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March 26, 2013

Andrew Loog Oldham

Andrew Loog Oldham

STONE FREE TO DO WHAT HE WANTS

By Harvey Kubernik

Just published for 2013, from Ojai, California-based Escargot Books is the third part of author, record producer and satellite radio personality, Andrew Loog Oldham’s triography, Stone Free. (escargor-books.com)

This book is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the 1960s pop management and the music industry then and now…It’s a dizzying ride. –MOJO
Andrew Loog Oldham is a born raconteur and he writes like a dream. –Andy Childs, The Music Book Reader Bulletin.
It is an affectionate look at impresarios I have admired, loved and loathed,” says Oldham. “It is also the summing up of the bands and lads who started out in the ’60s and now are leaving their own-as bands became brands and enter their ’70s-what’s left of the Beatles, the Stones & the Who.

In 2011, Oldham published Rolling Stone, a re-modeling of his first edition Rolling Stoned and 2Stoned print autobiography books from earlier this century, through Gegenstatz in all electronic formats and kindle.

Oldham is the record producer and musical visionary who managed and produced the Rolling Stones albums and singles from 1963-1967, formed Immediate Records, releasing vinyl from Small Faces and the Nice. For the last 40 years he has been an active record producer.

In 2012, Oldham served as original producer for the ABKCO theatrical and DVD release of a documentary on the early Rolling Stones, Charlie Is My Darling.
Andrew Loog Oldham can be heard daily on SiriusXM’s Satellite Radio’s Andrew Loog Oldham Program, airing on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Channel weekdays 8-11 am ET (rebroadcast at midnight), Saturdays 4-8 pm ET, and Sundays Noon-4 pm ET with a show he has hosted since 2006, providing insights into and anecdotes about the early days of the British invasion, and tying it all together by showing a direct link between those glory days and what’s hot at this very moment. (andrewloogoldham.com)

In 2004 Andrew Loog Oldham was the keynote speaker at the SXSW convention held in Austin, Texas. In 2008 he hosted the influential music event In The City, in Manchester England, the year after founder Tony Wilson passed.

In 2011, Oldham started producing fusion guitarist Gary Lucas with a number of Colombian musicians and a selection of Mick Jagger-Keith Richards songs.
Now scheduled for spring 2013 on Universal 47 is the album The Andrew Oldham Orchestra & Friends Plays the Rolling Stones Songbook, Volume 2. 47 years after the release of volume 1, which contained Oldham’s arrangement of “The Last Time” which became the controversial foundation of Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.”
Andrew lives in Bogotá, Colombia and Vancouver, BC.

THE INTERVIEW

Harvey Kubernik: Can you tell me how the concept first began for Stone Free. I seem to recall you initially had a working title “On Hustling.”
Andrew Loog Oldham: You are correct. Initially, back in 2003 or 2004 the book was commissioned by Random House as a follow-up to 2Stoned. For whatever reason Random House wanted it to be a follow-up to Nik Cohn’s Awopbopaloobop. I agreed mainly because I did not have my radio gig with Little Steven at that time and I do like to get up and go to work. Random House wanted me to write about Alan McGhee so I flew to Mexico City to meet Alan. We got on great, but I could not write about him or add anything new to what had been chronicled about Alan, Oasis etc.

Things went south with Random House, and why wouldn’t they? Me writing a follow-up to Nik Cohn’s book…. as strange as if I’d been asked to sub for Mario Puzo. Then in 2005 in Vancouver I started writing again and it gradually shaped up into what it actually is, the exact item Random House did not want, the third part of my triography, Stoned, 2Stoned and Stone Free. Of course the updated combination Stoned and 2Stoned, Rolling Stoned, came in between in 2011.

I will say this book is narrative and hardly any oral history tech-niques you employed previously. Was that a conscious decision?
Yes. With Stoned and 2Stoned, which were written at the same time, I was using Edie by Jean Stein and edited by George Plimpton, as my model. It was a great source of wonder and energy to find out how other fellows in the game, Mickie Most and Chris Stamp and the rest, felt about the time I was writing about. But Stone Free is more of a summing up as well as a look at influences and fellow high art hustlers. I was very influenced by Somerset Maugham’s The Summing Up, so it had to be just me, without guests. Anyway, I felt that I was now capable enough to handle it.

What always fascinated you about entrepreneurs and mana-gers and that you knew their story was worth exploring?
Always had the fascination, from the time my mother first took me into the London tube train stations and I saw the film posters on the wall I was always more interested in who Otto Preminger was than Henry Fonda.

STONE FREE COVERHow did you select the subjects?
A combination of what they had brought to my life, what I had shared with their lives, and what I could add to the already known.

On some level, you have built a John Ford stock company of actors, with the likes of Pete Kameron, Brian Epstein, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Allen Klein and the Who team appearing in your filmic writing and presentation. But you bring in new voices.

I think over the last decade or so even music fans and record collectors have become more aware of music managers and promoters and music publishers, whereas before they never sought the spotlight and the music media didn’t spend a lot of time profiling and writing about them. Why has this happened? The trade magazines touted box office and deals, but you have provided the back story and the narrative like we’ve never seen before.
Well, the availability and touting of figures has helped both remove and, in exceptional cases like Adele, improve the magic. Before this was possible it is quite incredible that two of the world’s biggest musical icons, Bob Dylan and David Bowie, had record sales that were much below the level of aura and influence with the audience. The manager/hustler saints I write about protected the act from the system and the record companies. That was not possible after MTV and the executive became the executive celebrity. That put them, in their mind, on a par with the artists and if Mick wanted a deal on “Ruthless People” then he had to do the social hang at Sony.

