Disc & Music Echo, June 7, 1969

Quite why Ray Coleman chose me, the pop kid, to help launch EMI’s new progressive rock Harvest label, I can’t remember, but a young (26) reporter does what he’s told. I don’t expect you to attempt to read the copy, any more than I remember doing the interviews, but to me this page is important because of the man who created the label, Malcolm Jones. I wasn’t to know it at the time, but my six years at Polydor Records from 1972 was greatly enlivened by Malcolm, who had moved from EMI to be a product manager at Stratford Place and with whom I became firm friends. In fact some of his now extremely rare EMI demo discs were the first outsiders to be sold by my Collector’s Vinyl auctions – how much more he would have made 40 years on! But how sad that he succumbed to tuberculosis at too young an age.

Anyway – seems I survived Edgar Broughton!

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Posted in Disc and Music Echo 1967-1972 | Leave a comment

The Book that never was – and never will be

With The Beatles forever in the news I thought I’d share this piece with you. It was written nearly 20 years ago as the preface to a book I planned to spend the early years of my retirement writing. All the transcript interviews you’ve seen here were undertaken as material for the book. As time went by – over 80 interviews later, I realised that a) retirement was a fantastic way of life and my time, which I thought might be plentiful was even busier and more exciting than employment, and b) no one can ever write definitive book about the record industry. It is forever changing and even recent histories are quickly out of date.

So I mulled over what I should do with these interviews and decided I should just let you read them exactly as they took place…and on reflection, I’m delighted I did.

But I came across this piece when wanting to reassure myself that all the contents of my old Mac had been safely transferred to the new one. It is self explanatory!

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Preface -The Beatles – the act nobody wanted!

“What a stupid name for a band – and now you look back and could they ever have been called anything else” (Tim Blackmore)

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More words have been written about The Beatles than anyone has life left to read. But if there is one example above all other of the way in which the music business has succeeded despite itself, it is with The Beatles. Put simply, they could not get a record contract. Manager Brian Epstein was an important name to record companies. As proprietor of NEMS Record shop in Liverpool and local chairman of the Retailers’ association, the four major record companies – EMI, Decca, Pye and Philips needed his co-operation. So he was listened to wherever he went, but when it came to touting a new band which had never played live in London, rejected as well.

One of the problems was that The Beatles was a group that played and sang – something quite new to the UK. All earlier bunches of musicians were either jazz bands or skiffle groups, or were essentially a lead singer with backing musicians who occasionally, like The Shadows and The Tornados, were allowed to make an instrumental single or two themselves. There were groups aplenty in America, though there too, few played as well as singing. And anyway, in 1962 America was quite definitely another world, one still largely based on songs and songwriters, with little desire to build an international career for their new rock’n’roll artists, other than through the constantly touring cinema and ballroom package shows. Everyone lived from single to single and even the bill toppers had to make do with a twenty-minute slot. These were the days before the LP, before television became a true force, and before global success became a financial necessity.

Another problem was laziness on the part of the record companies. Or rather, they were so spoilt for choice in London they felt no need to travel further than Soho’s “2 I’s” coffee bar to seek new talent. That’s where they’d “found” Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard, the two biggest new British stars of the late fifties, and that’s where all the hopefuls gathered to join the queue. With only four companies, each with a growing number of American labels to deal with, there was a limit to the new British names needed. And anyway, the business was in London – the companies were all there, the songs publishers were all there, and the radio station was there.

Then there was The Beatles’ demonstration tape itself. Recorded at Decca’s West Hampstead Studios on January 1, 1962 under the supervision of A&R assistant Mike Smith, the fifteen tracks embraced only three Lennon & McCartney recordings, the rest being the then ritual cover versions of American hits of the previous ten years.

Rejected by Decca, Pye and Oriole following earlier “pass” letters from the Columbia and HMV labels at EMI, Epstein resorted to his friends at retail. It was at the suggestion of Bob Boast, manager of the HMV shop in London’s Oxford Street, that Epstein substituted the 15-track tape for 78rpm discs, a service provided by the shop. The cutting engineer Jim Foy expressed an interest and, on learning that three of the songs were original, directed Brian to EMI’s publishing company, Ardmore and Beechwood, located upstairs. Ardmore & Beechwood’s General manager Sid Coleman heard the songs, realised that George Martin, head of EMI’s ‘novelty’ label Parlophone, was the one recording manager at EMI not to have passed judgement, and an appointment was made on 13 February, 1962. The rest……….eventually, is history. Love me do was first recorded at Abbey Road on June 6, 1962, though not, as is well documented, with Pete Best on drums. What is not so well documented is that George Martin was not there either, the session being conducted by his assistant Ron Richards. Only when engineer Norman Smith suggested that George be present did the relationship, and the legend, begin.

Listening today to those early demonstration songs, it is easy to understand why the rejection letters came. Consider also that Columbia and HMV passed the opportunity on the basis of the Polydor single My Bonnie, recorded in Germany with lead singer Tony Sheridan. Little wonder that the man from Decca was said to have told Epstein “You have a good record business in Liverpool, why not stick to that?” (1)

Perhaps if Mike Smith from Decca, or Tony Meehan, the former Shadows’ drummer working there in A&R and named by at least one person as the man who turned down the group, or any of the others, had travelled to Liverpool and witnessed the excitement, things might have been very different. Perhaps if Brian Epstein had done a deal with Larry Parnes, the most prominent pop star manager of the day, things would have moved faster. Perhaps…perhaps.

Even today, struggling for stories in the silly season, a national newspaper will send “demo” tapes to record companies by well-known artists and delight in printing the ‘pass’ letters. They fail to understand the way in which A&R (Artists and Repertoire) people work. The supply of hopeful musicians will always vastly outweigh the demand, and as a result, the selection begins almost exclusively by word of mouth, followed by the sight of a live performance. Never, well hardly ever, does an unsolicited demonstration disc or download result in a contract. You can bet your life that, once he’d struck gold with The Beatles, Brian Epstein never again made a demonstration tape for any of the many artists he subsequently represented.

Tony Barrow, a Liverpudlian who subsequently became The Beatles’ press officer, was a sleeve note writer at Decca at the time. as well as writing his “Diskery” column on the Liverpool Echo and was one of the endless names on Brian Epstein’s list of people to talk to in London.

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“I was a Decca person and he was interesting anyone he possibly could at that stage. He knew the retail side (of record companies) but not the artistic side at all. He didn’t know any A&R men and he didn’t know anyone on “Melody Maker” or the “New Musical Express.” So he was interested to come across someone like me.”

Having listened to Epstein’s speech and the acetate of his new group discovery, Barrow “did what I didn’t have any right to do, which was ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you.’ It was nothing to do with me, I wasn’t there to hire or sign. But when (he) had gone I didn’t ring the A&R department, but (Beecher Stevens, Head of) the marketing department and said ‘This guy is a retailer so maybe you’ll feel you have to give him an audition. Don’t ask me about the band because I can’t assess it from what he’s played me, but if he’s an important Decca customer…..so that phone call was one of several triggers. The local salesmen were also coming back to London saying ‘There’s a guy up there with a band who thinks he should have an audition.” It was the marketing department that forced the A&R department to lay on the original audition on New Year’s Day (1962)

“It was Mike Smith (who took the audition) because Dick Rowe was away. Dick Rowe was in charge and he went on his holidays saying, ‘There’s this band, this artist, do them for me and let me know about them when I get back.’ Mike thought enough of that audition to say to me (I was keeping in touch for the (Liverpool) Echo, nothing else at that stage): ‘Dick isn’t back yet but I’m sure you can say that they’re going to get a Decca contract.’ That actually appeared in my column in the ‘Echo’ – Local group about to make good. Watch this space. They’re about to sign with Decca. Then Dick Rowe gets back and makes his classic remark about groups with guitars are out and in any case, Liverpool – what can be do up there? What’s that other one you’ve got? Brian Poole and the Tremeloes? Where are they from? Tottenham? Oh yes, we’ll have them. On our doorstep, a group we can with without having to hike all the way up to Liverpool every time we want to see them.”

Tony Bramwell, whose long career in the music industry began as a junior in Brian Epstein’s organisation, agrees, though differing on the geography.

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“Decca Records had decided to sign only one of the two groups they had under consideration and they signed the Trems – a guitar group….simply because (they) lived closer. They came from just down the road in Dagenham, Essex – just outside London – which was a great deal more convenient for meetings and rehearsals than Liverpool.” (5)

Barrow also reminds us that it was this January 1, 1962 audition tape which resulted in Epstein being rejected by everyone he visited.

“People think The Beatles must have been so bad that they gave all these auditions and none of them were successful. It’s not like that at all. Epstein had nothing else but the Decca tape to hawk around and it was that tape that was turned down. You may well think that was a very stupid thing for the man to do, because if you’ve been turned down by a major like Decca, he must have realised that this was not going to be picked up very readily by anyone else either. You would have thought he’d have put some money into recording them locally. This was feasible; it was perfectly possible to do it – he had loads of money. If he’d been five or ten years later in the business, he’d have done that. (But) he was totally new to it. If he’d taken (the tape) to other people and readily admitted ‘Don’t go by this tape too much; I’m just trying to give you some idea; come and see them in Liverpool; believe me they’re ten times better than this’ or whatever.’ “

Despite the reality that The Beatles were turned down by just about everyone, one man was stuck with the tag. Tony Hall worked at Decca at the time as Head of Promotion.

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“Dick Rowe is always put down as the man who turned down The Beatles. Andrew (Loog Oldham) is saying (Dick’s) the man who signed the Stones. Very positive. I heard the 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; unfair to criticise him passing.”

Tony Calder whose music business life started at Decca in 1961, agrees:

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“Dick always got labelled as the guy that turned down The Beatles. I’ve got to tell you anybody would have turned down that tape – it was pretty shit. He played it to me a couple of times and said ‘Do I deserve this?’ I loved Dick Rowe – he was one of the nicest people. After I left and was involved with Andrew (Loog Oldham, original manager of the Rolling Stones) we were sitting there with a No.1 record (with the Stones) and no money. He would say ‘Bring us any record’ and we’d get any record and take it to him and he’d give us £200 on a Friday for it because he knew we had no money. He never put them out – he was amazing.”

