A Personal History of the British Record Industry 69 – Janet Lord – 1.

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Janet Lord MBE will probably be unknown to most of you, especially if you were not employed by EMI at any time from the early 1950’s to the mid 1990’s. However, to those who did enjoy working years with the company she was a legend, one of that huge band of unsung heroes – except that we managed to secure her a well-deserved MBE at the end of her long career…..which she told me about here….

 

My first job was in a board mill in High Wycombe. I remember there was cardboard on big rollers and it had a bright orange facing to it. I said ‘what’s that going to be used for?’ and they said Oxtail soup powder – how dated that sounds!

My second job was even worse. I did typing for the Imperial War Graves Commission, details of the gravestones. It was in a big manor house in Wooburn Green. A lady downstairs had the lovely job of making the white crosses that were temporary markers until they got the stones done. It was run by old admirals and people like that and you had to have the right coats of arms on the stones  – all this sort of detail. It had to be very precise typing. I had done a commercial course and a lady was given a typewritten print which she read to me at dictation speed for me to type back. I just said ‘give me the thing to type.’

I went up to London one day and I knew how to get the No.1 bus from Marylebone to Oxford Street, got off the bus at Selfridges and walked the length of Oxford Street looking in the windows. For my lunch break I’d turned to the right instead of walking up Oxford Street, to get a sandwich from Joe Lyons, gone across to Marble Arch (which wasn’t an island then but an entrance to the Park), sat on the seats there to eat my sandwich and look at the paper. I’d got the Telegraph to see if there were any jobs. They’d just had this big drive to say you had to go the Job Centre to get  job – and the only one that said to call or write was for EMI Records. So I got on the No.1 bus and went up to Oxford Circus. The office was just behind Peter Robinson, in Great Castle Street. I went in and saw Sheila Johnson who was C.H. Thomas’s secretary.

What was the job?

Just typing in the typing pool

Did EMI Records mean anything nto you?

No. My father was a semi-professional musicasn and was always off to Ronnie Scott’s, and took me to the Ad Lib club. I refused to go to Ronnie Scott’s when Stan Kenton was there because I thought he would be too loud! Dad was a real music man and knew a lot of people – Johnny Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Acker Bilk – I met them all. He used to put bands on in the local town hall. He ran a jazz club at the Cadena Hall in High Wycombe…on a Sunday in this Quaker Town! He got away with it because it was an afternoon club and he said ‘we always finish at 6pm because these people have got to be elsewhere!’ The Salvation army came at 6pm so we had to be out by then. The original jazz club in High Wycombe was run by Max Jones. Mum and dad used to do ballroom dancing and dad played the double bass. I think this was my whole influence, and it can’t be ignored. People like Ralph Dollimore and Don Lusher I met years ago. I don’t see them now but they are people I have known. With dad’s varied interest in music, I was interested too. But I was more into the big band sound. We’d go backstage to see Ted Heath. The musicians all knew one another. Dad never recorded but he was once on a Pathe newsreel. He happened to be down in the Underground and it was dressed up like a French Metro station and they asked him to dep. for someone and it ended up on the newsreel. Years later people would say “we’ve seen a funny thing with your dad in a band.’

 

A Google search reveals that the Cadena Hall in now “buried” under the shopping centre, but a letter in the local newspaper from 2010 remembers Bob Lord”

I recall Lord of jazz

LAST week’s letter regarding the Cadena Hall (now buried under the Chiltern Shopping Centre) brings back memories for me of the 1950s’ Sunday afternoon jazz club sessions run there by the late Bob Lord.

I well remember seeing the likes of the Ronnie Scott/Tubby Hayes Jazz Couriers, Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, Mick Mulligan Band with George Melly, The Vic Ash Sextet and numerous others playing there. Although somewhat older now, I am still helping to keep the jazz alive by attending the Sunday lunchtime sessions at the Merlin’s Cave in Chalfont St Giles and those on Tuesday evenings at the Marlow Jazz Club – which is also helping to keep me alive!

 

So you joined the EMP typing pool but you weren’t excited about being in a record company?

No..it was Records Division then. To me it was a job. I was never in early in the morning.

That was in 1953?

Yes..it was steam trains and smutty clothes. I think my first weekly wage was 24s/6d (£1.23p) and at least I already knew how to get off the train at Marylebone and go on the tube to Oxford Circus. I used to go through the scrum of Oxford Circus before it was altered. I was interested in the music because records were fun. The first show I saw courtesy of EMI was Howard Keel in Kismet down at the Aldwych Theatre, which later became a tv studio. I could find my way home because it was on the underground!

How many were there in the typing pool?

About six or eight of us, including Mrs Nicholls, who was a lovely old lady who had known L.G. Wood for a long time. The training was that every week we had to have a rep’s report to type up, deciphering their handwriting. After a year I went up to work in promotion with Rex Oldfield.

Did you feel part of the company in the typing pool?

Oh, definitely.  Great Castle Street had, at a guess, 80 or 90 people there. It was an unusual building because you came in on the ground floor but you could also walk from one side of the building top the other on the first and fourth floors. The first floor was the sales office on one side and you would walk through the typing pool and the swing doors to C.H. Thomas’s office and secretary. So many people would walk down to sort things out. Mrs Nicholls would be in touch with what was going on!

