A Personal History of the British Record Industry 63 – Bunny Lewis 1

 

I’m guessing you have to be either over 65 or a major UK pop obsessive or historian to immediately know Bunny Lewis. To get you started, here’s how Wikipedia sums him up in a paragraph:-

Bunny Lewis (12 November 1918 – 7 September 2001) also known professionally under various pseudonyms was a London-based record producer and composer and music manager whose songwriting abilities were used in a number of films. Sometimes this coincided with involvement in films of musicians whom he personally managed, most notably the actor and singer, Craig Douglas He also co-composed the song, “Cara Mia” Authorship was accredited to ‘Tulio Trapani and Lee Lange’; Lee Lange was the pseudonym for David Whitfield’s producer, Lewis, and Tulio Trapani was the nom de plume of the song’s other co-writer and arranger, Mantovani.

This interview took place in the office of his apartment  at Dolphin Square on the Embankment, just yards from the original basement flat of Gloria Bristow, former Philips press officer and the lady whose help and support, whether she knew it or not, made me realise that I could earn a living from a love of music.

Most of those reading this will know, but for the benefit of others, before the record boom of the 1950’s, pluggers worked for music publishers and their priority was to have the big bands and orchestras of the day play their publishers’ songs. When we get to Wally Ridley (mentioned below) you’ll learn that he used to physically play on piano the songs he was plugging. Sheet music sales were considered more important than records.

 

Photos of Bunny Lewis are like hens’ teeth but I found this classic of him with three others you may know, on ‘Juke Box Jury’.

 

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It looks as if I didn’t even need to ask Bunny an opening question…off he went!

I had been a BBC writer, scriptwriter and reaearcher and I used to have to provide the characters for the first television magazine programme called Picture Page, run by Joan Gilbert. By BBC standards I made a lot of money out of it. It wasn’t much to be honest, but a lot of jealous eyes looked at me. I got paid by how much I produced and as I worked a bloody sight harder than the other people, I produced a great deal more. It sounds ludicrous today but I was probably making about £40 a week, which for then was a fortune. So eventually Leslie Mitchell, who was one of the presenters, quarrelled with me and I virtually got the heave ho. I walked down the road to Francis Day and Hunter. I’d got friendly with them – they were doing terribly badly and they took me on. I was with them for a year. We did absolutely marvellously. A lot of luck went towards it but I worked like a bastard and we had Be my Love and The loveliest night of the year and all sorts of hits.

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Now I think part of was good luck, good fortune, but part of it was bloody hard work because nobody down there worked at all. I plugged Gracie Fields at the Finsbury Park Empire. I plugged Dorothy Squires at some place in the Edgware Road, (Metropolitan?) I mean everywhere. I’d go through lavatory windows to get to them! The old man, Fred Day – long dead – fancied himself as a songwriter. He was terrible but I was always told I ought to do something about his songs and I thought ‘Christ’ but I managed to get Vera Lynn to broadcast one. I taped the broadcast and I presented him with it and he more or less shrugged it away. After a year I was a bit too hot for them there. There was dear old Eddie Day, who was Fred’s son and supposed to be running it, but they were so idle and sitting back in what was one of the two biggest music publishing conpanies in Britain and they just did nothing – except for a general manager call Thackeray who became very friendly with me.

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I don’t think that helped – anyway, after a year I got the heave ho. I thought ‘what am I going to do now?’ I walked round the corner to another publisher. I said ‘I haven’t made my mind up what I’m going to do, but would you like to take me on a temporary basis.’ Everybody wanted me at that time because I had a great pal who was possibly the most important plug in the business – that was Jack Jackson.

 

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He just made records (sell) overnight and he was a friend of mine and would let hardly anyone near him. The only people to get near him – I did of course. I went to stay with him and all the rest of it – were Wally Ridley, Bill Phillips ( the nice younger brother – Jimmy Phillips was an unutterable bastard and Bill was the nice one, and in the end Jimmy threw Bill out, behaved terribly. I knew all about Jack’s music because we’d been highly involved when he was the bandleader at the Dorchester just before the war. So everyone was quite ready to give me a job, just to get in with Jackson.

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I did that for a very short period because I didn’t really want to stay in music publishing – I wanted to get into the record business. And Jack actually got me in. He went to Edward Lewis at Decca and said ‘you want to have this fellow’. So I went up and had a hell of an argument with Lewis about money. Lewis was very close (mean) – all the record companies were. I’ve since discussed with George Martin how much we were paid and I think he was actually paid less than me! But I had an argument and refused to work for less than £600 a year as Head Of Exploitation. We were very successful. We were the Woolworths of the record business. We were undoubtedly the most successful pop record business and we had some marvellous people, On the pop side we sat at the top of the heap. If you signed up with Decca, which they wanted to, you’d get (to release) about two, maybe three records and if you hadn’t cracked it, it was out the bloody door and down to Philips or someone with your tail between your legs. It was like that. But we were very lively. Of course we had London Records in New York at the time and they used to send us over all the stuff that was coming out there on the independent labels that hadn’t opened (offices) over here, plus the ones we already had – RCA Victor, Atlantic, Capitol, American Decca. We had a pretty good slice of the gravy. I was there really at the high time of Decca. This was the beginning of rock’n’roll. Billy Cotton was with us on records. It was the period when English artists – like Joan Regan, Lita Roza, Dickie Valentine ‘ (were bigger than the Americans).

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I had a chap – and this was one of the things that caused trouble. I found a singer called David Whitfield and he was enormous, much bigger than Dickie Valentine. He was a dreadful fellow really. He’d been a merchant seaman and he was uncouth, to say the least. But he’d got this extraordinary voice; quite untrained, but it had the thrill of it, it had the kick and in a kind of rough looking way he was a good-looking fellow too. My wife went down to the audition – she used to do a bit of business with me. She had been an artiste, she’d been the lead at the Folies Bergeres and I said ‘you just can’t go on playing around town because sooner or later you’re going to have a row with the management and I’m going to have a row with the management and I’m going to be the ham in the sandwich and it’s not going to work.’ My wife used to do a lot of business down at a hotel in Curzon Street, managed by the millionaire Max Joseph. He decided to introduce cabaret, so he started to audition and she went down and she heard this fellow David Whitfield, who had done a Hughie Green thing (Opportunity Knocks?) but nothing had happened. Also there was a friend of ours, Harold Landau, a sort of an agent, more of a manager. He heard this fellow too. My wife came back and said ‘I think we should get this chap; you should get him for Decca and I should get him for agency.’ She’d just opened an agency on her own. So I went into action and funnily enough so did Walter Ridley. Walter was friendly with Landau and Landau wanted to put Whitfield with him, and I wanted to put him with Decca of course.  I won. I got him on Decca. We made a record – didn’t do an awful lot, and then I made I Believe and had so many hits with this fellow. Unbelievable. Both here and in American, and it was very rare to have British artists artists with hits in America on those days. I wrote some of his hits – Cara Mia for example which was his biggest, and a few others. I chose what he recorded and actually recorded him as well, so I also started acting as record producer.

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I did him and one or two other artists. I was always musically involved. As long as you made money for Decca it didn’t matter who made the records, which was fine except…I took on other people while I was there and made hits with them – Frank Chacksfield, Jimmy Young with Unchained Melody, which I had before anyone else because it was sent to me from America for Whitfield! By that time Whitfield and I had parted company, nothing to do with me except that we’d set up a whole business to look after him. My wife agented him and Freddie Milally (can’t trace him) did his publicity along with the Warner girl and they were top publicists for show business in London in those days. But we didn’t know anything about agenting. My wife knew a bit about cabaret and West End things but we didn’t know about the whole picture outside London, so they said they’d take on Lew and Leslie Grade. I said ‘let’s take him to Foster’s’ who were above us in the building, but they said ‘no, go to Grades.’ Eventually Lew and Leslie Grade nicked him off us. They nicked him because he’d had Cara Mia and another one called Santo Natale which were top ten hits in America, No.2 and No.4 I think, and our deal with the Grades covered the UK but not anywhere else. But they were just opening a new office with a fellow called Eddie Elcort (no trace of him either), over in New York and Freddie Milally went over and sold Whitfield to Columbia who were going to put him on a huge tour with Mantovani, and we had film interest, everything. Obviously he was going to break very big over there.