Another of Decca’s team of producers at the time was Bunny Lewis, by then running his own Ritz label for stars such as Craig Douglas and the Caravelles.

“There was that scurrilous story that’s become part of pop history. It’s not true, about Dick Rowe and The Beatles. Total nonsense. It wasn’t him, it was a fellow called Smith. First of all Brian Epstein came along to Decca with a pretty ghastly demo of The Beatles. At that time EMI had the Shadows who were hot, and this sounded very much like the Shadows, not very exciting. So Dick Rowe said to Mike Smith, one of our junior producers, “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 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.’ But the story stuck that it was poor old Dick – it wasn’t.”

“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. Brian Epstein found his way into Dick James’s office and Dick pointed his nose towards George Martin, and you know the rest”

Tony Barrow agrees. “It seems to me that George Martin wanted to get into the pop side of things and was being urged to do so by his masters. Other people at EMI were the golden boys; he was not. He was the guy who was recording all kinds of absurd things that occasionally would sell enough to give his department some profit. He was known as the madman, he was the eccentric guy.”

Alan Lockie produced for EMI.

“I was in Ardmore and Beechwood when The Beatles made their test recording in the HMV shop (below). The Ardmore & Beechwood guys phoned Norman (Newell) who was in Spain and then called George Martin.”

Wayne Bickerton, himself a Liverpudlian and a musician, remembers hearing of Brian Epstein’s frustration at his inability to attract any interest from London.

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“I can remember being in a flat with a man called Joe Flannery who was the manager of the band I was in (Lee Curtis & the Allstars). He was talking about Brian coming back (from London) saying ‘these people, they just can’t see it, yet another failure, yet another record company.’ Like Mike Smith and Dick Rowe, Dick saying to Mike: ’OK, make a choice, Brian Poole and the Tremeloes or The Beatles?’ ‘The Tremeloes.’ I had to live with that for all time!

Memories play tricks, so not all of these stories can be true. But they coincide on one point – The Beatles and Brian Epstein were just one step away from possibly never making a recording.

Ron Richards was George Martin’s assistant at Parlophone.

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“George (Martin) asked me to listen to this tape that Sid Coleman (Ardmore and Beechwood Publishing) had sent over. Norrie (Paramor) had already turned it down. The thing was that Wally (Ridley), Norrie and Norman (Newell) all had successful acts at the time, so they weren’t in a hurry to sign any unknown kids. George didn’t (have any successful acts). So that’s how George came to take them up. I think he was the last one to hear them. So he asked me to listen to this tape of The Beatles. I must admit I wasn’t terribly impressed at the time. He saw in them more than I did. If it had come to me I would have turned them down, because I had Shane Fenton and the Fentones. But George did a good job with them. Because he wasn’t so au fait with rock & roll, he allowed The Beatles to more or less do their own thing. If they had been with Norrie, or particularly with Wally, he would have said: ‘You do it this way, you do it that way’ and they may not have taken off like they did, but George virtually let them get on with it.

(Sid Coleman) made a record with (them) that I’d given him called How do you do it. They hated the song and made a terrible job of it. So then George asked me to produce them with Love me do and I did. I went in the studio – he had gone out with his girlfriend at the time – and he came back at ten-o-clock and asked them ‘Is there anything you don’t like?’ and George Harrison said ‘I don’t like your tie.’

I was the one who got rid of Pete Best. I was the first one in the studio with The Beatles for rehearsal. George asked me to take them into (Abbey Road) No.3 studio one afternoon. He rehearsed them with Please please me and one or two others. I had a thing about drummers in those days and I wanted him to do a double beat on his bass drum and he (Best) couldn’t do it. I thought ‘Well, he’s useless’. I said to George ‘Look, that drummer’s useless. You’ll have to get another one’. The next thing I hear they’ve got this drummer, Ringo. Ringo came into the studio when I was recording Love me do and I didn’t trust him. I’d never heard him play so I didn’t know if he was good, bad or indifferent, so I booked a session drummer to be safe – Andy White. He did the session and I told Ringo to go down and play the maracas (or, as Geoffrey Emerick remembers it – tambourine), which he did.”

Geoffrey Emerick had only just joined EMI as an assistant recording engineer, and fate was to pair him with The Beatles virtually from his first day at the Abbey Road studios. He began work under the auspices of established engineer Norman Smith

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“The conversation turned to the Beatles session we’d done earlier that week and all of the problems the drummer (Ringo Starr) was having. Apparently, the drummer they had turned up with for the artist test…had been so bad that he had been sacked a couple of months later.”(7)

Tony Barrow feels this autocratic approach was one of the key reasons why The Beatles’ early creativity was seemingly stifled.

“What it really should have taken was a Larry Parnes of the recording industry, but in those days there were no such people. It was the day of the A&R department; it had complete control. I think when The Beatles went into the recording studios for the first time. They found it a very unfriendly workplace. The producer was in control, the producer would say precisely where in the room they had to stand…’this is your microphone…no you can’t have that microphone over there…’ It was almost like the ‘X’ on the floor in the television studio. Because that’s how it was set up for a four-piece, that’s how it was done. Bright lights, very clinical, not conducive for musicians to work. They hated that. They also got the treatment every other newcomer got. The producer would say ‘OK, I’ve got a songwriter for you – his name’s Mitch Murray’. The tie up was directly between producers and music publishers. They brought the songs in. There was the great B-side thing where either the B-side actually written by the producer and was rubbish, or the producer would have written a couple of lines and would say to the band ‘OK, this is going down as band-producer and I want a quarter of the (royalties) on this.’

Wally Ridley at the time was regarded as the Godfather of EMI, having been responsible for a stream of huge hits for HMV in the 1950’s.

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“I never thought, and I still don’t to this day think they’re the best singers. I don’t think they’re the best instrumentalists…. but the thing they had, the thing that I preached about and the thing that I bought 20,000 shares in were their songs – that was their magic. You can forget everything else. Give me the songs.” (2)

Wayne Bickerton whose link to The Beatles came via Pete Best, who after being dropped by The Beatles joined the band he was in, Lee Curtis & The Allstars, makes this assessment.

“Before The Beatles came along, the UK music industry had no real significance. What The Beatles did was twofold. They changed the whole face of popular music and turned the United Kingdom into a serious exporting industry. If they hadn’t done that, God knows where we would be today – I think that’s something that hasn’t really been acknowledged. They broke the mould, turned the whole damn business upside down and made people realise – hey, we’ve got something special; we can take it back across the pond, which they did and other acts followed over the next 20 years. Everybody who earns money, from a record company to the Performing Rights Society has The Beatles to thank.”

Colin Burn, long-serving EMI employee remembers his first encounter.

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“I first met The Beatles when they came in to do The Friday Spectacular (an EMI sponsored programme for Radio Luxembourg, recorded at the Company’s Manchester Square, London, headquarters). They were miming on stage, had only just released their first record. They had driven down in a van and were parked outside EMI and were sleeping there overnight. They hadn’t got any money, not a bean. I gave them loads of cups of coffee and we had sandwiches and biscuits upstairs.”
LG (Len) Wood was Managing Director of EMI from 1959 to 196?, and a hugely influential figure in the British music industry.

“(Brian) Epstein had taken the group (on) the rounds. He’d gone to three of our four A&R men and been turned down, he’d been to Decca and been turned down and he was pretty disconsolate. But by the grace of God he went into the HMV shop in Oxford Street where there was a private recording studio, so if you were a private person and you wanted to make a little recording or have something transferred from disc to tape or tape to disc, you would go in there and have it done. Epstein had got some demonstration tapes which (the A&R men, apart from George Martin) had turned down, so he thought, well, ‘the best thing to do is to go round the music publishers and see if I can get any support there.’ But to do that he needed to have the tapes transferred to disc…. and when he called for them next day the young man who was running the studio just made the comment that he thought there were very attractive recordings and ’why don’t you get a recording deal?’ Epstein, I suppose, explained to him what his problems were, and the fellow said to him, ‘ Well, EMI’s music publishing company is on the next floor, the fellow’s name is Coleman, Why don’t you have a word with him?’ Coleman liked the recordings but again said ‘If I’m to get involved in this you’ve got to have a record deal.’ It was explained to him what happened and he said ‘have you tried George Martin?’ And he hadn’t. So he (Coleman) rang through for George Martin and asked George if he would give them an audition. Which George did, wasn’t terribly impressed, but thought there might be something there and signed them up.” (3)

Then there are the “might-have-been” stories. Jeffrey Kruger, whose London Flamingo Club was a unique source of new jazz talent for Tony Hall’s Decca-owned Topic label in the Fifties, is one for whom life could have been different.

“I knew Brian Epstein via NEMS – he was one of our main dealers who helped sell Ember Records and I didn’t want to upset him. He told me he had this group and couldn’t find a record company interested in recording them. He called me to say he was coming to London and made an appointment to have lunch with me on the Monday. On the way down on the Sunday his parents made him go to a Jewish wedding. He sat next to Dick James and his wife at the wedding and was pressured by his family to do a deal with Dick for the publishing. Dick confirmed to me years later that if Brian hadn’t gone to that wedding, I’d have got the publishing and the recordings”

Dick James’s slant on events, as recalled in 1974, is somewhat different.

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“A young songwriter called Mitch Murray came to see me with songs one day and I very much liked one of them entitled How do you do it. He’d been walking it around Denmark Street for about six months without any success. I took the song to George Martin who liked it and said he’d try it out with a new group from Liverpool called The Beatles. But when we heard their versions both George and I agreed it wasn’t very good. George offered to put it on the B-side of Love me do, the first Beatles’ single, but I thought it was too good for a B-side. So George said he’d try and make it the A-side of their next disc. Nothing happened for about four months, and then in late October 1962, George rang me. That telephone call was the turning point, though I didn’t realise it at the time. George said he had some bad news for me. He explained The Beatles didn’t feel they could do much with the song…… then he gave me some good news. The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein was looking for a publisher to work with him full-time because he had a number of other artists he wanted to launch. He wanted a publisher who would really work the song, the artist and the record – and George had strongly recommended me.” (4)

Epstein met James and played him ‘Please please me’. James immediately played it over the phone to Phillip Jones, producer of Thank Your Lucky Stars who booked them there and then for the first show after the record’s release, January 12, 1963. Don Arden, however, is convinced that the phone call was a set-up, that James knew Thank Your Lucky Stars had wanted The Beatles, had pre-arranged the phone call to impress Epstein. (6). It obviously worked!