None of the managers had secretaries then?

Yes  they did. We did more of the admin., learning how the company worked. I went as far as Sheila Johnson’s office outside C.H. Thomas’s.

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I didn’t see any more than that until I got moved up to the fourth floor. You would be moved on when the company reorganised. On the top floor you had Ray Martin and Norrie Paramor in the A&R office, with a secretary outside, and a small office with Rex Oldfield doing the plugging and I was working for him. I also worked for Alan Tallock (?) who was on the opposite side and was doing the plugging for George Martin. (Judy Lockhart-Smith was his secretary), Ron Richards, John Burgess and Shirley Spence, who is now Shirley Burns.

What did you have to do working for these two pluggers?

They didn’t have an organised mailing list as they do now, but you would make up a list and make sure they had the right addresses to send the records to. It was like an information process. It was a new department that had moved up from Hayes and a lot of things were still governed from head office.

I imagine these were the peaceful days before rock and roll

We were doing the groundwork, pulling it all together. I do remember Ronnie Bell frequently talking about Who’s sorry now, and I would say ‘yes, but she’s not here!.’ When she did come over and was immediately successful with her personal appearances, I realised that he could hear the commercial side of the record.

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Ronnie Bell, who, if still alive, will be over 100. Can anyone help? I last heard from him in 2009.

I didn’t think it was commercial – I just knew my favourites. I remember being spellbound by Count Basie’s Atomic Mr. Basie. It should never be off the catalogue. I sound a bore but I’m really a records person.

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I was upstairs at Great Castle Street, then I moved down to the ground floor where they had John Phillips doing promotion. I shared my desk with Joan Coulson (whom I remember from EMI’s Classical Division in the 1980’s). My first project was a promotion called “May We Suggest” and I got the whole typing pool typing up these suggestion lists like a promotion mailout. John Phillips was Head of Promotion, (died in 1962 aged just 46) Roy Squires was also down there. We all used to go to the cafe next door, Peter Mario’s and that became the place to meet if folk couldn’t get into the office. It was like The Westmoreland for Manchester Square.

Life was competitive then. In those days you’d have three or four different recordings to get broadcast and the publishers would be pushing as well. If someone had scheduled a record for a certain programme and the library copy, which should have been sent to the BBC direct from the factory, hadn’t turned up, I would scoot up in my lunch hours and deliver things. That’s how I knew Valerie Britten personally. Sometimes they would say ‘no, we don’t want any pluggers, too busy’ so I would go up to Valerie Britten to take her parcel and I was allowed in because I wasn’t a plugger!

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Valerie Britten, revered head of the BBC Gramophone Library, so much so that she was a guest on ‘Desert Island Discs.’

Tony Crombie came in to see Norrie Paramor about making a record. I made the tea and took it in. There was an aghast silence. Tony looks up and says ‘hello Janet, how are you? How’s Bob?’ His agent was Jeff Kruger, who’d seen me at The Flamingo, but didn’t know who I was. Norrie just looked like this ! ( I can imagine the face Janet pulled?) After they’d gone Norrie said ‘and how do you know Mr Kruger?’. I said ‘well, my dad’s taken me down the clubs – Ronnie’s old place and others like that.’ Norrie said ‘that’s very interesting – you must tell me if you see something interesting’ It wasn’t his scene to go down the clubs – he was a studio man; you didn’t mix it.

What are your memories of Norrie?

He was a charming gentleman. In comparison, Ray Martin was a very polished suave conductor type. They worked in parallel – the two different fields of Columbia. Norrie did things like The Big Ben Banjo Band. He was very affable. He never threw a wobbly. George Martin was even nicer. But we didn’t see a lot of them; they’d come in for meetings and then go. They were more in Abbey Road than the office. They used to have audiences on a Sunday for shows – an invited audience for a recordings, like That Was The Week That Was.

Were the recording managers the most important people in the company?

Yes they were. They each had different fields and artists.

There was no marketing so no one ever questioned with the people were doing – they just put the records and everyone did their best for them?

The bread and butter were Joe Loss, Victor Sylvester and Jimmy Shand. But Parlophone had some lovely jazz. I’m sure we had early George Melly with Mick Mulligan. I heard Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson at the Gaumont State in Kilburn.

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Here’s Janet at my Abbey Road retirement party in July 1998 (Studio 2 don’t you know!) Photos of her are in short supply, but I’ve put out a plea for more to go with the second and final part.

text ©David Hughes 2018, Photos from Google search or my own collection and for illustration only. No money changes hands for these postings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 68 – Rodney Burbeck.

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All the fine people I interviewed in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s were names I knew, often respected and they certainly played an important part in the history of the British music business. Some I had worked with and/or for, others were people with whom I’d had business association, and  a few were more than that.

Rodney Burbeck I knew in at least four parts of his life – as a journalist on the then newly-formed Music Business Weekly, a rival to Record Retailer, later renamed Music Week, in the late 1960’s, as press officer at CBS and RCA, and as editor of Music Week. It was in this last capacity that he presented me with an award, which of course I still have, marking the in-store portion of my advertising campaign for the Duran Duran “Rio” album, as “Top Point of Sale, 1982”!!