 

 

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The Grades found out about this and immediately went into action and they got at Whitfield. I’ll have to be very careful what I say here, but actually they bribed him with silly things like gold pens and it became a thing of whether he stayed with us, his management, or whether he went with the Grades as his agent, and they frightened him so much he went with them. He made one more record that was a bit of a hit – I had stopped making his records – and then he went into virtual obscurity, having been the biggest attraction in this country. We packed every Moss Empire theatre – everybody was making fortunes. But in a way that didn’t do me any good internally at Decca. I was making too much money again. I wasn’t on any royalty at all (apart from the publishing!) All we got off the record was the agency’s cut. I wasn’t on a royalty for any of them. They (Decca) were very anti any outside source of income and that’s what busted us in the end. We were doing terribly well and definitely on top of the heap. We were much better than EMI at that time.

Lots more to come including more on Jack Jackson, Jimmy Young and Bunny’s take on Jimmy Savile! If anyone can help with the characters who failed internet searches, do let me, and everyone else know!

 

Text ©David Hughes 2018. Illustrations via Google search.

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 62 – John Schroeder 3 and conclusion

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We left John pondering his future at Oriole, having failed to persuade owner Maurice Levy to part with the funds he felt he needed to break new acts, both British and on the Motown label which he had obtained on a short licence for the UK.

Were you still at Oriole when Maurice Oberstein came in?

No – I didn’t even stay for the length of my contract. I couldn’t stand it any more – there wasn’t the support. It was quite amicable; I think Maurice Levy was relieved actually. Anyway it became part of music history, but I did a lot of work there that went unrecognised and I had a rough time. But I got headhunted by Louis Benjamin in 1963-4. Louis approached me and asked if I would like to join Pye Records as a producer, so we negoiated a deal and Maurice Levy and I parted company. Benjy said ‘I’m going to put you on Piccadilly – it’s the down-and-out label and you’re good at making something out of nothing!’ So I had Piccadilly. I think we had Joe Brown, but I signed Maureen Evans, Carter-Lewis (both formerly on Oriole) and started to build a roster of artists. They were all looking at me as the new boy to see what I was going to do…Tony Hatch and all these people. It was back to label rivalry within the comnpany avgain. I thought – ‘they’ve employed me here and I’ve got to make hit records.’ As it happened I signed Status Quo and became very involved with the Ivy League. In three months I came through with three hits. I signed the Rockin’ Berries – He’s in town. Covers were the thing in those days. One of the biggest successes of my career was with Sounds Orchestral. It was originally the John Schroeder Orchestra but I renamed it Sounds Orchestral. I didn’t think my name had the strength I wanted for the concept – Sound Orchstral had a double barrel meaning. Cast your fate to the wind . I’d been looking for three years to find an artist who could make orchestral music as a commercial entity. No one had achieved a chart orchestra hit. I thought it could be done – I just hadn’t got the vehicle. I needed the material. One of the office boys in the sales room at Pye befriended me. His name was Tony Reeves and and he said ‘I like jazz.’ I said ‘so do I.’ and he said ‘I’ve got a jazz record in my collection  by a guy called Vince Guaraldi. It’s piano bass and drums, but all my friends love it. Would you like to hear it?’ It was a very jazz oriented version so I sketched out a commercial concept and told Tony I’d like to record it, be that I’d rearranged it. Tony said ‘I want to play string bass on the session.’ That put me in a bit of a quandary – our session musicians versus this kid on a string bass. I said ‘alright Tony’ even if I had to replace him later. I needed a pianist and as I was driving home one night I heard Johnny Pearson on Radio Luxembourg and thought ‘that’s my guy’ I called him and asked him is he’d like to do a recording. He said he’d love to, but I told him there was one condition – Tony Reeves has to play bass. We did the session at studio 2 at Abbey Road and Tony did play bass on it and the record that was released and became a hit has Tony Reeves playing bass, slightly out of tune, which was part of the success of the record.

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When I played the record at Pye, Tony Hatch came in and said ‘what’s that?’ He thought it was fantastic. We had A&R meetings once a week to assess the producers’ product and of course I got totally slated! Benjy said to Les Cocks ‘I thought we hired John Schroeder to make commercial records. What’s this, jazz! Jazz doesn’t sell. Why are we employing people to make jazz records.’ And this is where Johnny Wise came in. Johnny Wise was Pye’s head of promotion. I knew him very well from my earlier publishing days. I played him (Cast your fate to the wind) and he said ‘this is a fantastic record but I don’t know how I’m going to get it played. We’ll have problems with it but I’ll do my best.’ He did. By a stroke of luck he took it to BBC TV and a head of programming thought it was fantastic and put it behind the announcements of their Christmas programmes. It was released in late October/November and they put it behind the programme announcements of what was going to obe on over Christmas. The first day after it was played the phone lines in the office were jammed. Benjamin couldn’t believe it – he’d got orders of over 10,000 on this record from out of nowhere.  Do you know, he said ‘good morning’ to me from then on! He said ‘do you want a waste paper basket in your office? – you can have one my boy!

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From then on, Sounds Orchestral have made 17 albums, sold all over the world on the strength of that one record. It became very big in America on Cameo-Parkway. Mafioso was very involved and somehow I never got the money. I was with Pye for 7-8 years until about 1972.

 

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It feels as if we were coming to the end of our time – this interview was conducted at John’s home and I seem to recall people wanting their tea! So, one final question…

What was Alaska?

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That was my own label. It was a fight – I wish I’d never done it now. I was very late going out on my own – I liked the security of the record company (tell me about it!). Mickie Most, Joe Meek had gone out and been successful while I earned a monthly salary and I should have gone out earlier than I did. When I finally left Pye I did independent production for two or three years, produced people like Selena Jones. It culminated in forming my own label. Alaska Records was a five-year span, a lot of money went into it. I used to make new product, take it to MIDEM, then do deals in Europe for it. One year I came back with £19,000 in cash in my briefcase that had come from Italy or France or somewhere. I made good records, good musicians, good artists. People paid cash because they wanted the product so badly and to get one over on the next guy wanting to do a deal. The temptation to take the cash was too great and I used it to make the next product, hoping in the meantime you’re going to get that big hit. That’s how you go on with a small label. I had various different artists. I’m doing well at the moment with Cymande – a cult band at the monent. The Fugees illegally sampled one of my Cymande tracks and I sued them. Do you know how many records they sold worldwide of which my track was the title (Dove)? 13 million. They could have cleared it with me for £1500 and a royalty, but they did it illegally and I sued them in America and got considerably more than that.

“But their (Cymande) biggest payday was to come when the Fugees sampled Dove for the title track of their multi-platinum breakthrough album The Score. Scipio and Patterson sued for copyright infringement and, despite a royalty payment of $400,000 (which isn’t much of a dent in Wyclef Jean’s huge car collection, it has to be said), are holding out for more. It’s just reward for a group who were a generation ahead of their time, who pushed more envelopes than a Christmas postman, who fused the sounds of a new, racially diverse England when England wasn’t ready to deal with it.”
Guardian January 27, 2007.

 

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There’s quite a lot of interest in the whole catalogue. I do CD compilations, particularly for Castle – I’m not in the music industry properly. I haven’t been in the studio for over four years. I would miss it if I found the right artists

I have another job – driving exotic cars for important people.

And there we ended. John was undoubtedly a hugely important unsung hero of the British music business in the 1960’s and was probably too nice to have achieved his full potential. The frustration can be sensed and hope his latter years were not spent in regret.

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Text © David Hughes 2018. Iluustrations from the web just to break up the words!

Next up…going right back in time pre rock’n’roll with Bunny Lewis.

 

 

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 61 – John Schroeder 2.