“At this point I didn’t even have the song, but my enthusiasm apparently impressed Brian Epstein and I was certainly impressed by his enthusiasm. So the deal was done and we went to lunch. Over the meal he told me the Mitch Murray song was going to be recorded by another of his groups, Gerry & the Pacemakers. At last our faith in the song was justified. Not only did Please please me make No.1, but so did How do you do it. We went on to chalk up seven No.1’s in seven months.” (4)

Tony Bramwell agrees that it was the promise of national television that clinched the deal, but also his naivety in the long-established world of music publishing, “He blindly believed everything that Dick James told him, and thought he was lucky to have found him.” (5)

John Burgess, at that time Norman Newell’s assistant at EMI, has his slant on the story.

“EMI missed out on the publishing purely and simply because Sid Coleman, signed the first two sides the Beatles recorded at the HMV shop. Sid had sent the demos over to George Martin, which was unusual for Sid because he was Norman Newell’s best friend. However, Norman was in America at the time and Sid felt he had to make a fairly quick decision so he sent them to George instead. Norman asked him afterwards why he hadn’t sent them to me. I don’t know what my reaction would have been. He heard the tracks and liked them, and I think those two or three titles still remain with EMI Publishing today. George then got hold of Dick James, who was struggling at the time, almost going bust, because he felt that Dick would do a better job than EMI. He didn’t get involved, just recommended it, and Epstein did the deal. Dick James actually offered George a large percentage and George rejected it. (I think) George was the only guy at EMI to have heard The Beatles. I’m pretty sure Norrie (Paramor) never heard them because he was tied up with Cliff Richard or Ruby Murray at the time.”

Publicist Tony Barrow was at the heart of The Beatles’ phenomenon. How does he remember it?

“The way I’ve always thought of it is of the whole thing being an enormous Cinemascope screen and we were standing with our nose right up against the screen. We couldn’t possibly see the complete picture at the time and it was only years afterwards that we were able to sit back in the stalls and re-run the whole thing that we appreciated the enormity of it all.”

So – just as Thomas Edison and Emile Berliner had no concept of what they had invented, so the most important band in the history of popular recorded music nearly never recorded at all. And some of those still remembered primarily for their Beatle associations, can point to luck as the key factor.

Why? Because music is all about personal taste and business is about making profit. The music business is all about balancing the two. It’s a thread that we will see appearing time and time again as we journey through this extraordinary business.

(1) The Complete Beatles Chronicle, Mark Lewisohn, p.53
(2) EMI interview with Chris Ellis, 1996
(3) EMI interview with Rupert Perry
(4) Music Week April 27, 1974
(5) Magical Mystery Tours – My Life with The Beatles, Tony Bramwell, Robson Books, 2005
(6) Mr Big, Don Arden, Robson Books, 2004
(7) Here, There & Everywhere – My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles, Geoff Emerick, Gotham Books, 2006

 

Copy © David Hughes 2019. Photos from Google search and for illustration purposes only.

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

A Personal History of the British Record Industry 73 – Ronald (Ronnie) Bell.

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Ronnie Bell, before and after his toupe, is one of the music industry’s top unsung, forgotten even, heroes. Despite the fact that he wrote, and published two versions of his memoirs, try and search for him online and you’ll find nothing! I interviewed him some 20 years ago at his house in Burwell, Cambridgeshire. I have canvassed all my old music business friends via Facebook; they all remember him with great fondness but no one knows what happened to him. I tried the old home phone number – no reply. Were he still alive he would be 103! If anyone knows, do let me know.

Here are his two books, and following that is what he had to tell me that day, before a Branston Pickle sandwich prepared by his devoted wife Peggy.

 

 

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I was born in Cambridge but my parents left when I was about three and they moved to Brixton. When I came out of the Navy (see above) my parents were living in Hayes, and I walked all round the local factories. I eventually got a job in the Goods Inward department of EMI, helping to load and unload and check the manifests. (in those days EMI was making radios and televisions, not just records, and it was the beginning of the television era.) There was a lot of activity there.

I did that for some months. then an incredible piece of good fortune occurred. The foreman, a big ex-guardsman, charming chap but not literate, was involved in an accident with a car which smashed up his cycle and he asked me to help write the letters to the insurance company. He got compensation – a brand new bicycle. He said to me ‘you ought to be doing something better’, but I had no qualifications as I had been a signalman in the Navy. He spoke to a man called Jack Jarvis, and when I delivered a package to him, he asked if I would like to do something different. The pay on the Goods Inward job was not good and I had a young wife and a little baby. He asked me to join the Correspondence Department, which communicated with all the dealers, their complaints on orders. I was there for some time. In a way, it was a hole in the corner job, but better than what I was doing. My wife worked at EMI in the Wages Department. She used to pay a lot of people every week and built up quite a lot of contacts, There was a man in the Export Department called Mackenzie Smith (Aubrey Mackenzie Smith, died August 17, 1971 aged 54 by which time he was International Sales Manager) and he told my wife he was looking for someone to make the tea and learn the business. She said ‘I know the very one – my husband’. She got me an interview with Max Smith, which effectively got me into the business. You see, I was a choirboy for seven  years in a famous London choir, men and boys, one of the best in the country. That gave me a broad knowledge, so when I went to see Mackenzie Smith I knew something about Brahms, Beethoven and Schuman. He was impressed and he gave me a job – that’s how I started.

Then I worked with Stanley Stern, he was in charge of the Export Records and Matrix Department. The structure in those days was slightly complicated. The people who actually did the work didn’t get the direct credit – the managerial people above did. The man in charge of me was called Robert Dockerill, a veteran Columbia man from the earliest days, a little Cockney man, no nonsense, a disciplinarian, but a very nice kind man. He was my boss along with Stanley Stern. I worked in Stern’s office. We used to audition records from all the licensees all over the world…from Germany, Italy, Africa, France. In those days the quality of French pop, for instance, was wonderful – you got a stream of lovely songs, intelligent lyrics.

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Ronnie then showed me some of the old (1950’s) release monthly supplements around the time the 45rpm singles were starting to appear.

Dockerill used to plan the supplements, three, six months ahead. He progressed it all through the plant and the supplements appeared monthly. He was the brain behind that. I worked with a chap called David Evans, who left EMI and became a Roman Catholic priest – he ended up as chaplain at Wormwood Scrubs. This was the 50’s. You may remember that the microgroove record burst like a bomb on the 78 traditional business. EMI came into existence because when radio came in the late 20’s, record companies were frightened. They thought ‘this is going to be end of us – who’s going to buy records when you can switch on the radio?’ How wrong they were! Nothing sells records like a play in the on the air. That’s why promotion men came into the picture.

EMI was formed as a sort of defensive body against this new invasion of entertainment – radio. When radio became generally available – the end of the 20’s, beginning of the 30’s – the big record companies were HMV, Columbia, Parlophone, Regal Zonophone – they were all separate companies and came together as EMI to ensure their survival. That’s how EMI was born. American Columbia was associated with the British Columbia label for 50 years or more, the same way that RCA was connected with HMV. When the microgroove record emerged, C.H. Thomas (the MD at the time) was absolutely amazed at the prospect of someone listening to Perry Como -twelve songs one after the other. There was an editorial in The Gramophone . Tony Pollard will tell you about that.

But didn’t Decca lead the way?

Decca were the first – EMI were reluctant followers. They didn’t believe in it (microgroove records) and it would cost them dearly. RCA broke away from HMV after many years, American Columbia broke away from UK Coloumbia. EMI, from the record point of view, was facing extinction. The English product at the time – all the old dance bands of Roy Fox, Ambrose, Jack Hylton, Henry Hall – they were the main basis of the British business, but that wasn’t enough for long term survival. Decca was ahead of the field – that was the clever Mr (Ted) Lewis – so they decided to license Capitol Records of America. But then The Almighty was shining on EMI, because they bought Capitol when there was a torrent of wonderful musicals, fast selling LP’s. They got Oklahoma, The King & I, South Pacific. These brought LP sales to a wonderful volume for EMI. They saved themselves by that purchase and swiftly moved from near disappearance from the scene into a leading role once more.

This is the truth I’m telling you, but not many people would be aware of it except those who were there at the time. David Evans and myself, under Mr. Dockerill’s tutelage, used to sit and analyse the 78rpm sales figures and we would decide what is durable and what is transient. The things that had a durable life we put onto microgroove. David Evans did all the classical – I was a bit jealous of him because I would have liked to do the classical. I had to do the middle of the road – people like George Melachrino, Norrie Paramor – all the EMI labels.

(To add a personal note here. In the early 80’s, sadly, not long before he died, I was Bob Dockerill’s final manager. I was aware that in the late 50’s/early 60’s he was the arbiter, not only determining which titles were worthy of continuing with on 45 and 33rpm discs, but he also headed the committee that decided which new recordings submitted to him by A&R were worthy of release at all. Bob’s last job was the other side of that coin, submitting to me lists of titles that should be deleted from the catalogue. I don’t think I ever disagreed with him! I also mention this in Post no.10 – Colin Burn Part 2, February 2015)

After about four years C.H. Thomas made me MGM manager. I used to go to that wonderful EMI record library at Hayes which has RCA America samples. It was an incredible choice of repertoire because EMI had so many licensees around the world. France in particular was a source of wonderful repertoire and a lot of it is there. The ‘Cabaret in Paris’ LP’s did very and went to about Volume 7 before we exhausted it. EMI bought David and me a stop watch each and we were allowed to visit the library and choose titles, time them and prepare them ready for manufacture at the plant. We handed them all to Mr Dockerill and he progressed it all through. It was a most fascinating and enjoyable time but nobody would know about it.

I fell on my feet at MGM. There were people like Connie Francis who had a giant seller with ‘Who’s Sorry Now’ and there was a mann called Marvin Rainwater who had one very big hit in Britain, ‘Whole Lotta Woman’ I promoted these as well.

There is a piece in Record Retailer 32 years ago, which says about youSome people look on me as a little too old for the game’ (that would have been in 1968!)

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That’s right! I did have a spell with CBS, the American company. Of course they had Andy Williams, Barbra Streisand, lot of major artists. They were very greedy unpleasant people. I didn’t like them at all, but I was promotion manager there for about five years…

Shall we start with MGM?

