklin work in finance, T. Bill in publishing and Holden in advertising. If their noms de croon sound a mite suspicious, it's because the MBAs have chosen to separate their musical and business identities in order to maintain credibility with their jobs and clients. Manny (Peter Wirth) laughingly recalls the day the head honcho at his investment banking firm learned of his extracurricular activities. After pretending to chew him out, the managing partner ended up ordering 15 albums.
The MBAs met when they were undergraduates at Stanford in 1978 and soon began writing tunes, which they then sang for friends. Manny and T. Bill (Barry Parr) went off to Harvard Business School and started performing in classes, where an accounting professor judged their work "fine teaching tools with a good beat." After Holden (Steve Kessler) and Franklin (Michael Wilkins) received their B.A.s, they moved to New York, where they hooked up. They decided it would be a capital idea to produce an album. To create as risk-free a venture as possible, the band incorporated and set itself up as a tax shelter.
The label is called—what else?—Corporate Records, and after an initial pressing of 6,000 sold out, another 20,000 copies were ordered. The group intends to continue with its own creative marketing. Harvard football games have proved a lucrative point of purchase, and a few months ago in San Francisco, Holden sold LPs on the steps of the Pacific Stock Exchange. Plans are in the making to peddle from pushcarts on Wall Street.
Speculating on their growth potential, the MBAs are now preparing their next LP, tentatively titled Yield to Maturity, due out in December. Even so, they harbor no long-range illusions about their music careers. "In 10 years," says Franklin, "we're going to be bankers, not rock stars." Until then, they'll enjoy the double life, "having fun," as their theme song says, "earning twice our age."
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