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!
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.
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 MBE, with Mike Heatley at Rules Restaurant
Text ©David Hughes 2018, photos from various sources are for illustration only.