I initially chose the repertoire for release and subsequently promoted it through the BBC, the disc jockeys and the provincial radio stations, Radio Luxembourg and the pirates. There were great musicals on MGM like Annie Get Your Gun.

Who were the key promotion people when you started at MGM?

For Philips, Paddy Fleming. RCA had an incorrigible Irishman called Tommy Loftus (see parts 72 & 72 of these interviews). Pye had Johnny Wise, Decca had Tony Hall – they were the principal ones. In those days the key DJ’s were David Jacobs, Pete Murray, Jimmy Savile, Jimmy Young, Tony Blackburn. We were the perpetual mendicants. We had to be very diplomatic. I once made a bad mistake and rang a disc jockey about an important single when he was at dinner. He was furious and dropped me like a hot potato. I met him about three months later in the corridors of the BBC and said ‘I’m sorry – mea culpa’  and he patted me on the shoulder and put the record (I think it was Shirley Bassey) in his programme three times!

The peak plugs were Juke Box Jury on television. That was a marvellous thing; the chances of getting in there with 60-70 releases a week, were very slim. But you had to try and and on occasion I got one or two. That was David Jacobs of course and Johnny Stewart was the producer. We had to cultivate relations with these people on a professional basis. There was a hoo-ha one time about payola, giving them money. I suppose I could say I was one of the principal promotion men and the last thing I would have done is offer them anything. If it went on, it was at a higher level than mine. It never went on with us – once you do that you destroy a relationship. Lower down the DJ scale there was some of it, but not at the level I’m talking about. David Jacobs was a supreme professional. Jimmy Savile was an eccentric but we must never forget he’s raised thousands of pounds for Leeds hospital (n.b. this interview long preceded the JS revelations).

The other (peak) plug was Two Way Family Favourites which was a happy occasion once a week (Sunday) when a huge family of some 50 million listeners tuned in. Bill Crozier in Cologne where the British Forces Network had their transmittor, and here with Jean Metcalfe. The rapport between thes two was very enjoyable. It was designed for soldiers in Germany to choose a record for their families back home, and the reverse as well. It was the ace plug, because if you got on there with the right record, it would be rolling by Tuesday.

Another powerful source in those days was Radio Luxembourg. We promotion men would fly over occasonally, and we’d see the late, very charming Barry Aldiss and before him Keith Fordyce. But we learned quickly it was no use going over there with anything; you had to have something very strong, otherwise you were wasting your time. It was contemporary with the record companies having their (sponsored) programmes. Luxembourg used to be partly record company sponsored, but they also had a lot of needletime left over which depended on Barry, Keith and later Geoffrey Everitt.

Another favourite target for the promo man was Housewives’ Choice –  every day if you could get in there. That was run by some very nice BBC ladies , including Doreen Davies._88432369_88432368.jpg

George Elrick recent died (December 15, 1999) – he was one of the best-known presenters of Houswewives’ Choice

Oh yes, and he was also the manager of a Welsh singer called Maureen Evans. I knew George very well. Maureen Evans could have been a major star but she was madly in love with a solicitor in Cardiff and we could never get her to London to do promotion. That’s when I was at Oriole. She was relatively easy to promote on the air, but wouldn’t come to London for television – spoilt her career, In the end she married someone else! I took her to Cologne for German television – she did a rehearsal, then we had the afternoon free. We went to the pictures and saw such a funny film, a detective story. The heroine was a large German blonde, very well built in a diaphanous dress. The detective was a chap who reminded me of Jimmy Durante. It was so over the top it was hilarious., Sitting in front of us were two men with shiny bald heads. The light from the screen was shining on them and it made them look like two huge….  Maureen started giggling and she set me off, The attendant came and said ‘you must go’ and we got chucked out!

You haven’t mentioned Jack Jackson

He was a great jazz man. I used to deal with him with people like Fats Waller and all the big jazz names on EMI. He was very erudite – there was probably no one else in Britain who knew more about American jazz artists than he did, and of course he wrote books about it. I used to send him samples but he was a perfectionist and we had some tussles. To the jazz purist, a session by a great solo artist is sacred. If there were four titles in the session, you could make an EP of them, but we had a commercial approach and chose the four strongest titles, but probably from different sessions. Jack couldn’t stand that – he thought it was sacrilege. He wrote to C.H. Thomas about it and Mr Thomas called me in and said ‘look at that’ and showed me the letter. I told him the approach was to sell records and not to justify the purist aspirations of jazz fans. The number of true jazz fans is quite small, but people will buy a jazz record with a well-known title. Fortunately Mr Thomas agreed with me.

You went from MGM to Top Rank?

After about four years. It was money. I had a mortgage and two little children. EMI were never good payers. I found it hard going so when Rop Rank offered me a repertoire job, it was twice as much as I was getting at EMI.

Was Colin Burn there?

Yes, I think he was. The managing director, Scottish chap, Mr MacLeod I think he was, hada no knowledge at all of the record business. He was appointed by the great ones to

Rank to a job for which he didn’t have the background. I dealt with a marvellous company in the United States called Vanguard. They had superb classical reperetoire. We did a deal with them and I released a lot of Vanguard recordings. It was a brief and interesting time.

Then I went to Oriole in Oxford Street. That brings in Mr (Morris) Levy. He was an extraordinary mixture of perspicacity, shrewdness and folly. He could not delegate. He was one of the nicest people I ever met and he always treated Peggy and me with great kindness, but he had no musical knowledge. I showed him a record of quartets and he said ‘how many are in the orchestra’? But he was terribly clever. He built a pressing plant at Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire, and that was a jewel indeed. And of course he did this deal with Woolworths for Embassy Records. He had an A&R man called Reg Warburton and he used to get early copies of emerging hits and he’d copy them. He had a roster of unknown talented singers – Ray Pilgrim was one, very good voice, Mike Redway was another, and Clinton Ford. He would copy the original and when it was played in Woolworths people would think it was the same one they were hearing on Housewives’ Choicve and they bought it. When CBS bought Oriole they were amazed at the solvency of the company – they were doing very well because of Embassy. They had one LP that never stopped selling – Salad Days.

That must have been a strange experience being at Oriole when CBS were using the facilities and then bought it?

Of all the companies I’ve been with, the one I liked least is CBS. I was about 40 by then I think, The Americans weren’t interested if we had success with people like Rosemary Clooney or Andy Williams, their big selling artists. They thought they were automatic hits and you didn’t have to work on them. We got no credit for a hit like I left my heart in San Francisco by Tony Bennett, for example. They said anybody could plug that – perhaps they were right. We were entering the era when ghastly groups were emerging, sweaty youths strumming guitars and bellowing into a microphone making ghastly noises…..but millionaires for God’s sake!

Before CBS took over Oriole you had a period there with Motown and with John Schroeder’s trips to Liverpool

Motown was a hot label and its first attempt to break into the British market was with Oriole, so I had all those wonderful people to work on, which I did, but only for a little while, because EMI bought the licence. The man who ran Motown didn’t have any loyalty to Mr Levy for bringing him into the British market. It was unfair in a way because he didn’t give Oriole the time to promote the artists to big sales. It was like The Seekers. The first person The Seekers saw when they came to England was me – Mr Levy sent them to me. They belonged to an Australian company called Festival Records. Mr Levy made an error. The management of The Seekers presented certain conditions and terms that he couldn’t accept and they went to EMI.

What about the Motown music?

I’ve got to be truthful here. From the point of view of my own sensibilities I found a lot of it horrible. But I was very wrong about that – it was extremely commercial and there was a great demand for it. They left us and I was very sad about it. They went to the (promotion) hands of a friend of mine, Peter Prince, and he did a good job.

 

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l-r Marvin Gaye, Peter Prince, James Fisher, Smokey Robinson

I think Ronnie must have been getting tired by this point and the conversation meanders a bit, but stick with it…it’s worth it!

What I found fascinating in promotion was that some records got exposure on Housewives Choice and started selling straightaway. With others there was no movement for weeks. One like that was American Pie by Don McLean. The lyrics were unintelligible to most British people so I wrote to the American company and asked them to explain the significance of the lyric. The record obviously had potential, an infectious hit. None of the DJ’s were interested, despite all my efforts…we nearly lost it altogether. Week after week went by and there are two people to whom the credit of that record belongs – Alan Freeman and his producer Dennis Jones. They saw its potential from the beginning and each week they would ask ‘Is it moving?” and I had to say, “trickling, nothing much.” I distributed the lyrics to everyone so that when they were doing their scripts they had something to work on. After about ten weeks Dennis Jones said to me “we’re going to have to drop it – we can’t hold it much longer.” On the eleventh week it began. It went very quickly then and everybody else took it up. The follow-up Vincent was a big hit too. Don insisted on me having a silver disc.

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Shirley Bassey’s quite a character. She could have been a comedienne. She’s a very funny lady. What used to amuse her was that at the London concerts for some inexplicable reason (!!) there were usually several homosexuals in the front seats and they all wanted to reach and touch her hand – they love her you know. This used to amuse her. There was a lovely DJ called Roger Moffatt on Radio 1

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He was young and charming – one of the elite DJ’s in the early days. He blotted his copybook by using a rude word on air  – today he would have got promotion! – but in those days he was taken off and sent into exile to Radio Hallam in Sheffield. He rang me one day and asked for an interview with Shirley Bassey. I asked her and she said ‘tell him to come to my dressing room at the interval’ Roger came along and I knocked on her door. Miss Bassey is like any other human being; she has days when she is not feeling all that well and this was one of her off days. When she’s on stage of course she’s always a million dollars. I knocked on the door and said ‘Roger’s here’ and she said ‘tell him to naff off’ and he was right behind me. I said to Roger ‘I suppose you won’t play the record now” but he did. Later on I said ‘Miss Bassey, you didn’t treat him very well. You agreed to an interview and you didn’t give it to him.’ ‘I know’ she said ‘ and I feel bad about it. Tell him to send me an open tape with questions on it and I’ll answer it.’ And she did.

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Miss Bassey with (hooray!) a Disc & Music Echo silver disc. Ronnie, and toupe, is on the far right, but who are all the others? Update April 10, 2019 – Alan Warner has provided a left to right: Alan Warner (unrecognisable with beard!), Stephanie (UA UK press officer), Dennis Knowles, Dame Shirley, Martin Davis, Noel Rogers and Ronnie Bell.

