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Q: What song did you write with Bobby Darin, and how did that come about?

A friend of mine called Frank Fenter worked at Polydor Records. Bobby Darin was due in the country and Frank told me that although Bobby had said that he wouldn't do any interviews, he would try and arrange for me to get an exclusive.

Then Frank called to say that he'd arranged for me to meet Bobby at Claridge's Hotel. Bobby's p.a. took me to his suite and I began the interview discussing virtually everything but his musical career - his philosophy, his beliefs and his outlook on life.

When the feature appeared in Record Mirror I received a call from Tommy, Bobby's p.a. who put me over to Bobby who said that it was the best interview about himself that he had ever read and he invited me over to Claridges again to have a drink with him. We chatted about numerous things and I told him about a poem I'd been writing about how the earth might become in the future. It was called 'The Green Fields of Earth.'

The Green Fields of Earth.
The green fields of earth, where do they lie?
In history books and photographs
They rest beneath the sky
That's where the green fields lie
Where do the birds fly?
In history books and photographs
They soar into the sky
That's where the birds fly
Concrete jungles between the oceans lie
Skyscraper stories reaching way up high
Human hives where people live and die
A crowded world beneath a silent sky
Where do the beasts cry?
Behind steel bars in crowded zoos
No fields to roam, no room to move
That's where the beasts cry
The green fields of earth where do they lie?
In history books and photographs
They rest beneath the sky
That's where the green fields lie

This was one of the various subjects we'd been talking about - what the outlook for humankind was in the future and he said the number would make a good song, but it needed an extra middle - and he worked on it on the spot and wrote it out for me, fitting it in as the fourth verse:

A blade of grass is crying for some air
Pushing its way through the concrete there
Breathing through a crack in a cold grey stair
A blade of grass in the cold night air

Bobby was in London for the premier of 'Stranger in the House', a film in which he starred with James Mason and Geraldine Chaplin. There was to be a premier party after the preview but he said that instead of going to that he'd take Virginia and I out to dinner and arranged to meet up at the Pickwick Club. He then took us to a restaurant, San Lorenzo. He had a great sense of humour and was fascinating company. There was an acoustic guitar in the restaurant and he borrowed it to play '18 Yellow Roses' to us.

He decided to rent a house in London in the fashionable Belgravia area and invited Virginia and I to stay with him, which we did. Then Bobby said that he was going to the UNICEF Concert in Paris and would like to take Virginia and me with him and was going to introduce us to Marlon Brando and Danny Kaye.

We arrived at Heathrow to find that all flights had been cancelled, so we went to a nearby airport hotel and had dinner. The fog continued and then it was too late for him to be a part of the UNICEF show, so we returned to London.

Q: Many people have drinking stories to tell from their younger days, but I would imagine yours would be a bit more interesting, especially since they include many rock & roll legends. Do you have any stories that you can share with us? Attitudes sometimes change over time, and looking back, does the drinking culture that you experienced with rock stars bring back mostly enjoyable memories, or did it seem to be a time of excess that was a bit out of control?

Virginia and Bill HarryYes, we liked to have a drink, but it was an activity that was always enjoyed in company. John Lennon and I would drink together in Ye Cracke. That was the first time I discovered that he wrote poetry and encouraged him to show me what he'd written - eventually leading to me commission him to write for Mersey Beat. The Blue Angel was also a place where we socialized with half glasses of beer in the evenings. One night, after we'd been to the premier of 'Maggie May' in Manchester, Judy Garland was down at the Blue for a party. She wanted to play the fruit machine there, so I helped her out and we got on well together. She asked me if anyone could play the piano for her as she'd like to sing, but I couldn't find any musicians who'd do it. I met Judy a few more times after that: at the after show party for 'Maggie May' when it made its West End debut, and I used to chat with her at the Speakeasy when she came down once. The last time was at the Revolution club. I sat up until three in the morning chatting to Judy and Veronica Lake. At the party at the Blue, Allan Williams had had a few and for some reason pursued Judy out of the door and when she was getting into her car he kicked it and shouted out that (expletives deleted) she'd never be allowed in his club again - I don't know why!

