The Rolling Stones‘ influential first manager, early PR for The Beatles and now accomplished author (to name but a few jobs), Andrew Loog Oldham has a unique career within music. It’s why, on a rare trip from his home in Columbia, the impresario is giving the keynote speech at this week’s (2-4 May) Liverpool Sound City – which will also feature performances from Every Everything, The Walkmen, Noah And The Wale, Dexys and more, see Liverpoolsoundcity.co.uk for full details. Ahead of his talk, Oldham answered a few questions via email.
You’re giving a keynote speech at Liverpool Sound City, what are you planning to talk about?
“It is 50 years to the month that I stopped working for Brian Epstein as a PR based in London and started managing The Rolling Stones. I worked on the second and third Beatles singles; Gerry & The Pacemakers’ How Do You Do It and was around as Eppy ushered in Billy J Kramer and Cilla Black. As you may know my most recent book, Stone Free, is dedicated to Brian. So, I’d like to talk about all that and how, via this invite to Liverpool Sound City, you can go back.”
If you were managing a band now, what would be advising your clients to do?
“The manager best be ready to work for nothing for at least a couple of years. Make sure the band writes a couple of years material before they start the promo troll.”
Will you be giving out advice for people starting off in the music today? If you were starting out now would you still opt for a career in music?
“You have to remember that music did not fill up the world the way it does today. You had to go find it. If you listened to what the BBC wanted you to live by you were doomed. Actually, it probably has not changed. You have to go look for your passion and these days the music biz seems closer to working at the prudential than seeking higher ground.”
Having one the press for a band who came out of the city, what in your opinion makes Liverpool such a good place for artists to develop?
“Everybody growing up in the UK at that time was told by Harold Macmillan, You’ve never had it so good. We all knew that was a whopper. Music, in the beginning, gave us the chance to avoid the life that had been planned for us. Liverpool had the advantage of being a port, so hope seeped in.”
Are you on the guest list for The Rolling Stones Hyde Park show?
“I haven’t checked.”
Are you surprised the group survived to celebrate its 50th year?
“Of course. But nothing else came along with long distance legs so those of us that kept fit kept going.”
Glastonbury, a good move?
“A wonderful move. Ever see the SARS show [Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto] in Toronto back in 2003? I’m expecting more of the same.”
When you were starting out, your acts didn’t have to worry about old bands hoovering up all the money, is it tougher for new bands now?
“Well there was a pretty sturdy music establishment that for sure did not want to let us in. So, I guess it’s always tough, depends upon how you look at it. If you think it’s tough it will be, and if you look upon it as an opportunity it will be just that.”
What was your favourite bit of press you got?
“Looking back I can tell you my most unfavourite bit. Will that do? I retired in 1964. Only for one press cutting and a few days, but what an idiot week I was having.”
Were you pleased with the re-mastering job done on Charlie Is My Darling? What was it like to see that film again?
“It all happened at a perfect time. Today’s technology worked so well. Now you can see and hear everything. It doesn’t need sub-titles any more. Of course, we were blessed that it, the music, was recorded well in the first place and that was down to Glyn Johns.”
What are you working on at the moment? Is there likely to be another Stoned instalment?
“Stone Free is out. It’s a look at all the hustlers, pimpresarios and managers I’ve known, loved, admired and, on occasion, loathed. There are chapters on Brian Epstein, Don Arden, Phil Spector, Lambert & Stamp, Malcolm Mclaren and more. then I have the updated version of my first two books called Rolling Stoned and I have The Andrew Oldham Orchestra & Friends Plays The Rolling Stones Songbook, Volume 2. Volume one was in 1966. Some of the friends are Gary Lucas, Al Kooper, Johnny Marr, Vashti Bunyan, Elliot Aaston and more. And, of course, Charlie Is My Darling, which I am more than happy to be out and about with.”
Finally, what does the future of the music industry look like?
“Desperate, unless you are 20 years old and don’t give a fuck apart from wanting in.”
See Liverpoolsoundcity.co.uk for more.