 

I first met Shirley Bassey in Denmark Street in 1958. There were some wonderful music publishers along there, wonderful little street. Jimmy Phillips gave a party to which, as the MGM man, I was invited and that was the first time I saw Miss Bassey. I didn’t realise the part she would play in my life in later years. She’d just come up from Cardiff and was making her first record with Norman Newell.

How important were the music publishers to you in those days?

There was notably Cyril Symonds at Leeds Music, very shrewd, intelligent, a Jewish gentleman, very nice. When Ken Glancy (see next paragraph) cast me out into the wilderness, Cyril and another publisher Dave Toff, a lovely chap, said ‘we’ve got a telephone, a desk and a chair and you can have it until you’re settled.’

I meant to tell you about CBS. Ken Glancy came over. CBS wanted to achieve success with English artists. The A&R man – and you’ll never meet an A&R man who will admit to making a duff record; it’s always the promotion man who’s let the side down – Reg Warburton was the man. He was good at copying but he wasn’t good at creating. I used to be the eloquent advocate of records I believed in, and they weren’t always the same ones the company wanted. Ken Glancy’s reputation depended on English success, but the records were nothing special. Rumours started circulating…’Ron’s a nice chap but he’s too old and he doesn’t understand the product.’ I got a message from Ken Glancy’s secretary to go and see him. I went in there. He was engrossed in Billboard and had a cigar like a chair leg in his mouth puffing smoke everywhere. He kept me there for about ten minutes before he put his paper down and said ‘we’ve decided to dispense with your services – we’ll give you a month’s money.’ I said ‘when do I leave, now?’ ‘When you like’ he said, ‘within the week?’ I left straightaway. I was out of work for 36 hours. My friend Johnny Wise at Pye told Louis Benjamin. Louis Benjamin was a managing director who really understood the complexities of record promotion – all the regional and pirate stations. You could show Louis Benjamin a plug sheet and you’d think he’d be pleased, but he’d say ‘where’s so-and-so, couldn’t you get on so-and-so’s show’? He really understood it and he gave me a job for 12 months.

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Louis Benjamin with Petula Clark and Tony Hatch

Everyone seems to have had a great respect for Louis Benjamin.

He was a fine man. I knew Pye were carrying me as a passenger. Johnny Wise was one of the best in the business. They really didn’t need me – it was an act of kindness by Louis Benjamin and was able to contribute something. Then I read in Music Week that Liberty Records was going independent and break away frm EMI, so I wrote to Al Bennett in America (he was the Alvin in The Chipmunks). I got a reply referring me to Bob Reisdorf, who gave me a job on the spot. So I thanked Pye and left to go to Liberty. We looked at various offices and chose one in Albemarle Street. He told me they were prepared to wait two or three years for profit, but they achieved it in less than two.

I worked for lovely people at Liberty. Canned Heat – I accompanied them on their European tour which included an open-air concert outside Amsterdam. Also Fifth Dimension – I looked after them when they came over, took them to television shows. Another very nice man I dealt with was Bing Crosby. I worked with him for three days when he came over to do an LP for United Artists, who by that time had bought Liberty, with Ken Barnes. It’s Bing at the end of his career, and it shows. It was rather sad.

For my last seven years I was the European man for United Artists..went three times to Moscow, to Poland, Bulgaria, all those countries except Albania and Romania. I even got a telegram from the head of the Russian State Concert Agency on my retirement!

I retired in 1980 when I was 65.

I was desolate at the time. but my family and grandsons have filled the gap.

And there we ended. Extraordinarily we didn’t touch on Ike & Tina Turner…maybe he talked about them during our Branston Pickle sandwich!  Ike Turner became firm friends with Ronnie during their UA years and they were still regularly in touch at time of our interview. So, for that reason alone, here’s a final photoIMG_0918.jpeg

 

text © David Hughes, 2019. Photos both from web search and copied from Ronnie’s two books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in A Life in Music - random memories, A Personal History of the British Record Business, Stories of the British Music Business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Personal History of the British Record Industry 72 – Tommy Loftus Pt.2 and conclusion.

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As mentioned in a recent update to Pt.1, I have to thank my pal of 50 years or more, Tony Byworth for coming up with two photos of Tommy. This one not only features him in animatedly full flow, but has the bonus of legendary, and now late, BBC radio producer Bill Bebb, and the very much still with us Nigel Hunter. For anyone who has ever been a record plugger, known a record plugger or wondered how a record got on the radio, read on. The last section says it all!

So now, on with Part 2. We left Tommy doing battle at BBC with a veritable scrum of fellow pluggers all vying for airplay for their chosen single. How did Tommy deal with it?

There was a lot of competition, a lot of record labels and a lot of publishers. The important thing was about making contact. I used to write to someone I didn’t know and mark the letter “personal’ because if you phoned him cold, the secretary would try and steer you off, but if you sent a letter I could say ‘he knows what it’s about – he’s got my letter’ You couldn’t charge in like a bull in a china shop. But when Harry (Walters) first told me about the job, I thought ‘this is hard – how do you just go in there; you don’t know these people; you’ve got to establish a rapport.’ After a few months and I’d become established, the doors were open to you. If you were lucky enough to have a hit artist, like Colin Burn had with Cliff Richard, nobody said ‘I don’t like that Cliff Richard record’. They say it now of course!

Parlophone was almost like an independent label. They had all sorts of things like the Salvation Army and The Goons – it was a mixture of things. I finished up in the promotion department. They changed their structure and we were working under the late Arthur Muxlow. He was in charge of the promotion department for all labels.2006BA1889_jpg_ds.jpg

Arthur is standing on the far right with (l-r), Sam Costa, David Jacobs, Ray Orchard and Jimmy Young. Who the two who are signing whatever, I have no idea, though the one on the left looks familiar! ( Richard Wootton has subsequently told me it’s Peter West whom I associated with sport and come Dancing!)

You were with EMI when the company moved to Manchester Square?

Yes. Head of promotion was Mel Thompson, a Canadian who moved back to Canada. There was also Syd Gillingham in press, Brian Mulligan, Edna Bowers, Fred Pearson (who moved to South Africa). In the promotion department was Victor Lebatti (?) – he also did artist liaison and artist promotions, Johnny Francis, Alma Warren who was Lita Roza’s sister and worked for Leeds Music after leaving EMI, Selwyn Turnbull, Gerry Corbett, Harry Norton (both deceased), Fred Faber. He looked after juke box promotion – you wouldn’t think about it today but it was an important part of promotion then.

It was really only EMI and Decca

We were the two majors. The receptions we had in those stars – the number of stars that passed through. They were a big part of the record company’s budget, visiting artists. It was a very exciting time.

And there were the paid Radio Luxembourg programmes

Yes, we had Alan Dell, David Gell, Judith Chalmers, Ray Orchard, Sam Costa, Jimmy Young.

When and why did you leave?

A guy called Dennis Berger who worked at Philips, was transferred to the label management area as assistant to Johnny Franz or Jack Baverstock. Which left a vacancy in the promotion department for the Fontana label. Paddy Fleming was head of promotion at Philips and he phoned me up and said there was a job going. In those days most of the jobs came from someone phoning you up. It was very rarely you replied to an advert in the paper. There were only so many experienced promotion people. It was a natural progression from one company to another. You got a bit more money, but we were in a low wage economy and when pension time came round the money we had in the system was zilch. Anyway, in 1963 I got an offer to go to Philips as Fontana promotion man reporting to Jack Baverstock and Paddy Fleming.

Had you been involved in The Beatles emeregence at Parlophone?

No. I think Fred Faber was involve with The Beatles. I did Adam Faith and that sort of thing.

Were you aware of the Selection Committee, which all new single releases had to go through and pass their judgement?

It rings a vague bell. EMI was virtually the recording company equivalent of the BBC. It was a civil service job; it believed in memos and selection committees. It also believed in a nine-to-five situation. The fact that you were out with Adam Faith until 10.30pm at Wimbledon Theatre was of no concern to EMI. They would complain if you hadn’t gone to see him and yet you were expected to be there from nine to five.

It’s the same, only it’s ten to six!

The other situation you had at EMI then – it was very formal. You didn’t call anyone by their christian names. It was Mr. This and Mr. That. When I got to Philips it was the same. Leslie Gould was Mr. Gould. When I got to RCA the managing director was a man called Bernard Ness and he said to me one day ‘what’s all this Mr. Ness business – you should call me Bernie.’I said I couldn’t do it – I was trained at EMI. The Managing Director was Mr Wood. He said ‘this is a different set up. You’re Tommy, I’m Bernie.’ But it took a long time. Ronnie Bell used to say ‘I am Mr Bell until I say to someone ‘call me Ronnie.” And he was right. We now live in a society where there is no respect at all. It’s only with advancing years that you realise Ronnie was right. He probably foresaw the collapse of discipline in our society. But we were an informal business.

Everybody says the atmosphere at Pye was so different, more warm and friendly. Perhaps they called him Louis?

Benjy, they called him. It was a more informal family atmosphere. I knew Issy Price very well. He was the head of promotion before he passed away.

Brian Mulligan says Philips was a disorganised company as opposed to EMI

Philips was an offshoot of the main organisation and I used to say to Paddy Fleming when Christmas bonus came along.’We’re in trouble Paddy; we haven’t had anything on the Top 10 for three months.’ And Paddy would say ‘we have our ups and downs but Philips looks after its employees.’ We still got the bonus. They were making fortunes from light bulbs, electronics, televisiions, hospital equipment.

So it was the same job, different premises

Yes. The only difference was that I was Promotions Manager at a later date at Philips, because Paddy Fleming had taken over the label management of Mercury. Then at a later date, a Radio Luxembourg disc jockey who I knew very well, Peter Aldersley, was called in as the first marketing manager of RCA records through having known Bernard Ness in a previous life. Peter got on the phone to me and said ‘it’s time we started working together.’ That was in 1969 and I think the job offered about £2,500 a year. The personnel guy was not too pleased about the salary being offered to me and asked me how I justified it. I explained that he was getting quality not quantity. I presumed I was coming into a seven year cycle in my life. I had done about four years as an entertainer, five years at EMI, six at Philips and so thought I was going to be with this outfit for seven years. The seven years stretched to nineteen, and at the end the product was not tops. I was the easy listening man – that was my kind of music. They decided to let me go at the age of 55. I said they had to give me my own area – I wasn’t reporting to the pop music man. Radio 2 had arrived and we did a launch party. I was looking at Elvis Presley and Perry Como making a tremendous comeback.

