Sunday, December 19, 2010

TVNZ PART 1-THE BOSS WHO NEVER WAS

(Auckland 1989)

I’m in a pretty good place. In my two years managing 89FM we have taken the station from seventh to first place in the ratings and are sitting firmly in the No1 spot. For the first time in my life I’m financially positive and JT and I have decided to marry.

However, deep down I’m restless and ready for a new business challenge. After seven hard years in radio I don’t see managing radio stations as my ongoing “fix”.

Out of the blue I get a phone call from someone I don’t know, Michael Dunlop, the Director of Sales and Marketing at TVNZ; he wants to have lunch to discuss a job opportunity. We meet at Harbourside Restaurant and with Michael is Harold Anderson, TVNZ’s Director of Programmes.

HAROLD ANDERSON
MICHAEL DUNLOP

Michael is outgoing, enthusiastic and says TVNZ CEO Julian Mounter wants me to join them as Programme Marketing Manager. TV3 are starting up later in the year and they are impressed with the way I have marketed 89FM and before that Radio Hauraki. They want someone coming from outside TV to promote their programmes and assist in making the place a ratings powerhouse to dominate TV3. In short they wanted an aggressive bastard for this new position.

Harold is silent and glum; his body language leads me to believe he is not on board with the idea.

I tell them both that I don't know anything about television and perhaps I’m the wrong guy. But Michael insists and asks me to think it over and give him a call.

On hearing of the idea it had no interest for me, but Michael’s passionate selling had sparked an excitement and I could feel a growing enthusiasm. I said to JT that it was obvious that it was Michael and Julian Mounter who wanted me on board, but not Harold. As I would report to Harold his attitude could result in difficulties for me. However, I decided to “have a go”

I phone Michael and arrange to meet with Harold to discuss terms. On arriving at Harold’s office he is not there and my negotiations take place with an HR person. We agree terms and they want me to start just as soon as my notice period with 89FM is effective. But I can’t do that; JT and I are about to have a quiet wedding and take off on a six weeks honeymoon to the USA, Hong Kong and Europe. So I don’t start until May.

On my first day at TVNZ I go to Harold’s office to get my brief and again find he is not there: his secretary tells me where my office is and that becomes the sum total of my job description.

The office has a desk, a chair and a phone and that’s it. From asking around I determine that I have a large number of people reporting to me, including the on air promotions and presentation teams.

I need a PA; someone I can trust and whom I know has the good public relations skills required to find out for me the “good guys”, the “bad guys” and where the power lays in this huge organization. No one here knows JT; she has the required skills and has kept her own name, so I hire her.

JT does her job superbly and very quickly is liked and trusted by a wide range of staff and I’m getting back great intelligence; this enables me to begin getting the job done.

Harold seldom appears so I just soldier on and create my own job description and begin to “make change”.

JULIAN MOUNTER

After about three months Julian Mounter calls me up to have a talk and says he has some important news. Before he can give the news I say, “Let me guess, Harold is leaving”. Julian is stunned that I know and I tell him it makes sense to me as the guy just hasn’t been visible and as far as I could see the position has been void.

The tentative replacement is Ron Haynes a retired and highly skilled ex Channel 9 Australian programmer and following him is Ross Plapp, also ex Channel 9. Both men mentor me and teach me their skills and when Ross goes back to Channel 9 I’m chosen to replace him as TVNZ’s Director of Programmes.

THE BOSS WHO NEVER WAS, Harold Anderson, became Sky TV’s Director of Programmes and as TVNZ has part ownership of Sky, he and I are in regular discussions, much more than we ever had when he was my boss at TVNZ.

As for JT being my PA, all good things do come to an end. Julian Mounter calls me up one day for a meeting and with some embarrassment says that I had been seen at Les Mills being “very familiar” with my PA and asked if was I having an intimate relationship with JT.

“Yes”, I replied “and it has been going on for some time”.

Julian looked shocked and angry.

