James Brown single into my next auction and it brings back my two James Brown memories. First dates from 1966 when James appeared at Brixton Granada as part of a UK tour. I was working on the Kent Messenger in Gravesend at the time and my pal and I thought we’d go. Drove up there and arrived after it started so had to creep in in the dark. Interval-time and the lights went up…..and we were the only, and I mean the only white faces in the audience!! Great show though, and we witnessed the cape escape routine.
But this single brings the other memory. I was working at Polydor as their press officer and had arranged for Paul Gambaccini, then the London correspondent for Rolling Stone magazine, to interview James after his show at the Rainbow Theatre, formerly the Finsbury Park Astoria. All was well, the Flames did their set with Bobby Byrd and whomever, and I was due to meet Mr Brown (that was how he had to be addressed) in the interval, taking with me a selection of his singles and singles by others from his label that Malcolm Jones of Polydor had released around that time. Got backstage – no problem; got to the corridor of Mr Brown’s dressing room and was told to wait. One by one members of the band drooped into the dressing room anticipating what was to come, and one by one they even more droopily exited having presumably had a major dressing down for a bum note or some other misdemeanor.
Then it was my turn. Clutching my records, I entered a room that must have been 90 degrees, and not helped by the steam emanating from a large black lady’s steam iron in his flare!
“Mr. Brown – I was just wanting to remind you of the interview with Mr Gambaccini, and to give you samples of all your records we’ve released this year.” I handed them over and he started looking through them. Most were on the Polydor label, but some were on the label above.
“Mojo!!!” he screamed. “You release my records on Mojo!! That’s voodoo!!!”
And that was it. I was dismissed probably as summarily as the band had been moments earlier and Paul Gambaccini never got his interview!
Charles Shaar Murray did review the show – thus proving it happened!
“James Brown: Rainbow Theatre, London
Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 10 March 1973
SOUL BROTHER Number One’s in town, and the James Brown Revue’s gettin’ down and gittin’ it on at the Rainbow. Bop through to the stalls and the J.B. Orchestra is lazily ambling through ‘Shaft’, which these days seems to be the signature tune for all the black acts. Ike and Tina Turner, Black Moses himself, now Brown…God, I hope Wilson Pickett doesn’t pick up on it as well.”
Life as a press officer in the seventies – it wasn’t just Osmonds!