 

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Peter Aldersley and The King

Ken Glancy was a good MD?

Ken was an outstanding managing director; then he went back to America and became president of the whole operation. In this life everyone had different opinions about artists. Perry Como was a gentleman – he was real – what you saw was what you got. All the time I was with him, when a promotion man normally has to retreat into the background, he never allowed me to do that. No matter whom he met, he always said ‘here’s my man in London, Tommy Loftus, say hello to him.’ Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mercer, various people we met down the years. (American music publisher) Ivan Mogull once said to me about Perry Como ‘in your dealings with artists you will never meet another man like Perry Como’. Only Nat ‘King’ Cole was the same.

RCA had incredible historic repertoire but there must have been a real desperation to break UK talent.

That was the big challenge. The early stages were very difficult. Wonderful catalogue from Caruso to Elvis, built up over many years. How do you match it with home-grown product? The demand came from America. They wanted to establish themselves in the UK with new product.

Was the company recognising the wealth of its catalogue?

I don’t think they had any concept of the value of the catalogue. Lee Simmonds was the MOR label manager. He phoned me up after I’d left and said my product was coming out ‘nobody knows anything about them, so there’s no exposure.’ I said ‘The conpany let me go, what can I do?’ and he said ‘we’ve got to get you back on a freelance basis.’ so I got another three years. CD’s had arrived; now you had all the clarity and you could throw out the vinyl. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards had an album released for 99p. Here’s where the expertise comes in. I have to put in a monthly order for the product I want and how many copies. I have to think in terms of priorities, so I look at the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards for 99p and think, who do I give this to? There was a producer on late night radio called Ian Fenner. He liked military music and had a military band slot in his late night show, so I thought I’d put Ian down for one of these. I left it for him to listen to and he picked out the Amazing Grace track. Nobody was asking me ‘what’s happening to that 99p album?’ – they were only interesed in the full price albums. Ian phoned me and said ‘Have you listened to Amazing Grace?. I said ‘Ian, do you want an honest answer or a promotion man’s answer? Because the promotion man’s answer is ‘it’s sensational’ and the honest man’s answer is ‘I haven’t heard it.’! I gave him the honest man’s answer. He said ‘listen to it and tell me what you think.’ I put it on the turntable and phoned him back. I said ‘the hairs are standing up on the back of my neck.’ He said ‘it’s incredible.’ Next think I know Jack Dabbs is on the phone. ‘What’s this record you given to Ian Fenner that I haven’t had.’ Then I have to do a complete mail-out of the album to everyone. For six shillings you could buy the single and for less than £1 you could buy the album. The single was released on the response I was getting. They couldn’t argue with the facts – the radio was suddenly coming alive for me.

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I was like when I was at Parlophone and Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren did Goodness Gracious me. I only had to give it out. I didn’t have to say anything about it. For a start it was Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren on one record, and it was a very funny record. It had to be a monster hit. So the Amazing Grace thing was created by itself. Ian Fenner has gone to that great studio in the sky now, but he should be remembered as the man who played that record because he was interested in the music. (for completeness, Amazing Grace was in the charts for 24 weeks in 1972, four of them at No.1. It also reached No.11 in the American charts)

The record business for me was a time of a lot of insecurity because you never really felt safe in that job. It’s an element you can’t take out of the job. We had no say in any aspect of the operation except taking the finished product. We were the liaison people between the record conpany and the means of exposure.

What did you do with the records that others in the company thought were fantastic and you thought had no chance?

You really had great difficulty because the job of the promotion man is probably the greatest apprenticeship in the world for the diplomatic service! You can never go to an A&R man and tell him the record isn’t any good. You can never go to a songwriter and say ‘I don’t think much of that song/’ You have to be the supreme diplomat. You’ve got to tell them you’re not getting the response but you’ve got to phrase it in such a way that you don’t cause offence. One of the stock phrases we used was ‘it’s not what they’re looking for at the moment.’ We had a number of stock phrases we used. In later years as a freelance an artist called me up and said ‘I’d love you to work on my latest record.’ I said ‘send me the record and I’ll give you an honest answer.’ He said ‘I’m pretty sure we’ve got a hit record.’ I listened and thought it had 10% chance of getting on the air. It was Radio 2. I went to the head of playlist at Radio 2, Brian Stephens and asked him if he could stick the record into the next selection meeeting and tell me what kind of response it got. ‘I know what it’s going to be, but I can’t lie and I have to go back to the artist and tell him’ It got the thumbs down. I spoke to the artist and said ‘I’m afraid the response is not brilliant. I know you think it’s a great record, and perhaps it is, but we’re looking at a different world and a different time, and you’re looking at me from ten years ago. If you’d given me this record ten years ago I wouldn’t be making this phone call; I’d have started work on it straight away.’ He went back to the record company and said ‘Tommy Loftus can’t take it on – he’s too busy. We’ll have to get another promotion outfit.’So they got someone else to take it on and I found a box of the records in the post room at Radio 2, which had been left there by these other promotion people, just hoping the producers would take the records out. The promotion company had to be paid. They obviously had no faith in the record but they didn’t have the honesty to tell the guy. I couldn’t operate like that.

If there was one aspect of my life that dominated throughout all those years, it was insecurity. You had no say in what you were doing; you were out there with someone else’s product with which you had no connection. You were the last link in the chain – the fall guy. The sales department can say ‘it never got any airplay – no one heard it.’ and the A&R could say ‘we spent a lot of money making that record.’ The end of the line was the promotion man and he couldn’t pass the buck.

Did you get embroiled with the managers who insisted the company pay for independent promotion?

That went on all the time. You had to accept that that was part of the business. I reckon if I’d been the manager I would probably have done the same.

Your insecurity lasted you 30 years!

I had the insecurity of being freelance for ten yearts, but at least I was master of my own destiny then. Then I went to Ritz records, the Irish record label, Daniel O’Donnell and all that. I was there for five years. At the end of four years the whole music scene had changed dramatically at Radio 2, younger producers, different attitude. It had become Radio One-and-a-half. It was a total change of concept and artists were no longer welcome. I went to the MD and said ‘I’m not justifying my existence but I’m up against a stone wall of indifference’, and he reluctantly agreed to say farewell to me two years ago. You can’t stop forward movement in anything.

 

About 18 months ago “Sir” Walter Ridley phoned up and said he was going to the theatrical nursing home where Peter Brough was living to do a show with him and Archie Andrews. He asked me to compere the show. First person who spoke to me was Doris Hare from On the Buses. I introduced Peter, who came through and did his routine. Wally was on piano.

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I know at least two former record promotion men will read this. Was Tommy right? Oh, and Wally Ridley probably should have been knighted as you’ll discover when I get round to the lengthy interview I had with him.

Text ©David Hughes 2019. Photos used from the web for illustration distraction only!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 71 – Tommy Loftus

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Now here’s a challenge before I even start transcribing this interview from about 20 years ago. I remember Tommy Loftus as a name but, albeit I obviously spent an hour or two with him at the time, I cannot remember his face. He is unlikely to still be with us, as he says he was 68 at the time of the interview but his name remains legendary in the golden days of record promotion men – up there with Tony Hall, Tony Bramwell, The Man in Black, Adrian Rudge….well, feel free to add to the list. Google can find nothing, zilch, on Mr Loftus..no words, never mind a photograph. Hopefully this interview will awaken a few memories and provide some more information. Meanwhile, here’s the first part of what he told me back around the turn of the century.

STOP PRESS! Thanks to friend of 50+ years, Tony Byworth, I now have not one, but two photos of Tommy, both taken on a “jolly” trip aboard a boat owned by Terry King, who is here with Terry and  mysterious plastic bag. The other one will open Part 2 of Tommy’s story.

I earned a living in the entertainment business as a compere, comedian in the pubs and clubs, American Forces bases in Europe. I was appearing at Collins Music Hall in Islington  – you were paid zilch  but it was a famous showcase for agents.000024.jpg

A guy called Johnny Lawson came in one night and said he booked bases in Germany and France. I went out for $100 a week – I was getting £7 at Islington. I did the auditions out there and stayed for three months. On the American bases you had four clubs – the Officers’ Club, the Sergeants’ club (the N.C.O’s club), the Enlisted Men’s club (that was for the GI’s, the toughest club of all) and you had the Special Services club. So you had four layers where you could appear in one week. You’d only do one of the clubs a night, then you might come back two weeks later and do another club. The toughest club was The Enlisted Men’s. If the G.I’s didn’t like you, you might finish up with an imprint of a Budweiser Club in your face if you were unlucky. The best club was Special Services. This was run by ladies from the USA, known affectionately by the GI’s as Stateside rejects, all rather plump homely ladies. Their job was to make the coffee, home made apple pie like Mom used to make them back home. The guys who went to that club wanted to see a show and they weren’t going to make trouble. When the agent said ‘we’ve got you the Special Services Club” you thought, ‘well, that’s going to be a nice evening, no big problem, there

You were the MC holding it all together?

MC’s were always in demand. A lot of these acts were Scandinavian, German, Austrian.

Where had you got that experience?

I started as a youngster on the west coast of Ireland,County Mayo. I always had this thing fr the stage. I used to do the local school concerts and graduated to entertaining the patients in the sanatorium where TB was the big killer. There was a lot of charity work we could do, and that’s where I got some sort of experience. Coming to Britain I had to accept work where I could, the pubs and clubs of northern England, working men’s clubs, theatre like Collins and the Queen’s Theatre, Poplar.

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It was the end of the Music Hall era. I remember working with Dave Allen in Northampton. He decided to emigrate to Australia and arrived there when televisiion was in its infancy, so he learned and gained all his experience at the Australians’ expense. When he came back to Britain of course he knew it all. Television was about to take over and live variety was on the way out.

