Sometimes even high-level bankers get the blues.
But should they sing them in public or put them on a compact disk to be sold nationwide?
That's what former bank executive Nicholas B. Binkley has done, in one of the more countercultural post-merger job-loss moves ever by a senior banker.
Working with some heavy hitters in the music industry, including Denny Bruce, whose credits include producing a gold record for the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Mr. Binkley has recorded a debut compact disk, "Pin Stripe Brain," composed entirely of his own songs.
A line of lyrics from his title track says it all:
Bottom-line hypnotized on a jet commuter red-eye is the man with the pinstripe brain.
The CD is scheduled for national distribution through the Tower Records chain at the end of June, and will bid for airtime on folk-music radio shows nationwide.
Mr. Binkley, 50, had been a director and vice chairman of BankAmerica Corp. He resigned in 1993, after BankAmerica's merger with Security Pacific Corp. He is now a partner in the $110 million-asset venture capital firm Forrest Binkley & Brown, based in Newport Beach, Calif., and backed by the Bass family.
With his group, Nick Binkley & the Street Dogs, Mr. Binkley bills himself as a kind of Jim Croce of the corporate world.
"How many song writers come out of a working experience in white collar America?," Mr. Binkley asked in a telephone interview from a Washington airport.
"After all, I'm not a coal miner. But there's a lot of people in middle and upper management that are in the same situation I am in."
The recipient of a $2 million severance package when he left BofA, Mr. Binkley is spending more than $50,000 of his own money to promote and produce the compact disk.
Mr. Binkley said he is part of a group of pinstripe professionals, which he defines as businessmen, lawyers, accountants, and bankers "who over the years have let their creative side kind of wither on the vine."
He said he struggled to balance the desire to make a living and be an artist. His answer? Do both, and use the traumas of corporate life as inspiration.
Music "has helped me take a lot of toxic professional situations and turn them into something of beauty," he said.
Mr. Binkley has always been something of a renegade. Born in Pasadena, Calif., he started playing guitar at seven. In the 1960s, he spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia.
He later went into banking, and eventually became a petroleum specialist in Beirut for Chase Manhattan Bank, before quitting to spend two years in a Manhattan apartment writing songs. He returned to banking in 1977, taking a job with Security Pacific. He worked there for 15 years, rising from first vice president to head of its $10 billion-asset finance subsidiary.
Mr. Binkley was one of four Security Pacific executives to win a seat on BankAmerica's board after the company bought SecPac in 1992. But Mr. Binkley appeared to some associates to have political problems that prompted him to resign a year later, and form the venture capital firm with other departing executives.
Mr. Binkley said the only reason he left BankAmerica was because he wanted to spend more time playing music.
"He had the demeanor to be the CEO (of the holding company), and he had the intellect, too," said former Security Pacific chairman Robert H. Smith.
Mr. Bruce, the producer of the disk, had been a drummer with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. He said he initially met with Mr. Binkley to discuss financing for a music publishing venture. The financing fell through, but he liked Mr. Binkley's music so much he decided to produce the group's first recording.
Mr. Bruce arranged for musicians to play on the CD whose credits included recordings with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Emmy Lou Harris, and Bob Dylan. He also hooked Mr. Binkley up with an independent label, Beachwood Recordings, to handle distribution. Mr. Bruce also arranged for a seasoned publicist and record promoter to handle the marketing.
"What I like about this music is that it's honest, it's not a pose as most pop music is," Mr. Bruce said.
Mr. Binkley said he plans a tour of the West Coast this summer, and a brief tour in Russia in the fall. His band members were rock stars in the former Soviet Union who fled the country in the 1970s.
A second compact disk is scheduled for later this year, and Mr. Binkley said that one of the songs will reveal the secret of why he resigned from BankAmerica.
Mr. Binkley's record promoter said it was too soon to make a fair assessment of the reaction to Mr. Binkley's music, since the recording was only sent to disk jockeys last week. At least one, Orrin Friesen, of the AM/FM station KDFI in Wichita, Kan., said he liked Mr. Binkley's recording enough to play a song in a late-night new music hour. Depending on the reaction, Mr. Binkley's songs could get more airtime, Mr. Friesen said.
But a Seattle-area radio music director, who asked not to be named, said she listened to Mr. Binkley's music and didn't care for it.
"I didn't think it was of a good enough quality" to put on the air, she said.
In the meantime, some of Mr. Binkley's biggest fans appear to be his co- workers.
"The only thing I listen to other than the Grateful Dead is Nick Binkley's CDs," said Forrest partner Jeffrey J. Brown.
Mr. Brown said he insisted that the company stop playing Mozart for callers on hold and instead use Mr. Binkley's songs.