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Here is the front cover of John’s autobiography, maybe stimulated by this interview….but probably not! We left Pt.1 with Norrie Paramor gobsmacked that the male voice John had just auditioned belonged to Helen Shapiro, which prompted the question…. How were you able to write and have songs recorded while you worked for the company (EMI)

I didn’t even know that I could write songs. It was a hobby which I hadn’t taken seriously. I’d written a couple of things before and Eddie Calvert liked one of them and recorded it. I didn’t know I could do it at that time. It came about because Norrie couldn’t find a song for Helen Shapiro. She was thirteen-and-a-half years old and all the songs were too romance orientated. You couldn’t give a song with big love messages to a 13-year-old in those days. Anything with those connotations was out the window. It had to be more something like Brenda Lee, a very young song, and we couldn’t find it. For six months after she was signed we couldn’t find the material. Norrie said ‘why don’t you try and think of something?’ So I went home and wracked my brains – a 13 1/2-year-old..what do they like or object to in life? They don’t like being treated like children. That gave me the title Don’t treat me like a child. From that I got the hook of the song, sat down at the piano and the whole song came out. I had a lodger at the time and he said ‘what are you doing?’ I said ‘I’m writing a song for a 13-year-old girl we’ve just signed called Helen Shapiro. I’ve written these lyrics.’ He said ‘can I have a look?’ I said ‘yes’ His name was Mike Hawker. He said ‘those are quite good. Would you mind if I just changed them a bit?’ I said no, and he did and I took the song to Norrie and played it to him. He said ‘I like that’ and we played it to Helen and the rest is history. Norrie said ‘you haven’t done anything about the publishing? I’ll get my brother on the phone.’  Norrie’s no fool! I didn’t know anything, all I knew was that I was getting a song recorded. Fantastic! Martin Slavin did the arrangement and everyone said how great it was. I just stood there speechless really – it was all over my head. The record came out and got to No.3 in the charts. My name had somewhat risen up within the walls of EMI. Then it came to the follow up and Norrie said ‘You’ve written that first one – go and try.’ I said to Mike ‘you kindly helped sort out some lyrics on Don’t treat me like a child. Norrie’s asked me to write a follow up-would you like to write with me?’, and he said he’d love to. I had this tune which had been knocking about in my head for a long time and I used to play it on the piano to my mother. My mother always used to say ‘play me that tune’. It was the tune of You don’t know. Mike said ‘what sort of song can we write – how can we follow Don’t treat me like a child? I said ‘well, I have got this tune in my head that I’ve been playing around with’ and I played it to him, and he liked it and put a lyric to is and it was You don’t know.

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No problem with your name as writer’s credit? (This question was prompted by what I understood was the fairly common practice among the A&R ‘mafia’ to have one of their own songs, under an assumed name, on the B-side, to boost their earning from the sales)

No. I didn’t understand anything about the money or the publisher or anything. I started to learn then. It took me some time to understand the amount of money that was being made through publishing – I was just happy to sit there and write. My biggest song ever was Walking back to happiness.

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I came to wor

k one morning and by 11-o-clock it had sold 45,000 records. I was absolutely speechless. Sold a million in the end. Mike and I won the Ivor Novello award for that single – a big achievement

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That song was written in twenty minutes. But Norrie got into trouble with L.G. Wood. I was getting my picture in all the trade papers and they were saying all this and that about me and oversdhadowing Norrie immensely. L.G. Wood said ‘you’re the label manager – how come your assistant is getting all this credit all over the place? What’s going on here?’ Norrie said ‘he is my assistant, but he wrote the songs – he deserves it.’ And that’s the essence of the man – how true he was.

Norrie produced the records didn’t he? The photo that’s always shown of Helen has Norrie conducting the orchestra.

And who was up in the box? Me! He was conducting and I was producing. It came out ‘produced by Norrie Paramor’.

Was this about the time of Maurice Levy? (I see he is also spelt Morris in some references, though Morris Levy to me was the man behind Roulette Records in New York – maybe Oriole’s founder changed the spelling to avoid confusion..and of course the American Morris Levy was probably not a man with whom you’d want to be confused!)

 

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Well, Maurice must have known who I was, I suppose. The label really wasn’t big enough for us both. Norrie said ‘I don’t intend to let you come into my job.’ I was the assistant and where was I to go? His job was really what I wanted – I wanted to be a label manager. So I said ‘Norrie, I’ve got no choice but to see that else it out there.’ And he said ‘Fine, go ahead.’ I had a lot of offers actually. I’d had a No.1 record, it was 1961 and one of the offers was from Maurice Levy at Oriole. In retrospect I think I would have preferred to go to Philips or somewhere like that. Oriole was the only independent record company at the time, and somehow a part of my make up is to accept the biggest challenge and I thought if I make a success at Oriole it would do me a lot more good than sitting in the walls of Philips Records. It was a nothing label, but was the only independent. They had a producer there called Reg Warburton and he looked after the Embassy label. Maurice Levy assured me he wanted to put Oriole up against the big boys – we wanted to become a major force. I said ‘if you’re going to do that you’re going to need a lot of finance. You got to have promotion guys, Luxembourg airtime, all sorts of things.’ But he said he wanted to. At the time I believed him. Unfortunately as time went on, the support wasn’t there in the strength it should have been. I don’t think he realised what he’d let himself in for and what was needed to make Oriole a major force. However, I did do a lot in the 2 1/2 years I was there. I had free rein, restricted by the budget so I was always held down a bit. They had their own studios but they were deficient in lots of ways and they didn’t want me to hire any other studios, so we had to put up with the faults and technical difficulties. Then  I set up Oriole as a proper label, got rid of a lot of artists, signed new ones and retained a few old ones, like Maureen Evans and Clinton Ford. I redesigned the label, the yellow and black one. I established an Oriole magazine – it had its own magazine that went to the retailers to tell them about the label. The lengths I went to!

Did you get to Liverpool before the others?

Yes I did. I felt that I had my finger on the pulse of the scene at the time. I had a small label and had to do things quicker and faster than the others. I went up to Liverpool to check it out and became closely associated wiuth Bill Harry, editor of Mersey Beat. He didn’t like the big record companies and said ‘thank goodness there’s someone in the industry who can compete against the big boys. Anything I can do to help I will.’ I said ‘are there any artists here?’ He said ‘it’s full of artists here.’ I said ‘why don’t we put all these artists on to one record, one or two tracks and give them a chance of making records?’ He said that was a good idea. I persuaded Maurice Levy to let me take the studio to the artists for the first time.He said ‘you want to take a mobile recording unit up to Liverpool?’ ‘Yes’ “Well”, he said, “we haven’t got one. I said ‘but we’ve got two good engineers in the studio – they can put something together.’ And they did. We trooped up to Liverpool and Bill Harry fixed up the hotel and we set up this recording equipment, and Bill organised all these groups, among which there were some very famous name – Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi, and they came along with their various songs and we put down one or two tracks. It didn’t bind them to any long-term contract. We issued two albums This is Merseybeat Volumes One an Two and volume one made the charts

Was Merseybeat a term already in use?

Yes, and I also used it for the album. I was down the Cavern Club, the Blue Angel, the Iron Door. I knew all these people before anyone else. Eventually the boys from the south from the big companies had to send up representatives in suit and tie among the crowd in the Cavern – you could see them a mile away.

How come none of Brian Epstein’s groups were on that album?

I was there because I had a contract – I went up there and discovered it. Bill Harry introduced me to Priscilla White in the Blue Angel. I think The Beatles had already established their negotiations with Brian Epstein. That was going on, but the major record companies ignored the fact that there was so much talent in this area. I was one of the first, if not the first, to go up there. I was in a difficult position because I was with a small label and hadn’t got the power and the clout to be able to do what the majors could do. I could give all these young groups the opportunity to make one or two tracks and be part of an album that would be released, but I couldn’t compete with EMI.

Faron’s Flamingos did ‘Do you love me’ and a few weeks later it came out on the same label by The Contours?

This was because I was developing the Oriole label and it seemed to be that we needed a bit more strength – we needed some American strength. Where are we going to get American strength from? I used to avidly read Cashbox and various other American magazines and I studied the Cashbox charts and I kept seeing this name Motown on about seven or eight records in the charts. I thought it was incredible. This music was having this success and there’s nothing like it in this country. I talked to a few DJ’s and they said they knew about it but that no one had done anything about it. I said to Maurice ‘I think we should have an American label.’ He said ‘you want to spend more money?’ I said ‘yes, we need an American label and we can’t survive without more power. I want to create a label called Oriole America.’ He said ‘where are we going to get the product from?’ I said ‘there’s a label in America called Motown – they’re having a lot of success and we should go after them. They’ve got no distribution in this country at the moment.’ We more research we found out who the attorneys were, went over there, had a meeting with them and I entertained Barney Ales and his secretary (in London?). We all went off to the London Palladium, saw the show, had a meal, constructed a deal and got the distribution rights. I created a label Oriole America, white & black, and started to release these records. The Marvelettes…and of course no one would play it.the-marvelettes-beechwood-45789-oriole.jpg

Alasn Freeman said ‘I love these records but they would stand out like a sore thumb in the programme.’ The one person who gave me all the support was Peter Jones from Record Mirror. He loved them and gave me middle page spreads on all these artists. Gradually it started to spread. It took me two years to make any effect at all with these records, and they were fantastic records. I said to Maurice ‘we have got to have Luxembourg airtime,’ so we had our own fifteen minute programme and we got our own paper, but somehow….I think it was Maurice and his right hand man George Chesterfield; it was always a money thing. We can’t spend that and I had to really beat them down to get the money out of them to support anything. It just got me down in the end. The first record that really registerd was Stevie Wonder’s Fingertips and by this time our contract was comning up for renewal and of course Barney Ales and Berry Gordy foresaw this and we losst out to EMI after I’d done all that work. I really did a lot of work on them. EMI offered big bucks and we couldn’t possibly support it. They they had Mary Wells and the rest followed. I did all that bloody ground work – it was a real labour of love – for two years and I really got little recognition for it. It was one of the banes of my career.