I then explained JT and I were married and why I had hired her. Julian broke into a fit of relieved laughter, but that however was the end of JT’s PA career at TVNZ.

*I never did find out what Harold Anderson was going through when he was “conspicuous by his absence” at TVNZ but he was very successful as Programme Director at Sky. Harold went on to launch ESPN’s sport networks in Asia and to be Director of Sport at Channel 7 Australia where he managed coverage of the Sydney Olympics. Harold later went on to be Executive Producer TV of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A SUPREME EFFORT-1976

I was glad to see the back of them. The Supreme's lead singer Mary Wilson, manager/husband, Dominican businessman Pedro Ferrer, her fellow Supreme members Suzaye Greene and Scherrie Payne; are finally returning to the USA and thankfully, out of my life.

I had been touring with this group plus Mary and Pedro’s daughter Turkessa and her nanny for several weeks. The tour took in Montreux, for a TV show at the annual Music Festival, Rome and Paris for TV appearances and finally the UK for concerts and TV. As European Marketing Director for Motown Records, I had been accompanying The Supremes to oversee local promotions and to make sure that our local representatives were looking after the group.

To ensure the group were “happy” I had to be certain that Pedro was “happy”. I found Pedro to be a charming rogue with an eye for the ladies and whilst a lot of fun to be with, he was also an extremely demanding person. Keeping Pedro “happy” was in itself a full time job.

One task that fell to me was playing tennis with Pedro at every opportunity. I’m a very competitive person who likes to win and if I can’t win I have to let the opponent know they didn’t win without a fight. I should have rolled over and let Pedro win the first three set encounter in Montreux, instead of fighting back at 1-1 and winning the third. Of course Pedro had to then make it a five setter, which I stubbornly refused to let him win: thus ensuring a return match in Rome, then another in Paris and finally a marathon encounter in London.

Keeping Pedro smiling also meant having to be his buddy on shopping sprees and trips to the best nightclubs in each city. These “night outs” usually started around midnight and finished around 4am. It seemed to me that Pedro couldn’t wait for Mary and the group to retire for the night so he could “party”.

In between keeping Pedro happy I also had to be with him and the group at their various TV and media appearances and supervising getting their 23 pieces of baggage from hotels to the airplanes and onto the next hotel and so on and so on. Usually the group would go through customs to either the plane or the next hotel and leave me to sort out getting the luggage through and delivered.

In those days airport security was very little when compared with the terrorist driven strict security we face today. However it still took a lot of explaining as to why I had so many bags to check in that were not actually mine. This was made even more difficult in Rome when the group waltzed through check in and security leaving me with the luggage just as a guy checking in on the counter next to me was found to be carrying a gun. I just made the flight.

In Paris we arrived at the luxury George V Hotel and took over a group of suites that even included a servant’s room; of course that’s where I ended up. However it was better than most top hotel rooms and I was very happy with it.

After settling everybody in, Pedro wanted me to go shopping with him. So off we go by limousine with the first stop being Louis Vuitton where Pedro purchased the biggest and most expensive suitcase. Then it was onto a series of beautiful top designer shops where Pedro continued to accumulate expensive articles until the suitcase was full.

That night the EMI Paris representative, Kathryn (An English lady with one of those beautiful rounded English voices), hosted a dinner for us at Maxim’s. We had a fantastic meal and when it was time to go Kathryn, on receiving the bill, asked (in English) for the Maitre d’. When he arrived a very heated conversation in French took place: Kathryn then counted out in French Francs exactly the amount of the account.

After seeing The Supremes to the hotel, Kathryn took Pedro and myself to a very classy nightclub where I had the opportunity to ask her what the scene at Maxim’s was all about. Apparently, presuming no one in our party spoke French; the waiters serving us had been making rude remarks about the group all evening. You can imagine those waiters and the Maitre d’ were very surprised and embarrassed at Kathryn’s fluent French after she had spoken English from the time she made the booking up until receiving the cheque.