I also took Bob Dylan down to the Blue. Bob had asked me to show him some Liverpool clubs where there were poets and I took him to the Blue. I asked him what he wanted to drink and he requested Beaujolais. But the Angel only served beer and spirits. Bob wanted to leave, so after I'd introduced him to poet Roger McGough and Mike McCartney, we all went back to the Adelphi Hotel, and Roger also brought a girl trio he was managing called the Poppies. When we got into his suite, Al Grossman was settled in an armchair and the table had a crate of Beaujolais on it, so we spent several hours polishing it off with Bob telling me how excited he was about a book he was writing called 'Tarantula.'

At art school we had always loved the San Francisco poets, particularly Alan Ginsberg, and I remember how I used to read 'Howl' out loud as I walked the streets. Then here he was, sitting next to me in the Blue Angel, telling me how remarkable he found Liverpool to be!

When I went to London it was the clubs, pubs, venues and television bars we drank in. When we went to the Marquee we didn't go into the Ship pub as most people did, but frequented La Chasse club, a little drinking club above the Marquee. My favourite pub was De Hems in Macclesfield Street. This is where everyone gathered at lunchtimes - it was like the court of Peter Jones, editor of Record Mirror. Peter was a wonderful man, who was liked by everyone - and as this was the pub he frequented because it was the nearest one to the Record Mirror office, we always graduated there. There'd be the Kinks, Hollies, Peter Noone, various DJ's, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, the Bee Gees, loads of artists. Everyone who was interviewed at the Record Mirror used to drop into the pub for a drink and then became regulars. The Record Mirror office was tiny so when I became the first person in Britain to interview the Bee Gees I had to do it in the narrow corridor outside the office, sitting on cardboard boxes. Later Virginia and I would go to parties at Barry Gibbs house with our friend David Garrick. Yes, of course, there were many parties. When Virginia and I went to see Fats Domino and Gerry & the Pacemakers at the Savile Theatre, we went to a party with them afterwards, accompanied by a group I used to manage called the Four Pennies. Robert Stigwood was there and the Pennies were having a confrontation with Stigwood over the fact that they'd never been paid for a tour they did for him - and I was called over to try to get everyone to calm down.

The other favourite pub was the Coach & Horses in Poland Street. That was when I had an office in Oxford Street - was it London's equivalent to the Brill building, I wonder? It was above a shop and there was a narrow stairway leading to the first floor. Here there was the office of Chrysalis and I was press agent for all their groups - Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Procul Harum. Their office was shared by Harry Simmonds and I was press agent for his groups - Chicken Shack (with Christine Perfect) and Savoy Brown. I also had an office on that floor. The next floor had music publishers, including Island Records Publishing and for Island Records I was press agent for Free and Mott the Hoople. On the next floor was a large office for Peter Grant and Mickie Most and for Peter I represented Led Zeppelin and Stone the Crows and for Mickie, Suzi Quatro and Terry Reid.

Mersey Beat OnlineOne day I was in the Coach & Horses and John Bonham, with a couple of other musicians, was ordering a bizarre cocktail of drinks, asking the barmaid to mix some quite lethal brands of alcohol, liquors, brandies etc. I knew that the more they drank the more mischief they'd be up to. When they kept sneaking glances at me I knew that I was being surveyed as a potential victim. I had Glen Cornick doing an interview in my office, so I rushed up and locked the door, then rushed into Terry Ellis/Chris Wright's office (they were the heads of Chrysalis.) I heard the group of them coming up the stairs. They discovered I was in the office and as I'd closed the door, they rushed it and knocked it off its hinges. Realising what they'd done they retreated and came across Doug D'Arcy, a Chrysalis p.a. They grabbed him, completely wrapped him in rolls of sellotape, like an Egyptian mummy and carted him out to Oxford Street and dumped him there. I'm told that they went on to Maurice Burman's (the costumiers who provided the Sgt Pepper uniforms) and rented some arab robes. Then they went on to the Mayfair Hotel where John had rented a suite. In the lift with some blue-rinse ladies they lifted up their robes - they had no underclothes on - and were promptly dealt some blows with umbrellas from the ladies. They went into the suite and ordered steaks for fifty people. After the trolleys had been wheeled into the suite that began to fling the steaks at the walls, broke a few of the elephant statues (it was the Maharishi suite) and then went on to the Speakeasy. They stood at the bar, lifting up their robes as people went by - but everyone had seen it all before and ignored them. As a result of the damage to the Maharishi Suite, John was banned from every hotel in London!