Anyway I did other things. I went to Sweden and brought back The Spotnicks dressed as moon men in their spacesuits. They walked off stage among the audience and they had no leads on their guitars and yet the sound was still on the stage – it was incredible seeing that for the first time, We had a lot of success with The Spotnicks.s-l300.jpg

I’m getting the feeling that I’ve reached my word limit on Word Press, so a very short Part 3 will follow shortly.

Text © David Hughes, 2018. All illustrations via web search and for illustration only!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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50 years ago in the Music Industry 13 – Disc & Music Echo, 1967-1972

First it was Tom and Engelbert, later it was Gilbert O’Sullivan, but in between came an unlikely and on the largish size American, Solomon King, to be adopted by Gordon Mills  and put into his stable, and who, for a brief period, seemed to adopt me! I’d be forever picking up my phone to be greeted by “Hi, Solomon here.” Memory has no recall of the reasons for his calls – probably beseeching me to add to the interview below. The headline is quirkily appropriate for today’s brief return of the mini-beast from the east!!

Looking back on these magic moments in the life of a 25-year-old, I now realise that a byline had to be earned, hence the two-month gap in these postings and my brain having no memory of any article with no byline having been my work!

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 60 – John Schroeder 1.

 

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Since interviewing him all those years ago, John, who died in January last year, had written and self-published his autobiography, much of the content of which may, or may not be duplicated in the piece that follows. To me he is best remembered as the man who first persuaded the only independent record label in England at the time to do a deal with Berry Gordy and release Motown records in the UK on a licensed basis. My personal collection still retains ‘Fingertips 1 & 2’ which I played to death on my father’s Pye Black Box radiogram, to a point where the next-door-neighbour banged on the door and ordered me to stop!

 

How did it all start?

I had a very clever brother who was the catalyst for me doing something he couldn’t do, and the only thing he couldn’t do was music. I had piano lessons and won the music cup at school. My father said ‘the music business isn’t for you; I want you to do something with initials after your name – I think a chartered accountant woulds be the ideal career.’ So he articled me to a firm of chartered accountants in the mid 1950’s. Unfortunately for him it was my making and his undoing, because the firm, Archer Nicholls, dealt with a lot of music business accounts – people like Alma Cogan…and I got invited to the recording sessions.

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Consequently I failed my intermediate exams and didn’t get to do accountancy, much to my father’s disgust. Then I had to do National Service in the RAF. I took up the clarinet. The guy said,’you can’t play the piano walking down the street. If you think you’re going to get out of normal duties and you want to be in the band, you’ll have to play the clarinet.’ I then decided that music was what I wanted to do and I wrote to everybody I could think of who dealt with music, the BBC, music stations etc. I didn’t get answers from anyone except EMI. They said ‘we do not have a vacancy at the present time but will keep your name on our books. In six months time we will contact you again and see if we have anything available in our sales office.’ I hung on for six months doing things like van driving and selling baked beans in a Joe Lyons tea shop. I just had the funny feeling that I would hear. I told my father what I was doing and he didn’t really want to know, but  he said ‘I do know Sir Joseph Lockwood; we do musiness with him. I’ll mention to him that my son wants to go into the music business and that he has written to EMI Records.’ And he did mention it to Sir Joseph who mentioned it to L.G. Wood. I think that probably helped. They wrote and said they had a vacancy in the sales office at £7 a week and that’s how I started – in Eastcastle Street.

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I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do – I just arrived in Eastcastle Street in the sales office. It sort of occurred to me that I had to go out of my way to show that this was not just a job for me but a career, so I was always the one who put myself forward to do the menial jobs. I remember the guy in charge of the sales office, George Dawson. There were about seven or eight of us. To all the others this was just a job but because I put myself out I think George Dawson mentioned to L.G. Wood that ‘the lad shows promise.’ I was cataloguing records, answering phone calls and I started to get to know there were people called A&R. I made up my mind that I wanted to go on the A&R side. I had a feel for music and knew that was the way I wanted to go.

Did you know any A&R icons of the time?

I knew of Norrie Paramor and Norman Newell, but not before I went to work there.

 

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How did you get to hear and like music in the first place?

My music started at school, studying classical music and taking piano lessons. I went to Arundel public school and there was a piano in the dining room and I used to go and play on it. I heard this song on the radio, Too Young by Jimmy Young and it was the first piece of sheet music I got hold of and I played it on the school piano.

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There were some little girls who used to come and lay the tables in the dining room and they used to sit and listen to me play this song. So I started to get interested in popular music. My real love is jazz – my idol is Oscar Peterson. Other that playing the piano I didn’t know I had any particular flair for music.

How did that opportunity arrive?

Me being very observant within the walls of Eastcastle Street, I noticed one day that Norman Newell got an assistant, John Burgess, so I thought to myself  ‘well, if one (A&R man) gets one, maybe another will.’ I went to see L.G. Wood and had told George Dawson I wanted to do this. L.G. Wood asked me why I wanted to do this and I said I had a flair for music and wondered if the others wanted an assistant. L.G. sent me to see Norrie Paramor and in 10 minutes I became his assistant. This would be the Ruby Murray, Jimmy Young, Eddie Calvert era. I owe a great deal of my success to Norrie because he taught me so much. The man was a genius in so many ways, as a producer, as an arranger. He made me understand what PRS was all about – he really did his utmost to help me. I was very short of money. I had one suit which I wore every day and pressed under my mattress every night. He always used to remark on how smart I looked – didn’t know I only had one suit! Norrie said ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do to help you money-wise. You can come round to my house and file all my scores for me.’ So I did that for something like a shilling an hour, but I got to know his family.

Was there any sort of community spirit between the four producers?

It was a competitive community. The competitiveness to be better than the guy next door was very strong. There wasn’t jealousy, but they tried to outdo each other. Every new artist that was signed, we had to sign someone we thought was better. Wally Ridley had Peter Sullivan, Norman got John Burgess, Ron Richards was with George Martin. Norrie had the Columbia label.

What did being his assistant entail?

It was a new job – created for the first time. Norrie told me ‘I don’t know what it entails; we’ll take it from day to day, but I want you to take a lot of errands off me and give me more time to develop the label, write more scores. I want you to take the phone calls from the publishers who swamp me with new songs every day, search out new talent and give auditions at the studios.’ Gradually I got more and more responsibility. In the end, although he had a secretary, people didn’t get to Norrie unless they came through me first. The publishers all came through me. I began the realise their individual strengths and even listen to their songs before they actually got to see Norrie with songs that were suitable for our artists. In most cases the publishers didn’t know what artists you had – it was hit and miss – but there were certain publishers who did. I respected them highly and was impressed with their homework.

So Norrie was impressed with some of your recommendations?

Yes he was. People such as Johnny Wise, who became very important in my life. He and Norrie got on very well. He would always know when he had a song for a particular artist – it wasn’t just a pile of songs. There were certain people Norrie had particular associations with, like Bunny Lewis – he was great. I wrote Helen Shapiro’s You don’t know and the day he heard it he said ‘If I’ve ever heard a number one record, that’s it’ which was a fantastic moment for me. So I developed as being Norrie’s assistant and I did it for four-and-a-half years.

 

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Was there a moment when Norrie said ‘Why don’t you do this session, John?

No. He did it in a very funny way. I’d learned to fly a plane and I didn’t know when I was going to fly that plane on my own until one day we went up and did a circle of the aerodrome. We came down and the instructor got out and said ‘off you go’ and I was faced with it. Norrie did the same thing. We had a Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson session and it was Sing Little Birdie. Dennis Preston, their manager, was in the studio at the time and all the musicians were there and I turned up, and no Norrie. He was at home feeling unwell, deliberately. But he didn’t let me go in the studio for about 18 months. At every session he went through the score with me, the musicians, and the engineers and I thought ‘when am I going to be able to do it?’,  until (that day when)everybody said ‘it looks as if Norrie’s not coming. It’s down to you – you’re his assistant.’ The engineer was Peter Bown and I said to him ‘do you think the strings need more echo?’ and he said ‘I don’t know – you’re the producer, you decide!’ And I thought ‘oh God.’ Dennis Preston was breathing down my neck. I was thrown in at the deep end but I had quite a lot of confidence after all those months with Norrie. Of course, recording in those days was slightly different technically. We got through it, and I mixed it and played it to Norrie. He said ‘do you think the guitar should be as forward as it is?’ I said ‘well, yes, that’s how I felt it.’  He said ‘you stay with it then; it’s your mix, your record.’ And it went out and of course it was a hit. It got to about No. 12 (correct!) helped by Eurovision, but never mind – it was a chart record and it was my first session.

