A Personal History of the British Record Industry 75 – Tony Hall, Pt. 2.

 

 

 

 

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We left Tony as he was about to join Decca Records, at the time when it was indisputably the No.1. record company in Britain, largely because of its foresight not only on the new 45rpm and LP formats, but on the growing importance of American music. And it still had the Capitol Records licence for the UK

What did the job Product Manager mean in those days?

I was dealing with American product, Nat”King’Cole and all that sort of stuff. Then Decca lost Capitol and as a poor substitute I was given the Coral label, and then Brunswick to look after. It  included a bit of promotion, but eventually they allowed me to produce jazz records for the Tempo label. The label existed and had a few traditional jazz things by overseas artists and maybe some English stuff, but then I plunged full time into my modern jazz stuff and recorded all kinds of people I was lucky enough to be able to give work to at the Flamingo. A lot of them were druggies and things, but the music they were making was fantastic – it was that particular era. Ironically I think I must have produced about a dozen, maybe fifteen – I don’t know, I’ve lost count – albums for Tempo. Now they’re changing hand at between £600 to £1000 a piece! That product is now equated in some respectable circles as the UK equivalent of Blue Note, which is the highest honour for me. I was offered a job to go and work for Alfred Lyon. I was like Blue Note’s man in London and Alfred Lyon was my hero. I met him several times and eventually he offered me a job via Art Blakey to go and be his assistant in A&R, which would have been a fantastic job – that would have been at the end of the 1950’s. I did one (Blue Note) album at Decca at West Hampstead on a Saturday afternoon. We bunged the caretaker a fiver to go to the pub for the afternoon and we got in Donald Byrd and Arthur Taylor and put them with Dizzy Reece and Tubby Hayes and did a fantastic albums in about five hours, which was released on Blue Note. It was for Blue Note! It’s called Blues in Trinity and it’s another of the things I’m very proud of. I don’t think it sold, but it’s great music.

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I got married for the first time and was getting on a bit (!!). I’d been doing The Flamingo every weekend during this period as well,  but eventually decided to give it up. I never got paid a penny for anything I produced – no royalty, no nothing and the musicians got about £25 if they were lucky. Decca just patted my on the head to keep me quiet so I’d do my day job better. They never spent any money on marketing or distribution. But it was a very important period in my life and I thoroughly enjoyed most of it.

Dealing with Coral and Brunswick – what do you remember?

I remember Brenda Lee coming over with her mother and the manager. I’ve only got one anecdote about Buddy Holly. One of his front teeth fell out before a concert at the Elephant and Castle and we had to get some chewing gum to fill up the gap. I’m embarrassed to say that’s virtually my only memory. Norman Petty did have the coldest wettest handshake I’ve ever know in my life!

Really my ears and soul were totally into jazz – it was just a question of doing the day job as best I could. But then one thing led to another and eventually I was made Promotion Manager for the Decca group at the age of 31. I was the youngest promotion man in the business and I became very respectable from that day on! I was very proud of it, to be the youngest, now you have kids of 18. The title was probably Exploitation Manager, horrible word. Interesting thing about the business in the Fifties was the way in which when you had a big hit song in America, unless it was by a famous artist, invariably you’d have covers by well-known British artists with outlets on TV, and the publishers would play both ends against the middle, pay lip service to America but desperately try and get the song covered here in England. I had one embarrassing situation. The song Sixteen Tons, a huge American hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Coral had a guy called Don Cornell (who’d had a hit called Take my Hand) and he covered it, and it was a good presentable cover version. Smart-arse TH here thought ‘well, I’m a good promotion man; I’ll get my record played on the radio and give Tennessee Ernie Ford a fight. I didn’t get a single play on Don Cornell because the other one just swept everything. And that was the first release on Capitol through EMI!

Another joke I remember on not getting any airplay. On Tempo, I thought I’d be clever and make a couple of nice melodic three-minute things with Ronnie Scott and Jimmy Deuchar and some of the jazz guys. I think one song was called I’ll take romance and the B-side was Speak Low. two good melodic songs and I thought, ‘well, with my promotional know-how I’m sure I’ll be able to get some airplay and maybe introduce people to the albums. Not a single play! – which left me with egg on my face and two nice records.

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I used to go through the Radio Times and look through every programme of any description that could be plugged and I would try and invent excuses to get a record on. I’d try and plug both producers and presenters, but presenters were much more important in those days. The stars DJ’s of that period were people like Sam Costa. I remember one of the Decca promotion people was Jackie Buckland, the girl who eventually married Stan Tracey and managed him. She was a tough cookie, started on the switchboard at Decca. Ted Lewis thought she had something and she became promotion.

 

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Sam Costa used to get so drunk and would grope her in the taxi afterwards; he would reduce her to tears. He was a nasty guy and would phone with huge lists he wanted of classical LP’s in return for one play on a single. All sorts of weird DJ’s. I remember the editor of the Daily Sketch, Scottish gentleman – if it wasn’t Keir Robertson it was somebody Robertson (it was Keir Robertson!) ; all these strange people had shows on the Light Programme. Then you had the producers. There were three incredible ladies: Esther Farmer, Isabel Burdett and Pat Osborne, who were all characters. Pat was married to an engineer at Decca, who got lumbered with most of the Tempo records. He hated jazz and was so difficult to work with. Half my energies went on fighting the engineer before we could ever get down to creating music. Just being difficult, smoking a pipe and just being bloody minded. “I don’t want to fucking do this anyway.” But Pat Osborne – lots of verbals but all three would help you if you were in trouble with a record and they liked you. Esther Farmer, a real little spinster. I used to take her to lunch and she’d have a dog at home and she’d insist on going to a serious restaurant like the Caprice or Savoy and her doggybag would be there and she’d take home the meal! Isabel Burdett was a real sweetie and she loved to giggle and flirt, touch kneesies under the table. You could go to them for help and they would if they could. It was hard going at times, having to put up with the doggybag suff and playing kneesies with Isabel but it was always fun. Then there was Jack Dabbs, the producer who hit the headlines with a holiday in Cyprus with Dot Squires. All sorts of weird people.

Who were your promotion competitors?

Jimmy Henney and Kay O’Dwyer were in publishing and I was in records. Jimmy was a very handsome guy and very Mr. Showbiz, loved the glamour of the business and fitted it very well, and it served him well because he used to get great covers (cover versions of American hits by British singers). The big love of his life was an actress – I can’t remember her name – there was a very big serious romance.

(From this photo found via Google, I’m assuming the much married actress was Christine Norden).christine-norden-with-fellow-actor-jimmy-henney-1978-shutterstock-editorial-2021771a.jpg

 

I can remember taking Alma Cogan home after one of the Jimmy Henney parties and having a snog on the doorstep! She was wonderful. I went with Jackie Collins for about three years; she graced the covers of several Tempo albums, photographs by David Redfern. She helped sell the albums – these particular ones were compilations. I also had a passionate and lengthy affair with Barbara Lyon from Life with the Lyons. I got blocked by Bill Townsley at Decca because he thought that because I was going with her I was plugging her record, which I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing because it wasn’t ethical and I was as very ethical guy.

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Townsley was regrettably my boss at Decca. My name for him was Dr. No. The classic Townsley thing was in the early 60’s. Motown were shopping for their own label here in the UK because their product had been coming out through London American. I loved Motown’s music and went out of my way to meet Esther Edwards and the Gordy people who were over here and I got on really well with Esther. She knew I was with Decca and I said “listen, if you come with Decca, I’ll make sure I’m responsible for your product and I’ll make sure it’s well looked after.”

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Esther Gordy Edwards

So I then went into Sir Edward Lewis and said “Sir Edward, if you can work out the business side, I’ve got the Motown catalogue for you.” He called Townsley in and said “Townsley, what do you think?’ “Oh, take it from me, Sir Edward, Motown will never mean anything here – they’ll never sell records.” You can imagine how I felt. I thought ‘well, fuck you.’ He was so negative about everything. He was really Sir Edward’;s doormat. I hate the speak ill of the dead but…a very negative man. This would have been after Oriole and before EMI. It was typical of Townsley’s attitude to everything.

Ironically, eventually I went to Detroit. Decca finally allowed me to go to America in 1965 for the first time and I went down to Nashville, then up to New York and I managed to wangle a trip to Detroit, met up with Berry Gordy himself and went to some Motown sessions. I was doing a Record Mirror column in those days and ended up being presented with the key of the door to Detroit by Gordy. I had loads of pictures and went to a Holland Dozier Holland session. Gordy was knocked out by Tom Jones and said “Listen, when you get back, tell your boss to send Tom Jones here and we’ll make an album with him here. It’ll open him right up for the States and to the black audience.”

Went back – Townsley again, I think!

I think I had that job for about seven years and left in 1967.

And we will leave the story there but before we get to the THE days, he does talk more about TV, radio, jazz and compering.