But, inevitably, I have to admit that the drinking was completely out-of-control and if it had continued, I would have been dead years ago. You were really sucked into it. As I said, interviews were mostly conducted in pubs. Then, when the pubs shut in the afternoon, we'd continue to drinking clubs such as the A&R Club and the Cottage. In the evening it would be off to the Marquee and drinks there, or in La Chasse and later on, drinking at the Speakeasy or Revolution until 2 in the morning - and then we'd be off to the Playboy club. We also drank at other 'in' clubs such as the Scotch of St James and the Bag O' Nails. The drink took its toll of former drinking companions such as John Bonham and Keith Moon. John phoned me one night when we were at the Revolution and said he wanted to come down and have a drink with me. I asked where he was and he said 'Birmingham.' I told him he'd never make it to the club before closing time at 2 o clock, but he said he was coming. He arrived at 1.50 and ordered 50 bottles of lager for the two of us - which we managed to get through!

You were pressured into drinking. When you met journalists such as Don Short, the most influential pop journalist at the time, you met him in the Daily Mirror pub, known as the 'stab in the back'. Even if you didn't feel like drinking, you couldn't really refuse. Then it was inevitable that you would end up in a drinking club. I've learned that instead of quaffing down innumerable pints of beer, I find it quite enjoyable just to have a glass of wine with my dinner and I haven't touched a pint of beer for about twenty years! I've known friends of mine in the business who were soon up to two bottles of vodka a day - and it killed them.

Q: Was Keith Moon really the wild man most of us have come to know through tales told about him or have the stories been embellished over the years? Do you have any memorable Keith Moon experiences you would like to share?

Yes, I did drink with Keith, but we must have consumed so much at times I don't remember anything of note, although he was fabulous company. He did mention the time he had an argument with Kim, his wife and threw a bottle of champagne at her, which stuck in the wall (must have been a plaster wall), and he left it there as a momento.

Q: With the numerous groups and performers you worked with over the years, who would you describe as the most enjoyable to be around and work with? At the other end of the spectrum, who would you consider to be, let's say, not quite so enjoyable?

Maria Elana Holly and Virginia HarryI can't say that there was any artist who I didn't get on with and who I didn't like working with. It was sometimes the managers or hangers-on who were the problem. When I represented David Bowie, he'd had a dip in his popularity. His manager Tony DeFries didn't seem interested in him so his music publisher, Bob Grace (one of the good guys) paid me to handle David's p.r. The new album was 'The Man Who Sold The World.' I began to set up interviews and David was so pleased he asked me to arrange interviews for some protégés of his, one of whom was Dana Gillespie, a really nice and glamorous girl who had an immense bust. I took her to see Judith Simonds of the Daily Express in the pub used by Express journalists and she caused quite a stir (she was in a number of films, including 'Hammer's 'The Lost Continent.'). At the time the most influential publication was the Daily Mirror, which had the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world at the time. I managed to get David on the front page on the Monday and followed with a centre page spread on the Wednesday. This was quite an unprecedented coup. The next thing, Tony DeFries was suddenly interested and when I arranged the next interviews I was told that they had to take place at DeFries' office. When I went there to oversee the interviews DeFries said he was taking over and my services were no longer required. As I didn't particularly like the man, I don't suppose I could have continued anyway. I always worked with artists as an equal; I suspected DeFries would have demanded a relationship more like master and servant!

My favourite of all the artists was Suzi Quatro and my relationship as her personal press agent lasted more than a decade. Virginia and I would stay as guests at her house, she acted as babysitter for our Sean, we attended the christening of her daughter Lisa, went to parties at her husband Len's house in Romford. It was a close, warm relationship. However, when Mickie Most said he had a surprise for me, he'd arranged for me to join Suzi on her world tour for a couple of months, I had to turn it down. I'd had enough traveling around with groups such as Led Zeppelin and, I suppose, I would have had to drop my work with the other artists. I also worked as p.r. for Mickie Most for 14 years.

 

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