Classic Rock Auction
Rock goes on the auction block
Vintage posters, T-shirts, video games. Rare framed prints. And thousands of vinyl records.
Name it and Herbie Herbert has it. Or, as he prefers after next week, had it.
The former manager for Santana and Journey is parting with his extensive rock 'n' roll memorabilia collection, going online with an auction Sunday to April 30.
If it all goes well, Herbert will twist and shout all the way to the bank and never look back. No, no weeping here. Don't expect Herbert to clutch any Bob Weir stuffed animal or Santana bobblehead doll. It's all up for grabs, he says.
Herbert owns three homes, yet found his pack-rat mentality eating him out of space. "For a guy who collected so much stuff, I'm oddly unsentimental about it," Herbert says. "I'm hoping it means more to other people than me."
The value of each item in this San Francisco Rock Icon Auction up for interpretation, of course, but it ranges from Jerry Garcia artwork to a monthly calendar of Journey's tour schedule from 1974.
"I have no idea what it's all worth," Herbert says. "There are some unique pieces. It's up to the depth and breath of Journey fans. Maybe nobody's interested in any of this stuff."
Actually, it's far more than a tribute to Journey. Collectibles from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Jethro Tull, Queen and dozens of other acts are available.
Ah, those were the days, Herbert says of the golden rock years.
"It was the height of entrepreneurship," he says.
It was also, unfortunately, the zenith of narcissism and self-destruction, Herbert says.
Take Steve Perry, the former singer for Journey. He's not a guy Herbert will be seen doing the hokie-pokie with at weddings.
"So self-absorbed," Herbert says. "He never considered others. And (people like Perry) are shocked when others don't consider them.
"I made him so rich," Herbert adds. "And I hope to never speak with him again. I used to say this to the guys in Journey. If they were drowning in the ocean and Steve Perry tooled up with a luxury liner and offered a lifeboat, you would decline."
Yet, there's no denying the power of Journey's appeal, having sold more than 500 million records. For Herbert, it was mission accomplished.
"I really wanted Journey to grasp a much greater place in history, that they weren't just another Foreigner or something like that," Herbert says.
"These guys had almost unlimited creative intelligence. Just genius."
Laughing that he's "a true Berkeley-born and raised, 'peace, love and dope'" kind of guy, Herbert says he was also belittled for being corporate in his approach to band managing.
"I was an unabashed capitalist," Herbert says. "That's why I didn't become manager of the Grateful Dead. I was trying to teach the business how to make money. I made my clients wealthy, but they spent it."
The business is much different today, Herbert says. Take marketing. E-mails can now hit millions of potential CD buyers in a flash. The days of licking envelopes is history.
Then there's "American Idol" where, joked Herbert, "everyone on there wants to sing a Journey song.
"Guys who didn't win are selling triple platinum," Herbert says. "And having people vote from home is ingenious. People feel they are actively engaged on the ground floor. There's a deep relationship."
As fond as Herbert is for vinyl records, digital music "has turned the music industry completely upside down." "I sit in a room piled with CDs and my kids consider it old-school," he says. "They're like, 'Why do you have those?'"
Because bands can self-promote and self-produce their own recordings, record labels are almost obsolete, Herbert says. And he's not shedding many tears.
"They really did bad business," he says. "They underpaid and cheated the artist every way they could."
Herbert's fondest rock memories were managing Santana, "being on stage at the Fillmore or anywhere in the world where they were. They were just so incredibly hot."
It was guitarist Neil Schon and keyboard player/singer Gregg Rolie who broke off from Santana and, five years later, Journey was born. "And that was ultimately bigger than Santana," Herbert says.
Though the start of his career was trial by booking, Herbert had a mentor in the legendary Bill Graham, who died in a helicopter crash in Vallejo in 1991.
"He was so much like my second father," Herbert says. "I did everything to show off for him."
When Journey's run of major success ended, Herbert's alter ego - Sy Klopps - emerged and toured the Bay Area from 1994 to 2000 with a band that included former Journey members Schon, Rolie, drummer Prairie Prince and bassist Ross Valory.
"I loved performing. It's something I should have been doing the whole time," Herbert says.
Herbert had his moments in the wild ride of rock 'n' roll. Not that he would do it again if he had to start over.
"It's a very 'rip-off' business. I was the only goody-two-shoes, straight up," he says. "I never cheated anybody."
It's a big gamble trying to make it in music, whether in management or performing, Herbert says.
"You have much better odds with Lotto," he says.
Herbert doesn't expect his words reach many ears.
"Look at the 'American Idol' auditions at Pac Bell (now AT&T) Park," he says. "The line was a mile down the street. Everyone wants to sing and dance and be the next William Hung."
IF YOU BUY
What: San Francisco Rock Icon Auction
Who: Herbie Herbert's rock 'n' roll memorabilia collection
When: Sunday to April 30
Where: Online at backstageauctions.com