Sadly, Rodney has just died, after what I am told was a lengthy and incapacitating illness, and while his passing may not attract national attention, you may like to hear a brief summation of his story.

This fairly short interview took place as I recall in the courtyard of a Covent Garden pub and my wife had some difficulty with the transcription.

You started as a journalist?

Leicester (?) Evening News. I came into music via the Daily Sketch, London Life – a Thompson weekly  which followed swinging london. Then London stopped swinging and so did London life. Then I became press officer for CBS Records.

Was this the Sketch in the time of Mike Housego?

The man with the loud voice? Yes it was. Les Perrin used to do the pop column on the Sketch. He largely wrote about Dave Clark!

How did the CBS thing come about?

I was out of work and co-habiting with Mike Ledgerwood and one or two other people in the pop business – we were sharing a house. He was on Disc – this was the late 1960’s. Mike recommended me for the job. I went along and met Olav Wyper. He recognised me as a Fleet Street hack, down to earth, and I got the job.

The last Daily Sketch, 11th May 1971

Did you know what  CBS was all about”?

No, but I knew they had Bob Dylan and Barbra Streisand, pretty good references.

Did you know whom you were succeeding?

Sue Hawlward (?), who was fired for some reason or other – she married Brian Gibson. Ken Glancy was the top man. To me he was a mentor. He was not like an American – he had a sense of irony and a sense of humour. On the Sketch although I wasn’t showbiz, being young I did a lot of showbiz stories and came into contact with music people. Previously I had worked for the Scottish Daily Express and Glasgow Evening Citizen, two Beaverbrook papers in Scotland, doing pop and showbiz stuff for them, which was how I met Mike Ledgerwood.

 

Disc staff 1972?

Any excuse to use this photo which at my best guess, was taken at a leaving “do” for Phil Symes and myself who both left “Disc” on the same day in 1972 – he for the EMI/Tamla Motown Press office and me to Polydor as its press officer. From the left we have Rosalind Russell, Caroline Boucher, Brian Southall, the aforementioned Mike Ledgerwood, Judy Noakes/Fernie (editor Gavin Petrie’s secretary as they were called in those days!), our house cartoonist whose name escapes me, a sub-editor sadly also without a name – Bill someone?, Phil Symes and yours truly. Amazingly, I think we are all still alive!!

How did you adapt to becoming a PR person?

Not an easy transition. In those I discovered alcohol was quite a good calling card, and charm, I’d been on the receiving end of a lot of PR and I looked on the job as looking for stories and offering them to journalists. I tried to treat the job as if I was working for a newspaper. It didn’t always go down terribly well with the company. ‘Why aren’t you getting any…?’ There wasn’t anything worth writing about that week. There was a UK manager Derek Everett and a USA manager David Howells. UK acts – Tremeloes. Peter Walsh (their manager) said ‘you can’t have Brian Poole without his backing group.’ So we said ‘OK, then.’ We put out Brian Poole’s record which didn’t do a great deal, then we had to record the Tremeloes’ Silence is Golden and this was a honking great hit. This was my introduction to ‘isn’t it great being in the record business.’ I was driving home in my car with the radio on and they played Silence is Golden. I thought ‘I’ve done something’ – that’s when I thought ‘I like this job.’ Brian’s records died and eventually we dropped him. We didn’t want to put the the record out (Silence) but one of the DJ’s picked it up and it was a runaway hit. It was a hit by default.

Mike Smith (Tremeloes’ producer) moved from Decca to Strand Records and then on to CBS

Last I saw of Mike he was completely out of the business. I went to a CBS reunion ten years ago – he was a bit of a sad figure.

My other good memory of CBS was Georgie Fame and Bonnie & Clyde. I remember setting up a photo session with him and a fake machine gun in the mews behind CBS Records. The police were called.’There’s this man with a machine gun making threatening action’

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That was still the era of lots of receptions

And coming up with a gimmick. I did lots of gimmicks. With Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco, I hired some leggy ladies and lots of boxes of flowers and positioned them outside Bank tube station and said ‘anyone who comes out of this tube station in a bowler hat, hand them a flower and if they say ‘why?’ say ‘wear it in your hair.’ Lots of photos of startled businessmen being handed flowers by pretty girls.

Did you have anything to do with Derek Taylor?

Over the years Derek and I shared a bottle or two.

What about the established icons from America?

I liked **** ******* (I was asked to hide the name, and he is still alive) a lot. He was on stage at the Palladium and we had a telephone call from New York that his girlfriend had slashed her wrists. I was with Derek Witt and we said ‘we can’t tell him – we’ll have to wait till he comes off.’ She was OK – it was a cry for help.

What about getting calls in the middle of the night from Fleet Street (this happened to me at 3am on several occasions).

It didn’t bother me because I’d worked the night shift on the Sketch – I was used to it. I was at CBS for five years, then I moved to RCA. My high was hearing Silence is Golden. The lows were meeting Miles Davis at Heathrow – in those days the press officer used to go to the airport. Derek wasn’t around, so I did it. I met this small man carrying a small case and I said ‘Hi.’ He looked at me and said ‘you’re one of thos f*ck*rs who doesn’t sell enough of my records.’ I put him in the back of the limo and we sat in total silence from Heathrow to his hotel. Another low was Buddy Rich at Ronnie Scott’s. I took a journalist and said ‘Look we’re not going to eat here – even Ronnie admits the food is awful.’ So we had a meal first and went it just in time for his set. The place was packed except for one table right at the front. They were already on stage and we sat down quickly. Buddy did a roll on the drums. “thought you’d like to know that my record conpany just turned up.’