As with the 74 earlier episodes of these interviews, if you have any questions, can add any information, or just have a view, PLEASe either add it to the Word Press site, or email me at dhvinyl@gmail,com.

Text ©David Hughes 2019, Illustration as always are just to bring the extra dimension to the text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 80 – Terry Oates

20141121-899x1024.jpgThis wonderful sketch of Terry was drawn by Peter Dadswell. I used it once before as part of the lengthy Jeff Kruger interview, but it is only now I have discovered his name as the artist. Peter wrote an excellent appreciation which I’ll reproduce at the end.

Terry Oates to me was one of those music industry titans, a publisher, initially with Chappells, then RCA and subsequently with his own company Eaton Music. He died in April 2011, and this interview was probably 7-8 years before then. You will tell right from the opening paragraphs that his golden era dates pretty much from the beginning of pop music. If the interview reads a little disjointed, well, I guess that’s how it was!

I used to have to go down to Maida Vale where they (The BBC) did the live broadcasts. I used to have to go down with sheet music and the old 78 rpm records they used to make at Chappells. that was the big money then, live broadcasts, so you went and plugged your songs. You picked up the guy’s bag and took him for a coffee. I always remember in my early year Sidney Bright (music MD on the Light Programme in the late 1950’s) – he was Geraldo’s cousin or brother. I would try and plug one of my songs, mainly orchestral stuff. I finally got an audience with him – his company was Good Music in Bond Street. I went to see him with acetates and sheet music. I’d only been working in the business a few months and this was the big opening, the big audience. I always remember his first words were ‘Terry, are you Yiddish?’ I said ‘Err, no.’ ‘Well you look it – it’ll be good for the business.’ Cliff Adams was involved with him at the time – Sing Something Simple.

Then I moved on to managing a few bands. There was an act called The Belltones, four trumpet players who also sang – in those days it was vaudeville. I was going to be one of them, but I said to them ‘No, I’m working now.”, so they said ‘OK, we’ll get another trumpet player’. That’s how I became a manager. The band/group achieved Sunday Night at the London Palladium and we got a record contract with Norman Newell.

What did you know about management?

F*** all. I had to get them £20 a night at one American base – we weren’t talking big money. I was booking them via agents – the American bases were big earnings, and we did the London clubs with a 10-mile barring clause. £20 a night between four guys and I took 10%. I made a stupid deal. I agreed to pay 10% towards any of the suits they wore. I f****d it up.

How did you go about getting them a record deal?

I got them on Sunday Night at the Palladium, a big gig. Alex Fine was the agent. We got these suits made quickly for them – shiny suits – and on the night Dot (Dorothy) Squires was sitting behind me.We didn’t have much money to spend, and they camper on and were a great opening act. Then these words came from behind me….’F*** me, why don’t they get them proper clothes’. I thought ‘Christ, we spent money getting these bloody suits’ but they didn’t fit – she was right. She was the one who told Norman Newell about this act she’d seen, so she actually got the deal. Ironically, it was John Burgess who actually produced them. They did the big trumpet fanfares and sang just liker The Four Freshmen, so there was all that harmony – and they could play the trumpets so they were very impressive.

Were you doing this while you were working at Chappells?

Yes, Teddy (Holmes) knew. I was quite a personality, being a song plugger, so we could get away with it. I put on the first beat show in the West End – at the Vaudeville Theatre….and I found Sandie Shaw you know. I got a call from my nephew who lives in the East End and he said ‘you’ve got to go down to the Ilford Palais and see this girl – she gets up and sings and she takes her shoes off.’ So I saw her and brought her into the office. I talked to Tony Hatch and he said he would record her.

I also sold an idea to Silvikrin and had my own radio show on Radio Luxembourg – it was called Silvikrin Time, can you imagine? On the shows I recorded Val Doonican for Dick Rowe at Decca. I sold this idea and it went on for a year every Tuesday night, and I was still working at Chappells. I used to pre-record the shows and Jimmy Henney narrated it. We had everyone on it live. I produced it. Part of the contract with Silvikrin was that we had to do three live concerts a year. At Hammersmith I booked Adam Faith to top the bill and had all my other people on there. I made the big mistake of giving Sandie Goodrich’s mother and father two free tickets, and they were seated next to Adam Faith’s manager Evie Taylor. The result was that her parents decided Sandie (real name Goodrich) Shaw should be managed by a woman, not by me.

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Eve Taylor

Wasn’t she involved with Van Doonican?

No, I was plugging him and sold the idea (of Silvikrin Time)n To Decca and Chappells; they paid for the studio time. It was a sideline to me. I was managing Tony Rivers and the Castaways as well. As pluggers we used to go down to the (BBC studio) at The Playhouse and afterwards we’d go to The Sherlock Holmes. There’d be a chap there with a big jacket on and a lot of personality! I thought ‘I wonder who he is’ – he knew everybody, Ron Belchier and all that. I was talking to him and he suddenly said ‘if you hear of a job going in the business, let me know.’ I said ‘hold on, aren’t you in the business?’ and he said ‘no, I work in print’ I said, ‘well, what are you doing at the moment ?’ He said ‘I’m on two weeks holiday/’ I said,’well, I tell you what, if you want to get into the business, turn up tomorrow (I had any agency then) and I’ll give you £10 a week against 50% of what you book – try it out.’  (This was Colin Johnson, whose interview will appear too at some point – wonder if it will confirm this?!!) Of course, he took it the other way – he took the £10 and also took the 50%! That’s how he started out in the business. He ran the agency and then left me to work for Brian Epstein – and Tony Rivers went too. Then I headed up to RCA and one of my first signings was Harmony Grass (the reincarnation of Tony Rivers & the Castaways)

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Tony Rivers & Castaways, and Harmony Grass

How long were you at Chappells?

I rose very fast; I ended up taking over. I left to run the agency and then Teddy Holmes phoned me to go back, and I said, ‘well, the only job I want is Jimmy Henney’s’ and he said ‘well, that’s what we’re offering!’ Jimmy had apparently upset the directors so I went back and at that time was the only plugger who also had his own publishing company with Chappells. And they also supplied me with offices for the agency in the same building. There were record pluggers and live music pluggers and we used to look down on the record pluggers because they were only talking to disc jockeys; they weren’t selling music. All the pluggers who dealt with live music had to be musicians because they had to communicate with musicians.

What persuaded you to move from publishing to record company?

The money! When they brought me in Bernard Ness was the boss. It was when RCA decided to go independent and I was brought in to look after all the artistic side. I gave them some big hits – Clodagh Rodgers was my signing, also Harmony Grass. Kenny Young produced Clodagh. I employed all my staff; they were all young, but I believed that if the A&R staff were songwriters, they would see talent – they could hear what kind of song would be right for them (the artists). I wish I used my own money to back them, because I had Richard Kerr and Gary Osborne in A&R who both went on to write very successful songs – Mandy was one of them. Derek Green was running my publishing company, my office boy was Phil Swern and my pluggers were Billy Lawrie and Del Newton  (can anyone help? Web search is drawing a blank).I’d already taken on Del Newton and he brought Billy in. They knew I didn’t approve of any drugs at all, but of course the bastards were doing it without me knowing. NBC was at the top of the building and if the lads saw a van with furniture arriving they’d stop the lift at my floor, and if there was a better desk or something like that, we’d take it out!

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Billy Lawry, brother to Lulu, and a fine songwriter

I had this idea of picking my own staff and I think I did it well. They were all talented. I look around now and all they’re interested in is finding a B-side. There aren’t many music men around now. My forte was having been a musician. I was with RCA for 3-4 years, then went to Columbia Pictures’ publishing company, Screen Gems. I realised I didn’t really like dealing with records – I wanted to be with composers rather than artists. Columbia Pictures offered me a lot more money to move – something like £5,000 which was a lot of money then. I have a rapport with composers – we talk the same language. I don’t want to talk about vinyl, I’m much happier talking with George Fenton or Louis Clark who can ask me “what key should I play this in?”. I was never a record company man, I was a publisher. Teddy Holmes was my guru – he taught me all about publishing. I learned from him what he learned from the Dreyfus Brothers, who founded Chappells. When I worked for them in the early days they either owned or controlled three quarters of the world’s music.

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Teddy Holmes, Jimmy Henney and Terry Oates.

All my contracts were structured on the Chappells contracts. And in the same way, as my composers become successful I do what Max and Louis Dreyfus did and make them joint publishers. All my composers have a joint company with me. That gives them the incentive to recommend other composers and they help me fight the battles with the film and TV companies who want to keep the publishing. I never paid a penny advance to any of my boys – maybe  gave some money to some of the smaller ones – and none of them left me….except Carl Davis.

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I think this is Louis Dreyfus!

Was Screen Gems dealing with film composers?

Yes, but it was a natural in-built thing. I actually set up Henry Mancini’s publishing company. When I left Screen Gems I set up Compass Music which was Mancini’s company. It was originally looked after my Chappells but came back to me. We had some big hits – Leo Sayer. When I left there I set up Eaton Music which has been going for 23 years (in 2000-2001). It was going to be called either Bow Bells Music or East End Music…Bow Bells Music was already in use. But Mandy (Terry’s wife) found these offices  in Belgravia and I thought ‘f*ck it, I can’t call it East End Music in Belgravia!’

