On Thursday 14th April 1977, at 2:30. I went to the Chelsea home of Andrew Loog Oldham at 31 Upper Cheyney Row (off Oakley Street) and taped a long interview with him.
This came about as follows. I was working as Dick Tracy for the NME at the time and had been sent a letter by a firm of London accountants, informing us that the sale of the Immediate Records catalogue had been completed and, as a result, they were able to make royalty payouts to all Immediate artists – but were having problems finding them all. The NME was happy to help and I was on the story.
Immediate Records was, arguably the first proper indie label, established and run by Oldham. It lasted for five years before going into liquidation.
I spoke with Pete King at NEMS and it was he who put me in touch with Oldham, who was in England for a short period; his home was now Colombia. You can read the Immediate story here:
I can’t remember what the hook for the interview was. I know I was particularly keen to get his reactions to the New Wave/punk scene happening at the time and was genuinely keen to know more about Oldham, a key mover and shaker of the 60s.
He has, of course, subsequently written his own story in ‘Stoned’, 2Stoned ’ and, most recently ‘Stone Free’
I wrote the interview up for an NME feature piece but it was never published. The original cassette tape exists but there is no full transcript. This typed article (which is missing p9) is dated 28th April 1977 – the day before my 27th birthday.
TEN YEARS DOWN THE ROAD
with Andrew Loog Oldham by Dick Tracy
‘He had a genius for getting things through the media before people really knew what media was, to get messages through without people knowing.’
- Keith Richard
Andrew Loog Oldham - one-time publicist for the Beatles, one-time friend and co-manager of the Rolling Stones, co-founder of Immediate records, was back in town for a short stay.
Eamonn Andrews could have a field day with Oldham’s past life. Born in London, he left school at 16, after being expelled from three boarding schools for sundry crimes including stealing gas masks and lobbing rocks through the Civil Defence Hut.
He bummed around France for a while, got busted for vagrancy and if one press story is to be believed, staged a mock kidnap in an attempt to get the story in the Sunday papers.
He tried getting into show business as a performer using off-the-wall monickers like Sandy Beach and Chancery Lane. When that failed he worked for Mary Quant and began getting into publicity work a track that led from Mark Wynter to the Beatles. He was 19.
One day a journalist from the Record Mirror persuaded him to go and see a blues band down in Richmond. The next day he became the Rolling Stones manager.
By the age of 21 he was married to Sheila Klein, daughter of a Hampstead psychoanalyst, had a son and a dog named Genius, owned a £40,000 house, many cars and was officially a millionaire.
From management he turned to producing, from producing to Immediate records, not to mention the five publishing companies and the publicity accounts for acts like the Beach Boys, Gene Pitney, the Crystals and Epstein's acts. Mama Cass once said : "And he's only 22 - can you imagine what he’ll be doing at 30."
For a time Oldham was the hip guy. He was described as ‘one of the members of the teenage Shadow Cabinet.’ He discovered Marianne Faithful and Nico.
He confessed, in print of course, that he was "scared of age," and that he used to think he was “a boy genius”; that his favourite reading was books about "rat races" or books where "some bloke fights his way to the top*
The Sunday Mirror wrote: 'Some say he is as mad as a 5-bob watch."
When Immediate and the rest of the bubble went down the pan, Oldham headed for the States. There he went into production, working for Rare Earth and producing, amongst others, the Donovan album Essence to Essence, a live Jimmy Cliff album and the Humble Pie Street Rats album about which he comments; ‘They forgot to tell me the group had broken up before they went into the studio’.
Oldham has now remarried,a Colombian actress named Esther Farfan, is a tax exile, and is trying to get into films* Tape ran out long before we got through the conversation.
It didn’t catch his stories of arriving in Los Angeles to he met by Sonny and Cher - then Caesar and Cleo - in a beat-up sedan with the boot full of C & C albums. Nor the time he sat in on a Righteous Brothers recording session with Spector when the brothers were coming in separately as they weren't talking to each other.
We talked about the new wave and the music business and he told me he really wanted to be around when the first punk band had a big chart hit. He talked easily and never refused to answer a question.
Now read on.
Andrew Oldham is now 35 and we are sitting on either end of the couch in his sparsely furnished Chelsea hideaway watching colour tv with the sound down.
Not wanting to delve straight back into the memory mists, we begin by talking about his new movie called Who Killed Enoch Powell? He hands me a copy of the book on which the film is based which is penned by Arthur Wise.
Skimming the duet jacket the general plot thread is that our Enoch is blown up in a lecture hall near York. D-notices are clamped on to prevent the news leaking out and the inquiry is turned over to the notorious Interrogator Colonel Jeffrey 'Panther’ Monckton. England is swept by a fascist uprising and the book climaxes in mass race riots during Wimbledon week.