I was recommended for the EMI job (by Pat Campbell, who was at Decca. He was part of a group called The Four Ramblers, which consisted of him, two others and Val Doonican, and they used to tour quite a bit before Val went solo. I had worked with Pat on a number of occasions and he phoned me up one day and asked me what I was doing. I said ‘not a lot’ and he said it was time to decide what my future was going to be. He said ‘do what I’m doing’ (he’d moved to Decca Records on the recommendation of David Jacobs who knew him from broadcasting). He’d settled in as the RCA man at Decca. By a strange freak of fate, many years later I was the first RCA promotions manager when they went independent. So in other words I took Pat’s job…but that was 11 years later.

He knew Harry Walters, the label manager at Mercury Records. I said ‘I don’t know anything about the record business – I’ve got a few records, that’s all.’ Pat said ‘well, you’ve got a good apprenticeship, you should be able to handle it.’ So with some trepidation I followed through on this and phoned Harry Walters and made an appointment to see him. He said ‘we’re taking a chance, but come in on Pat’s recommendation and that’s how a lot of people come into this business. You’ll have to go on a probationary periuod for three months to see how you handle it etc.’

I arrived at EMI, 8-11 Great Castle Street, in October 1958. I worked for Mercury Records. I worked on the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace”, Billy Eckstine’s”Gigi, thos types of records.

 

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In the area, as I remember, was Peter Prince, Ron Richards, Colin Burn – and I was the new boy. Harry said ‘You’ve got to go up to the BBC and make a start. Housewives Choice is the big programme. You have to try and make contact with the producer and the presenter as they come out of the studio into the lobby of Broadcasting House, so you’re lying in wait for them!’

So I said ‘I am the hit man?’ I went up to Broadcasting House one morning and discovered the place was full of music publishers and all sorts of people who had the same concept in mind and I had. There was a place called Yarners Coffee Ltd about five minutes walk down Regent Street. Having changed to various businesses, I passed it recently – it’s now a Starbucks – gone back to its original function. Yarners Coffee was a place upstairs where you had all the old machines grinding the coffee and it was the place where the average promotion man of music publisher took Edmundo Ros or Pat Osborne for coffee and chatted and then it came round to the inevitable discussion about what records they had. There had to be requests sent into Housewives Choice and the only way you could get something played was if some woman from Ormskirk wrote in and said ‘Could you play someething nce for my mum’s birthday on Tuesday?’ I used to have trouble getting The Big Bopper in for that one, but I did succeed with Gigi .

Did the presenters have some say in the content?

They had some say in some cases, but it was the producer who put the programme toegether. The presenter arrived in the studio with the pile of records arranged and a pile of postcards laid out for him. Pat Osborne, Isabel Burdette, Lilian Duff, Michael Bell, Teddy Warwick. They had a rota that came around for presenters.  They weren’t professional DJ’s as they are today. I was dealing with people like Jack Train, Sam Costa, Max Bygraves, Dickie Murdoch who were really personalities, not disc jockeys,

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Sam Costa and Jack Train.

Was that the same for ‘Two Way Family Favourites’?

That was produced by Jack Dabbs, with Jean Metcalfe here and Bill Crozier in Cologne. We used to go to Cologne once every three months or so to meet up with Bill and make him aware of what we had. You had to be very discreet in those days. In the old days of music publishing they used to pay for plugs. But that was all cleaned up and when the record companies came on the scene it had to be totally open and above board. The only thing you could do was to make the people concerned aware of what you were working on, and hope it would fit into the format they were using.

The amazing thing about Family Favourites was that if you got a record on, you could just go home for two weeks. EMI didn’t need you – they were too busy pressing records! There was nothing in history like it and there never will be again…a programme that had such power. All the pirates and commercial radio came along and that power was diminished. Two-Way Family Favourites was the prime slot on radio.

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Bill Crozier, and Jean Metcalfe with Cliff Michelmore

When I moved to Philips we managed to get Julie Rogers’ The Wedding on Family Favourites. Robin Richmond was producing at that time. He wasn’t enamoured with the song but he could see its potential for the audience. If the producer had the ability to detach himself from his own personal taste then you had a chance with something like that. Robin put The Wedding into Family Favourites and it was a runaway success – monster hit. Jack Dabbs on the other has was a jazz man. You had to say to him ‘Jack, keep an open mind on this one. Ypu’re probably going to hate it but at least listen to it.’ In those days you could do that, but in today’s world if a disc jockey doesn’t like the record he’s not going to play it.

Many years later at RCA we picked up an independent label and put out this record by Billy Eckstine. There was a guy working at RCA called Paul Williams. There are three Paul Williams in the business, composer, musician, producer, and this one now works at RCA in New York. He said ‘we’re putting out this album by Billy Eckstine. He’s in South Africa at the moment and he’s going back to the States via Holland so if we bring him into London can we get him some exposure?’ I sai ‘no problem.’ Billy came into London for a week with his accompanist, Bobby Tucker. I’d never met Billy in my life before. I told him I’d worked on Gigi all those years before and he said ‘that’s incredible.’ Then I told him that the label manager at Mercury at that time was Harry Walters, who had moved to the BBC. I said that Harry had insisted Billy’s version of the song was a hit. My life was hanging by a thread on this record but we did get the hit. Then I put him on the phone to Harry at the BBC and he said ‘Hello, Harry – this is Mr B – Billy Eckstine’ and Harry was in a state of collapse. It was one of those strange coincidences that happen in life.

 

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Talking of coincidences, when I got to RCA Records (I was there for 19 years and about 12 Managing Directors!), I came back from holiday and there was a message on my desk. ‘The new managing director would like to see you.’ I made an appointment, walked into his office and he said ‘Hi Tom, I’m Don Burkheimer. I bear greetings from your brother. He’s my parish priest in Los Angeles.’ I knew my life had been saved – that is known in the Catholic church as a minor miracle. My brother had mentioned my name to him and said I worked in London. He was a very nice man, one of the many Managing Directors of RCA. David Betteridge was MD at one time, George Lucan, people like that.

How long was it before Mercury went to Pye, and did Harry go with it?

I can’t remember – might have been after six months or a year. Harry had a few career changes but I remember him more than anything as a radio prducer. He always described himself as a poacher turned gamekeeper. He would say ‘don’t give me that hard sell on records’ and I would say ‘Harry, that’s how you trained me. You wouldn’t accept no for an answer, now I’m doing the job you prepared me for.’ It was a useful connection for me because he was producing The Jimmy Young Show and he couldn’t be really hard on me because we’d been colleagues and he knew what the job involved. A lot of producers hadn’t been in a commercial environment and didn’t have to justify their existence. They were living in a cloistered world of their own. We had to go the BBC in the morning, come back in the afternoon and try and prepare some sort of sheet for the promotion meeting. The A&R men made the records – that was the end of their involvement. We were the foot soldiers and had to carry the can for the whole situation. We had no involvement with the artist nor the selection of the song – we just had to get it played on the air.

Probably one more part to complete this interview, which takes us back to EMI, Philips and RCA..and more legendary names from the 1960’s

Text © David Hughes 2019. Photos for illustration purposes only via Google searches.

 

 

 

 

Posted in A Life in Music - random memories, A Personal History of the British Record Business, Stories of the British Music Business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

50 years ago in the Music Industry 18 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

Life, a lack of articles I could physically copy from my bound volumes, and a lack of articles generally (maybe one of the down-sides of being Assistant Editor at the time) has resulted in this ongoing series having had a long holiday.

However, over 18 months has gone by since the Marine Offences Bill ended the golden years of broadcasting and Ray Coleman obviously thought my then interest in the ship and fort personalities merited this update.

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Near impossible to read, so I’ll transcribe the captions, which appeared in the January 4, 1969 edition of Disc. (Was that how we spelled discotheques in those days?. Ray would surely have jumped on me if I’d missed out the ‘h’!)

 

Roger Day: Another Caroline stalwart and one-time rival to Tony Blackburn around breakfast time. Managed a short stint at Radio Luxembourg at a ludicrously late hour and now hopes to survives on discoteque appearances until the BBC say “yes”.

Stevi Merike: Another Radio Caroline stalwart. After trying his luck in Holland discoteques, returned to Britain and helped vainly in Radio Free London’s short broadcasts in August. Periodically phones Disc with news of impending Apple recording contracts.

Johnnie Walker: Best-known face of all, yet still without the BBC show he richly deserves. Remained faithful to Radio Caroline until its dying day and is now of course responsible for Disc’s R-n-B column. Predict 1969 will bring Johnnie either a regular radio or tv show.

Don Allen: “Daffy Don” and his “big wide wonderful world” hold the record for longest serving “pirate”…nearly four years service. Loyalty unrewarded Don now tours North of England with Bud Ballou and Jason Wolfe at discoteque P.A’s. Still hopeful of a BBC show.

Carl Mitchell: Caroline man, known as the “weird beard” – and you can see why. Apart from an extraordinary tale of taking London double-decker buses to Holland as mobile boutiques and discoteques, and occasional frantic phone calls to Roger Day, little comes to light. Apparently working in Dutch clubs.

Dave Dennis: The original lunchtime man on Big L, the “Double D” lasted nearly 18 months on the “Galaxy” before the lure of his fiancee proved too much. Returned to shore, married and moved to peaceful farm in Ireland. Still listens to Radio 1 and answered Kenny Evertt’s broadcast call “in minutes”.

Mark Roman: Of the “Roman Empire” and Radio London fame. Was among the first to gain a BBC contract, and almost the first to lose it again. After a violent outburst in Disc against the state of radio in Britain, packed his bags and left for Australia where he now hosts daily show on top-rated 2UE station in Sydney.

Bryan Vaughan: Radio Caroline original stalwart, and subsequently Radio Scotland, and a short spell for Polydor on Radio Luxembourg. Married his number one fan and sweetheart Jean from Caroline days and moved to Australia a few years ago. Now works as assistant head of exploitation for Philips records in Sydney and has two children.

Doug Kerr: Another Caroline original who paved the commercial way back in 1964. Canadian by birth and much admired during his stay on the boat. When fired, he unsuccessfully tried to become a protection officer. Subsequently sailed to New York where he now works in a steel factory. According to many of his Caroline colleagues, Doug was considered one of the best broadcasters of his time.

Andy Archer: Another Caroline South man, stranded since the station vanished. During first few months after Caroline’s March madness last year, Andy tried unsuccessfully to refloat a station. Among abortive attempts were a trip to Red Sands Fort (formerly Radio 390) ending with a clever rescue by coastguards. Has since admitted defeat and now works in a Northern discoteque.