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He handed more and more to me, though you wouldn’t know though as there were no (producer) names on the records. Later on in our time together he would often be at home writing film scores and earning money while I’d be in the studios doing it. I became quite a strong entity. I recorded a lot of Cliff Richard’s tracks and The Shadows, but you’d never know.

Did he give you things for the younger generation?

Norrie used to get worried about the competitiveness and ‘should we be doing this or that’, but I don’t think he was desperate. Cliff Richard came to us through Franklyn Boyd and some else, his first manager (John Foster?) Franklyn told Norrie about Cliff and this manager was the lead to him. I remember seeing Cliff Richard walking into our office in Manchester Square with the dark hair and all that. We saw the possibility – he was very much like Elvis Presley in the way he looked. The material was the thing again. Cliff didn’t write – in those days people writing for themselves wasn’t really evident. Freddie Bienstock, Franklyn Boyd and this manager came up with the material, though The Shadows wrote some stuff. I think it was Franklyn Boyd who found Schoolboy Crush, and American song that was the A side. Move it was the B-side and of course you know what happened. Then eventually we decided we were going to make us of the group – again material was the problem, but Apache came from Jerry Lordan. It all developed from there. Suddenly we’d got Cliff Richard and the Shadows which was the start of the birth of British rock.

Most of those first key figures seem to have quite quickly moved from rock’n’roll to nice sweet ballads.

What is rock and roll? They had the terminology of ‘rock ballad’ which is a fusion of two things. Then of course, with Cliff came all the other artists, Frank Ifield etc. Prior to that we had 45 artists on our label – The Mudlarks, Eddie Calvert, The Avons, Tony Brent, Michael Holliday. He (Holliday) was very tragic for me because the night before he died I recorded him, putting down some tracks, doing some vocals. He had an inferiority complex because he was so tiny. He was in Abbey Road Studio 2 and the control room there is above the studio so he was down there all by himself. It was only 2-track, maybe 4-track and he was putting his voice on and we were laughing up in the control box. He saw us and said ‘are you taking the mickey out of me up there?’ I said ‘Michael, we’re just having a joke between us.’ ‘No you’re not, you’re laughing at me’. He was really wound up about this. Another thing he was wound up about was the tax man. He said ‘I earn so much money but the tax man takes so much’, and he was really frightened about it. Then the following night he committed suicide.

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The size of the roster was presumably your and Norrie’s decision?

I don’t know why it got so big. The problem was we couldn’t find material for them to record. So something had to be done about it. You couldn’t go on collecting artists who might only have one record out in a year. The industry started to trim down and the charts became more important. People had to make records to sell, to make money. It became more intense. You had to become hard about the artists you dropped. Our policy at Columbia was you gave them three shots and that was it. If they didn’t make it after the third attempt that was the end of it. It became a universal sort of thing after the third record. The costs all had to be accounted for, Session musicians were putting up their rates, arrangers the same. It all became more money orientated. The idea of signing artists was to make money out of them – eventually we had to be very careful whom we signed. Consequently the auditions and talent scouting had to be more in depth. If I thought the person warranted an audition I took them to Abbey Road and did an audition. Like Helen Shapiro, whom I found. I heard her. I didn’t say anything to Norrie. I heard her at the Maurice Burman School of Music in Baker Street. He rang me and said could I listen to some of his students and give them some advice. He didn’t tell me about Helen Shapiro until I went down there and he said ‘there is one person who I think has got possibilities.’ I heard about ten of them and Helen came in and sang Birth of the blues I think, and of course I was stonewalled. I couldn’t believe the confidence of this kid. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t let my feelings show. I said to Maurice ‘Helen Shapiro deserves to have an audition – I’d like her to come to the studio. I’ll make sure she gets through that audition because I think a lot of her. I’ll get her to do two songs, one of which I’ll find.’ She came to the studio – one take, boom, perfect. I got an acetate cut, collared Norrie and out came the classic line you msut have heard. He listened to the acetate and said ‘he’s good, isn’t he?’ I said ‘Norrie, it’s a she!’ He said ‘I don’t believe it.’ I said ‘that is a female.’ He said ‘get her in, get her in.’ No one could believe it, and we signed her.

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I think this will be a simple two-parter and John will be talking next about songwriting, Tamla Motown, Oriole Records, Maurice Levy, Merseybeat, Pye, Alaska and being a chauffeur!

Text ©David Hughes, 2018. Illustrations courtesy web searches.

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 59 – Tony Calder 6 and conclusion.

 

 

 

p0309wls.jpgWe’re on the final furlongs of the wonderfully disorganised but highly entertaining brain and memory of Tony Calder. There’s no point in trying to re-cap as to where we are (just read the previous five instalments), but something prompted me to ask…..

How long were you (Immediate) at Philips? (ah, it was obviously the story of the phone box at the top of Park Lane!!)

Oh, we left after a year. They had a salesman called Darcy Glover that even Andrew couldn’t deal with. Then the guy, Geoff Hannington – he was there and hated Darcy as well. Fred Kent did the administration and there was another guy, John Deacon, who became head of the BPI. They were all at Philips – they all hated the place. When Leslie (Gould) went, they all jumped overboard. Nobody could stand this dreadful Australian. We’d already done a deal with Frank Chalmers  (EMI) for Europe  and then the guy on the bike who had a heart attack, John Fruin. I said to him ‘Why do you ride your bike?’ ‘To keep fit.’ ‘You’ll have a heart attack. (and here comes another diversion!) When they (Zomba) with the acts that Geffen stole off them, I go to court.There’s John Kennedy representing the band. They lost the case. The band broke up. Fruin said ‘What are you doing here?’ I said ‘I’ve just come for the fun.’ ‘Are you supporting the band?’ ‘No, I just thought I’d just sit that side to upset them’. And I’m sitting with all the band members and they’re all passing notes and Kennedy turns round and goes ‘tell them all to keep quiet – he’s a spy.’ And Fruin says to me ‘How did you know I’d have a heart attack?’ I said ‘All you guys do.’ And he never forgot I said he’d have a heart attack. He took it so seriously. I said ‘You’ll kill yourself, the stress you’re putting yourself under.’. Anyway I sat there and said ‘By the way they (the band, whose identity my research hasn’t been able to reveal…any clues?) are worried about this and worried about that. But you’re still going to lose.’ Because at that time no (record company) could win against an act.

 

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Two furry phots from Billboard to illustrate Philips’ deal with Immediate, and the much criticised Darcy Glover – more was said that I decided against publishing!

You’d had your share of stress then?

Yeah. Everything I did he (Andrew) wanted to change when he came out. There were these horrible nuns who wouldn’t…’No, there’s no message to wake him up.’ I mean, now you go in for this treatment and it takes three days – they use proper drugs. It’s the most expensive bowl of Complan you could ever eat! Within one day I’d get a phone call – ‘Could you send round a cheque for £1100 please?’  And he had a doctor, Luke McLoughlin. I had to go for an interview with him. I said ‘You think you’re clever. Do you know what’s going to happen to you – you’re going to top yourself. ‘ ‘Don’t you talk to me like that.’ I said ‘Who’s your other client, Tony Hancock?.’ I said ‘ that poor c*** will top himself as well.’ They both did but Andrew survived because he went to the edge and got someone to hold him over, like Eric (Clapton). Eric never stuck a needle in his arm. He put so much up his nose he couldn’t stand up, but he wanted to go to the edge and look over, ‘cos he didn’t want to die.

What was it like trying to run a business with someone like that?

