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The Rock-itt : June 2011
Radio and TV Stations all over the UK! IwasluckywhenIwasakid,wehad a family benefactor. In truth I think he had a soft spot for my Mum. I hope that doesn't sound creepy because it wasn't. I think the guy just liked her and wanted to make sure we were ok. He used to own a men's outfitters and I worked for him at weekends and some evenings. I would collect money from his customers who would payhimafewpoundsaweekasa credit deal; times were a little different then. I could measure blokes for a three-piece suit by the time I was 16 and he paid me good wages to do it. I was still at school but the experience in dealing with people of all walks of life in his business has been invaluable to me since. The money I earned enabled me to buy quite a lot of records, along with the fact that by the time I was sixteen I was DJ'ing every weekend and had residencies at the famous Wigan Casino, home of Northern Soul music and for a short time at the original cavern Club in Liverpool, home of The Beatles. I did gigs with Ben E. King, Billy J. Kramer and lots of others you've never heard of!! I went to Art College in Stockport and in the year above me we had a band that actually got into the Charts, look up The Purple Gang and "Granny Takes a Trip", it helped turn me on to the "Big Time". I managed to see the emerging Pink Floyd in a small Stockport club called The Manor Lounge at this time, around 1967. Two weeks later just down the road in another club called The Sinking Ship I saw Jimi Hendrix on his first tour of the UK. He walked to the stage through the crowd, right by me and he was chewing on a matchstick, those things never leave your memory. I did one or two broadcasting pieces for local radio but I don't think I was that ambitious, I can't remember pushing for the limelight, I was just enjoying myself. On leaving Art College, where in truth I only learned to drink and gamble, I worked as a trainee factory manager for a galvanizing company. As part of my training I did shift work on what was and probably is still quite a dangerous job. The dipping of metal into molten Zinc is not a job to muck about at! They were also good enough to pay me real shift workers wages, a trainee manager got peanuts but for this work I got heaps. With it I bought bigger and better disco gear and a new van, life was good. I moved on from galvanizing to selling breathing equipment then to being factory manager of a company making bedspreads, quilts and eiderdowns (Doonas to you!). Again I was forced to deal with all kinds of people. As a 23 year old factory manager I had over 40 part time older ladies working for me, they tried to run rings around me and were sharp as tacks, great training. I used to bring the Disco gear into work when they had birthdays and the Christmas parties were legendary! Here again a turning point occurred. Obviously seeing my interest in music the owner of the factory spotted an advertisement in the Manchester Guardian. EMI Records were looking for Junior Sales Representatives, Junior!! I was 24 by then, hardly a junior but I thought I would give it a shot. I got the gig, it was less than I was getting at the factory but there was a company car so I went for it. Here it was, a genuine job in the Music Business at last. My mates were all excited for me, I was the only one of the school crowd who had managed to stay with music and now my World was going to open up big time. Big time! Hardly. The first year was spent calling at all the smallest record shops between Birmingham and Glasgow, that's a big area for the UK. My first company car was an old Morris Marina and I drove 80,000 miles in one year. I only used to go home at weekends and in the days before iPods I had to drag my red and grey Dansette record player around the Bed & Breakfast joints of the UK. Billy Connolly's "Solo Concert" double album was one of the ones that kept me sane. I do remember my first EMI conference, which was held at a famous hotel in Scotland called Gleneagles. Pilot, debuted their song "January" which went on to be a number one hit just three months later, provided the entertainment. Labi Siffre whose "It Must Be Love" song is still being used on TV ads today and Big Jim Sullivan who was Tom Jones guitarist for many years were also on the bill. I got my first taste of Rock n'Roll outrage at Gleneagles when a very drunk salesman set fire to a hay bale another very drunk salesman had passed out on, it was all a bit traumatic but he did survive. After my first year I managed to get myself moved over to the Promotions Department. Commercial Radio was just coming in to the UK and the Record Companies were going crazy trying to get their stuff played. EMI had 34 people on the Road, just dealing with about 25 Radio Stations. When I moved down to Australia in 2000 EMI UK had just 4 people in Regional Promotions, dealing with well over a hundred stations! Malcolm will be back in July with part 2 of his fascinating music feature. Me (left) as part of a presentation to Paul McCartney for sales of his “Flowers in the Dirt” album in 1989 With Kate Bush around the release of Wuthering Heights in 1978 With Bowie at the Savoy Hotel in '87