Andrew Loog Oldham Interview
In Rock 'n Roll history, there are some groups whose managers are just
as famous as the acts themselves. For example: The Beatles - Brian Epstein.
Grand Funk Railroad - Terry Knight. Led Zeppelin - Peter Grant.
And then there's The Rolling Stones, whose manager was Andrew Loog Oldham
in the 1960s. What a fascinating time to have been involved in the management
of a Rock 'n Roll group.
Q - Mr. Oldham, the obvious question has to be, what are
you doing living in South America? Bogota, Columbia is it?
A - I met my wife, the Columbian actress Esther Farfan, in London in November
of 1974 when, with mutual friends we attended a play called "John, Paul, George
and Bert", which was of course based upon the premise that there was a fifth
Beatle. I fell in love on the spot. I was living in New York and Connecticut
at the time, visiting London to promote an artist I'd produced called Brett
Smiley. Esther was filming in New York in the Spring of 1975 and we met again.
Basically, I followed her back to Columbia and my first weekend lasted three
months, this being one of the advantages of skating between being unemployed
and self-employed. I fell in love with Esther and got not only a life, but
a country. We married in 1977 in London and have a son of 22 years old. I have
another aged 38 from a previous engagement. Columbia is a divine country, although
obviously dangerous. I prefer to live in a country with faith.
Q - Besides publishing your memoirs, are you involved at
all in the music business?
A - No. I have attempted to keep my hand in record production. I had a great
run in Argentina from 1990 to 1997 with a group called Los Ratones Paranoicos.
They were sort of the Rolling Stones of the south of South America. We had
a lot of hits together in that time, but the music business is so frazzled,
panic'd and obsessed with it's own demise, that you really have to be in it
24 / 7 in order to have a chance of participating. I have no such desire any
more, so on my last birthday I hung up my production gloves.
Q - When I think about your life, I ask myself how can
anything top what you did with The Rolling Stones? How do you ever come
down off such a pedestal as that? What do you do for an encore?
A -I live daily for the encore. Of course, I'm not going to deny that I spent
nigh on thirty years adjusting to having been so very successful at such a
young age. It's clear to anyone who has read either of my autobiographies, "Stoned" and "2Stoned",
especially the latter which deals with my life with the Stones from 1964 -
1967, that at 23, I went through a lot. But, you must remember I never managed
another group. I just created a record company, Immediate Records - the Small
Faces, Humble Pie, Rod Stewart, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, Fleetwood
Mac and Amen Corner, and after that folded and I'd left England, I produced
records when I had the opportunity. It was a great way of keeping my independence,
sanity and fulfilling the fact that a fellow has to get up and go to work or
at least, this one does. I worked at Motown's white label Rare Earth; in the
'70s with Jimmy Cliff and Donovan in the mid 70s; in Italy with Francesco Di
Gregori and Anna Oxa at the end of the 70s; with Bobby Womack in the early
80s. Then our son Maximillion was born and I basically took five years off,
except for some re-mastering I did for recordings of The Rolling Stones, Marianne
Faithful, Sam Cooke and Phil Spector. At the end of the 80s, I started production
again with a couple of hits in Columbia with a group called Compania LLimitada,
then I headed for Argentina and had a six year run with Los Ratones Paranoicos.
So, I've always kept busy and I've never managed an act the way I managed The
Rolling Stones. It's logical, to do anything different would have placed whomever
I managed in an unfair spotlight and that happened anyway with certain acts
that I produced like Brett Smiley. As for the pedestal you speak of, you must
remember that in the beginning in 1963, The Rolling Stones were just ordinary
people who became very, very special when they stepped onstage, or eventually
into a recording studio and became The Rolling Stones. By ordinary, that does
not mean not engaging, because they were. But, I did not say to my Mum, "Oh,
mum I'm meeting Brian Jones or Mick today!" It was just a case of doing my
job for people for the most important parts, liked and got along with for those
years. Four all important years.
Q - The late, great writer Lillian Roxon wrote about managers, "You
could put Colonel Tom Parker on a stage, let him talk, charge admission
and you'd have a big star. The great managers of great acts are almost
invariably great acts themselves. It is a pity they have to stay behind
the scenes...at least as far as audiences are concerned. Presenting an
act or a performer to the public is as flamboyant an act as getting up
onstage and singing." Did Andrew Loog Oldham harbor a secret desire to
become a singer or a musician?