Tom Lodge: Best remembered by me for the time he broadcast  for 16 hours non-stop while mv Caroline sailed from off Frinton round to the Isle of Man. Had a short (very short) stint as compere of the late “Radio-one-o-clock” show on BBC, but soon returned to his wife’s boutique in Gloucester. Earlier this year upped and moved to Canada where, after weeks hounding, he’s now joined a commercial station there.

Mike Lennox: “The Marshall” of Big L as he was affectionately known. Again managed to secure a BBC contract when Radio 1 began, but decided to move into films because “BBC obviously didn’t want me any more.” Spent this summer making “Alfred the Great” with David Hemmings and begins new film with Hemmings’ company in the spring.

Duncan Johnson: At one time the most recognisable voice on pirate radio and ideal late-night DJ. However when he left Big L, Radio 1 gave him short-lived “Midday Spin” spot. Duncan now runs a photographic studio with partner Brian Ward, models occasionally and does Radio 1 jingles. The most sadly neglected, talented DJ to come from the pirates.

Garry Kemp: Another of Caroline’s best DJ’s, fired, with Mike Allen because he didn’t toe the line and spoke his mind over the air. Later returned to the sea with Radio 353 under the name of Gordon Bennett (Gordon Bennett!!!) but vanished after only three months on board and has never been heard of since.

Mike Aherne:  Caroline North and South and their most successful housewife’s DJ, with incredible fan mail. Like Mark Roman (and Graham “Spider” Webb) has moved to Australia where he now has his own morning daily show on Radio1UE, Sydney

Mike Allen: Possibly the most serious-minded of all the pirate DJ’s. First to broadcast jazz and blues to Radio Caroline and the only DJ ever to attack pop singles over the air if he didn’t like them…which was often. Fired from Caroline with Garry Kemp, Roger Gail and others in big DJ purge during 1966 and returned to Potters Bar home and family.

 

Do update these near 50-year-old stories if you have news, and add any other “lost” pirate DJ’s.

©David Hughes 2018

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A Personal History of the British Record Industry 70 – Janet Lord MBE – 2, and conclusion.

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After the pressure of receiving her MBE, we treated Janet to lunch at Rules restaurant at 34-5 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, almost next door to No. 31 where The Gramophone Company (EMI’s founding name) was formed in 1898. Aptly, my next question concerned the company’s move from Great Castle Street to Manchester Square.

They did a floor at a time. When we had Capitol in East Castle Street, Arthur Muxlow was there with Edna Bowers. Harry Walters was my boss there in promotion. We weren’t there for very long before we came into Manchester Square. It was all this open plan, metal cupboards as dividers. I can visualise the floor. You didn’t chat to the artists. Arthur was a great promotions man – one day a Surry with a fringe on top turns up outside; then The Temperance Seven with camels!group-of-recording-artists-known-as-the-temperence-seven-arriving-picture-id562625295.jpg

They couldn’t bring a kangaroo to Manchester Square – the insurance was too much – so Rolf Harris had to go to the zoo. I remember we had a Coca Cola machine on the landing thanks to Arthur doing a promotion in the Radio Luxembourg programmes, and he did a milk marketing project and you’d find lots of staff with a glass of milk in their hand. It was purely promotion, but it was interesting because you’d get an invited uadience in for the evening. I was spellbound by the artists – Nat Cole..he was so humble, saying “Sir” to everyone, and Eartha Kitt with her cigarette, sending to her hotel for a hamburger. They were big artists but they still came in and did these spots on the small stage.

The Americans always did this?

There was a famous Liberty reception with Gary US Bonds, Johnny Burnette and Gene McDaniels.

(I have to jump in here – this tour came to Maidstone Granada, my home town. It wasn’t well attended and one of them, can’t remember whom, missed the first house, so the audience was all invited to stay for the second house! I loved it. Gene McDaniels remains one of the best voices in pop)

They’d have (a reception) for one of Cliff’s records – they had “Choose the title of his next LP” or something and the audience was invited to vote.

Did the artists come and talk to the artists?

No. For the reception, the artist got up and spoke. Some people, like Maria Callas, came in, but the only picture we’ve got is of her getting in a car outside! The artists were very affable. It wasn’t competitive; it was like touring orchestras. The most unlikely mates were made by being on tour. If they were in town they’d often pop in. We, as staff, didn’t talk to the artists. It was only press and promotion and the A&R departments. I always remember The Animals coming. Brian Mulligan was looking after them – we couldn’t understand their broad accents. The talk of the building was when The Beatles came in inthe collarless suits. The fans used to find out when The Beatles were coming in – we used to say it was the chauffeurs who told them. I remember one day they came in via the back mews. There were all these police in the basement in case there were crowds and one girl was getting wet standing on the edge of the steps and two of The Beatles went out and said ‘do you want to come in the dry’.

How long were you in promotion?

I started in 1955 and it went on until 1965. Then, with Arthur running the agency (check back to my Colin Burn interview for details of EMI’s West One Entertainment agency business) he decided that everyone could get their photogrpahs through the agency because it would be better to have a central supply. That was when June West and I sat and filed everything we’d got and made up all the photo files. All sorts of people in the company had photos and we inherited loads more. Arthur considered it would be a good thing to centralise the photos. The agency only lasted a year and then we were absorbed into the main system, so there was a central press office and central photo librtary. I worked alongside Joan Healey who did the photos for LP sleeves and I did the photos for the press.

Did the Agency work?

It worked OK but it wasn’t given a chance to get going. Jimmy Young and Janie Jones. That’s how I got to know The Karlins. They used to work the clubs. When Bernard Delfont came in they decided they couldn’t run the agency against his operation.

 

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Arthur Muxlow (right) with (l.to r.) Geoff Love, Sid Luft, husband of  Judy Garland, and Norman Newell

Sir Joseph had arrived by now?

He was upstairs. He’d stand and wait for you to get out of the lift so he could get in. You weren’t allowed to ride in the lift with Sir Joseph. William Cavendish was a really nice helpful buffer. Sir Joseph really had his finger on the pulse. Brendan O’Dowd was one of his discoveries. He was well known but he wasn’t a big star on record.

When West One Entertainment drew to a close, that left you with the photographs?

We were just adopted again. Rex Oldfield was on marketing then. He came down to see me and said ‘Janet, just the person I want to see.’ I said ‘that sounds suspicious’ and he said ‘don’t be cheeky – I’m your boss again.’ When we first went into Manchester Square, the stage used to be on the first floor andf alongsaide it was a long corridor with International. Hilary Walker was the only person I knew up there doing promotion. They moved it to the ground floor and then we were alongside Adrian Rudge and Jack Florey who were doing promotion and across the way was the West One Agency. Ken Palmer took pictures, then Ian Dove came in 1962 as a photographer but he didn’t have a studio to work in. There was an old kitchen where we were and they turned that into a dark room. Outside we only had room for one cabinet to hold the negatives. We used to sit people on a chair to take their picture, or by the staircase or outside the front door. If it was fine they were taken out to the Square by that squirly thing! John Dove worked more with Sid Gillingham

EMI employed a series of photographers who relinquished all their copyrights to the Company

Because they were staff photographers and that was the ruling. Peter Vernon was the first person to be credited by name. John Dove in the early 60’s had his written on the bottom but usually the only photographer credit on LP sleeves was for the cover design, not the photographs of the artist.

EMI has an extraordinary legacy of photographs for which it just paid an employee a modest salary.

That’s right. It is unique but if I find a photograph I know was taken by Ian Dove or Peter Vernon, they need that recognition. The old deal was that if you’d done a photo session and paid for it, you would still credit the photographer. When Peter Vernon left in 1978 I was told I could be the photo manager because no one else had replied to the advert! Prior to that we were working alongside the press with Brian Southall.

What have you enjoyed most about the job?

It’s interesting. I like to be able to say, ‘that’s a nice photo and I can find it!’ I used to say that my one condition was to always have a file copy as well as the one that was being used. Then I said I wanted three copies and we had to write on each one ‘Copyright EMI’

Were you aware that EMI had photos going back to the turn of the (20th) century?

Yes – they were in Ruth Edge’s archive. Now we are discovering boxes full of factory photos from the late 1800’s and are absorbing them into our system. Everyone wants to look at photographs. I wish I’d got time to go through all the files and sort them. I could spend the rest of my life doing that if they let me, but you could be wasting your time unless someone wants that particular artist.

Through all this time, did you never think of leaving?

I got offered a job once, many years ago, for Record Retailer. I said I wouldn’t do it – far too risky. I said I wouldn’t go and work for a newspaper – they’ll get you to say things!

Were you ever aware of Janet Lord equivalents in other record companies?

People in other companies have phoned me up over the years and asked me how to do it. We’ve talked about the 50’s and 60’s, but for me the 70’s was chaos. Every so often there would be another change, EMI, EMI 2, LRD, GRD. Sometimes the artists would change from one side to another and then back again.

Nowadays the artists take a much greater interest in their photography. You think back to when all the photos were taken by an employed photographer in and around the building. Something happened when the artist wanted more control.

In the early days, the young people were just starting and they needed photos to get themselves known. Now it is a working tool.

The changes you’ve seen at EMI are endless

I think Rupert Perry is the mainstay. He held forums where you could ask anything. In the early days I packed up 78’s. I didn’t believe 45’s could be posted in a single envelope – I thought they were all going to be smashed. Then we had LP’s, stereophonic, quadrophonic, cassettes…

And so our conversation petered out, but as she admitted, she never wanted to wrk anywhere where “they’ll get you to say things”! When she retired, her unique method of storing, usually in carrier bags under her desk(!) took Kate Galloway, her ‘protege’ who has run the photo library in its current Hayes home, for over 20 years, some time to file in a way that anyone could access them!  But as she told me “I can find them!’ Janet commuted from High Wycombe for all of the near-50 years, frequently bringing free-range eggs on the train. She is still missed – the record business does not produce characters like her any more.

 

Janet Lord funeral.jpegJanet Mike Heatley.jpg

Janet Lord MBE, with Mike Heatley at Rules Restaurant

Text ©David Hughes 2018, photos from various sources are for illustration only.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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