 

Who got you started on your own?

Nobody. I worked worked behind a bar to start with..to keep going. It took me three years to turn it around. I’d just had enough of the American guy (Bernard Ness??), so I thought ‘sod it, I’ll go on my own.’ At first the phone didn’t ring – I didn’t have one song; nothing was going right. Harry Nilsson had always been a pal of mine. I’d gone over to The Antelope (a pub in Eaton Place) came back and phoned Nilsson as I knew he was in town. He asked if I’d heard from his lawyer. I said ‘no, I haven’t’ and he said, ‘well, as of September you’ve got all my publishing.’ Tears came into my eyes and I said to Mandy ‘it’s going to be alright.’. He’s the one who told Jimmy Webb to come with me. Colin Johnson managed Status Quo and he said ‘you’ve got them’. IT all happened at once. It shook the business, because that year there was only one week I was not in the charts. That’s when I set up all my companies overseas. Eaton Music has its own company everywhere in the world now. I’m possibly one of the biggest independent publishers.

You are cited as someone who has never stopped working for his artist’s songs. It seems most publishers are just bankers

If anyone says anything bad about me in the business he definitely owes me money! If I’d given advances I’d be f*ck*ng broke. I didn’t – they came to Eaton Music because of Terry Oates. I say to my pluggers now ‘if you take someone to lunch, it’s house wine’ and ‘no advance.’ If they don’t like it…. I didn’t have the money to give advances. I wasn’t in that silly league. If they want to use my expertise, give me an advance, not vice versa!

They (record and film companies who are also after the publishing rights) can’t get hold of the likes of George Fenton. No one could entice him away from me – none of them can be enticed away. With George , they all go after him. Some of the film scores I can’t keep. They’re paying him half a million pounds  for a film, so though he’s under contract to me I can’t hold him back. Over here on the lower budget tv stuff, like the Ken Loach film My Name is Joe they have got the money to pay George the going rate, so we say ‘fine – we’ll keep everything.’ We keep the soundtracks. I formed a record company with George. The film companies all keep the record rights and they don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about. On some of these lower budget films, we keep the rights and I agree a percentage to pay the film company. I formed Debonair Records for this purpose  – I wanted something nice and classy! One of the biggest video earners for Time Life and the BBC was Trials of Life for which George did the music. It’s been the biggest seller ever and we kept all the video rights and everything. I can’t tell George what to do – he knows what to do. He’s been nominated for 5-6 Academy awards.

 

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The great thing is that all my composers are my mates – that’s the important thing. I still pick up a few new ones, but I expect my staff to do it now. I’ve done my bit.

Are you interested in keeping up with the charts?

No – I leave them alone! I’m a bit too old to know about The Spice Girls and things like that. But when it comes to film music, tv composers, musicians…then I can overtake them.

What’s kept you going?

Being a musician myself, trumpet player. I’m dealing with musicians. What more can you ask for? I’d hate to be working in a butcher’s shop talking to someone abut cutting up a bit of steak! I can talk to them about hearing a song and what key it’s in. I’ve never thought about (doing) anything else other than music.

In your early days of plugging there were house producers who knew about music

That’s right. Norman (Newell), although he wan’t a musicians was a top class lyricist. George Martin’s a classic one. John Burgess bluffed at away!. Norrie Paramor, a good musicians. Ron Richards bluffed it as well! You could have good musical conversations with record companies in those days. You found an act and you went to them, in the same way a plugger goes to the BBC, and say ‘this record is happening’. There’s a notice on BBC producers’ rdoors now, say ‘No Pluggers Allowed’. We had a rapport with the record producers and the radio producers because we both had something to offer.

In the Chappells days,  who was the best person to go to to get a song played?

There were lots of live broadcasts then. The biggest seller for a song was ~Billy Cotton. Jimmy Henney was in with Billy Cotton. You’ve got to bear in mind that in those days all the top artists did live broadcasts. The Musicians Union used to insist that so much music played on the radio was live music. There was a (strict) limit on the amount of recorded music, so this was our forte.

People have said Dorothy Squires was the most approachable. (well, that’s what Wally Ridley told me!!)

All of them were in those days, basically, In the old days, when the original charts were based on sheet music sales, the pluggers would go down and sit in the front row, with Issy Bonn (one of the most prolific singers on the BBC music shows and on stage) singing. They got plug money and when he’d sung one of their songs, they’d nod at him from the front row ‘go again’ and he’d sing another chorus! Sid Green was a great plugger – I just came in at the end of it. The other plugger wants the singer to finish so Sid would just started waving his fingers at Issy. That’s when it got serious! One BBC executive left the country. She got a fur coat out of it; she was being bribed.

 

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And so we finished. I think it must have Ken East who recommended I talk to Terry, and I’m glad I did. I had no real contact with music publishers during my 30 years in the business and Terry was indeed an icon!

To conclude, here’s the piece that Peter Dadswell wrote a few years ago on his own blog…and thanks again to him for his sketch and paintings, without which you’ve  never know what Terry looked like!

“In my last blog  on bohemians I briefly mentioned my life in the music industry and some of the people I had met. There was one music publisher who, although not perhaps a true bohemian, was, dare I say it, slightly unusual in his methods and behaviour. His name was Terry Oates.

Terry died in 2011 and I still think of him regularly. Here is part of a tribute that I wrote shortly after the news of his death.

“Audacious, outrageous, controversial, politically incorrect and unorthodox are some of the words I would use for one of the most amazing characters I ever met in the music industry. Terry Oates, music publisher extraordinary, who died on 16 April 2011, had an enormous impact on my career in the business and I will never forget him. Terry was above all a musician, who passionately championed his songwriters and composers and his honesty and integrity were beyond question. Yes, he could be adversarial and stubborn, but he was also charming, generous, loyal and compassionate with a wicked sense of humour and a constant twinkle in his eye.

He was also physically imposing when we first met – tanned, muscular and immensely proud of his tough East End beginnings. Terry, like me, had also been a trumpet player and this quickly helped to establish a great rapport with him. I admired his instinctive ability to recognise and attract immense creative talents such as Jimmy Webb, Harry Nillson, Denis King, George Fenton, Dave Mackay and many others. He had a long relationship with Henry Mancini who he met and worked with early in his publishing career. One of his first signings as an independent music publisher was Status Quo and in the 1980s he was closely associated Louis Clark’s highly successful “Hooked on Classics” series of recordings. His composers were part of his extended family and many were close friends.

Mandy, Terry’s wonderfully loving and caring wife, was always the perfect foil and business partner for such an entertaining extrovert. Their music publishing company, Eaton Music, has always been the envy of so many in the music industry and was an inspiration to others who aspired for such success. I will always cherish numerous fond memories of the fun, kindness and support they both gave to me, particularly when I became ill. I also learnt so much from them and always appreciated their constant guidance and encouragement. My thoughts are with Mandy and Terry’s family at this time.”

I would add to this that Terry was creative too. I had seen that he was a very talented photographer and, although I never heard him play, I understand he was an excellent trumpeter as well. Whilst my own parents played an enormous part in my artistic and musical development, Terry was in many ways a father figure to me.

Peter Dadswell

Rest of the text ©David Hughes, 2020

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 79 – Norman Newell Pt.3 and conclusion

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Norman with Dorothy Squires, Roger Moore – one of you will identify the fourth character

We left Norman, as with George Martin and Wally Ridley, bemoaning the fact that the producers never received any credit on the record labels or sleeves, never mind a royalty, though by then they’d mastered the trick of writing B-sides for singles under an assumed name and benefitting from 50% of the publishing royalty! Anyway, we move on to a random final section of name dropping…..

I met Johnny Mathis in America on one of the sessions and I thought he was sensational. He came over and appeared at what is now the Hammersmith Apollo, and his agent rang me. I’d got this kind of reputation, and he asked if I would record Johnny. We made an album of all British songs. Of course I also recorded Marlene Dietrich who was one of the most exciting women. She kind of took a liking to me and when she went to appear in Monte Carlo she asked me to accompany her. She made a date for me to go and see Somerset Maugham. I thought ‘oh my God.’ She said to be ready for 7.00 but then phoned to say she’d got such a terrible headache she was going to stay in. (She was a terrible fibber, always pretending to be someone else on the phone), but looking over the balcony I saw she was being picked up by Yves Montand! We made several albums with her, the most famous being Where have all the flowers gone . After a tremendous run of recording and accompanying her, Burt Bacharach took over. She called me one day at home and said would I come up to the Dorchester and meet someone. I was free so I went up and there was Burt Bacharach. I didn’t know then who the hell he was, but she helped his career a great deal. Every evening we used to go back to the Dorchester where she had the Oliver Messel suite, and the guests at her Cafe de Paris evening went back with us…so I met some fantastic people and heard some wonderful conversation, especially about Hollywood.

