Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Excuse me while I kiss the sky

An adventure in wonderland.

“Excuse me while I kiss the sky,” so wrote Mr James Hendrix and surely an extremely weird thing to want to do but, at the same time, he still showed what a gentleman he really was by asking to be excused before he attempted his indulgence. The imagery did however set me to thinking about what might have been the weirdest thing I ever did in my Adventures in Wonderland – the music business.

I was working with a gentleman by the name of Eddie Kennedy. I was publicist for two of his groups, Taste and Anno Domini. Now the thing I need to admit to you here is that I was hopelessly out of my depth. It is my belief that he only gave me the Taste account because he was losing them and he hoped/thought it would be a carrot for me to work on his smaller (and soon to be only) group, Anno Domini. Taste (Rory Gallagher, guitar, sax and vocals, John Wilson, drums and Charlie McCracken, bass guitar) at that stage were quite possibly the best live band in the world and Rory Gallagher’s talent and natural stage presence was one of the most effective publicity generating machines in existence. Even John Lennon raved enthusiastically about Rory in an interview the Beatle did for Disc and Music Echo a weekly music paper.

Anno Domini was another matter altogether. They enjoyed a very pleasing Crosby Stills & Nash type of sound and approach to song-writing and Tiger Taylor, their guitarist, was, in his own right, also a force to be reckoned with. I’d spotted him in an earlier incarnation with his own band - Tiger’s Tale - and the reason he stood out in my mind was because the night I first saw him (in Belfast) he and his fine band had performed, note perfect mind you, Dylan’s John Wesley Harding album from beginning to end. His two fellow band members in Anno Domini were Terry Scott - vocals and percussion - and David Mercer - vocals and guitar. David had the gift of delivering beautiful melodies and could craft his lyrics with the best of them. Anno Domini supported Taste everywhere, it seems that they couldn’t get any other gigs. That was their main problem. Taste’s audience just weren’t really interested in Anno Domini and if they’d supported more suitable artists perhaps they’d still be on the radar today.

Anyway I digress. One day I’m in my room in Eddie’s suite of offices at Command Studios (currently the home of Waterstones in Piccadilly) and I’m on the telephone to a journalist. The journalist was most likely a true gentleman by the name of Roy Hollingsworth. Roy was famous due to the fact that during a legendary interview with Leonard Cohen, they both, disillusioned by the music business and, no doubt inspired by a fine claret, made a pact to give it all up and retire to the country to get it together… as was very in vogue in those halcyon days. As I say I was, most likely, on the phone with Roy. I’m quite confident about this fact simply because he was one of the few, if not the only, journalist who would always take my calls, on top of which he frequently gave Anno Domini the requested, “wee mention” in the Melody Maker when ever he could, which I seem to remember was probably quite frequent and was also most likely the reason why I kept the job.

So as I was saying, I’m on the phone to Roy, and Eddie is loitering around my door with intent. I’m stringing the call out with Roy as long as humanly possible in the hope that Eddie would take a wee dander elsewhere and leave me alone to work out the finer points of my world domination plan. I mean just because he employed me surely didn’t mean I had to be at his beck and call all the time? When I eventually got off the phone - as in the second I set my heavy bakelite handset back in the saddle of the phone - Eddie saunters into my room and he says something like…

“So Paul, what are your plans for tomorrow?”

“I was hoping to hop on a flight to LA…” I began and waited for the delayed effect of him nearly choking on his milky coffee, before continuing, “…but the petty cash tin is pretty low.”

He flashed me one of those I-didn’t-think-that-was-funny-but-I’m-going-to-remain-good-humoured-because-I’m-going-to-ask/order-you-to-do-something-you-won’t-want-to-do kind of looks.

“Of course I’m going to be in here bound to my desk and the phone,” I conceded.

“Ah good, because I’ve got a wee job for you.”

I’m thinking, ‘please don’t have another new group you need press for,’ knowing my friendship with Roy Hollingsworth was stretched to the limit as it was.

Then I think I hear Eddie say something that sounded like, “And ah… what will you be wearing?”

“Sorry?” I ask immediately knowing he couldn’t possibly have said what I thought he said.

He says, “I mean will you be wearing your current outfit?” as he looks at my dark blue loon pants, lavender granddad shirt and tan desert boots?”

I make a fuss over checking my diary and respond with, “The Royal Variety Performance is not on for a few weeks yet so I suspect I, most likely, will be in my normal attire.”

“Great,” he said, mentally rubbing his hands, “and ah, will you be washing you hair,” he continued looking over his glasses at my mop-top, which was more Italian Monk than the Beatles’ Rubber Soul look I’d been trying for.

A hundred scenarios flashed through my mind and none of them pleasant but none of them quite as uncomfortable as what he actually had in mind.

Eddie encouraged some of his artists and their friends to use down-time in the studio to work on songs, record demos (demonstration tapes) as they pursued the song-writing side of their careers. One such session with a co-operative of musicians from various groups had in fact produced quite a passable master recording, and Eddie had secured a record deal for the song with Deram Records (an off-shoot of Decca Records). He’d been duly paid for the recordings and then didn’t Deram only go and want to release the track as a single.

Which was good normally; in fact a release on a hip label (the home of Procol Harum amongst others) was what most artists gave their eye-teeth for. But not in this case; the main problem being that the artists in question were all contracted to other record labels and bands, so the group on the tape Deram had accepted quite simply just didn’t exist. So Eddie urgently needed to form a fictitious group and do photographs for press and artwork. This was apparently where I came in. I was to be (at least on camera) one of the members of his group. The next day we did the photo shoot on a building site in the west end. I don’t remember any of my fellow band members but we were a rag-tag and bobtail mob, which was in fact my suggestion for the group name by the way. Anyway we each got paid a fiver, signed a release (so we could be willingly exploited) and two months later an advert with our moody photo appeared in an advert in the Disc and Music Echo. There was talk about Top of The Pops and a world tour… but… well you know, I’ve always thought that Eddie held the group back just so I would have to stick around and do the press for Anno Domini.

This time I’ve read.

Damage by John Lescroart – one of the most consistent and enjoyable authors around.

A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun – the autobiography of a career criminal by Noel Razor Smith – he most definitely takes you there, an incredible read!

First Frost by – Henry James.

Chaplin by David Robinson - the read, not the book, inspired by the BBC Radio 4 series. The book is a major, not to mention wonderful, work by Mr. Robinson.

No Angel – The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone by Tom Bower - very unputdownable but you have to keep reminding yourself that you are not, in fact, reading a work of fiction.

And saw:

Brighton Rock – not in the same league as the good old Portrush Rock

Chaplin – excellent biopic

The Kid


Secretariat – Seabiscuit wins by several lengths.

Animal Kingdom

Half Nelson

The Killing (BBC 4 TV series)– totally amazing, by far the best series on the telly at the moment.

And listened to:

Magic by Sean Rowe – a 100% classic.

Until the next time…