Our final tour destination was London (my base) and here the EMI UK staff took over looking after the group (and Pedro). Thankfully I was free from being their companion, luggage man and tennis partner. Or so I thought.

After a couple of days I get a call from Pedro; he has organised a tennis court in Knightsbridge and wanted a last opportunity to give me a beating. Once again we play another long, competitive and exhausting five set match. Over a post game drink Pedro says he is driving to Bournemouth next day to see The Supremes in concert and wants me to come with him. Bugger: I can’t refuse. After getting out of London Pedro drives like a maniac and I’m absolutely terrified: however we arrive alive and well. Mary and the group are in top form and the concert terrific, as was the after concert party. But now I have to face the return journey to London with Pedro driving. In the early hours of the morning the sparsely populated roads are just the incentive Pedro needs to go even faster and again throughout the trip I’m silent with fear. It is with relief I wave Pedro farewell as he “burns” away from my home in Barnes.

Finally The Supremes tour comes to an end and I’m free at long last. That was the good news. The bad news was that two more European tours by major Motown artists are announced and I’m probably going to get to do this all over again.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

1974, Mary Wilson married Pedro Ferrer and they subsequently had three children: Turkessa (born 1975), Pedro (born 1977) and Raphael (born 1979). In 1981, Wilson divorced Ferrer, whom she describes in Supreme Faith as being habitually abusive.

NOTE

If I sound like an unhappy camper in the story above, it is because I was. My position at Motown had increasingly taken me away from creating and promoting music and was far removed from the day-to-day excitement of managing a record company. The end of 1976 would see me back where I wanted to be.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

HOW IS THE AIR UP THERE

Having started with Philips Records as a warehouse assistant in 1957 I had by 1963 managed get myself promoted through various steps to Head of A&R. Now I was responsible for selecting all overseas records for New Zealand release and for overseeing what little local recording we did.

Although I had no desire to be a studio record producer I did, in my learning process, sign and produce several singles with artists Alex Neill from the Lower Hutt band “Corvairs”* and with Johnny Devlin’s piano player, Claude Papesch. I didn’t like working in the confined studio environment and quickly figured out that there were others better qualified and more suited for actual recording production: my interest and skills were really in being able to recognise songs and artists that would find wide popularity and where possible to bring a song and an artist together.

I was however determined we would sign and be successful with local artists and make Philips Records a worthy rival to HMV, the then dominating record company in the New Zealand.

As I auditioned records from all over the globe with a view for New Zealand release I found many good songs and started building up a stock of the ones I believed could have hit potential for New Zealand artists.

In 1965 Larry Morris and his group Larry’s Rebels were our first minor success with one of my stock songs, “This Empty Place”. Unfortunately that hint of success with the song lead their manager Russell Clark deciding to team up with Benny Levin and form their own Impact Records and we lost the band.

LARRY'S REBELS

Though now a stranger to studio producing I did produce a couple of singles with Herma Keil in 1965 at The Stebbing Studios under Eldred and Margaret's home in Saratoga Avenue, Herne Bay. I got on well with Eldred Stebbing and recognised that many artists were coming to his studio to make demos and that he and Stebbing Studios could be a fertile source of New Zealand artists for us. Eldred and I reached agreement for Philips Records to release his studio’s output.

In 1966 Eldred sent me a demo recording of an exciting new band he had found,the La De Da's.

My stock of potential hits included two songs from American songwriters Steve Duboff and Artie Kornsfeld, recording together under the name “The Changin’ Times”. I thought both were absolute hits. The songs were “How Is The Air Up There” and “Pied Piper”. I thought them perfect for The La De Da's and sent them to Eldrid.

The La De Da's recorded both songs and “How Is The Air up There” reached No4 on the NZ charts: it was a hit in Australia as well.” Pied Piper” also became an International hit that year for UK artist Crispian St.Peters.