It wasn’t regarded as a business. It was a laugh. I actually said to Allen Klein ‘I still don’t understand why Murray Wilson gave me the publishing on a 50/50.’ He said ‘What was the deal?’. I said ‘That I put the record in the charts.’ He said, ‘There’s your deal, you made The Beach Boys. Without that, your friend couldn’t cope with it.’ It was a shame. He (Roy Featherstone) never forgave me – I made him look foolish. He held that against to me to his dying day. ‘Don’t be a c*** Roy – you told me it was coming out this week.’ ‘It’s be in the sh-sh-shops next week. ‘

I bump into Maurice Kinn the other night at some book do on (James?) Goldsmith – it was the day the Clinton interview was on. There were all these politicians there. I said ‘You’re all disgusting. My seven-year-old daughter wants to know how did the president shag the girl with a cigar. And you are responsible for all of this. I don’t want my daughter talking like that and you’re responsible.’ And Maurice goes ‘Go on – you tell em.’ I said ‘Maurice – how are you? It’s been 30 years. I can remember the day at Isow’s when you walked in and Andrew was sitting in your chair with the lettering Maurice Kinn on the back. All Andrew ever wanted in Isow’s was a chair with his name on. Maurice said all he had to do was ask, but he wouldn’t ask – he wanted to be given it. One day Max Bygraves came in and Andrew’s in Max’s chair. We had to leave. Cyril Simons (Leeds Music) came in with Max and Mick (Jagger) was in Cyril’s chair.

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Isow’s – somewhat before Tony, Max, Andrew and Mick’s time!!

Maurice always carries a photocopy of the NME Pollwinners’ Concert when the Stone and Beatles were on the same bill.

The most phenomenal. He said ‘No, they (Beatles) didn’t close the show. You closed the show, we did the awards and then The Beatles closed the show thereafter.’

I’m seeing Percy Dickins tomorrow (that interview is in the vinylmemories vaults, scroll down if you missed it!)

Give him my love. He was the greatest. He’d ring on a Friday afternoon and say ‘boys, have I got a deal for you.’ ‘Yes Percy.’ ‘Front page – got to have the artwork this afternoon..had a cancellation. You can have it for £300.’ ‘Ok Andrew, we’ve got the front page.’ ‘Let’s put The Mamas and Papas on – Lou’s got a new record. Let’s put Johnny….I mean, that’s when he did that Righteous Brothers record against Cilla Black, you know the difference between sh*t and sugar. Oh, we’d just put anyone – for £300 we had a laugh. We used to take front pages. He was sensational. One way we’re taking the (whose is not revealed!) album round – that’s how we met Barry, and then one day there’s this kid in short trousers – Rob. Mr EMI. (I assume, from the following sentences, that this is reference to Warner Brothers’ then bid for EMI. Rob Dickins was chairman of the UK company at the time.) You know he’s met with Murdoch, and Murdoch’s bid is yet to come. The next thing is, Southgate will go. The shares will go down to 250, and then they’re going to put more stories out about Nancy (Ken Berry’s wife at the time) so that Ken can’t get into a position of power and right from nowhere will come Murdoch. I know the guy from Merrill Lynch who’s told me the whole plot. Dickins will become chairman of the whole thing. Southgate’s got to be fired from the Opera House and then he’ll get fired from EMI.

So (check the end of the previous episode to remember where we’re heading now – Immediate shows in Germany) we did that deal with Frank Chalmers at EMI and we used to take the acts. And we go to Germany and Andrew used to teach the acts one expression in the local language, such as ‘Can you put your seats belts on – we’re about the reach Munich airport,’ He’d also teach them ‘f*ck off’ in the local langauge. ‘Welcome to Germany,’ ‘F*ck off’ – that’s all they’d say. And the Small Faces laid into these German. The second trip, we went to Cologne and who came to airport? Mr Jung..Wilfried. In his car. And he’s going to take the Small Faces in this great big f****** Mercedes. Andrew says ‘he’s a Nazi’, gets out and pisses on the back of his car. We got complaints from EMI . Nothing was worse that when we did the Immediate presentation. We took a picture of Manchester Square and stuck shit on it. “Immediate Records doesn’t throw shit against the wall.” The salesmen were up in arms. Ken East went berserk. We did a Philips presentation and gaver them all joints. They loved it. Leslie went up the wall. ‘What have you done? They’re drugs.’ So what, have one, they’re better than a cigar.’

So, you come back from Antigua and go into World Wide Artists?

No, that was after… Can you imagine? Brian Berg calls me this morning. He says ‘I know you’ll know it. I need a number for Patrick Meehan quickly.’ I said ‘I don’t speak to him.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘He had a fight with his wife …..I haven’t spoken to him since.’

Rupert (Perry) always wanted to see Wilf Pine. The last time I saw him he’d had three heart attacks and Patrick didn’t talk to him anymore.

There are two versions of hanging people out of windows by their ankles. One is that supposedly Peter Grant did it with Bill Harry…

No, I’ll tell you who did it. It was Don Arden and Pat Meehan Sr. who hung Robert Stigwood out of the office in Edgware Road, because he tried to pull Steve Marriott. Didn’t try to steal the act, tried to f*** him and that’s a no-no.’

What happened was that Patrick Jr. saw Black Sabbath, but they were with a guy called David Platz, so he says to Ozzie ‘f*** him.’ ‘What do you mean – we’ve got a contract.’ ‘F*** the contract.’ So he steams into Philips, re-writes the deal, takes the money. David Platz get a million quid – best day’s work Tony Hall did in his life, cos he got half the money. So Patrick then walked into a bank that Don had introduced us all to – London & County. The manager was Brian McMenemy who was Laurie McMenemy’s brother. If you were short on a Friday you could go down ‘Brian I’ve got to go to America’ and you’d always have a phone call from him. ‘Er, it’s New York here; look, you must be in for the tennis on Sunday.’ ‘Brian, I can’t go -can you give me 50 (presumable £50,000). I mean, we all did it to him. So the property boom comes along and Meehan buys a property at the top of the market. He then takes World Wide Artists and turns it into NEMS Revcords, whatever it was.

So what were you doing with World Wide Artists?

I turned it into a record company. Patrick said ‘I’ve got a problem with Black Sabbath – I can’t go to the gig tonight.’ I said ‘I’m not going on the road…ever.’ ‘It’s ten grand, twenty grand, thirty grand’. ‘I’ll go to one gig.’ I go to this gig in South London. I last three minutes and I’m out the door. I said ‘Patrick, you can have your money back – I am not going on the road. I mean, forget it.’ They’d had three fights before they got onstage. I mean, the only one who ducked all the time was Ozzy. Then Pat says ‘Ozzy wants to see you.’ We we get up to Ozzy’s house, somewhere up near Birmingham and he said ‘Look after us. Patrick’s done this but you come  (to the gig). I said ‘I don’t want to know,’ So he’s cleaning this shotgun and suddenly it goes BOOM and I said ‘what was that for?’ He said ‘I never liked next door’s cat.’ I said ‘I don’t feel very well, I’ve got to go.’ The next minute he shoots the record player. ‘I couldn’t stand the crackle.’

 

 

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Nobody like that in the business anymore – good or bad.

I think it’s a bad thing. Unfortunately all the big acts – and it’s a great generalisation – are managed by drug dealers. There’s a very famous girl group, managed by a drug dealer. Puts the driver in and says to him ‘I’m very pleased with the girls; they’re taking a lot less drugs to cope these days.’ So the driver says ‘Don’t be a c*** – I’m supplying them’ He says ‘you can’t do that, you’re the driver.’ He says ‘I’m your supplier – how did you get into the drugs business in the first place, you idiot.’ Then they go to this woman lawyer and now her fees are as big as the commission the guy gets, because one doesn’t want to fire the manager and another doesn’t want to keep the woman. All these bands have no idea.

I hate artists that talk back! I had this club in Antigua and the cricket people say ‘Can we have a dance to raise money. The England team came in and it’s jumping. This dick brain came up to me and said ‘will you play this?’ ‘No, it won’t fit. ‘Do you know who I am?’ ‘Yes, I’m not playing it.’ It was Geoff Boycott. He complains and was told it’s my club, my records. I’m paying for everything.

Then this guy John Pickles walks one day. I thought, ‘this is another f****** Boycott.’ Comes to the fourth record and we’ve mapped out this TV campaign. Up to that time no one’s had for No.1’s in a row, and I thought ‘I want a bit of rock’n’roll history here’ He says ‘My new ad agency Creative Consultancy in Rotherham says this is a load of fooking shit. Cancel it.’ The record goes in at No.4 – he rings me and says ‘OK smart arse, what do I do?’ I say ‘£100,000 and 10,000 singles in my office in one hour.’ ‘Oh aye, that’s a bit rich for me, lad.’ It killed it, that one f****** stupid decision . He did not understand the power. Woolworths had suddenly found the power they had. Telesales ‘Oh, I’ve got an order, confirmed 200,000 order from Woolworths.’ Third party distribution with BMG. Best bit – he said ‘I’ll organise my own pressing – I’ve got a great deal with EMI.’ I said ‘have you really? Put on 50,000 – I want them in three days.’ A little girl from EMI phoned up. ‘Sorry to bother you – company’s orders but all your pressing orders are cancelled as of now. Can you collect your parts please, there’s 8,000 stock.’ Rupert calls back and says ‘I can give you till Friday.’ We sat on the phones one lunchtime and ordered 175.000 on those big old-fashioned mobiles – ordered them from everywhere.