 

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Teddy Holmes introduced me to Noel Coward. He wanted to make an LP and said “Norman Newell must make it.” We became great friends. In fact one of dinner dates was with Noel, Marlene Dietrich and a newspaper columnist who was killed at the Grand National. (Nancy Spain?). I made a lot of records with Noel as well as the show Cowardy Custard, though Lady Windermere’s Fan was a flop. My favourite work was recording musicals. I always recorded them in the studio. To me you never got the same atmosphere in the theatre. I did do a couple (in theatres). The last was Tomfoolery which was done with an audience because there was lots of laughter, but it didn’t help if you were doing something like Sound of Music.

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The first time I met Ken Dodd his manager phoned and said Ken would like to work with me. He’d made an album and had a big hit Love is like a Violin for Decca. I found this song, Tears, and on the first session I did with him we recorded Tears and The river, which were both No. 1’s, and the B-sides. Ken did them in about two hours and then went back to Liverpool. From then on he did about 60-70 ‘takes’. One thing about Ken – he was always an amusing person. He still lives in the same place he was born in, in Liverpool. I think he’s got other places as well. He always finished his act with a song. His compilations sell extremely well, but I don’t get the royalties from them. I wrote a lot of songs for him but he keeps them in his own company  – I never get the money from them. In the early days I had to write under a pseudonym as the company didn’t approve of these outside interests. I can’t believe I wrote Portrait of my love under the name of David West. But I went there (EMI or Philips?) as a writer. Other producers, except Johnny Franz, were not very interested in songs by Norman Newell. My awards for Portrait of my love are under Norman Newell but the public didn’t know that. When I did something at the Mayfair for Barry Mason he said ‘just sing one of your songs, or speak  it’ , as I said I can’t sing it. He said ‘which one do you want to do?’ and I said Portrait of my love. He said ‘you didn’t write that’ and I told them I did. It’s sad. Frank Sinatra recorded two of mine, Softly Softly and Forget Domani from The Yellow Rolls Royce. I got so fed up with this business of changing my name, because they found out in the end that it was me and that was that! I said to Teddy Holmes at Chappell ‘put any name you like on it – I don’t care; I’m sick of it.’ So he put Bond, as in Bond Street where Chappells Publishing was. But I couldn’t believe it when I saw ‘Mary’ in front of Bond. I said ‘you must be joking. I’ll be a laughing stock if this becomes a hit.’ It did become a hit  – Come what may.

 

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I was having a meal with Teddy Holmes and he said ‘have you listened to Geoff Love’s work?’ I said ‘no’ and he said ‘he’s got tremendous talent’. That was the same with Wally Stott, but that’s another story! I think he (Geoff) did banjo records in the beginning, then we had a series called Party Time, then Manuel of course. I went to see a film called The Honeymoon at the Odeon Leicester Square. I heard the theme which I thought was wonderful, so I said to him ‘look Geoff, I want about eight guitars, lovely strings and the rest is up to you but I want to try and convey what the film is all about.’ Well, it became a very big success. What I think is so wrong is that if a cowboy song was a hit everyone would copy it, but this was so different we couldn’t call it ‘Geoff Love and his Orchestra.’ I’m a great believer in the letter M. If the letter M is around, I think I’m lucky, so I said ‘why don’t we call it Manuel and his Music of the Mountains?. That was fine until America said that ‘music of the mountains’ sounds like country music, so over there is was Manuel and his Marvelous Music or something like that! But his big success of course was his guitar concerto. We were in America together when someone phoned through and said it was No.1. Actually it never reached No.1; that was a mistake, but it was No.2 for a long time.

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Norman and Geoff Love with Gracie Fields (?)

Norrie Paramor had a successful series with a banjo band so we just thought we’d do it too. Mandingo was before its time. It was about 8 tympani and all the drummers available and then the strings were added afterwards.

I recorded all the pianists really – Mrs Mills, Russ Conway of course. I’m very proud of Russ. Funnily enough he was introduced to me as being a composer who wrote lyrics. I wrote lyrics with him for about six months. He came into my office to play me a new tune and I was looking for a pianist. I thought ‘my God, he’s been around all this time; he’s handsome; he’s got a personality; he plays marvellously and I hadn’t recognised it.’ So I said ‘how would you like to make a record?’ He said ‘you must be joking’. I said ‘well, we can’t use your name (Trevor Sandford) so I chose Conway because Steve Conway was one of my favourite people, but I don’t know who suggested Russ. We didn’t have any great success with the songs we wrote together, but Jeannie was a hit for Danny Williams.

How did the group scene impact on your career?

I was allowed to do what I liked,  but I felt the pop scene that was developing was not for me. Remember Shirley (Bassey) and Ken (Dodd) were around then and Des O’Connor. Those people were all around so I had plenty to do and if anybody came along like Manfred Mann I’d pass them over to John (Burgess) who did a great job. When George (Martin) started his own company John went with him and I don’t blame him at all. I think he always thought that I was annoyed not to have been asked to be one of the team. I was very lucky with my assistants, John first, Tony Macaulay, Bob Barrett. Bob was my assistant for a while, then Norrie offered him a job and through Norrie he became a record producer. I started him on his career.

When the others walked out it made a tremendous change to the way things were done. George was responsible for the royalty payments situation and the name situation. It wasn’t too long after George left that I left myself. I thought I’d do better on my own. But I didn’t really. It was a time where really the only type of record selling was a beat record, though there were occasions when people like Shirley came through. I was always recording musicals. One of the greatest thrills of my life was going to America about ten years ago (c.1990) to record On Your Toes. I think I was the first English producer to record an American musical. I had great resistance at first from the American producers. I was so nervous, never slept a wink that night, went to St. Peters (church?) in the morning saying ‘Please help me get it right.’ It was a magical experience – didn’t get paid much though!

I’ve been writing recently with Les Reed, the first songwriter to get the OBE, I think. When I think of Philips (Records) today I can compare it with the one office we started in, with me sitting on the floor! Their early artists were people I brought there..Ronnie Carroll, who sang one of my songs Say Wonderful Things in the Eurovision Song Contest. My first American artist was Judy Garland – that was a nerve-wracking night. She was quite big at the time, had done concerts at Carnegie Hall, and appeared at the Dominion (London) to tremendous acclaim. She wanted a record made called It’s lovely to be back in London and wanted me to alter the lyrics. I was so nervous about the whole thing. I waited at EMI for her to arrive and I looked at her and said ‘how are you?’ and she said ‘I’m petrified and nervous’ so then you have to take over and show them that you’re not. She was very nice but she wasn’t easy to work with. People say that Shirley’s not easy to work with but I find her tremendously easy. I haven’t kept up with anyone really. You go up to London and take Shirley out to lunch and she brings about six people! I’m not a mean person but unless she wants me to do a lyric for her (and she hasn’t for ages)…. She might not be very pleased that one of my last records, made in Italy, was Pavarotti and Celine Dion doing  a version of my song Never never never which they called I hate you then I love you or something. I prefer the original lyric. Usually they have to get permission to change a lyric but in this case it just came out of the blue and who’s going to argue?

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Judy Garland became very friendly with Lionel Bart – in fact we had a terrible row. Geoff Love was in my flat and I said ‘get on the other phone and listen to Judy Garland’. She swore at me because I’d asked Lionel Bart to leave the studio on a certain occasion. I thought he was interfering too much with the artists and I lost control.

Celine Dion impresses me a lot. What do I like today (2000-ish)? I can’ really answer that question. I rang EMI the other day and said ‘Can I speak to someone – probably you. They said ‘who’s speaking?’ and I said ‘Norman Newell’ ‘Who?’. Well, of course, they’re teenagers and and they remember the days when getting through to Norman Newell and Wally Ridley wasn’t easy!

Wally Stott. I was recording Geraldo at EMI and said ‘who did the orchestration?’ and he said Wally Stott, so I called Wally in after everyone had finished and said ‘what on earth are you doing orchestrating for other people and they get all the credit? You’re the most wonderful orchestrator – why don’t you work under your own name?’ Which he did and became a great accompanist  but he never made a great name here. Everyone knew him as a great arranger.

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Wally Stott, who later transgendered to Angela Morley

Did you have LP’s when you started?

You’re joking! We had wax and 78’s which were very easy to break – which I often did if I didn’t like what I’d done! When EMI started LP’s every cover was the same – you couldn’t distinguish one record from another. I know at one of the meetings one of us suggested different covers. We were then allowed to choose what we wanted – that was another part of the job.

When I look back, I can’t remember any rivalry between the four of us at EMI. We always seemed to be pretty nice to each other all the time. We congratulated each other when we got a hit, and that sort of thing.