Another high was meeting Barbra Streisand whom I’d been in love with for years – she didn’t say a lot to me! And meeting Leonard Bernstein. I was taken to the airport by our classical promotions man to meet him. I was a very innocent young man at that time and didn’t know his sexual proclivities. His lady manager said ‘I want you to be there’ – she wanted a handsome young man to be there as well for him.

I left CBS to go to Music Business Weekly. It was a competitor to Record Retailer. Peter Robinson and Nigel Hunter were there, also Brian Southall. Jack Hutton was charged with launching a trade magazine to comnpete with Record Retailer, along with the advertising director Peter Wilkinson. We had about 18 months’ fight against them. We were evenutally knobbled by the postal strike – six weeks with no post. The rival was far more established.

It was a good bunch of people

Roy Eldridge’s wife Christine was my secretary – it was great fun. But the record business wouldn’t support two magazines, though more recently we set up a magazine in competition with The Bookseller  and that’s worked. Also we didn’t have a chart. We phoned round a few shops but our chart wasn’t being seen on Top of the Pops. We thought we could beat them with better journalism.

So that died and RCA had a vacancy?

(The previous person-his name was lost in the crowd!) was doing it and I don’t know if he wanted to give it up or they wanted him to go. So I set up an in-house operation, myself and Alan Sizer who was with me on Music Business Weekly. He went on to do A&R somewhere, but we established David Bowie, Middle of the Road, Bonnie Tyler and Sweet.

Who was guiding that from an A&R point of view?

Mike Everett and Ken Glancy. Mike signed the UK acts. I don’t know the inside story of David Bowie – you’d have to talk to Geoff Hannington. He was marketing manager at the time and then became managing director.

Was RCA different from CBS?

It didn’t change in the work involved but the music was changing and the lawyers and the managers were coming along and taking over to a certain extent. I remember sitting down to a meeting with De Fries (Tony De Fries, David Bowie’s manager) and I’d drawn up a PR campaign and he looked at it and said ‘We are not going to do any of that – we’re not going to do any interviews’, using the Colonel Tom Parker/Presley technique of keeping the guy away. For me that was a load of sh*t. Big money started to be made in pop music by The Beatles and the Stones, so it was inevitable that the accountants and the lawyers were going to move in and control it

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David Bowie and Tony DeFries

I was with RCA for most of the seventies. I enjoyed it. I had lots of great trips to the States but I never met The Colonel or Elvis!

Do you remember when Elvis died?

Yes, it was late evening and the phone rang…I phoned New York and they said ‘Don’t say anything’ I said ‘Is he dead?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then I’ll have to say something. But we were just ‘the offshore outlet’  (so I couldn’t). I remember the description in a CBS brochure – offshore activities, UK!

So next came Music Week?

Brian Mulligan was leaving. I’d been at RCA for seven or eight years and had had almost as many Managing Directors. It was attractive to go back to journalism. I got a buzz out of PR but you get tired of being nice to everybody.

But surely the record business expects that from its trade paper?

Not in quite the same way. You don’t have to be quite so nice to artists and their managers and lawyers. We used to cut Louis Benjamin out of pictures Pye Records sent us – he was always in them so we started cutting him out! (Music Week) was enjoyable up to the first recession, but then it started losing advertising and it got very sticky. Good team though.

What is the essence of a good trade magazine?

A good editor needs to tread a fine line, get the right balance. You have to be nice to your advertisers – you need the advertising. If you’re not subjective the magazine has no balls and people won’t read you. Maintaining that balance is very tricky. They (the record companies) switched to single record or single artist advertising, which, apart from backing up the record, showed the trade there was muscle behind the record, and to please the artist and manager. We also then initiated reasons for other advertising – we invented the Special Feature, spotlight on reggae, independent records, recording studios, whatever. That was a little bit soul destroying but I’m pragmatic and it had to be done. My criterion was to make it readable. Jack (Hutton) was Managing Director. He was a good anchor, but he had become a managing director rather than a journalist.

How long did you stay there?

Eight years. The demise of the independent record shop was a gradual change, a move towards chains – Our Price, HMV. The increasing important of the charts – there was always a scandal or a complaint about them, and the editor takes the stick.,

What about the award ceremonies?

They were a very good idea..not mine. They gave the industry a reason for a piss-up. I left in 1986. There was a change of management and my face no longer fitted in the hierarchy.

After that I was six months “freelancing” as they say. Then I was hired by Publishing News. I friend of mine introduced me to one of the partners. They had this book catalogue and magazine and had the idea of a CD music catalogue that they could give away in book shops and have the record companies pay lots of money to have the (booklet) covers inserted. They hired me as a consultant for that. Fred Newman, who owns Publishing News, worked with me on the Daily Sketch in 1961. In those days Publishing News was fortnightly and they wanted it to go weekly. The idea of the CD catalogue never got off the ground but Fred asked me if I wanted to get involved in the magazine itself. So I stayed around to help them go weekly, and I’m still there.