Oldham had been quoted in the papers recently as saying that he’d been a frustrated MP “since I was 11 years old” so I asked him what interested him about politics as a career.
‘Looking at it superficially, the ones that make it, that you hear about, are still stars’.
Is that why you’re drawn to Enoch Powell ?
‘Oh yes. Even without the book. He’s a hero of that ilk. How many of them get all this nonsense done (hands me an LP of Powell’s speeches). You can’t buy it in record shops, it’s only on sale in newsagents. Great album.’
That wasn’t quite what I expected so I asked him what his political leanings are. He sighs:
‘Right. It's a question of what I was raised on and I never really saw anything that made me want to change. I can’t stand people complaining. In this country the amount of people who drive around sitting in their Rolls Royce’s and complaining. The right have all the star quality. I think they’re much more attractive performers. You see, I don’t really go much deeper than that - if they’re entertaining and good at what they do.’
Getting back to films, whatever happened to the deal between the Stones and Decca whereby they were going to finance five feature films, including one called Only Lovers Left Alive, which had teenagers turning Britain into a fascist jungle. Oldham had commented at the time:’It could have been written for the Stones.’
'Only Lovers Left Alive was a poor brother to Clockwork Orange. The population was being decreased by war and nobody knew who they were fighting. Eventually they all realise they're all being knocked off in Ireland, fighting each other just to keep the population down. It was a badly written book but one ended up trying to get a good treatment out of it but it never happened. I think we listened to too many other people's wishes. After seven months everybody got fed up trying, so it was knocked on the head. The shame of it was we couldn’t get Clockwork.
YARBLES! BOLSHY GREAT YARBLOCKOS TO THEE AND THINE
The word I’d heard was that you had the film rights at one stage.
‘No. When we were after them Kubrick had already got them, sometime before he finished 2001.
‘The story that Anthony Burgess told me years later was that Clockwork Orange, The Wanting Seed, Inside Mr Enderby and one other book were all written when he thought he was dying. He was told he had cancer of some description so he decided he wasn’t going to sleep his last year away. He took uppers or booze or whatever it was and, suddenly, two years had gone by and he was still there. In the meantime he’d sold everything he could lay his hands on for virtually nothing. The interesting thing is he may be successful now but he’s never written like that again.’
For the record, Burgess’ last work was part-scripting Lord Grade’s Jesus epic and he now lives in Monaco. I’d seen Burgess on the Russell Harty show a while back when he claimed that he regretted writing Clockwork Orange because it had been singled out for so much special attention. “We know a lot of people who regret their most commercial moments” he drily commented.
In his famous Rolling Stone interview, Keith Richard said: "There was a time when Mick and I really got on well with Andrew. We went through the whole Clockwork Orange thing. We went through the whole trip together. Very sort of butch number. Riding around with that mad criminal chauffeur of his.” I asked Oldham about the chauffeur.
‘That was a great guy who was hired to drive and keep people out of trouble and ended up getting us into more trouble than we got in already. He was like the boy racer of London. He had to go on to better things. I mean, you'd be standing there in the middle of a ballroom and he’d go “Don’t move. There’s five people behind you getting ready to do you”. If somebody’s put that in your head already you just say, “Let’s get out of here” and you never really found out whether it was his imagination running wild or not.’
I was curious to know why Oldham at one stage in his career insisted on having bodyguards around him. Was he paranoid?
‘I don’t think paranoia had anything to do with it. I was just attracted to that whole thing. My only remedy after seeing George Harrison in New York, when he was doing that solo tour, to straighten my head out because it was just such a disaster to watch, was to go and see a midnight showing of The Godfather. I came out three o’clock in the morning feeling much better than when I went to Madison Square Gardens’.
This sounded interesting. What in particular about the Mafia fascinates you? There was a pause.
‘I like the morality of the Mafia, or the way its presented anyway. It’s very entertaining to read and they’re very good films, a cross between love stories and morality plays. You’re always sucked in to believing that the bad guy becomes the hero. It’s a very commercial subject.’
Did he think there was any kind of parallel between the Mafia world and the music business? After all there have been rumours for years about certain record companies being under Mafia control. Did he find that it worked on a similar kind of basis?
‘I dunno. In England there’s a lot of people in the music business who are fascinated by it and who act it out but if there’s a reality in the music business it’s a lot quieter. In America you don’t hear wild stories; either someone disappears or they don’t. It’s without the theatrics. A lot of people here really take the Mafia seriously - on an image level at least.’
He denied that the whole bodyguard scene was Mafia-inspired. ‘I didn't really now much about them then’. But what about the story of you getting two heavies to beat up a producer who’d offended you or the Stones?
‘Oh yes, but that’s like juvenile fun. I can’t say I was proud of it but I did it. I can’t say that in doing it some guy actually ended up being hit or anything happened to anybody. They might have been insulted or, if they thought it was for real, they might have been terrified by a sense of fun.’ (laughs)
Do you think that the Stones 'sense of fun’ terrified anyone?