I had to phone Ken Townsend (then manager of Abbey Road Studios) recently, needing to know everything I’d recorded over the last 20 years, and he had it for the next day. He’s a lovely man – I bet they miss him. His predecessors in my opinion were stuffy people – they insisted on how you dressed etc. When Ken came in and took over he was marvellous. It’s a question of personality. I couldn’t run a studio. If I tried people would say ‘who the bloody hell is he?!’

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I was having lunch with Joyce Grenfell when she was appearing at the Saville Theatre and she was talking about her mother and said ‘she used to sing a song for us and I used to love to join in but I always started to laugh’ so then she sang and she started to laugh. It was so funny I was nearly on the floor. Is said ‘you really must record it. You can’t have your mother on it, you must have someone else.’ I had just seen Norman Wisdom and when  he sang Don’t laugh at me I thought ‘right, that’s a hit’ and took him into the studios. So I said would he make a record with Joyce Grenfell. He said ‘yes, I know Joyce Grenfell but I want top billing.’ So I went to Joyce and said ‘I’d love you to do Narcissus with Norman Wisdom but he wants top billing.’ And she said ‘what a silly man! I don’t care if I’m second or third.’ Of course, it’s a scream. They still play it, don’t they?

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And there the interview must have gently ended as indeed some six years later did Norman. During part of my EMI life, Norman was still used by the A&R man assigned to my division, Vic Lanza. He was always a very gentle, slightly nervy or nervous and unassuming man, though his special relationship with Sir Joseph Lockwood probably raised many a hackle during the 1960’s. Sadly, Norrie Paramor had died long before I commenced these interviews, and Sir George had written his own autobiography. But Wally Ridley, the boldest of the four, granted me an extensive interview which will come when I conjure up the energy!

 

Text ©David Hughes 2019. All illustrations from Google search are there to break up the text and add some visual reminders!

 

 

 

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 78 – Norman Newell Pt.2

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We left Norman as he was about to move from EMI to the newly formed Philips label, lured  by the thrill of meeting Doris Day (?)

They (Philips) asked me who I wanted to be the sort of marketing boss and I said I thought it might as well be Leonard Smith because we’d worked together all this time. But unfortunately it developed into a tremendous jealousy thing later on. I left under a cloud and CBS went mad and tried to sue Philips because in their contract (with EMI) they insisted on having me. They paid me compensation as they had no chance of winning the case. At Philips we had Winnie Atwell, Norman Wisdom. It was a new company and they (the artists) came to me from other companies because of the reputation I’d earned . Two people I thought were coming with me, Ray Martin and Norrie Paramor, both decided at the last minute to sign with EMI and stay. I started Ray, can’t remember why – I must heard an arrangement of his somewhere, and Norrie did an arrangement for someone – could have been Pet Clark – and I admired him so much I signed him to a contract with Columbia. Ray had success with Blue Tango – I recorded that and most of his..that’s why I wanted to take him.

I had always admired Bette Davis and thought ‘if only I could get her to make a record where she spoke the lyrics’, like Rex Harrison, whom I recorded later on). I went through her agents and everyone who knew her, and always got the same answer. When I finally did meet her and told her how hard it had been to get to her, she said ‘I’ve wanted to make a record all my life. It (your calls) never got to me or I’d have been over right away.” We became great friends and she made an album, not a good one, but it represented a great actress.

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I think it’s always better to go to the fountainhead. Generally in those days there wasn’t an entourage around the stars that there is today. You could usually get the artists with too much problem. I don’t think the value of records was recognised so much in those days. We sold a lot but nothing like they do today.

We always paid a royalty. It was a penny  (1d) royalty for Russ Conway for instance and we’d make a whole album in one day. That was the starting point. Later on I became known for original cast albums, and I always tried to make an album that conveyed the show to the person who couldn’t get to see it live. I always remember one record of Camelot (I think I made three – the original, one with Richard Harris and one for Music for Pleasure which was a cover job)camelot82varesecdart.jpg

It was Goddard Lieberson’s idea to start Philips in this country. Leonard Smith was basically in charge – I concentrated on the artists. We started in an empty office in Great Portland Street opposite The Shaftesbury Theatre – not even a desk in it. Johnny Franz had done the early recordings with Shirley Bassey (on Philips), then suddenly I got a telephone call  from her manager asking if I would be interested in recording her. I nearly fell on the floor, so he said ‘well let’s have lunch at the Caprice and meet her.’ Not only did I make albums with her, and several big hits, but I wrote several hits for her….this was all on Columbia.

I decided to go to America to learn my job better. I thought they were better at recording that we were and I was right then. I always had the ambition to write a musical. I wrote one over there with Michael Carr and someone else, called ‘The Hot Rock,’ based on the Stone of Scone being stolen, but nobody wanted to know. You had to audition to get money over there, so I travelled all around America with the man who wanted to produce it and we never got enough money to put it on, but there were some good songs in it. I was kept going through the royalties on my songs, as now, though it’s less as they’re played less frequently.

I was offered a job in Hollywood by Dory Shelley ( I can find no trace of anyone with a vaguely similar name), head of MGM – his sister was a big agent – and he said ‘would you like to sign up with me and come over and write for films?’ and all that kind of thing.  That was a great big temptation, but temptation doesn’t take me away from my family. I had a conscience about it. It was a big gamble and I think now I should have taken it. The one thing I am conceited about is that I know I can write lyrics and there was an opportunity staring me in the face. I hadn’t been back here for five minutes when I got a phone call from Sir Joseph Lockwood who took me to lunch and asked if I’d go back to EMI. I said ‘well, I had this offer from Hollywood’ but he said ‘I’m making you a definite offer – you don’t know what would happen if you went out there’. He had a good way of talking, but I said ‘You’ve got George Martin on Parlophone, Wally Ridley on HMV and Norrie Paramor on Columbia – where would I fit in?

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He said ‘well, you would put your records on any label you like.’ That was another tempting offer. It wasn’t very popular with the other people,  but they couldn’t argue – this was a rule from the boss.In fact it was ridiculous and sometimes two people would record the same song for EMI. Then of course, shortly after that Shirley Bassey came on the scene and became one of their biggest artists. I always  loved recording Vera Lynn -she was marvellous. She’s definitely the favourite person I’ve recorded. I think she was recording when I  first started at Decca, but she came to EMI on Columbia and we had a lot of success with ideas like Hits from the Blitz – all that kind of thing.

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I think this was a Norman Newell celebration lunch with Dame Vera as special guest. We certainly dressed up for it!!

I walked into a club one day and saw two boys singing. I thought ‘all of show business has come to this club – why hasn’t someone recorded them?’ They were called Peter & Gordon. I never knew at the time that Paul McCartney was interested in one of their sisters. In fairness, I can’t remember whether I made the record myself of whether John (Burgess) did. I was extremely lucky in the people I employed as my assistants. First of all I had John. Strangely enough I always believe you know someone’s got a personality as soon as they walk in a room. You can talk to some people who look right but are absolute bores. I got in the lift at Manchester Square and John was there, and a couple of girls and they were laughing and joking and I thought ‘this boy’s got a terrific personality.’ He was working in the company so I went to L.G. Wood and said ‘look, I’ve found someone who I want to be my assistant.’ He proved to be so good; he was especially marvellous at handling people that it was ridiculous of me just to have him as an assistant. I recommended he become an artist producer in his own right. The first thing I think he did was Adam Faith and John Barry – I had signed them because I thought John Barry could do anything. We fell out in the end but that’s another story.john_burgess_air_studios1.jpg

John Burgess

When I was in America one time, Elvis Presley was all the rage. I thought to myself ‘I must find someone over here who can try and give him some competition. The only person who faintly reminded me of Presley was Tommy Steele. I went to Blackpool to see him, but he was already under contract, but accompanying him was John Barry. I thought immediately he had tremendous talent. When he started he was with the John Barry Seven and he came to me one day and said ‘I’d like to do more ambitious things like record with a big symphony orchestra.’ So I got EMI’s agreement to spend that kind of money. If we went in for big things like that you had to ask somebody, but they never said ‘no’. I don’t think they made big hits for EMI. John Burgess always says I get the credit for Adam Faith. I don’t, actually – I think it was John Barry who thought of the pizzicato thing. Adam had recorded with other people and I had a call from his agent who took me to lunch at the Dorchester and offered me part of his contract – but I never took anything like that.

(This comes across a little garbled, but maybe Adam was also in Blackpool….whatever!!)

The thing that really annoyed me in those days was that we (the producers) got no credit. So many of my records people don’t know I was the producer and we certainly got no royalties. We owe all that to George. When I went independent (funded by EMI) they didn’t offer to pay me any royalties for past recording.s I got a solicitor….

I’m guessing Norman chose not to complete that sentence, but we can guess EMI prevailed. Certainly it was George who persuaded EMI to give credit to the producers, both with name checks, and more importantly with royalty payments. Up until then all house producers were employees paid the same monthly salary whether they produced hits or not!

 

More meandering, name dropping and lunches from Norman in the final episode, coming up when a couple of hours present themselves!

©David Hughes, 2019. Photos Googled for illustration only.