Fred Newman, who died in 2008.This interview was conducted some years before then)

Did you leave the music business quite happily?

No, I left it sadly. I had a lot of friends and I miss that buzz of being involved with records and hits. But books are not so very different. And retailing is retailing. I miss MIDEM.

We were close to concluding this brief and rather noisy interview, when Rodney said..

You’ve forgotten my big low in the industry, when Richard Branson played his April 1st practical joke on me. I was editing Music Week and had a call from Richard’s PR man. ‘He’s got a great story for you – a totally innovative way of delivering music. Can you come for lunch on the barge on the canal?’ Went along to his barge, had lunch with Richard on the deck and he said ‘We’re going to start delivering music through cable, going to cut out record shops, no records any more. We’ve discovered a way of being able to let people decide what they want, and key it in.’ I thought ‘this is a good story, why should I not believe this guy – it’s Richard Branson. But it’s a bit odd’. Got back to the office and discussed it (and the response was) “why should he have you on?” I rang his PR man and said ‘it’s not on – it doesn’t make sense. I’ve talked to the Cable TV people and they say they don’t know anything about it.’ Anyway, he said ‘Richard is personally offended that you should think he’s lying.’ So I printed it and didn’t realise our issue that week was April 1st. Apparently one of the Music Week staff had, he alleged, been freelancing nasty stories about him to ‘Private Eye’ and this was his way of getting back at him. through me. This was in 1983-1984. Who would have thought such an extraordinary convoluted story would come full circle? I met Richard a couple of years ago at a party and said ‘do you remember that?’ He said ‘yes, it’s come true, hasn’t it. ‘

Every journalist wants to believe he has a scoop!

text ©David Hughes, 2018. Apart from two from my own collection, all illustrations are sourced from web searches and are purely for that purpose.

Posted in A Personal History of the British Record Business, Stories of the British Music Business, Tales of a Press Officer, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

50 years ago in the Music Industry 17 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

One year after the launch of Radio 1, editor Ray Coleman in his infinite wisdom thought I was the man to assess and grade the DJ’s who were there during that first year. Here’s the piece – I’ll highlight some of my”observations” afterwards. You will notice that in August 1968, dear old Disc cost a mighty one shilling!

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My summations!!

Tony Blackburn – OK now, but he’ll have to mature soon. (well, he never did and it did him no harm)

Tony Brandon – Should be allowed a bigger show and more freedom. (I have no memory of what show he did!)

Dave Cash – Making the best of a very bad job.  (My previous comment section was “Appeal” which explains..Many fans must be heartbroken at the rubbish he’s now landed with, housewives who are not enamoured with “Woman’s Hour” or “Mrs Dale’s Diary”)

Kenny Everett – As long as he can continue to get away with murder he will remain the genius.

Stuart Henry – Unless he stops addressing everyone as Mr or Miss, could soon become wearing.

John Peel – Very open to cynicism, but I believe he is genuine if a little pompous.

Mike Raven – unlikely to attract listeners through personality but excellent for the music lovers.

Emperor Rosko – what happens when we don’t want it socked to us any more? (he went home to America!)

Keith Skues – Needs a slower paced show, would be an ideal replacement for Jimmy Young.

Ed Stewart – Somehow not personal (or slow) enough for the show. (this was Junior Choice, which he went on to make his own, so 0/10 there!)

David Symonds – Tends to be over exhuberant, but one of the msot successful comperes on the station. (his producer was pretty mad too!)

Jimmy Young – Deserately needs competition.

Fifty years on, I know at least six of these guys are no longer with us. Tony Blackburn of course is still rising at crack of dawn, though only on a Saturday, Keith still has BBC radio shows in East Anglia, David Symonds lives in the Far East, and Emperor Rosko has his own fans’ Facebook page. Of Tony Brandon and Mike Raven I hope someone can enlighten us.

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50 years ago in the Music Industry 16 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

I don’t think anyone will disagree that pop music for the teenager actually sprang into life courtesy a middle-aged man with a strange “kiss” curl and his band of merry men including a stand-up bass player and a saxophonist. Bill Haley and the Comets were the most unlikely introduction to the revelation that there was more for the war babies to listen to than dance bands and crooning singers.

Bill first came over on a ship in the late 50’s and thence by train to Waterloo Station. He started everything but his days were quickly numbered when we realised/discovered that the music he was platying was so much better sung by those folk to whom it meant something.

But fast forward 10 years and Bill was still coming to London, playing to audiences that wimps like me felt it best to avoid, but still managing to build up a fair old head of steam. This dates from May 11, 1968)

(Oh, and please don’t overlook the Episode advert, a slightly desperate reincarnation of Episode Six without their original enigmatic drummer)

 

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50 years ago in the Music Industry 15 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

 

With “Tina-the Musical” having opened to sensational reviews this week, strangely appropriate that this interview, of which I am ashamed to admit I have absolutely no memory, pops out of the annals of Disc, April 27, 1968.

 

 

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And in the same issue (two by-lines in one week!!) one of several interviews I had with Peter Frampton, marked for many years by Disc’s idea of calling him “The Face of ’68”, poor chap, though of course he was good-looking then!!