And, if you had no idea what that paragraph was all about, here’s the clue

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Do you have a view on the business today?

I get calls every week for people to manage. But I’ve got three kids and an ex-wife who’s always away. I don’t want the kids to come home one night and find us away. But there are a couple of acts out there who should be so much bigger – Robbie Williams especially, The Verve – they were never pushed properly in America.

Did you ever hands-on manage anyone?

The Small Faces, for a whole year. Until Steve said ‘I’m leaving. Then we managed Humble Pie. And I had to cover for Andrew. Andrew does like to forget.

Why did you write a book on Abba?

I’m at a party one night and this woman says ‘what do you think of Abba?’ I say ‘Greatest pop song writers ever.’ She says ‘You’re kidding’. ‘No. Gimme Gimme a Man after Midnight’ what a great line! Every gay in the country would like that.’ Dancing Queen and then those songs about the break up of a marriage, making the birds sing the songs back to them in the studio. They were phenomenal.’ She said ‘Have you ever thought of writing a book?.’ I said ‘I can’t be bothered.’ ‘Can you get a writer?’ ‘Sure.’ ‘How about thirty grand’ I said ‘How about 40 grand?’ ‘Done – OK, we’ll do it.’ We did it for forty grand. Colin (Irwin) met all the musicians, I met all the record people. No one would talk on the record. Agnetha brought her book out, which was basically what we were going to say.

 

 

 

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And a final diversion before one of us finally ran out of steam!

Jimmy Page and I go to America. He must have been only 15 or 16 at the time. We go and see Lenny Waronker, general manager of Metric Music which is owned by Liberty. Jimmy says ‘I’d like to meet Jackie de Shannon. I’d like to write with her.’ Lenny says ‘you mean you’d like to f*** her?’ He says ‘yeah, I wouldn’t mind that as well.’ There’s this guy slumped in the corner – that’s Randy Newman – go back to sleep! They wrote ‘Come and stay with me‘. I bring the demo back and Andrew says ‘I’m not recording that bitch again.’ I said ‘I’ll do it.’ My mother rings up and says ‘You know that John D. Loudermilk album you gave me? There’s a lovely song on it called ‘This little bird.’ Andrew made Mick and Keith do a song for Adrienne Posta – we needed the money. It was called ‘Shang a doo lang’ Sid Posta, her stepfather, was in the furniture business, a very chubby little Jewish guy. He got done later for putting the wrong labels on furniture. So we threw a party. It was the party of that Saturday night, at the back of Montagu Square. Andrew is there with his wife Sheila. She could cope with the boys but not other women. Mick’s there with Chrissie – she could cope with the campness but not the birds. This place is booom andf the record’s a piece of shit. Bless her, she was a lovely little kid, Adrienne. Suddenly, it like somebody turned the volume down. This guy had walked in with this girl – white socks, skirt and a white tie and skirt. And Andrew says ‘I’ve got f*** that.’ and Mick says ‘I’ve got to f*** that.’ so they’re like…..I said ‘That’s a star, yeah, right, go and talk to her.’ ‘Marianne, would you like to make a record?’ Everyone was watching what this girl was doing. ‘I can’t sing.’ ‘It doesn’t matter. Can I have your telephone number?’ ‘I don’t have a telephone.’ ‘Can I have your address then?’ Yes. You’ll have to send me the train fare – I’m a student.’ We used to have to write letters and she’d call collect! ‘Will you come up to town.’ That’s how it happened and it was As time goes by and Andrew did rewrite the song. I think Essex Music tried to row him out of a third. I remember  it well because it was with Jim Sullivan and Mick, and I had the original demo. She told me years later she was on tour with Roy Orbison and she’d gone to bed one night and realised there was somebody standing at the end of the bed and it’s Roy. She’s says ‘Yes?’ He says”I’ve come….’ ‘You’ve come to do it?’ ‘Ye.’ ‘Oh well well, you’d better get on with it then.’ It’s like he was the star of the show.

 

 

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Adrienna Posta

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Marianne Faithfull

And here endeth life as recalled  by Tony Calder. A few chunks have had to be excluded, either because I could make neither head nor tail of them,, or because they were too potentially libellous. Sorry!

Text ©David Hughes 2018. Photos as always for illustraiton only

 

 

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A Personal History of the British Record Business 58 – Tony Calder 5.

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We left Tony ruminating on how Immediate got Amen Corner and an Italian song that Don Arden brought Tony and Andrew Loog Oldham. Now we move on (or back!) to Eddy Grant.

I’m in Antigua and there’s a local radio station owned by the government and they’re playing this record by The Equals’ Eddy Grant , Living on the Front Line. It’s No.1 in Antigua. I’ve got no money – I said ‘we’d better make some money from it, hadn’t we?’ I played it to about six companies, couldn’t get a deal. Nigel Grainge fixed it up – from there onwards it was money. I learned that every album he makes is a good album – we made so much money. Moved to Barbados. He has this thing in British Guiana where he really wanted to be President! He ran a bus company to help people in Plaisance anmd Georgetown. I went down there one day and I said to the guy ‘what day is it today?’ He said ‘Red – it’s Wednesday.’ He had a different colour suit for each day of the week. Then his mum said ‘Eddy, you know I do the books every night and if it’s short I always make it up with my money’. I said ‘Grandma, what do mean ‘if it’s short’? ‘Well, the boys take the money and…’ I said ‘bye, I’m leaving; I don’t want to know.’ He rings me up one day and says ‘How’s the CD’s?’ I said ‘I know what you’re asking but let me tell you something – the only CD I’m interested in is a compact disc.’ (can someone help me out here – what is he talking about??Remember I was one of life’s innocents!!) ‘By the way, I’ve just left, I’m finished. It doesn’t matter about the money. Find somebody else, do what you want, I don’t want to know.’ I was struggling over albums. He would never listen about albums. He had ten million US dollars in cash, ten or fifteen million deutschmarks, the same in Swiss francs, all the Barbados property paid for, He was cash rich, owned everything. Ten years later he was knocking on my door. ‘You’ve got to help me – this man’s ripped me off.’ I said ‘No, you’ve ripped yourself off. I’ll give you a year.’

Was this the time EMI did the deal with Eddy?

No, (Mike) Dolan did that deal – that was about a year after me. I wouldn’t have done that deal. They made a mistake. I’m reading the paper – I think ‘that doesn’t read right.’ They asked Eddy something when they should have been telling him. I took it to a barrister and I got an opinion showing they’d made a fundamental error. The barrister rings me about three days later and says ‘released” (from the contract). I said ‘I shall never breathe a word of it to protect my friends.’ We go to Nigeria. He used to make these long versions in yoruba for cassettes and special albums and we’re in this warehouse and this guy goes ‘Eddy, I give you 200,000 naira (about £1.10) – cash.’ I’m looking at these boxes and I see these 8-track cartridges.’What are these?’ ‘Oh, I make you big star.’ I said ‘yes, but you’ve got no contract.’ ‘Contract, what’s contract?’  Then this guy Jerry Barling (?) who is Managing Director of EMI Nigeria, comes round. I thought  ‘you’re one smooth f****** guy and you’re going to rip this guy off. I said to Eddy ‘you watch him’ You could not get nira out of the country. I get a phone about a week later from Guyana – ‘will you take a collect call from Mr Grant?’ I thought it was Eddy’s brother Derek, who I know was selling motor cars out there. He said ‘You won’t believe it. Jerry Barling and I are driving over the border in the car; we’ve got a million naira tucked up in the gear thing – we’re held up by pirates.’ I said ‘well, you’re lucky to be alive them – they normally kill you.’ He said ‘they took the car, took all our clothes. ‘Leave your underpants, did they they?’ ‘Yes, yes.’  “well at least you’ve got something to sh*t in then.’ ‘And they took the money.’ ‘Well, you’re lucky then.’ ‘No, no. It’s only because they recognised me and asked for my autograph!’ Then he said ‘I’ve found someething else – I can handle French francs can I?’ ‘Yes yes, but whatever it is, it’s a scam.’ ‘No no, the guy’s working for me and I can do this and I get it in cash, in French francs.’ We take a collect call from Paris. He said ‘can you call your friend Paul Baines and get him to meet me. I can’t find 47a Rue de whatever.’ ‘There ain’t no 47a, you idiot.’ Another million naira gone.