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 77 – Norman Newell Pt.1

jimmy-henney-2.jpegThis treasured photo is no stranger to dedicated readers. Taken at a lunch upstairs at Rules restaurant in Covent Garden to mark some birthday or anniversary of Bert Weedon, here we have the enigma that was Norman Newell, plus (l-r) Maurice Kinn (owner of the NME), Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman and Jimmy Henney.

Back in the day when A&R men (and they were all men) were the Kings of record labels, EMI had the biggest court…Wally Ridley (lengthy interview to come one day) – HMV, Norrie Paramor – Columbia, George Martin – Parlophone, and Norman. Norman had no label association and was allowed by Sir Joseph Lockwood for reasons I couldn’t possibly surmise, to pick and choose which label released his recordings. Let’s see if he tells us!

It all began when I met a man called Bill Waddington who later became a star in Coronation Street – he played Percy Sugden

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I’d always wanted to be an actor and I think that helped me later on when I was creating ‘original cast’ albums. Bill and I were in the same regiment together in the army, and because he was in show. business I thought ‘Oh my goodness, I must talk to him about stars and all the people he must have met.’ He was a very small-time comedian then: he’s a big star now. He said ‘Well, if you’re that interested in show business, why don’t you get into it?’ I told him that when I came out of there army I’d be about 26 and it’d be a bit late to start training and he said ‘Well, I’ll get you a job. Can you write lyrics?” I said ‘no, but I used to write poems so suppose I can write lyrics.’ So he said ‘well, write a lyric to this’ and he played me a tune on a banjo he had, and I did. I expected him to get me a job as Laurence Olivier’s understudy but it turned out to be selling music in a shop in Charing Cross Road called Sinaphonic. This was about 1947. I met people that I longed to know, like Anna Neagle and Herbert Wilcox came into choose songs. I got my first taste of show business.

After a while I got fed up with this. I thought ‘why am I selling everybody’s else’s songs? – I think I can write them.’ So I wrote one and took it to my boss Sid Coleman who worked for Ardmore and Beechwood, part of EMI who owned the shop. He said ‘Oh, I’ll give you £10 advance for that.’ Well, £10 advance in those days was a lot of money. And it was one of the most awful songs you’ve ever heard in your life. But the second one I wrote became a success, so that £10 had given me a great deal of encouragement.

Then I started song-plugging. It was a different world then. You had to go round to stage doors to see the artists. Some would never see you – couldn’t be bothered – but Dorothy Squires was so kind. She invited me into her dressing room, heard the song (I sang it to her) and said not only would she sing it in her act next week, but she’d also record it. And she did. Then I wrote one called My Lovely World and You which was a small hit.

There was a variety act around then called Forsythe Seamon and Farrell. There was very successful and Charles Forsythe was a big name. He heard my song and offered me a job starting my own publishing company called Unit Music. He took premises in Soho Square for me. We published my songs and  were also on the lookout for other people’s  Someone sent in a song called The Silver Wedding Waltz and I said to the boss ‘that’ll be appropriate next month – it’s the silver wedding of the King & Queen (1950)

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I wasn’t earning enough money from the songs I’d written and was wondering what other job I could do. A BBC producer said they wanted a recording producer at EMI. I thought that was a good idea because I could write at the same time. I went for an interview which was very amusing because the person who interviewed me, Leonard Smith, who was in charge of the classical department of Columbia Records, put two white labels on the auto changing record player and asked which one I thought was the best recording. I looked at him and said ‘well, I can’t tell the difference between the two’, and he said “You’ll never make a good recording producer because the first one is obviously better. You’ll have to learn to choose.’ When he lifted the lid of the record player the top one hadn’t dropped down, so I’d listened to the same record twice! He couldn’t very well not give me the job.

The first record I made was with Pet Clark when she was a child. She was already signed to the company and I was assigned to do the recordings. At that time there was Josef Locke, Pet Clark, Steve Conway, Victor Silvester and I had a mammoth hit with Les Compagnons de la Chanson. They were appearing at the Talk of the Town (I think it was called the London Hippodrome then) and I heard them and thought they would make a great record. Once I went to see Gracie Fields and in the bill in very small letters were the King Brothers. I signed them and they were very successful.

When I went to EMI everyone was dressed in white coats (This would have been at Abbey Road studios) The canteen had a tea urn with a spoon on a piece of string. It didn’t matter who you were – if you were Yehudi Menuhin and wanted a cup of tea you had to use that spoon on the string.

 

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The facilities at the studio now are part of the attraction that draws people in. We used to record with wax discs. It was a bit nerve wracking. You didn’t have the advantage of  tape and doing it over and over again. You were allowed two or three ‘takes’ and that was all, so it meant a little more rehearsing. I had a song I thought suitable for Pet Clark  called Put your shoes on Lucy  and I think it had a certain amount of success.

 

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Years later I wrote a song for her called Sailor which reached No.1. I wrote the lyrics.

You had a booker who booked the musicians and you also get someone to organise an orchestra – if Jack Jackson played it you knew it had a chance! You had to be careful that you didn’t do covers of songs that were on the American label. I handled the English and American Columbia Records, which meant we had boxes of 78’s from America and I had to go through them and see if there were any American hits that could be issued in this country…Guy Mitchell, Johnny Mathis. I recorded a duet with Jo Stafford and Teddy Johnson. We did Teddy Johnson here and Jo Stafford over there and then joined them together!

 

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When I went to see the artists I would judge the audience rather than the singers. When I saw Ronnie Ronalde there was a tremendous excitement from the audience and I thought I must give this boy a recording test. We had testing days just listening to new people. Ronnie had a manager called Arturo Steffani and he came to the studio in a Rolls Royce, and I heard afterwards they’d hired it just for the day to make a good impression. I think he did In a Monastery Garden. He whistled it, didn’t sing it and he was a tremendous success. I only made one record with him – Leonard wouldn’t let me take him over.

Harry South at Decca offered me a job. I was getting £11 a week with EMI and Decca offered me £14. But Leonard Smith sent my mother a hamper and I thought that was a nice thing to do, so I stayed!

I then had a letter from Goddard Lieberson at CBS in America saying they wanted to start their own label (in the UK) and would I be interested in being their record producer. He invited me to America a to get to know the Columbia staff. In those days hits from here were rarely successful in America. I played the man who judged my songs out there He’s got the Whole World n his Hands by Laurie London. He said it would never go in America because the drums were too soft. I said I could easily record it again but he didn’t want to know. It was No.1 for weeks in America (on Capitol) I went over there with him on a promotional tour and everywhere we were walking along Broadway the record shops were playing it. He was a one-hit wonder because his father took over and decided to run his career, which was fatal, and of course his voice broke.

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I also went to meet Mitch Miller and he took me to a recording session by Percy Faith of I talk to the trees. Mitch was going to Los Angeles the next day and they sent me with him. When we got to the Beverly Hills Hotel he said ‘can you meet me down here at six’o’clock’ so I said ‘yes’ and he said ‘we’re going out to see a friend.’ When we got to the house, the person who opened the door was Doris Day! We became great friends and she took me to the premiere of one of her films and walked out five minutes after it started, saying ‘Have you ever seen yourself that size on a screen?’

 

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My first idol – on record and on screen and my introduction to soft focus! And a good point to pause before we move on to Norman’s next career move – from EMI to Philips

 

Text © David Hughes 2019. Pictures sourced from the web for illustration purposes only

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 76 – Tony Hall, Pt. 3 and conclusion.

 

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We left Tony’s story at his departure from EMI and the beginning of a new independent life.

I’d been broadcasting on the Light Programme, presenting jazz programmes. I failed an audition for Johnnie Stewart (later Top of the Pops producer) which I thought was very unfair because I thought I did a good one, and then he came off the programme and a guy called Jimmy Grant took over. I immediately applied for another audition, got through straight away and was on the air. I was the first guy to use the work ‘funky’ on BBC and had the piss taken out of me by other presenters, ‘funky wunky’ – it was a jazz expression – low down, dirty, as in the blues. I did a lot of programmes for Bernie Andrews and Ron Belchier, pop shows on the Light Programme. I asked if I could do one for Decca. They used me on Luxembourg several times. I found a way to avoid playing all the English rubbish. I came up with a format, ‘America’s Top Ten’ which meant going through the Billboard charts and taking the Top Ten records that were released in the UK through Decca, so it was good product..mainly. This became such a success that I ended up being voted No.4 DJ in the country in the Melody Maker poll…above God knows who! There was a big write up in the Daily Express with me and Jimmy Young together, listing Jimmy as one year older than me, which always amused me because when I first met him I was 21 and he was 29! Bless his heart! I became quite a popular DJ. I was doing what (Emperor) Rosko was doing before Rosko came along. I would always stand up to present, rather than sit down, to get some urgency.

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Emperor Rosko, Jimmy Young

Before then I’d been doing loads of compering – I did an NME Pollwinners concert before 10,000 people at Earl’s Court or somewhere.