‘I don’t think terrified. They might have found it objectionable. I don't think you’ll find anywhere where anybody got physically hurt. You know, at that age everybody was still easily influenced by other things.
‘If I used to think the way to get my anger out against this guy was to hold his hands under a window and have another guy hold it over and go "If you ever write that again, you'll never write again- I wouldn't do it today.’ But you did it then? 'Yes'.
Oldham, in his Burgess-inspired sleeve notes for Rolling Stones II put: ‘If you don't have the bread, see that blind man, knock him on the head, steal his wallet, and lo and behold you have the loot. If you put in the boot, good, another one sold.’ Was that written in the spirit of juvenile fun?
'Yes, that particular thing was not planned, like “Oh, yeah, they'll really pick up on this one.” It had to be finished by 10 o'clock in the morning so you did it.'
So how much of the Rolling Stones' bad boy image was manufactured? '
‘Really not too much. I mean the way it is now with the Rolling Stones as to who the bad boy is, its still the same but for a different reason. Charlie and Bill are still the quiet ones, Keith is still the bad boy but the points of reference have changed. Now he's supposed to be a pusher whereas before...maybe he even fancied the idea of…….
MISSING PAGE 9
‘Anyway, since the time I’d left school one way or the other I was always around money so it didn’t come as a big shock. Money's really just a barometer of how well you’re doing.’
But surely it changes your outlook?
‘Not really. There was just not that much time to sit around and contemplate yer money, especially during the years there was Immediate and the Rolling Stones going at the same time - unless you dreamt about it.’
You did manage to buy a lot of cars though, including a white Lincoln convertible and a black Daimler with a built-in cocktail bar.
'Yes, coz they were easy.’
Oldham’s philosophy towards wealth was further outlined when he talked about his time with Mary Quant in the days when she had only two shops.
‘My job would range from walking model’s dogs to pouring drinks to helping Mary Quant actually do the windows. That's an example of if, at that age, you've got to work for £8 a week for somebody, I'd rather do it where the carpets are thick and they've got nice glasses. Some of it rubs off. Even if you can't take it home with you, you've had it all the way through the day.’
EPSTEIN & THE BEATLES
Oldham certainly managed to be in the right place at the right time. Take his first meeting with Brian Epstein.
‘It was on the record Love Me Do. He was at a Thank Your Lucky Stars and I was there with Mark Wynter and I found out that they didn't have anybody in London. Tony Barrow was moonlighting out of Decca doing all their written stuff but they didn't have anyone on the streets to do it. A quick shuffle and a hustle and I went back to London with that.’
'I liked him. You couldn't knock his dedication. That was really apparent on meeting him whether it was on the Beatles or his other acts. It was very impressive. I would think I would like to have something to be that enthusiastic about.’
Epstein has often been knocked for not realising the Beatles’ full potential. Was he aware of it?
‘The potential as we knew it then yeah. Now the whole world is open and it just gets more open as you go along. Nobody had worked America. America was a place that the Shadows had covered and didn't have the Number One record they did here. Cliff Richard you'd see pictures of working on the Dick Clark caravan, but that would be about it.
‘If you were standing in the Odeon Doncaster on the Beatles’ first UK tour with Tommy Roe. I you'd been to three or four of the dates and a night in the dressing rooms, when the windows started to break because the people really wanted to get-in. When you saw the Beatles go on and nothing could follow them - then you knew what was going on.'
His personal impressions of the Beatles were vague. He claims he was too busy doing the job.
‘Once I had enough impression of what I was selling that was really fine. The way the Beatles appear to you now was roughly there but it was in the stage it was in then. McCartney was obviously very clever because he didn’t take you at face value. I should think that’s probably true now’.
What about all this guff that's going down now about the 'new wave’ bands just not comparing to the Beatles or the Stones when they were starting out. Were they good?
'Yeah, they were very good and to most people who were dealing with them in London, they were different. They were really enthusiastic. Anyway what is good? The ‘new wave’ bands can’t be that bad or they wouldn’t be getting that much press - more press than record sales’.
What about the first time you saw the Stones. Can you recall that moment?
‘It was just magic and there was no rhyme nor reason as to why it was magic in terms of the points of reference you had already. They were sitting on stools - at least I remember Brian was definitely sitting down. The places were not conducive to getting up and doing your thing coz only four or five people in the front could see it. The leanings were much more on the music with that following down at the Station Hotel and Eeel Pie Island. I remember having to go out halfway through because the mind was going too fast. I was really going down because this journalist Peter Jones had told me to…(long pause)
‘Magic’s the easiest word.They were doing a form of music that I was not particularly into. When we started working out what was going to be done for the first record it was down to out of everything, trying to find the catchiest tune.’
So what sort of music were you into at the time?
