ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM
interview by Tim Broun
When you have an opportunity to ask Andrew Loog Oldham some questions, you take it. At around the age of 19, he started managing the similarly-aged Rolling Stones, and helped make them who they became. From the outside looking in, his life is the thing dreams are made of. For more information, I highly suggest his series of books, as well as the recently released documentary, Charlie Is My Darling. He can currently be heard seven days a week on the Underground Garage channel on Sirius-XM satellite radio. A huge, huge, thank you to ALO for his valuable time!
PSF: Did you enjoy working for John Stephen & Mary Quant, and did you ever regret leaving fashion after getting into the music business?
ALO: Only worked for Mary Quant. Had one meeting with John Stephen whilst I was working with Peter Meaden, trying to make a go of it in advertising. I was not prepared and he ripped me a new jacket & trews for not being prepared and wasting his time! It was an important lesson I never forgot. Mary Quant was a dream to work for. Very hard workers can be very nice and polite. I've always loved the idea of fashion. I would have had to learn to cut if I'd wanted to continue and I already had the wits I needed, and the passion, for music.
PSF: What was Joe Meek like to work for, and do you think his work has been under or overrated over time?
ALO: I worked for him for one week promoting a vocal version of "Telstar" by a 15-year-old named Kenny Hollywood. The vocal version was called "Magic Star." It was pretty awful. Joe Meek was terrifying. Just a rude, embittered cunt. Awful man unless he fancied you. Which he did not. I think he has been very overrated. You've got the John Leyton stuff which might not have as well had Leyton (if he had) not been in "Biggles" and a teen Bieber-type heartthrob. You've got "Telstar" and "Have I the Right?" The rest is local stuff... Mike Berry and Heinz. To see him compared to Phil Spector is a joke. The main point of the game is that anyone can have a hit. But can they have another…and another? Joe Meek had no follow-through. I must say I enjoyed the movie "Telstar" much more than I did the man.
PSF: How did it happen that you became a producer - was your vision for the Stones that clear when you started with them?
ALO: Not at all. I just decided that they'd feel safer in the studio and perhaps perform better with someone they trusted and who knew as little as they did than some old fart who thought he knew it all. That coupled with I knew the value of us owning our own masters, which we did for a while.
PSF: Do you have a particular favorite Stones session, and if so which one & why?
ALO: There are so many. Here's a few: "Not Fade Away"; Little Red Rooster"; "You Better Move On"; "It's All Over Now"; "The Last Time"; "Play With Fire"; "Satisfaction"; "Get Off of My Cloud"; "Mother's Little Helper"; "Connection"; et cetera, et cetera. All of it was special, simple as that.
PSF: The single best & worst moments with the Stones?
ALO: Read Stone Free. I'm not going there on a Saturday morning…
PSF: What do you think of people who say that the Stones should have packed it in years ago, or do you agree?
ALO: We all have our opinions on this when the Stones are not on the road. I'm sure our opinions, as do theirs, change daily. But once they are on the road, it is theirs and we are thankful for it... I think...
PSF: Which story isn't true? There are so many myths & legends. What happened in a much more boring way than the public knows? Anything you can debunk here & now (although printing the legend is always more interesting)?
ALO: Cannot think of much except the facts these days. There is just so much crap out there. One of the funniest ones to me was reading that the sound on "Cool, Calm & Collected" or something like that from that time was recorded in the elevator at Olympic Studios with mikes on the different floors. One, I'm not sure there was an elevator and two, I wish I'd thought of it... I'd have tried it.
PSF: Which Immediate releases are you proudest of?
ALO: Duncan Browne, P.P. Arnold, the Small Faces Singles, Humble Pie and the stuff Mick did with Chris Farlowe.
PSF: Can you describe some of the South American acts you've been involved with?
ALO: First, I worked with the Ratones Paranoicos. They were sort of the local Rolling Stones. Huge act. Had quite a few hits with them. Amazing live band and great people to work with. Then I worked with the local mad genius Charly Garcia. Tremendous, tremendous talent and a national treasure. The Argentinean version of Elvis. Cliff, Freddie Mercury & Johnny Hallyday all rolled into one. Incredible education, musically flawless but nuts beyond redemption. I also had a great couple of years in Italy at the end of the ‘70's. Worked with their national treasure Francesco di Gregori, which was another privilege. Jerry Shirley was the drummer on that and the arranger was David Whitaker who did my Andrew Oldham Orchestra stuff. The late amazing Lucio Dalla, another national treasure, played horns for us.
PSF: What advice would you give a young ALO today?
ALO: Fall in love with the game, be ready to get fucked, get up again, rub away the dirt and the pain and get back into the ring again. Most people are in the business for the wrong reasons; it only works if you are with the right act. Simple as that. Fuck the naysayers, fuck the experts. Believe in your truth and work it. Make sure the reward is in the minute of doing the work and not in the minutes you'd like to be applauded. Fatal – can easily remove the kill.
PSF: What are you reading & listening to these days?
ALO: Just finished reading Arthur Laurents' The Rest of the Story. Bought it in Sag Harbor whilst we were there to attend the memorial service for Chris Stamp. I had no idea the book was about loss. Have always loved the work ethic of Arthur Laurents. Also had no idea how close so much of his book was to mine…my... new one, Stone Free, out on Escargot Books. Both are a sort of summing up. Mine has loss in it as well as so many of the people I profile in the book, including the recent passing of Chris Stamp, have passed. A few like Chris and Malcolm McLaren and Allen Klein, whilst I was writing the book. But it's an up book, a celebration of Hustle! I'm listening to my next Andrew Oldham Orchestra album which is out next March and is Volume 2 of "The Rolling Stones Songbook," and I'm listening to Dave Brubeck whilst awaiting the new one from Johnny Marr.
Also see Oldham's official website
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