My song stockpile produced another hit for the Stebbing/Philips partnership. I sent Eldred Aphrodite’s Child’s European hit “Rain & Tears” and suggested Eldred record it with Hi-Revving Tongues: he did and it went all the way to No1 in 1969.

However my stockpile of potential hits contained many songs that I couldn’t get any NZ artist to see any potential in. It was frustrating when I was unable to “sell” a song I believed in: and none more frustrating than a song called “The Air That I Breathe” from singer/songwriter/producer, Albert Hammond. It was a terrific song and I never missed an opportunity to try and sell it to anyone who would listen, but with no takers. It was no surprise that eventually (in 1974) it became a huge hit for The Hollies. The song is today considered a classic and I particularly like K.D.Lang’s version.

To me good Singer/songwriters are a treasure and working successfully with these talented people is just the best. Close behind in satisfaction is being able to successfully marry a song with an artist. When “How Is The Air Up There” by the La De Da's comes up on my iPod rotation it still brings me smile.

* The Corvairs included Dale Wrightson on lead guitar and my cousin George Watson on Bass.

CORVAIRS BEFORE DALE WRIGHTSON JOINED. L TO R ROB CROZIER (on drums in left corner), GEORGE WATSON, ALEX NEILL AND DAVID LEITH. GERALD LOESCH IS NOT IN THE PICTURE.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I EAT MY HAT.



1975 at DECCA RECORDS UK

I’m managing the Popular Records Division and we are having a great year. Our start of turning Decca around began with re-working our strong catalogue: we came up with big selling hits albums from The Rolling Stones (Rolled Gold), Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. We had hits from international artists Maurice Albert with “Feeling” and French superstar Gilbert Becaud with “A Little Love and Understanding”: we successfully re-launched the career of Peter Skellern with a hit single “Hold On To Love”.

We hit big with Moody Blues members, Justin Haywood and John Lodge and their album “Blue Jays”. From our USA affiliates we had major sales success with albums from Al Green and The Chi-Lites.

Whilst I was closely involved in the selection and marketing of all these successful singles and albums our biggest success of the year happened almost “in spite of me”.

One day our two most enthusiastic A&R guys came to me seeking permission to do a deal for a summer single they were really excited about. They played me a novelty number titled “Barbados” by a group called Typically Tropical. I thought it fun and probably a top 20-chart entry; but as I didn’t see an album or long-term artist development in the single I was “less than enthusiastic”.

The guys pleaded with me to let them do the deal and genuinely saw the record as a No1 single. On giving them the OK, I also made the comment, “If that goes to No1, I’ll eat my hat”.

The two enthusiastic A&R guys were right. The single went to No1 and was the biggest hit of the 1975 summer in the UK.

One morning I was invited to join the A&R team for morning tea: the group took great delight in presenting me with a chocolate hat to eat and enjoy with my cup of tea. I ate a little “humble pie” as well.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"YOU BLOODY COLONIAL"


I get a phone call from Ken East. Ken is a music industry legend, having been MD of EMI in the heyday of The Beatles. Ken has taken over as MD at Decca and invites me to be his Marketing Manager.

After a brief chat we make an appointment to meet next day in his office. Ken ends the call with a strange request; “Promise me one thing; you will make sure you do see me. Don’t get depressed by the Decca environment on arrival and bugger off”. With that he disconnects.

Decca had been along with EMI at the top of UK record companies and the home of The Rolling Stones and The Moody Blues. Decca was now (1975) an "also ran" and slipping further behind EMI and a host of newer players.

Next day I get a train to London and make my way to the Decca building on the Albert Embankment, over the Thames but in sight of Big Ben. Now I find out what Ken meant. The reception people are uniformed “Commissioners”, all aged about 70 plus and rude. The decor is 1930. Eventually I’m escorted up to Ken’s office. The office is bare except for a desk, chair, phone and a guest chair. “Spartan it may be” is Ken’s opening remark. “But it’s staying like this until we turn this company around”.