‘Oh Boy’ was about 1959. Jack Good saw me working at the Flamingo. He’d got Jimmy Henney booked and he wanted to contrast Jimmy – he was Mr. Smooth – and I was meant to be a bit of rough, the finger snapper.

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Was he (Jack Good) as influential a figure on the music screen as he’s now painted?

My own recollection of ‘Oh Boy’ is the pilot show, which was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen on television. It was in black and white and it lost everything that it had when it was eventually broadcast in colour. The secret of its success was obviously Jack Good’s enthusiasm, but the artistic secret was Rita Gillespie’s lighting which was fantastic and gave it its sense of evil. Which it did have – not evil but menace, the rebellion of youth in those days. The pilot was the best, fantastic. It was live because I remember I once forgot my lines and was stuck – it seemed like two minutes but I think it was probably ten seconds – I couldn’t remember my script and everything was timed to the second. Terrifying.

Had you had to leave your jazz by the mid sixties?

Tempo just fizzled out, largely a combination of Tubby Hayes signing to Fontana and me getting married. Jazz was starting to get avant garde and freeform and I hated it, so I didn’t really want to know. Also I was taking my day job quite seriously and it was full of exciting battles like the Righteous Brothers versus Cilla Black. I had what I believed was the best promotion team in the country – a wonderful team, everybody with different tastes. Oddly enough it was Tony King who really gave me my standards in pop and soul and stuff. He turned me on to Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson when they were new. I liked them because there was a jazz feeling there, so it was easy for me to get involved. In the sixties I was very active in the whole RSG (Ready Steady Go) situation. Hanging out with them; people like Vicki Wickham were fantastic. It was really a social do every Friday night. The whole business would just go and hang out in the studio. Michael Aldred was a Decca producer at one time.

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Vicki Wickham with Paul Gambaccini, Berry Gordy, and ??? (Adam White, my expert, thinks maybe a cast member of the Motown Musical)

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Michael Aldred in the Sixties

The Sixties were really special if you were in the music business. Most of the sixties passed by because we were all so busy and involved in the music. The swinging sixties were happening to everybody.

What prompted you to strike out from Decca?

People like Ron Belchier complaining to Dick Rowe ‘why’s this Tony Hall pushing this black guy called Otis someone when he should be plugging The Bachelors to me’? I thought ‘bollocks to The Bachelors – they’re established already. Anybody could push The Bachelors, but Otis not everybody could push. I was very close to the Atlantic people, Jerry Wexler and the Erteguns. I persuaded Jerry Wexler to let me take My Girl off an Otis album and go with it as a single, because I said I thought I could make it a hit. With the help of the Pirates I got it to No.7, but I was only given four weeks to be able to do that because he had more product coming and he didn’t really want to do it anyway. They knew that the Temptations’ record hadn’t made it, so people didn’t know it as a hit song and that’s what enabled Otis Redding to come to England later. The irony was that I discovered My Girl had been recorded as a one take filler and they’d never played it live. They had to take it down off the record and learn it (the score)  when they got to England.

Atlantic was some consolation for Motown?

Atlantic became a labour of love for me, with Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Don Covay. But I swear to God that Otis wouldn’t have happened or Wilson wouldn’t have had hits if it hadn’t been for me. For instance, The Midnight Hour, a huge hit for Pickett. I was due to go on holiday for the week it was due for release. I said to my team at Decca ‘While I’m away please push this one. I know it’s a hit and I want to come back and find it a smash.’ Got back from holiday to find fuck all had been done. Nobody even knew about the record so I had to start on it a month late, which in those days was very very difficult. A friend of mine was producing Juke Box Jury in those days, and I begged him – a month after release – to put this on the Juke Box Jury tape and he said ‘OK, I’ll put it on as the number 8 record, but I can’t guarantee we’ll get there – it depends how much they (the Jury) rabbit. I was sitting in front of the screen, praying, lighting candles and everything!, and there wasn’t that much talking and they got to number 8, thank God, so it got heard. Then I got the pirates all working with me. I wasn’t officially allowed to of course, but they were fantastic and we got Pickett into the Top 10.

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Tell me about the pirates 

We weren’t allowed to touch them officially but on the other hand they (Decca) wanted to know why everybody else’s product was on the pirates and not ours. I eventually went down to Caroline (their offices were in Chesterfield Gardens in Mayfair) and got to know the people and got my records on – the same with London when it started.

 

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Radio Caroline

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Radio London

The whole thing was illegal but it was airtime. I wanted my records on there. I didn’t want other people’s, I wanted mine! I didn’t care about PRS (Performing Rights Society – the organisation which sets the fees radio stations have to pay when playing records). As long as the records were heard people would go into the shops and buy them. To this day I think that the mid-sixties Decca promotion team was the best I can remember. There was Tony King, Roger Watson (who became MD of Arista at one stage), Pat Campbell (the old cowboy DJ – he was in Phil Solomon’s pocket), Dick Rowe.

Andrew Oldham came to see me a couple of weeks ago – his autobiography is coming out and I’ve done a lot of quotes for it. He’s starting a campaign and I agree with him, that while Dick Rowe is always put down as the man who turned down The Beatles. Andrew is saying that he’s the man who signed the Stones. Very positive. Dick Rowe loved the music business. Again, I didn’t necessarily approve of all his business practices, but I liked him, especially later in life. He loved music,  loved the music business, loved America. A sad loss. I heard the (Beatles) tape. I would have passed musically, but I heard the voices and the personalities between the really abysmal music, and the personalities I thought were worth investigating. But the music was shit, deserved to be turned down and unfair to criticise (Dick).

 

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Dick Rowe

Back to why you decided the leave Decca.

I thought, ‘if I’m going to do promotion I might as well do it pushing music that I really believe in, people that I believe in rather the bleeding Bachelors whom I don’t like at all’ David Platz had made overtures to set me up in my own company so eventually I started the first independent promotion company in the UK -T.H.E. I handed in my notice, went on holiday, came back to find thirteen years of Decca in a tea chest outside my office, orders of Townsley, which I thought was pretty shitty because I really had done a lot over and above the normal call of duty. Anyway, that’s show  business!

You know the next period  – I started T.H.E. with Ray Kane and Liz Clower. Ray was something else in those days – he was a wonderful promotion guy and he and I made a great team, totally contrasting. Ray would go and do his job and you would never even notice him, but he’d get results. Very quiet. I was offered everybody, but again many were people I didn’t really want. I was offered Humperdinck and Tom Jones and all that lot, but it was too easy. But our first record was Desmond Dekker’s Shanty Town/007 . I was going out with a Jamaican girl at the time called Faye Sparks and through her I heard this record which the black community was dancing to and I thought ‘this is a pop record – if white kids heard this they’d love and buy it, but if they’re going to hear it, it’s got to be on the radio.’ So it was the first T.H.E stickered single, which took three days to track down to Pyramid Records on Fulham Broadway. It was a fight to get any money, but it was a challenge and it got to No.14. When I took it round to the BBC they thought I was crazy and I said ‘listen, I’ve never cried wolf before, never let you down…just trust me, play it!’ And they played it and it was a hit. After that T.H.E. would take all the off-the-wall groups, or relatively off-the-wall, like Love Affair and Family, and I did a deal with Track Records – Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Brown, and we started signing a few artists as well. Locomotive was the first Gus Dudgeon hit and we had two or three acts from the Harvest label – Bakerloo Blues Band, Tea & Symphony, who were off-the-wall and were mainly through a manager in Birmingham called Jim Simpson . Black Sabbath came through him as well – they were signed under the name Earth, just a blues band who deserved to make a record. I changed their name, Olav Wyper signed them and their first album cost £750.

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At this point Tony declared he was running out of steam, and we just have a paragraph to cover the period from 1970-2000+

The 70’s were difficult, but then I found The Real Thing and ended up selling nearly two million singles in a three-year period. In the 80’s I had Loose Ends for nine years who became the first (British) black band to get a No.1., which was a great thrill. Then I had a triple heart by-pass, slowed down for a while; then four years ago I found Lyndon (David Hall). His girlfriend at the time was Samantha Powell,  who was on a development deal with RCA and John Jacobi, who rents an office here (‘Here’ for this interview was in Carnaby Street) was acting as her lawyer and she brought in a tape of her boyfriend with her band. John gave me the tape and asked me what I thought. I said ‘it’s interesting, send the boy in.’ Then I persuaded him he’d be better off on his own than with a band.

Lyndon signed to EMI but any success was tragically ended by his untimely death. He was the first singer from the newly open BRIT School in Croydon to secure a record contract (with EMI) and a memorial plaque remains in their main foyer to this day.

So, while I never returned for the second half of Tony’s story, the early years are always the most interesting.

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To conclude, here is the now famous T.H.E. sticker as written on hundreds of singles by someone very close to me!!

Text ©David Hughes 2019. All illustration come via Mr Google and are there to help you get through the text.

