A Personal history of the British Record Business 12 – Colin Burn 4

We left Colin being somewhat critical of Arthur Muxlow, his boss at the newly formed West One Entertainments, an agency formed by EMI to promote artists. He showed me an expenses form he’d kept since 1958 ‘ “Cliff Richard, artist, coffee and snack 6s6d (32.5p)”, and the plug sheets for Radio Luxembourg. He also told me that Janet Lord, EMI’s late but revered photo librarian, did not always do that job, but ran the library in full – so all DJ copies came to Janet and she looked after their ordering and distribution.

I then asked more about the politics he felt were sweeping the company at that time.

When we were doing the Luxembourg (“live”) programmes in the conference room, all these people used to come in and mime their records for audience reaction. We had a guy with a guitar doing warm ups – he had a little book and every page had a different song. He used to sing these songs with his guitar and it was Cat Stevens. We though ‘why don’t we sign him to the agency?’ We’d just started the agency and Arthur was producing programmes on its behalf for EMI, so we still had money coming in. We had the whole of the ground floor. We signed him (Stevens) to the agency – we had one other act. They had to find their own way to the gig and they were on 50% of the door. Five people turned up and it cost them £20 in petrol. That was in 1966 – it took that long to get Muxlow out. Cat Stevens’ father had a cafe and his brother came round to see me and said ‘I think you should give him £10 a week to live on.”What – you must be mad.’ So he said, ‘ if you don’t do that I think you should let him go’ so I let him go. About three months later he took off….those things happen

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We looked after Jimmy Young as a singer. Bunny (Lewis) was off the scene then – we were his booking agent. Michael Ewebank (?) was the booker and he and Jimmy got on well. Jimmy was always interested in money – such a nasty person. Norrie used to record him and he was always on my back. The only one worse was Alma Cogan’s mother who was horrendous. I was plugging Alma so I worked out this great thing. I would phone all the DJ’s – Pete Murray, Sam Costa etc. ‘I thought I’d better tip you off; Friday week Alma’s got a new record out; it’s called this; the record number is this; I’ll leave it up to you.’ ‘Thanks Colin, I’ll put it in next week’, because as soon as the record was out, Alma’s mum was on the phone to them all, so I could phone her up and say ‘don’t worry about that one, it’s in!.’ She was probably worse that Laurie London’s father and he was a pain in the arse.

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John Lennon with Alma Cogan’s mother Faye, and Laurie London without his dad!

Arthur Muxlow got himself in a bit of financial trouble; he wanted to  buy a house in Portugal and he borrowed a huge amount of money from Michael Ewebank, who handled the money, to help him buy the place. Then there started to be a lot of friction between Muxlow and Ewebank, who went to L.G.Wood and said ‘I feel my job is threatened because Arthur Muxlow has borrowed this money and I don’t think I’m going to get it back’…and Muxlow was fired.

What was your view?

I was always very cautious and stayed in the background. I wasn’t happy working for him. By that time the promotion side was filling up; Peter Prince had come in – he was promotion manager. There was a guy called Mike Regan who was working for us at West One – he was the roadie or assistant or whatever of Russ Conway; he was a very strange guy. He was there to look after the artists but we didn’t have any! He had seen the writing non the wall and went in with Rex (Oldfield) looking after artist liaison. He was very good at that. He upset people lower down but he was superb with the artists. He came to me and asked how things were going. I said I didn’t like what was going on and he told me that Norrie was looking for someone for the British side. I went and had a chat with Norrie and he said he thought I could do the job but he didn’t know what the situation was with Muxlow. I said things were going to resolve themselves there. They (EMI) couldn’t wait to get rid of the agency because it was losing a bloody fortune; we weren’t doing anything; we couldn’t compete with the Grades and we had no-one there who knew anything. So I went to work for Norrie doing artist liaison.

Had George and Peter and Ron done their walk out?

Yes, they’d gone by then (this was summer 1966) (Then) we started to get into marketing manager mode – Roy Featherstone, Jack Florey, they’re all jockeying for position.

books

(This obviously won’t reproduce but it verifies the changes to which Colin is referring)

There were no sales conferences, you never saw salesmen. They were travellers and they were out doing something, don’t know what! The only time we ever saw any was when we had this brand new machine, a new record player, the RS101, which was locked down in the vaults in Castle Street, and it was stereo – something coming out of the left speaker and something else coming out of the right. There was a test record which was ping-pong balls, and this little box was locked away.

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The Capitol R101 stereo record player

You didn’t go to Hayes then? (where EMI’s factory and distribution centre were situated)

Yes, I had been to Hayes because we had a very large lunch party for Cliff Richard. He went down to meet the production people – Lockwood and everyone was there, but I didn’t know anything about the factory – never the twain shall meet!

Tell me about when you were in artist relations.

In those days Capitol was part of the English side, not the American, because we owned it. Everything on the American side was licensed. When the Beach Boys came in we had TV around the country and I would go and ease the way and introduce them to people. The press would be there but for some reason the press office didn’t get involved in that kind of ting; they were just based in London. It was really just looking after their needs, picking them up from the airport, fixing the hotel etc. Making them feel EMI was a good company to be with. Peter Prince left to join MGM and I became promotion manager for the whole of EMI – it all went back to one; this was 1964 (we seem to be jumping around a little on dates here!) Norrie had gone off to take charge of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, then he got cancer and died. He’d got his house in Bishop’s Avenue, but it was all work work work. Then Brian Jeffrey came in, Roy Featherstone, John Fruin. Sales then started to be a big thing.

Do you think sales became more important with the rise of the LP?

LP’s obviously became more important but also there was more competition, other people wanting space in the record stores. Instead of being four companies (EMI, Decca, Pye, Philips) there were lots. If someone comes along and says ‘the way to do it is to have a sales manager and a sales team’ then someone will listen and give you a chance.

When I came to EMI L.G. Wood was the general manager. His whole attitude was ‘don’t even ask for more money; you should be pleased and proud enough to be working for EMI; money shouldn’t come into it.’ Wally (Ridley), like all the others, could see that as the Americans came in there was so much money to be made and why can’t we make some of it? L.G. wouldn’t have any of it at all; I think it was his meanness that got to them, but that’s the way he’d been brought up. If you look at it, the company was No.1; we were selling more that anyone else. If you went overseas and spoke to any American they would deal with L.G. on a handshake – something they wouldn’t do with anyone else. His word was his bond, the quintessential Englishman. I sometimes had to pick him up after a trip to America – he was the only one allowed to to go to America – and in those days by prior arrangement you could go through behind customs to bring your man out. L.G. would have a typed list of everything he’d bought in America to show to customs and they would just wave him through and L.G. would say ‘Have you shown them the letter?’ – he was just like that.

He did some great deals – Liberty and Motown and a lot of people wanted to be with L.G.Wood

Were you promoting Motown?

N0 – no one had heard of them. The whole team came over and stayed at the Mount Royal round the corner. They were all asking for suites – no-one knew what that was…thought it was a Mars bar! Those days were fun.

To be continued…we’re about halfway through!!

Text ©David Hughes, 2015.

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About dhvinyl

Lifelong obsession with music, 33 years in the music business, 40 years immersed in selling old records, 18 years retired!
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