Burt Burns, early Bacharach, Dionne Warwick, Phil Spectoe. Dusty Springfield had gotten hold of a lot of records you couldn’t buy here like early Chuck Jackson. More like symphonic, produced R&B. Early Atlantic.
Oldham didn’t fart about, signing the Stones up to a management contract virtually the next day. But how come Oldham co-managed them with Eric Easton, formerly a Northern mill owner.
‘Iwas running the publicity office out of an office I was renting from him for about £4 a week, the advantage being it really looked like a business because he had a secretary who answered all the phones. Because he was an agent, an end that I knew nothing about, it seemed sensible to do it with him, which it was.’
Later they began to fall out.
‘There was a lot of upset going down with Easton but that was mainly down to an ego clash between him and me. Ridiculous things like, I would do Juke Box Jury. They would tape two shows at once and, by the time it was finished, he’d be standing outside the fucking BBC waving writs and screaming “I want David Jacobs to go back on television and say you’re only the co-manager.” Getting into those sort of games.’
This led to a lawsuit at which time it was revealed that the manager’s remuneration was 25% of earnings in excess of £100 a week, and 25% of the gramophone record royalties. Oldham’s earnings were frozen for a while and he was ordered to pay £5000 into a joint bank account. He will not be drawn on the subject.
‘I think he got his money and lived happily ever after. I didn't physically settle it. Allen Klein did.’
Ah the mysterious Mr Klein, power behind ABCKO Inc. who one lawyer in the Easton case described as a ‘predator in the field of pop artists’. Oldham told Melody Maker at the time: ‘I manage the Stones and Allen Klein manages me’. So when did he and Klein first meet up?
‘1964. It was after the first American tour which was basically a disaster. Let’s put it this way - if anything went right it wasn’t due to planning on my part. I mean we got some gigs where even the promoters wouldn’t show up. Playing at these State Fairs in Texas with a swimming pool of seals in front of you, the act before being Bobby Yee in his tennis shorts. Insanity.’
‘I met Klein in London when I was trying to get a rate on a Bobby Womack tune It’s All Over Now. I’d arranged to meet the publishing guy, who also used to be Sam Cooke’s manager, and he was handled by Klein too. I showed up for breakfast and there was Alan sitting there with the guy. He’d already done his homework and knew exactly what was wrong with America and the relationship with the record company, so we were virtually talking about the same thing. Soon Mick and Keith went to meet Klein and they felt the same way as I did - that he was alright.’
Oldham’s relationship with the Stones and Klein ‘deteriorated’ after a while and they went separate ways. But at one stage Oldham had been sharing a £9 a week North London flat with the band. Who was he closest to?
‘With Mick and Keith then Charlie, but with Mick and Keith on a different basis because I never stopped from the beginning on the songwriting thing. Every other hit is relatively a one-off compared with the stability of being able to write your own things.
‘Those two things fused completely naturally because at the time they started writing, the well of other people’s things that were adaptable for singles was running out. I almost think of the record of Not Fade Away as being one of their songs just by virtue of the arrangement. They were already writing then but it was album tracks or being able to hoist other people in to do singles, whether I was doing them or Cliff Richard was doing Blue Turns To Grey.’
Were you close to Brian?
‘Not very. You have to remember that when I came into the picture with the Rolling Stones, Brian thought of himself as the manager. Then there were probably bigger musical differences between him and me, mainly based on ambition. I refused to believe they could have hits with the material they were doing in clubs.
‘There was definitely a vacuum in his life because when someone else took away the responsibility of what time they had to be there, he probably had quite a lot of spare time on his hands. He was den mother to the group.
Do you think he resented you?
‘I figure he had to but he had enough ambition on other fronts that he was probably sensible enough to control the resentment.’
I’d read many accounts which made out that Brian was looking increasingly fragile in the period up to his death? True or False?
‘That's an exaggeration. Everyone was looking pretty worn out. As records took longer to do and at the same time everybody’s standards went up and methods of recording got more technical. it wasn't easy anymore. It actually got to be work.
‘There's a helluva difference when any act does their first two albums and they don’t have to worry about songs because they've been waiting to make a record for two or three years. Later there's a lot of stark moments looking for tunes. He was never ultra-fit though. He always had this asthma problem’.
As I as putting the files away I came across another sheet of paper with an earlier version of the intro. It provides an ideal ending.
‘Oldham and I had been chewing the fat about the ‘new’ wave’ and his last words to me as I went out the door were: “You wait until one of those bands get a hit record. That’s when things will really get interesting.”
Prophetic words indeed from a guy who, more than ten years before Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols, was causing national outrage with his scruffy, obnoxious outfit the Rolling Stones. Times have changed but it seems the basic rules apply.
The scene may have now left Oldham behind but he still watches over, his eyes twinkling, as he savours the outrage potential of the new renegades.