After agreeing salary and a company car I get advice from Ken; “This place is a political nightmare with a bunch of upper class old fogies who used to be in charge now spending their days trying to stuff us new guys up. Don’t get involved in trying to politic these guys. You run shop and leave that to me. When you arrive Monday and until I sort out your car park, just park the car in the main yard”.

On Monday I arrive in the Decca main yard in the sporty Ford hatchback I have chosen. I park the car and make my way to the entrance only to be confronted by a uniformed oldie who shouts, “You can’t park there, get it out of our car park”. I explain to him that I’m the new Marketing Manager of the recording division and he exclaims, “That’s not an executive car”. Ignoring him I make my way to the main foyer and call one of the two elevators.

Another uniformed oldie shouts, “Where do you think you’re going?” Again I explain who I am. “Well then” he says “you must take the left elevator: that one on the right is for non-managerial staff”. I am entering the world of class division as advocated by the company’s founder and Chairman, Sir Edward Lewis.

My fun with the uniformed oldies continued for a couple of weeks until evidently it was accepted I was who I said I was.

As much as Ken tried to change the culture at Decca it was still something from another age. The English class system was rife, or at lest the Decca version of it.

If I went out of the building with any of my team I was not permitted to travel with them in the staff elevator but had to go in the one reserved for management. Several times I tried to join my team but either got shouted at by the Commissioners or sent a note from one of the "Old fogies". Being the son of a Wellington waterside worker I found my new “status’ very strange.

There were three dining rooms where staff had lunch; one for the non-executive staff, one for senior executives and one for Sir Edward and guests. In both the executive and Sir Edward’s venues a superb lunch with the finest of wines was served at no cost to the executive. Sir Edward always referred to his staff by their surnames, so I was just McCready and Ken, just East.

We were encouraged to invite guests to lunch in our executive dining room rather than spend money in restaurants. If our guest were important enough we would be upgraded to Sir Edward’s venue and Sir Edward himself would attend. These were awfully stilted occasions, which we tried to avoid: the “clubby” atmosphere and our guests being talked down to by our upper class chairman didn’t exactly give us the image of a go ahead, risk taking and modern record company.

Despite the “old guard” doing their best to stop the new team we had a fantastic year and improved our market share and number of chart singles and albums significantly. Decca became a player again in this competitive market.

But, unbeknown to me Ken was not happy at Decca: despite our success, Sir Edward was still interfering too much and letting some of the old guard continue to frustrate Ken.

I’m requested to meet with Ken and on doing so he tells me he is sorry but he has resigned to take up the position of International President of Motown Records, to be based in London. I’m asked to join him as Marketing Director for Europe and MD of Motown UK. After thinking about it don’t want to change jobs again so soon and would prefer to see if I can carry on here at Decca. Ken warns me that on his leaving the old guard will regain control and I will be frustrated to hell. He offers to keep the Motown position open for me for a period just in case I find the going at Decca too tough.

Ken East was, in my view, one of the great “record men” and working with him opened up doors for me that I simply couldn’t have opened without his help. Ken knew every important player in the business and made sure I was introduced and promoted as his number two at Decca. He was the best guy I have ever worked for; tough, fair, and knowledgeable plus he was an inspirational leader. I knew without him at Decca it would be hard, but not how hard.

I meet with Sir Edward who appoints me General Manager of the companies' Popular Music Division. I go back to work but as Ken predicted the old guard starts blocking decision making at all levels and soon staff morale is just awful. Sir Edward seems content to see our progress halted and turns a blind eye. After a month of frustration I phone Ken and he is delighted I will join him.

Sir Edward and I meet and I advise him that I’m leaving and why. He becomes very agitated and standing up from his desk points at me shouting, “You are just like that East, you...you.... bloody colonials”. I leave that day.

