A Personal History of the British Music Business Pt. 14 – Colin Burn 6

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Colin Burn (right) with Gilbert O’Sullivan and someone else! ( I am now reliably told the someone else is Jack Stewart Grayson and I’ll take an educated guess that he was the MAM label manager)

Another major change in the business was the arrival of representation of the artist, the importance of the manager.

That was a great shame because until that time the artist would come into the office and sit down and have a chat and suddenly it would be managers, agents, lawyers and you’d be dealing with them and you actually didn’t talk to the artist any more. It started with things like the Mickie Most syndrome- you didn’t talk directly to the artist, you talked to him. The lawyer would do the deal and if there was anything to talk about you’d talk to the lawyer. The press people probably had more access because they to do the interview, the biographies and photographs. There were some people who still maintained that link with the artist. I don’t think it helped that much.

It coincided with the artists taking themselves more seriously?

Bloody (Pete) Jenner and (Andrew) King, and Pink Floyd. Jenner and King were their managers when they first came. We had this big party in the square; nobody really understood what psychedelia was. Jenner and King had these rotating drums in front of a slide projector and they dropped oil on them. Everyone who came was not looking at Pink Floyd; they were looking at the lights going round the wall. Harvest was a fiasco – that was a (Roy) Featherstone special. There was a lot of good in Featherstone but he did a lot of crappy things and Harvest was one of them. Pink Floyd came through, but there were just so many others. Shirley & Dolly Collins, Roy Harper Band, Kevin Ayers – they never sold records in their time. I don’t know if Kevin Ayers is doing anything now (he may have been at the time of the interview, but he died on February 18, 2013). There were lots of people who had records that everyone considered were hits that were never hits. Simon Dupree’s ‘Kites” – everyone thought that was a a hit record…he never had a hit. He was managed by John King, father of Simon King who does the BBC nature programmes. The loss of contact became for me an automatic, synthetic type of operation.

Nowadays it’s very rare for an artist to come into the record company

Then they were always in and you were dealing with people which helped everybody. If you’re just dealing with a piece of plastic, then, there’s another piece of plastic – might as well deal with that one instead.

When did you move out of  promotion?

Roy Featherstone went to Ireland as MD and there was a void and then then they made me Marketing Manager in his absence; then he came back about a year and a half later which didn’t make a lot of sense to me. They said ‘we still want you to be Marketing manager but Roy can be whatever he was.’ I never knew quite what that was so he was fiddling in what I was doing which made it very messy because you always had to be looking over your shoulder. Roy thought he was going to be made Managing Director but meanwhile they brought someone else in to be Assistant Managing Director under Gerry (Oord) who realised he wasn’t going to be MD so buggered off. Roy also realised he wasn’t going to be MD and was offered an incredible gig by MCA so he went off and did that and died of a heart attack.

(Bob) Mercer, the whizz kid from General Foods, came in and took my job; knew nothing about records but knew about spending money. Then I went down and down and came equal with Paul Watts who was working for me, so I thought,’do I get out of here or what?’ So then I got nasty and decided to stick it out – everything changes all the time – and that’s when they decided to have us lot at Heron Place and you had Licensed Repertoire (see my introduction to Pt 1 of this interview) Initially I had Capitol but I said ‘it doesn’t make any sense to have Capitol because it’s not licensed repertoire; you’d better have it back.’ Having had Capitol all those years, I handed it back

So then came LRD and Alan Kaupe?

I was looking after Capitol and all American repertoire in the Square. It started with Gerry Oord going. Mark Abbott in sales went, and they realised they didn’t know what to do with Alan Kaupe. He was corporate press and they decided to put him in charge. Alan and I had never got on. Gerry Oord had brought all these people in, Bob Mercer, Mark Abbott; everyone just looked at this little honeypot of people and all the money being spent..and then they put Alan Kaupe in charge of what was going to be Licensed Repertoire Division. I was already in Heron Place because they said there were too many people (in Manchester Square) so I said ‘well sack them – we don’t need half of them’. Paul Braithwaite was doing his television stuff – he was put under me. All our guys moved over there and we’d been there a  month or two and they decided to put Alan Kaupe in charge. I know not why – he didn’t bring anything with him, just a big expense account and total lack of understanding about the record business. Hugely political.Every night he used to write down the problems of the day and what he was going to do about them. I used to sneak in and look at them and see what he’d written about me!

There seems to have been a break in transmission here – maybe I changed tapes, and when we resumed we’d reverted to the old days and Denmark Street

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If you wanted to be part of the music business, you went to Tin Pan Alley – everyone was there.

And the NME was there

You’d see artists looking for songs; all the musicians would be there, all hanging around in and out of doorways of the publishing companies. No such place anymore

Music was the most important factor – now it’s money?

Now everyone writes their own songs anyway. You didn’t get one artist to sing your song – you had to get as many covers as possible. It doesn’t happen anymore.

Don Black used to be a plugger – he was always trying to get in to see Norrie (Paramor). All those guys. It’s funny to see those guys you knew as pluggers now multi-millionaires living in mansions. Franklin Boyd was at Avalon, Sid Green – nice Jewish men. Jimmy Henney – he was a bit big time for me – he was at Chappells; Alan Paramor, Maxie Diamond – there were so many wonderful characters – Alan Leslie, Paul Rich, who was at Carlin. Teddy Holmes was the boss at Chappells; Jimmy Henney did whatever. Norrie said ‘you’d better go down and see Jimmy Henney, very influential.’ And I will always remember walking into his office – braces down here, feet up on the desk -‘come in dear boy’ – and thought ‘you big-time twit!’

When I was at Rank, before EMI, we went to a nightclub for a Christmas Eve dinner and I was with an extremely pretty girl called Vicky, and Tony Hall was there with Joan Collins. Joan Collins was just a bit player in the movies in 1957-8. I didn’t know Tony at all in those days – he was always out with the starlets.

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Tony Hall and Jimmy Henney.

Final part of this interview still to come!

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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