 

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1967…and The Face of ’68 is no more, with eight months of 1967 still to go!! Pop weeklies eh?

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 67 – Bunny Lewis 5 and conclusion

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Bunny had just listed some of the artists that he signed to Columbia during his time at EMI including The Avons, The Mudlarks and, via Top Rank, Craig Douglas. I then asked about the frequency with which singers changed labels in the late 50’s/early 60’s

Decca was the Woolworths of the record companies. You went in there and probably got a  better shake at Decca than anywhere else. Your promotion was probably better. They were not stingy about the amount of money they would spend on sessions but you had to come up with the songs. There was no long-term keeping an artist, saying ‘well, he’s going to have one (a hit) over the next year or two. Bollocks, he’s out. And that’s why they all moved eventually. They only had to have two flops in a row and it didn’t matter who produced them, Dick Rowe or whoever, said. It was an attitude. Decca was a quick turnover company and they wanted it to happen quickly, and they knew damned well that if they got rid of  Lita Roza, Joan Regan, Suzy Miller or Lorrae Desmond, there were four others sitting around just as likely to have hits. And the only trouble was that the people who made those hits for them like Dick Rowe and me, had left, and they weren’t getting hits from America any more either, and suddenly there was a vacuum and Decca went……When Ted Lewis picked up Decca it belonged to a man who did all his business in the bath!  Dreadful! (was this S.C. Newton?) Ted took it up basically because he was a jobber in the stock market, that was his real thing, and always was for the rest of his life. He never took a salary from Decca, but he was very proud to tell you ‘I can’t think why you want more money – I don’t get any! But of course, he didn’t. He used to fiddle the bloody shares. He’d go down to the stock market on Friday or something, fiddle about and he’d have made himself a couple of grand just like that, because he was a jobber. He saw these shares being desperately treated by this fellow, so he bought Decca and he brought it from right down there to right up here. It was Ted Lewis who did it.

 

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Then he managed to get the right people to be executives and they kept it up there until he suddenly got bigger than his boots. He thought that he couldn’t do wrong. He was the big man. One way or another he antagonised two or three people who were top executives there. He antagonised all these people who let us have the labels from America and Decca went down to the depths. The only person who got any money out of Decca at the end was Marcel Stellman who took them to court. When you consider how big they were….

Did you work with Larry Parnes?

I was a friend of Larry’s. I liked Larry. He was one of us, a bit more of a brigand that perhaps I was, that’s why he made a bit more money than I did!

Was Tony Hall there with you?

I got Tony Hall his job. You ask him. And very good he was too. He took over looking after Capitol or something. He became a plugger – he was the top plugger there. Nice fellow.

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Larry Parnes with Billy Fury, Tony Hall.

I had successes. I had David Essex. I became his agent and made his records. He was a very good looking boy from the East End. Very nice fellow. I’ve still got eight tracks of David that are incredibly bad. I got him at the wrong time – I got him too soon. Couldn’t sing properly. I mean, he’s not the greatest singer even now, but I tried and tried. By that time I had my label with Fontana. Apart from anything else I liked him enormously, still do. He nearly cracked it in America. He did get a hit, perhaps he didn’t get a follow-up or something. The next thing I knew RCA Victor, one of their cheaper labels, got on to me and said ‘Have you got any David Essex tracks? Fontana says he belongs to you, not them’ I said ‘well, I’ve got about five or six full tracks and another two or three with enough to fiddle around with and get records out of, so you could make a short album.’ They said ‘how much do you want for them?’ I said ‘they’re not for sale.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘They’re too bad.’ They said ‘well, what do you care.’ I said ‘well I do care because I happen to like David Essex very much and the last thgiung I am about to do,on the brink of him making in the States, is to be party to putting out a ghastly, and it was ghastly, album.’ So they said ‘we’ll guive you $30,000’, which at that time was quite a lot of money and I could have done with it. Those tapes are still up there (on his shelves). I couldn’t have done that too him. He’s a really nice fellow and to have done that would have been wicked, not just unkind.

 

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‘a really nice fellow’

Did it make any difference to you where you went with your productions?

I went where they wanted me. I had a label deal with Columbia until Norrie left, or something. My deals were nearly always based on the relationship with the human being who was there. I got on well with Jack Baverstock; I got on very well with Johnny Franz who was a great friend of mine, one of my few really great friends in the music business. But he was full of artists at the time, so I went with Jack. There must have been others…..you forget.

 

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Johnny Franz

Did Jack Jackson’s radio success prompt you to make that suggestion to Jimmy Young?

By the time Jimmy went to radio he’d left me. I never got on awfully well with Jim. We didn’t quarrel all the time or anything like that. It was strictly a business relationship as far as I was concerned. I found him a bit of a nause. Then he parted from his wife and I liked her, Sally Douglas – she’d been a singer and I thought she was a very nice woman and he just discarded her, the selfish fellow. He’s always wanted to talk; he’d always had faith in himself way back as a talker. I never thought anything of it and he did it all himself. I don’t think he has an agent today. He’s not the easiest or nicest pereson to deal with, but he’s still there. And that he, this miserable little fellow should end up with an OBE and a CBE, talk about other buggers’ efforts!

And can get Prime Ministers etc., into his studio to talk to him.