Whilst my short time at Phonogram UK saw me contribute by way of signing Thin Lizzy and Kraftwork it really was a period of education rather than achievement. At Decca I really felt we had made a great success of the company and our improved market share testified to that. I was proud of what we had achieved and certainly was now accepted as a UK record man, even though still “a bloody colonial”.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

CHAOS IN CANNES: I meet "THE AL CAPONE OF POP"

DON ARDEN "The Al Capone of Pop".

In January 1976 Ken East and I attended the annual record industry market in Cannes, France. We met current and potential Motown licensees and completed some excellent business deals. However the standout of the convention for me was an incident which forever remains etched in my memory bank.

On my final evening in Cannes I was sitting with a colleague in the lobby bar of the Cannes Casino sharing a quiet drink. Suddenly the door of the Casino gaming room burst open and a thick set guy came sprinting out of the gaming room moving fast towards the Casino main entrance, which was just beyond our table: he was chased by another chap, sprinting even faster.

Just as the lead runner reached abreast of our table, he was caught by the chaser and pounced upon in a classic rugby style tackle. Both men landed on our glass table and it shattered into thousands of pieces.

The chaser then grabbed the runner by the shoulders and commenced to pound the runner’s head, over and over, into the floor. It was so quick and so violent.

I thought the runner was going to be killed and without thinking dived on the chaser and started to pull him off. All three of us were now on our feet, me hugging the chaser and the chaser still wrestling the runner.

Suddenly, a fourth combatant, a young woman joins us. The woman starts to tear and scratch the face of the chaser as I still endeavour to pull him off and away from the runner.

We are then all pounced upon by several French Gendarmes, separated and held. After a discussion by the police with other onlookers I am released and thanked for intervening and the other three are taken away.

Next morning I’m on a flight back to London travelling in “the back of the bus”. From business class the “The Runner” from the previous evening emerges and walks down the isle to me. “Hello” he says and shakes my hand. “I’m Don Arden and I just wanted to thank you for intervening last night. If you hadn’t I could have been seriously hurt. I found out who you were and if ever you need anything, give me a call, here's my card”.

Apparently the “The Chaser” was from a rival artist management company and the dispute was over rights to the group BLACK SABBATH. The young woman who joined the affray and started to attack “The Chaser” was Don’s daughter Sharon (now Sharon Osbourne).

In later years I meet Don several times, mainly through contact with his group ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, which we then distributed. Don was always welcoming to me and ever grateful to me for intervening at our first “meeting”. I was invited and attended a party at his Beverly Hills home on one occasion, though I didn’t stay long, as it was just too wild and over the top for me.

From Wikipedia. Don Arden (4 January 1926 – 21 July 2007), born Harry Levy, was an Englishmusic manager, agent and businessman, best known for overseeing the careers of rock groupsSmall Faces, Electric Light Orchestra and Black Sabbath.

He achieved notoriety in England for his aggressive, sometimes illegal business tactics which led to him being called "Mr. Big", "The English Godfather" and "The Al Capone of Pop".[1]

He was the father of Sharon Osbourne (father-in-law of Ozzy Osbourne) and David Levy, by his wife, Hope Shaw, a former ballet dancer/teacher, who predeceased him, dying in 1999.[2]

Arden's success story turned sour when his violent 'negotiating' methods and questionable accounting caught up with him, and he became estranged from members of his own family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MARVIN GAYE: I WANT YOU


LONDON 1976

Ken East has moved to Motown as International Managing Director and I have joined him as UK Managing Director and International Marketing Director. This is my first "non-line management" job and my task is to promote the famed Motown artists and their recordings throughout Europe. What is different is that we have licensees in each country who do the actual marketing and my role is one of "arms length" encouragement, persuasion and if necessary "kick butt" to ensure success. The only real power we have with our licensees is that ultimately we can change them at contracts end. However if things go wrong it is Ken and I who will take the heat from Motown head office.