Q - Apart from the last sentence, she's talking nonsense. Colonel Parker was
ugly and unsympathetic. He did not have one of the greatest voices of the 20th
century and he was not born at the right time in a place that allowed to Capricornian
Elvis to sponge in the culture he did and present them as white and new. I
could go on. As for me, I got rid of any desire to be a performer when I sung
in a school concert at the age of 12 and the sound that was louder and more
in tune than my voice was the sound of my knees knocking. In later years as
I became known, bios on me always state that I was a performer called Sandy
Beach and had a group called The Chancery Lane Trio. Here I'm rewarded with
my own P.R. I used to tell Peter Jones of the Record Mirror, incidentally the
journalist who first sent me to see The Rolling Stones in April of 1963, that
I had been a compere called Sandy Beach and had played piano in a jazz group
called The Chancery Lane Trio. Nonsense. Any of your readers who are familiar
with London will know that Chancery Lane is an underground tube station and
a famous street in the city of London. As for Sandy Beach, I don't think there
are any of those in England...well not without pebbles and tar. So, yes I got
tarred by my own brush of P.R.
Q - Before managing The Rolling Stones, you were a publicist
for The Beatles. You had no actual experience as a manager did you? Do
you think it's important that a person have experience to manage a band?
Why did The Stones give you a vote of confidence in managing them?
A - Back then, you were dealing with magic. Now you are dealing with the reality
of bean counting. The Stones and I gave each other confidence. A lot of it
had to do with being the same age, same lack of experience and same passion
for life. In many ways, I managed them less than I inspired them to become
what they became.
Q - Eric Easton, The Stones business manager...what did
he bring into the equation? Money? Was he the financial backer? Did he
provide money for things like equipment, clothes, salaries of support
personnel? I thought record companies provided that type of money.
A - Eric was an agent and could get them work. I could not. A non-performing
band is out of touch and dead. He did not provide money. He provided work and
distain. Until 1967, record companies provided no money, only slave contracts
and opportunity. In 1963, having a hit did not allow you to buy silly jewellery
and houses and whores or audition with Jesus. It allowed you to earn a few
more quid on the road.
Q - At the time you were working for The Beatles, was it
difficult to get publishing for them?
A - No. I had just finished working for the fashion designer Mary Quant. I
had all my fashion contracts. I was the new kid on the block in music P.R.,
therefore I was "interesting" and The Beatles were The Beatles. They were obviously
about to take over the game. I just had to do my job, which I did for four
months from January to April of 1963.
Q - What did you think of Brian Epstein as a manager? What
did you think of the job he was doing for The Beatles at the time you
were working for him?
A - He was great. He was passioned, he cared...maybe too much about The Beatles
and his situation. Being homosexual and a Jew, when nearly both were still
against the law. The first in fact, the second about which I jest was tough
for a sensitive fellow.
Q - Brian Epstein was criticized later on for some of the
bad deals he made on behalf of he band. Did you learn from his mistakes?
A - No. In my time, he made no mistakes. There should be plaques up to Brian.
If he had not persevered and got The Beatles their recording contract, we would
not be having this chat now.
Q - I go back to Lillian Roxon. She writes about you: "Andrew
Oldham, who managed The Stones to fame and fortune had smaller success
with smaller groups, but never repeated The Stones coup. It takes two
to create that rare chemistry that makes a great match. The star has to
have it, but the manager has to know it. The manager has to have the same
sort of instinctive sense of timing offstage that the star has onstage."
A - She is not telling any new data, and were she alive, you would not be quoting
her. All she is telling you is that cars need drivers, petrol and wheels to
drive. What she says is relevant only to a small spark of time that we were
lucky to explode from. That data is of no use to managers and artists today.
Q - What smaller groups is Ms. Roxon talking about here?
A - The Small Faces, Marianne Faithful and Fleetwood Mac perhaps.
Q - How did you know that The Stones had what it takes
to become stars?
A - A wave came over me that told me that this is what my life thus far had
been preparing me to do.
Q - Didn't I read somewhere that a record company executive
liked the band, but said they should really give serious thought to replacing
the lead singer?
A - Brian Jones noted to Eric Easton that Mick had to go because the group
had failed their BBC radio audition, a very important failure because live
radio at that time was 50% of the game.
Q - Were you in Syracuse on July 6th, 1966 when Brian Jones
was accused of having dragged the American flag across the War Memorial
A - No.
Q - Do you find the death of Brian Jones three years later
to be suspicious at all?
A - No.
Q - Are you still in contact with anyone in The Stones?
A - Yes.
Q - How would you like the world to remember Andrew Loog
A - I'm working on it, but until I come up with something better, if I have
a headstone it could say "He Gave Us Satisfaction!"
© Gary James All Rights Reserved