That’s how he got his OBE of course! Pete Murray got his through getting Lady Wilson on, so did Kenny Lynch. Jim got his through Mrs Thatcher, the first one anyway. I’m certain that we shall see Sir Trevor MacDonald in a matter of months (he was knighted in 1999). It’s all Jim’s own effort. He always believed in himself as a talker. And he’s right – that’s what he’s best at. A good singer too, but he wasn’t really a performer on stage, so he’s much better doing what he’s doing now. (Sir Jimmy Young died in November 2016)

 

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It’s interesting that you made that switch from performers to presenters and presumably didn’t regret it?

It was better really because, without being snobbish about it, dealing with television presenters you’re on a slightly different intellectual level to dealing with pop singers, where there wasn’t too much between the ears. I’m not suggesting there’s much between the ears of some of the television people either, but after all,  television companies were relatively civilised people to talk to, and commercial advertising companies too. When you’re in the pop record field, the record company people were the only civilised people, otherwise it was all ‘oy oy oy.’ I don’t know the record people these days. I only know a few managing directors – I’m too old to deal with them now.

It’s interesting that today people are complaining that the record business is short-term and isn’t sticking with artists, and yet within that 40 years period it was the same for different reasons. Well, maybe it’s the same reason – to make money?

I remember the early Craig Douglas days, when the groups became big, the amount of money that the record companies starting forking out for totally unknown groups was incredible. You could come along with a group and if you were good at hyping you could hype a record company into putting up twenty-five grand for a two-album deal. Of course, it never went near an album – it was spent down the pub! It used to amuse me, but it was happening all the time.

The Beatles were attracting such a deluge of signings that people were signing everything that moved in the hope….

..that they might get another Beatles! And they were all so frightened. If you had one of these groups all you had to say was ‘I’ve got to get an answer out of you because I’ve got something else coming up.’ – you were terrified of losing them. There was that scurrilous story that’s become part of pop history – it’s not true – about Dick Rowe and The Beatles. The fact that it is untrue doesn’t make any difference – you still read it in books and all the rest of it. It wasn’t him – it was a fellow called Smith, one of our junior produicers. First of all, Brian Epstein came along to Decca with a pretty ghastly demo of The Beatles. At that time Decca had The Tornados, who were hot, and these demos sounded very like The Shadows, not very exciting, so Dick Rowe said to Mike Smith ‘you’d better give them a test.’ So he gave them a test and at the same time he tested Brian Poole and the Tremeloes and he preferred Brian Poole. He took them to Dick Rowe and said ‘I prefer Brian Poole’ and Dick said ‘well, you’re the fellow producing it, do what you like.’ The story stuck that it was poor old Dick, but it wasn’t.

It wasn’t just Decca – other labels had done the same. When you listen to those tracks, you understand why.

What happened was, in those days George Martin had Parlophone, which was the poor man’s label. I had Lorrae Desmond with him – he was a hell of a nice fellow to work with, and a good musician but he hadn’t  had any real success except for Peter Sellers and funny things like that. But he had a liaison with Dick James – he’d recorded him or something. He was a competent band singer, but he was never going to be a hit singer, because he was ugly as sin…no chance. Brian Epstein found his way into Dick James’ office and Dick pointed his nose towards George Martin, and you know the rest. And George said to me ‘that bastard Dick James never gave me a penny’ (presumably of the publishing revenue). Because of The Beatles, George has done very well for himself. It’s taken a lot of time, but now he’s Sir George and all this. The rest of The Beatles are still sitting there, except McCartney, with only an MBE. It’s only because George speaks the Queen’s English…we are a  monstrous nation of snobs! (Paul has of course recently been joined by Sir Ringo!)

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I think it was Judy (George’s secretary and later wife) who made great strides to smarten up George’s accent.

I remember them both up there and she was always ‘frightfully, frightfully’, almost aggressively so. Didn’t worry me particularly but it did worry some people. They’d go in there and she’d say ‘la di da’ and they weren’t used to it. I don’t remember George as being quite as smooth as he is these days, though I dont remember him, being very rough – very nice fellow.

The other girl who worked for him, Shirley, she’s done well. I knew all the promotional staff down there…Harry Walters, Chris Peers. Chris picked up a girl duo, The Caravelles. I used to use Harry Robinson as an arranger for most of my people. I used Bob Sharples to begin with until he went off to television, You don’t have to be a baby to cry came in to my company, though they had a slice off the top. They hadn’t written anything else and didn’t look as if they could write anything else. The father of one of them was a bloody nuisance.

At this time when I went over to America I was spending the day with Burt Bacharach in this magnificent flat he had, and I said ‘what have you got on the hob, Burt?’ ‘Well, I’ve got this thing here – I’m going to send it over to Dusty.’ Dusty had done a lot of his stuff. Very hard to argue about Dusty because, let’s face it, she was the best girl singer we’ve ever had. He sat down and played it and I said ‘I want that, Burt.’ I’ve got these two girls, they’re hot as a pistol; they’re hotter than Dusty at the moment. I talked him into it –  Wishin’ & hopin’ . I sent it over to Harry and Chris and I said ‘here’s the latest Burt Bacharach offering – get it done nice and quick before he changes his bloody mind and sends it to someone else.’ I rang them up and said ‘did you get it alright”‘ They said ‘they won’t do it.’ I said ‘what – for Christ’s sake this is Burt Bacharach; he’s the hottest thing’ But they wouldn’t do it and it ended up with Dusty who had a hit with it. It just goes to show our business is all about where you are and who you know. And The Caravelles never had another hit. Harry and Chris could never find anything that could either please them or was good enough for them, so they disappeared into limbo and broke up. One was difficult and one wasn’t. They might have become quite big stars. They must be one of the few who turned down a Bacharach original – those were the days when he was writing with Hal David.