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I tried to move things back to Immediate and to  Billy Nichols who made a great record for the label, ‘Would you believe.’

Happy to be part of the industry of human happiness”. L.G. (Wood) never forgave us for that. It was a line off the book of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries. It was on their showcase book. Phil Spector copied it. Then he gave us “Tomorrow’s Hits Today”!

Billy’s the director of the Who’s show Quadrophenia. This girl came to work for me, three week’s work exprience. When she said goodbye she said ‘You know my dad Billy Nichols.’ I said ‘why didn’t you tell me?’ They were in Amsterdam and he said ‘come to the show,’ but I couldn’t sit through it again. I walked out the first time – it’s too slow.

We tried to copy the Immediate music room from the one we’d seen at Nevins Kirschner Music. When we first went to the Brill building, you’ve got Howie Greenfield and Neil Sedaka in one booth, Carole King and Gerry Goffin in another, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil in another one, and they’re all pounding out songs. Al Nevins is only a short light-skinned black guy, one of the nicest men I ever met and he’s saying, ‘no, change that bit; nick that from there; take that from that other one; and do it for these people.’ And we were like…(in awe?)

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Don Kirschner, Neil Sedaka, Al Nevins

Many years later when Andrew takes Keith Richard up to see Kirschner, Keith says ‘nice song, play it again.’ ‘No’. ‘Why not?’ ‘Because you’ll want to nick it!’ So we tried to copy this music room, and back-to-back on our wall to the next wall was Dick James Music, where Caleb Quaye and Reg (Elton John) used to be. So many a Friday afternoon Reg would come in.’I’ve just got  twenty quid from Dick, boys – we can go to Verbanella and eat.’ Steve Marriott would pump us up for twenty quid and they’d all be down the Verbanella on a Friday afternoon, and of course out would come the wine and they’d all get pissed. The Verbanella was right underneath Tibet’s just down New Oxford Street and we had the Kosher underneath where Dick used to get his chopped liver sandwiches. It was ridiculous.

So what happened – you didn’t last the course.

So Clifford Davis comes to me and we agree a quarter million dollars for Fleetwood Mac. The record’s No 2 – Man of the World. Frank Chalmers has got me the money – good old Frank!

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Andrew comes out, says he wants to meeet him. So he goes to lunch, come back and Clifford says ‘Andrew doesn’t want to do the deal.’ Where’s Andrew? ‘He’s been put to sleep.’ Six weeks later I get some story about ‘we can’t do a deal with Clifford Davis, he’s got no manners – he cut his roll with a knife!’ So when I did the background for the (his?) book, he said ‘did I really say that?’ I said, ‘yes, you did you C***.’ He said ‘Shit!.’

There were some great acts on Immediate – Chris Farlowe.

Chris Farlowe was a B-side. That was Andrew mixing. I said: ‘that’s the A-side.’ He said no.’ I said ‘that’s the A-side.’ He said ‘No it’s not, it’s the B-side.’ I said ‘OK, it’s the B-side.’ Next thing I hear Mick saying ‘well, we specifically went in to cut Out of Time . I thought ‘artists ..’ that’s the day I learned about artists, never ever correct them.

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Did you deliberately leave Immediate to go to the Caribbean?

No, I was ill. I had an ulcer. I haemorrhaged. We were setting up the office in New York and I was commuting. We were in a hotel somewhere. We were doing quite a bit of drugs. It was a Friday afternoon and Andrew picked up this wine bottle and threw it at an antique mirror. I said ‘that was a bit unnecessary.’ He said ‘well, I didn’t like the look of it.’ So my wife at the time says ‘excuse me’, goes downstairs to the Gucci shop, rings through. ‘There’s a broken mirror in suite 222, how much is it?’ ‘$200,000.’  ‘OK, I’ll take $200,000 worth of luggage. She takes her Gucci luggage and she’s still got it today ‘ (I confess this story makes no sense to me!!)

So I said ‘I want out – I can’t stand this.’ He said ‘Fine – I’ll buy you out. You take Antigua, I’ll take Connecticut. Here’s the money.’

Andrew, Mick and I were being courted by Clive (Davis) at Columbia Records. Clive was the General Manager and Colin Lieberson was still there. We were flown in a Lear jet with Artie Ripp, out of New York to somewhere in the Bahams. I didn’t even know where the Bahamas were. I said ‘it’s so boring not reading the English papers. He said ‘what do you mean, you can get them in Miami, Sunday newspapers.’ He picks up the phone –  ‘land in Miami.’ He lands in Miami, sends the guy across, picks up the English papers, and we’re off again. By now I’m really enjoying this. We get to this hotel and this guy says ‘Mick, come with me. Any of these hookers you want, they’re all yours.’ Mick says ‘How long you been here?’ ‘A week.’ ‘How many guys have been here?’ Oh, about 780.’ Mick goes ‘divided by seven…thanks but no thanks.’ I thought that was very good!

I did an interview recently. The guy called saying ‘I’ve been trying to find you – it’s Ken Howard here.’ ‘Oh yeah, what do you want?’ The last time I’d seen Ken Howard I had him pinned against a wall by his neck. Oh said ‘Oh no, I’m the film producer.’

We’re on tour in Australia with the Small Faces and Steve says ‘I’ve left the band.’ I said ‘fuck off, we’re on tour.’ Her said ‘I’m leaving the band now. That little f****** c*** ain’t having more of my f****** royalties,’ I said ‘Who?’ “Ronnie Lane, I f****** hate him. He hasn’t written a hit since All or Nothing.’ I said, ‘what do you mean.’ He said ‘You don’t think we write together do you? I’ved written everything and I’m out of the band.’ I said ‘well, we’ve got a tour of the States.’ He said ‘no we ain’t. I not f****** doing it.’ He said ‘I’m going to form a new band called Humble Pie.’ I thought ‘Oh f****** hell.’ I said ‘Steve, you’ve got to finish the dates,’ ‘OK’, he says. ‘I’ll make a deal with you,. You get me Peter Frampton.’ I said ‘He’s in the Herd – he’s the hottest thing.’ ‘Yeah, but can you imagine – an ugly little c*** like me and a pretty boy like him – we’ll pull all the birds and their fellows. ‘I thought OK, yeah.’ He said ‘In fact I’ve already spoken to him an hour ago. I’ll do the rest of the dates, you get him. And you and Andrew have to do every date on the rest of this Australian tour. ‘ I thought ‘oh shit’ and Andrew says ‘Yeah, got enough drugs have you? As long as I’ve got enough drugs I’ll do it’ By the time we got to Brisbane the following night, Keith Moon (we were supporting The Who – they gave you a basket of fruit and put it outside your door) dressed up came knocking on the door. ‘With the compliments of the hotel we’d like to present you with a basket of local fruit.’  Whoosh! Get me out of here please!

After that show we arrive in Cairns or somewhere and there was all this press, and two German reporters. Someone says something to Steve and he says ‘How many people did your father kill? I bet he killed my father.’ You can get away with that in Germany, but not in Australia.,

So we’re at this party afterwards and someone says ‘where’s Moony?’ ‘Oh, he’s gone for a swim.’ Townshend goes straight on to the balcony and grabs him as he’s about to dive in the pool that wasn’t there. He was already outside the railings.

So Ian Groves is an EMI management guy at Electrola and we decided – we did this deal with Frank Chalmers (that he got told off for by L.G.) and suddenly we were having hits with Immediate Day junkets. You fly in in the morning and leave at night, doing the television shows…P.P. Arnold, Small Faces…

 

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Sorry – what was the Immediate link with EMI?

It was with EMI for the world outside North America. It was the first major licensing deal. That was how Frank Chalmers made his name. That’s why, when Andrew went nto Ken (East) and said ‘I need money to pay off UA’, Ken said ‘no’ and there was half a million pounds in the pipeline. EMI lived on it for years, made a fortune out of it.

One last episode to come…I’m off for a lie down!  I’d appreciate any input into some of the people  and stories mentioned, plus these two characters – Rip Mezzari, Phil Steinberger – whom I can’t find anywhere so have no idea even if their names are spelled like this – they were apparently also on th plane to the Bahamas. And for those who are still asking why I never wrote the book….just tell me how much of Tony’s contribution I could have used!!

 

Text © David Hughes, 2018. Photos vbia Google for light relief only.

 

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