 

P.S. Happenstance is a wonderful thing. One of my Collectors’ Vinyl customers, having seen the press cutting in Part 1, with the photo of Tony, Ray Kane and my wife in 1967  (12 months before I met her), came up with two more shots which we’d never seen before. Seems he knows the executor of Tony’s will and, being a major archivist and collector was gifted a mass of paper work among which were these. On a sadder note, his research has revealed a “Friends of Procol Harum” Facebook page and posting from Ray Kane’s daughter, saying he had died – this was in May 2018. Liz and others had totally lost contact with Ray, but she remembers baby sitting his daughter….small world gets smaller.

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 74 – Tony Hall.

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The concept of these interviews, apart from the original fantasy of them forming the basis of a book, was to give space to some of the many people behind the scenes who were influential in the history of this still remarkable industry, but whose names possibly mean nothing to the lay reader. Tony Hall, who recently died at the fine age of 91, is a prime example. Even though he was known to the devoted late 1950’s music fan via his Decca Radio Luxembourg shows and his regular appearances as compere of ITV’ “Oh Boy” , his influence on the British industry was enormous and largely overlooked. On a personal note, it was through Tony that I met the lady who has been my wife for nearly 50 years.

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Liz is not a lady for nostalgia, but she did keep this cutting  from the first of five years she worked for Tony in the 1960’s. She was a devotee of his Luxembourg/Decca shows and the music he played and persuaded him to give her an interview as his PA, operating from his Mayfair flat. I first met her when interviewing Arrival for Disc and….largely thanks to my then dear colleague Penny Valentine….one thing led to another! 

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Here she is, 50+ years later with Carroll, Tony and Frank from Arrival, pictured in Tony Hall’s front garden

I interviewed Tony in his then Carnaby Street offices over 20 years ago, and even then, my first question was…..

Do you want to tell me why you’re still doing it?

I came into the music business because I loved the music. I still love the music. The only gift God gave me, really, was being able to pick hits and spot talent that most people would not spot or pass over because maybe it was too difficult or unconventional. I still feel the music. At the age of 70 now I’m still stuck in traffic jams tapping out grooves on the steering wheel, thinking ‘now where the hell did they pinch that line from, and what have you. I shall go on doing it as long as I find talents that excite me sufficiently, and as long as the dramas and stress that come with it don’t really freak me out or affect my health.

Not that it matters, but the people you’re dealing with are half your age or less

Yes, but people haven’t got my ears, and I know I can still pick hits better than most people in most record companies. I can spot major talents. At the moment, at the age of 70, I’ve got the hottest young R&B singer possibly that England has ever had. He’s winning all the awards and,  OK, he’s only sold 50,000 albums so far but that ain’t bad. It ain’t chopped liver for a first album. Maybe he’ll get the chance to develop a bit and maybe turn into a long-term album-selling artist. (I’m assuming this was Lynden David-Hall, who tragically died before he was able to fulfil Tony’s aspirations for him) I’ve got a girl singer who is the nearest thing to a young Aretha or maybe a very young Mica (Paris) that I’ve heard in this country for many years. Her name is Vicky and she’s got an African surname that I can’t pronounce very well, but I think I’ve got a deal on the table with Wild Card Records and Colin Barlow loves her. He’s offered me a four-album deal, so if I’m still alive after four albums…!

Every day I’m having to turn down people for management – even people with the kind of talent that I might be interested in – because there just aren’t enough hours in the day and I haven’t got the strength. In an ideal world I’d like to work a four-day week, but it ain’t as easy as all that. I’m in the office four days a week and I’m on the phone for the fifth, and the sixth and seventh! I’d become a vegetable if I quit the business because music is virtually my entire life…which my wife doesn’t appreciate!

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Tony’s second wife, with whom he spent over 40 years of his life, was a professional singer and actor. Born in Trinidad, her real name was Grace Carr. She predeceased him by one year

Ironically, at this age, I’ve gone back to my jazz roots – that’s all I really listen to at home. I do jazz reviews for whoever will pay me – it’s marvellous. I get free CD’s and I’m now, and again it seems stupid after all these years, I am expert on all the young jazz players around, especially in America – the new generation.

Which is how it started for you, isn’t it?

Yes. I came into this business because I loved jazz and I was working in jazz clubs in the Fifties in the evenings, compering and booking. The Feldman Club was at 100 Oxford Street, and it was there that I heard my first ever live music at the age of 15. Nowadays 15 is nothing, but in those days it was young. I was on holiday from school and was taken down there. I was staying with a schoolfriend who had a flat in town and was taken down to this club at 100 Oxford Street. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.

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It changed my life completely. There were people like George Chisholm and Kenny Baker,..Victor Feldman – he was brilliant, Jimmy Skidmore – those sort of musicians . One thing led to another, then when I was in the army at Catterick I started compering the bands, and even played diabolical drums when the normal drummer was on leave, with the big band playing Stan Kenton arrangements. How I had the gall to do that I don’t know, God help everybody! I was compering and getting involved in the jazz scene, getting to know musicians, starting to write a bit. When I came out of the army, through my friendship with the assistant editor at Melody Maker, a great larger-than-life character called Jack Marshall, and through my friendship with Steve Race, the Sunday after I was demobbed I started as resident compere at the Feldman Club at 100 Oxford Street. It was a great honour, me with my dreadful ill-fitting demob suit standing there shitting myself. But that was the beginning and led to other clubs – I was totally totally involved with the jazz scene. I was working at studio 51 and while I was there I met Jeff Kruger and started working at his club. at the Mapleton before planning the Flamingo Club.

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Jeff really relied on me for the musical policy and because of that I was able to sneak in a whole lot of people who were a bit off-the-wall and probably might not have had the same exposure had someone else been booking, including West Indian musicians who were very good people, like Dizzy Reece (his version of Round About Midnight was played at Tony’s funeral) and a tenor player called Bogey Gaynair who was something else

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One thing led to another and one day I was at Decca as product manager and then promotion.

How did you get into that?

That was through Bunny Lewis. I was doing pop record reviews for various papers including a dreadful thing called The Showbiz and Boxing Review or something, edited by another really larger-than-life character called Isadore Green, who was really a boxing fanatic but found he couldn’t make money with just a boxing paper so he broadened it to show business to get all his pals from the Variety Club and Jewish restaurants around the West End involved in the paper. Then when pop started happening a little bit he widened it even more and somehow I ended up doing pop reviews.

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It ended up as Record and Showbusiness Mirror. I remember all those one-sided heavy 78rpm test pressings. But he was a difficult man to work for and eventually after two or three years of not being able to stand him any longer, we had a flaming row and I walked out – or he sacked me! I can’t remember which, but it was mutual. I remember walking round the corner in Gerrard Place and bumping into a musician I knew quite well with a good sense of humour called Benny Green. I said ‘Benny – you want to be a writer, don’t you go up and see Izzy Green round the corner. You’ve got a gig.” And that’s how Benny got his first writing job.

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Then I went on and wrote for various other papers. I was on the original Music Express before in became the NME, before Maurice (Kinn) bought it. I worked for Ray Sonning who was actually Jack Marshall’s boss. He was another very genial guy. Journalists are very different now. Percy Dickins was the advertising man then. There was an editor at Melody Maker called Pat Brand, wore glasses. Ray Sonning was a very avuncular guy. Jack Marshall has a very dry sense of humour. Ray Sonning left the MM and started the NME. Jack Baverstock was around.

From the reviewing for Izzy Green I used to go to Bunny Lewis’s office to get the review copies. Decca were the hottest then. I got to know Bunny reasonably well., I used to review anything he gave me and one day when I went in he said “are you interested in a job at Decca?” I said “doing what?” “Oh, they want a product manager, for Capitol or something.” I said “I don’t know about things like that.” But he said ‘Go on, give it a go.” So I did go for an interview. I believe there may have been a large number of people up for the job and, I don’t know, but I got it. My day job until then had been in advertising as a copywriter. My parents wanted me to be a chartered accountant and articled me to a firm and I absolutely hated it – everything about the job – it wasn’t me at all. So I thought that if anybody’s going to fuck up my life I might as well fuck it up doing what I enjoy doing. I got into advertising as a day job, but really wanted to get into music. When I was doing all this writing in the evening I also had my first column in the NME called Hallmarks. I joined Decca in 1954. Bunny Lewis was managing David Whitfield as well as producing, promoting and agenting him, which I didn’t think was very ethical. But I thought he was a fantastic guy. He started promotion in this country on a really professional basis – he was the very best I ever encountered. I learnt my promotion trade from Bunny, was inspired by him, though my approach was very different. I had nothing but respect for him. I didn’t necessarily approve of his other activities but I didn’t blame him.

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This is the only photo I’ve unearthed of Bunny – devoted readers will remember it from my interview with him. A great Juke Box Jury panel!!. Sadly the interview made no mention of Tony!

Much more to come!

Teet ©David Hughes. Photographs sourced via Mr Google to hopefully add a dimension.

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