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So you can understand in a way why I’m retired. At least in those days it was fun. It wasn’t always rewarding but it was fun and it was exciting. When you had a new record coming out and you were plugging everyone within sight, it was exciting to see what happened. Then they (the BBC) stopped the disc jockeys picking records. In my hey day you had to go round to all the disc jockeys and get them to play your record. That to me was infinitely preferable to dealing with some bloody nameless BBC producer who would say ‘we haven’t got it on the playlist.’ and so on; having to take some crummy woman out to lunch..what they were supposed to know about whether something would be a hit was nonsense. It was people like Jack Jackson, Sam Costa, lots of them, who had some sort of idea about what the public would like – these old cows had no idea of anything! All they wanted was to be taken out to lunch all the time, and probably given one for all I know. Bloody lucky if they got it, I should think! It was the beginning of the end of the exciting bit of it!

Another one of mine I’d forgotten was Rosko. He’s still mine except that he’s in California. I bring him over about twice a year to do a couple of gigs – he’s still on the radio here. He’s going out on about four stations, none of them in London. I’ve never been able to get him on Capital. It’s no good going to the BBC because he walked out on the UK. He owed the income tax so much money he didn’t feel like hanging around much longer. He went back to California foolishly – I told him not to. I said ‘we’ll solve this’ but he owed the Income Tax quite a lot.  I said ‘you can do a deal with these people.’ I’ve been through it. Stuart Henry was another one, and Pete Brady. But Rosko went in with a fellow who was a millionaire and they bought a house in Notting Hill Gate and were going to turn it into a school for DJ’s, and Mike (Michael Pasternak – the Emperor’s real name) was a lovely fellow but a total idiot ads far as money was concerned, signed all the leases. The millionaire died or went bust, I forget which it was and Mike was left holding the baby and there was a bloody great mortgage, and the end of the story was that he owed Barclays Bank £40,000, probably about £15,000 before all the interest.

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When I did bring him over and we were still doing things for the BBC, I used to have to get him out through the back door and make special arrangements with the BBC to pay me when no one was looking. Barclays had put a restriction of him earning any money in the UK. So it made it very difficult for him to come here. He now comes back under all sorts of pseudonyms. He goes round all his chums at the record companies, because he still does his shows in California but he’s not important enough to the record companies for them to send him stuff anymore. He’s lost out because he is in America they’don’t give a damn what you’ve done in England. He’s just making a living over there.

And so we came to an end and presumably I and my Mini Disc were back on the Embankment. Bunny is no longer around the tell more stories, but I have loved transcribing what may have been his only interview and learning of an era that preceded me by a good decade.

text © David Hughes 2018. Photos via Google to add some faces to the words

 

 

Posted in A Personal History of the British Record Business, Stories of the British Music Business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

50 years ago in the Music Industry 14 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

If I can claim anything in my six years as a “journalist” (inverted commas as I was really little more than a local reporter and music paper ‘hack’) it was playing my part in trying to save the pirate radio stations. These boats and forts were and remain the pinnacle of British music broadcasting. In the days when the Musicians’ Union restricted the playing of records to a mere handful a day on the BBC, the pirates were spawning the cream of today’s DJ’s and the uncertainty and excitement of life in the North Sea kept the listener pinned to the radio.

Their hero was a softly (is there another kind?) spoken Irishman called Ronan O’Rahilly who had already made a mark in London with a trend-setting magazine calle Scene (I wish I’d kept copies) but then decided to start a radio station in a boat off the Felixtowe coast. The ship was the Mi Amigo and the Station Radio Caroline and in home town Maidstone, the reception was really good. Two years before  I joined the Gravesend office of the Kent Messenger in the summer of 1966 I had been part of a 250,000 ‘Save the Pirates’ petition which we got to hand in to the front door of No.10, and the paper had printed my letters. In Gravesend it wasn’t long before I managed to persuade the lovely old editor Henry Cohn that I could help fill our edition with a quarter page of record and gig reviews, helped by the local angle that the Thames Estuary pirate forts (Radio City, Radio Essex, Radio 390) were serviced from the town. Naturally I wrote about the pirates as often as possible and went out to sea, once with Ronan himself, and as the Marine Offences Bill reading got closer, every edition of the paper got behind it.

Anyway, fast forward, and my Kent Messenger cuttings book had brought me to Ray Coleman at Disc in Fleet Street, keeping in touch with the pirates. Fifty years ago this week, Ronan gave me the exclusive on this story.

It never happened and this was two weeks after Fool’s Day. Who can tell now – except Ronan whom I think is still with us – was this genuine or a wind-up? You be the judge.Caroline TV

Posted in A Life in Music - random memories, Disc and Music Echo 1967-1972, pirate radio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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