Marvin Gaye has a new album out, “I WANT YOU” and as part of the promotion he is in London and will play The Royal Albert Hall. We have a press conference at a Knightsbridge Hotel and it all goes well. After many one on one interviews we have organised for Marvin with reporters from the more important music newspapers, the last interview remaining is with a very attractive lady from a major daily newspaper. After we introduce Marvin to the lady he immediately requests we move this one to his suite as he is tired of being in the conference room. We organise that and leave them to it. Ken and I wait at the bar and about an hour later the young lady, now with a slightly embarrassed look on her face, comes back and joins us for a farewell drink.

That evening Ken and I have dinner with Marvin and he spends most of the meal complaining about “unpaid royalties” and even Ken’s excellent diplomacy is tested. Thankfully the conversation gets diverted when from a nearby table a gentleman gets up choking for breath, with seemingly something stuck in his throat. Marvin is quickly on his feet, grabs the man from behind and squeezes him hard; amazingly getting the man’s throat cleared. Marvin becomes an immediate hero of the restaurant crowd and we no longer have to talk about difficult money matters, over which we have no knowledge or authority.

The next evening we host special guests at a private box with bar service at Marvin’s Royal Albert Hall concert and we witness a master singer/songwriter at the top of his form. In my memory this performance remains as The Best of any artist I have seen. What a loss to music when Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father in 1984.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

JOHN MILES: MUSIC

1975 Decca Records UK

A component of my job as Marketing Manager at Decca was to work with A&R to find new local talent to sign.

Every weekend I would take home the tapes that had come in from producers and artists seeking a contract. One Sunday I’m home and I put on a tape by an artist named John Miles; it is just in a tape box titled “John Miles: Music” with a name and address of the sender. I have already listened to a couple of dozen awful tapes so I’m not expecting anything startling.

I start the tape and I can’t believe what I’m hearing: a full orchestral demo of the most amazing song.

Music is my first love and it will be my last

Music from the future, music from the past

To live without my music would be impossible to do

In these times of troubles, my music sees me through.

I play it over several times and tingle with excitement. I can hardly wait for Monday to arrive. First thing Monday I’m in Ken East’s office early and raving about this tape. I play it to him and he gets excited too and I’m given authority to try and sign John Miles to a contract.

I phone the guy whose name is on the tape, a Cliff Cooper, and arrange for him to call in for a discussion. We meet and Cliff gives me his card; he is the owner and MD of Orange Amplification and John’s manager.

Cliff is quietly spoken. He tells me about john and I enthuse over the demo tape, the song and the singer. I say we would like to sign John to Decca and he says, “OK, but what sort of advance are you offering?” I porcupine him and say, “How much do you expect?” he replies in a whisper; “One Hundred Thousand Pounds”; I say, “What was that again?” Cliff says again, very quietly, “One Hundred Thousand Pounds”.

So it’s time for me to enthuse some more and tell Cliff I would have to get him to meet Ken, who would need to approve that amount of advance on royalties. We agree to stay in touch and I will arrange a meeting with Ken.

Ken is seeing Elton John that evening (they are close friends from his EMI days) and will take the tape and ask Elton for an opinion. Next day he brings me up to date. Ken put the tape on for Elton and after just a couple of bars Elton says, “That’s John Miles, he’s great.” Apparently all the musicians know and respect John and it is only record company people who don’t know of him yet. Ken and I meet with Cliff and a contract is agreed.

We get Alan Parsons to produce the album (Rebel) and over the next few months I get to know John well. I go to many gigs, including one at a small function in a hotel in Piccadilly: John sings “Music” with just him on piano. It was spine tingling.

Our A&R team want “Highfly”, a straight pop song to be the single but I want “Music”. I bow to their wishes and we go with “High Fly” which becomes a minor hit and makes the chart.

“Music” is our 2nd single and is a huge hit reaching No3 on the charts and breaking John in Europe.

The album containing the two singles, REBEL, was a top ten UK album in 1976.

John later became part of Tina Turner’s touring band and her musical director on tour and on several of her albums. He often sang duet on stage with Tina.

John started touring again with Tina in 2008.