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Linkin Park’s Original A&R Recalls The Struggle & Rejection Of The Band’s Pre-Fame Days


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Jeff Blue, the A&R who helped develop Linkin Park in their early pre-fame days and eventually got them signed to Warner Bros. Records, has shared a touching and detailed recollection of the struggle the band faced in their early days. The piece comes in light of the passing of Chester Bennington earlier this month. Billboard.com shared the tale, you can find an excerpt of it below:

“It was 1997. A young and inspired Brad Delson was my intern at Zomba Music Publishing. The future Linkin Park founder-guitarist glanced at the Korn plaque and Limp Bizkit poster on my wall and told me he was going to put a band together that would change the world.

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After seeing Brad‘s band, Xero, perform its first show, I signed it to a publishing ­development deal. Together, we set out on the four-year development run that would introduce the world to what became Linkin Park and the gentle purity and emotional complexity of an ­artist named Chester Bennington.

But that would come later, and with some tweaks to Xero‘s setup. After 44 showcases and 43 rejections from labels, it was apparent there needed to be a change.

In 1999, attorney Scott Harrington suggested Chester from a band called Grey Daze in Phoenix as a possible new lead singer to ­complement Mike Shinoda. We called Chester and asked him if he wanted to make history by being the next big vocalist in a band that no one had heard of… yet.

Seizing the opportunity, Chester left his own birthday party to lay down vocals to the tracks I had overnighted him. By the time I got back to Los Angeles from SXSW, I had a demo tape from Chester.

What I heard floored me. Every crack of his voice had a story to tell. It was iconic, genuine, vulnerable, urgent, beautiful and hit you in the gut. I ­immediately called Brad and Mike and told them I was flying Chester out to Los Angeles.

Into my office walked a kid with Coke-bottle glasses; a ­glittery, ­button-down black shirt two sizes too big; spiked black hair; and an ­unstoppable smile from ear to ear that lit up the room. I couldn’t believe the voice I heard on the demo came out of the shy kid sitting before me.

It took a couple of months for the band to jell, but the magic was there. Chester embraced his vulnerability and inner conflict, and his image soon reflected his powerful voice that would reach so many.

The band, which was now going by Hybrid Theory, rehearsed out of a room with broken water pipes on Sunset Boulevard. I invited label reps, all of whom had previously passed on the band, to see the new version. Although he was performing in a small, leaky room in front of an ­audience of only one ­person, Chester treated it as a ­stadium filled with 50,000 fervent fans.

While screaming his signature lungs out, he would sing within inches of the A&R executive’s nose. You could feel his breath on your cheeks. He had the confidence to put his soul out there, telling his story the only way he could: in your face. You either got it or you didn’t.”

Read on at Billboard.com. Of course, Linkin Park‘s debut album “Hybrid Theory” eventually went on to sell over 10 million copies in the United States alone, cementing the band as superstars.

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