Explain to me the journey and preparation of the trek. A few of these characters have been addressed and populated your previous two music memoirs.
Most of the correspondence I received on Stoned and 2Stoned came from youngsters. They told me that my books had motivated them, given them a spark. Sure, some older folks, I think Dave Gilmour was one, enjoyed the books. Johnny Marr came into my life because of Stoned and that has become an ongoing important exchange for me, but I wanted to write about a people, a way of life and a time to which there are not that many witnesses left to share exactly what it is that went on. For far too many people the ‘60s began in 1967. There were two chapters of the ‘60s before that. ‘56 to ‘62 and ’62 to ‘67.

Besides tour own front row seat and integration into the text, you have been a ground-breaking manager yourself and influential record label owner, what was the
trick of profiling the chosen subjects and then the alchemy and weave of yourself into the chapters.
You get up every day and write 500 words about either the subject at hand or your morning walk with your dogs. When you have a group of words or ideas that work you take breakfast, go back and edit, and then you deserve lunch. I culled my working methods from reading George Plimpton’s Paris Reviews.

Can you discuss similarities and differences between U.K. managers and the U.S. ones you’ve examined in Stone Free.
Easy. The English managers were promoting music the establishment hoped would go away and the American managers were
promoting American music, an art that they were not ashamed of.

In preparing and writing Stone Free how did you ensure that this was a new adventure and not hampered by any sort of carryover from the first two volumes?
I didn’t. In fact it’s almost a case of the opposite. I had to find a way of handling the data you refer to as if the reader had not read the first two, and at the same time make it work for those that had. That was an interesting exercise.

On some levels, the lifeblood of today’s music business is partially reissues and re-releases. I’d like to veer into the world of the Rolling Stones and Immediate Records.

Let’s discuss the recurring role and rotation of vinyl to CD and box sets. Something you have witnessed and participated in for a half a century. Even with the Stones Big Hits, High Tide, & Green Grass, could you have anticipated the re-usage and releases, or bonus track mentality of old product being shipped and sold countless times in different formats?
At the time I loathed the idea of greatest hits packages. It was a particularly American idea, as was putting your hit singles on your latest album. “Big Hits, High Tide & Green Grass” was a great package. I even re-recorded “Time Is On My Side” for that, so that it would fit in with the rest, which the original US 45 RPM did not.
Plus it had the great package and photos from Guy Webster and Gered Mankowitz. That was a gem. The follow-up hits albums were just trolls to the system. I don’t like bonus tracks, it’s a cheap way of staying alive, and I hated SACD or whatever it was called, it made Mick and Keith on “Get Off Of My Cloud” sound like Gerry & The Pacemakers.

When I say re-issues are misleading, not everything by the Small Faces is worth hearing. They were a singles band- they did not have the depth or resonance of the Who, and by re-packaging and a host of mindless essays by those younger folk you referred to is not going to change the fact that the Small Faces were cotton and a needle – They were not the suit it sowed. Only one act covers the waterfront – The Rolling Stones. There is a seamless link between their singles, their albums and the live shows they did until they became a tribute band to their own music, and that works on most occasions anyway.

Nobody, apart from the Who, come close. Most of the runners-up did their singles as a compromise, bored you to death with their idea of their real, true selves and on stage were a confused as opposed to a cohesive unit.

Do you have any theories why this has this happened? The good stuff from the past being good that it sticks and finds new fans and people buying it over and over again?
Nothing has come along to replace the original model. Lead voice, guitars, drums and bass. And the recorded music villains keep inventing new toys you have to hear it on.

To some of us, your literary career began in front of our eyes with the liner notes to a plethora of Stones LPs you penned. What was the goal of liner notes then that were poetic and inspirational and supplemental to traditional credits as well? Was it because the Beatles did not have their producer or manager write liners on their jackets?
No, I think it was Nat Hentoff, the early liner notes for Bob Dylan and all the sleeve notes I had read on the jazz records I had growing up and got to know working at places like Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club. I guess I wanted the public to take the Rolling Stones as seriously as I did.

You emerged from the 78 RPM and especially the 45 RPM culture, as a consumer and a record producer and label owner, and now as a DJ. You have also participated in re-mastering and disc preparation for ABKCO on Cameo Parkway items as well. Can you offer some opinions about music on CD and digital and why you like and program vinyl on occasion.
Vinyl is still pre-AIDS musical sex. Minus the condom. The initial run of CD releases were just painful. They made Bobby Darin, the Four Tops and the Drifters sound like some lame Bob Marcucci boy band. I worked with ABKCO on the up to ‘87 stuff. And I had great people to work with. Steve Rosenthal and Tom Steele, the magician who founded Frankford-Wayne. He was just the very, very best.
When I did the Stones’ Singles Collection in ‘86 or so I was able to locate the daughter of “Big Dom.” Domenic was the cutter at Bell Sound and his daughter had kept all his notes from the masters Dom had cut in ‘65 and ‘66. These guys were princes. They were the James Wong Howe’s, the Haskell Wexler’s, the Hal Ashby’s of the sound game. They cared about their craft, nothing shrill. Just the facts, ma’am.

Do you enjoy your catalog and other items in the new delivery systems and reissue platforms?
I don’t listen to it. Why would I? If I hear it in airport and it sounds okay I smile. There were some great Russian rip-offs of Aftermath and Between the Buttons. And other stuff. They were mastered good and LOUD.

You’ve done the keynote speech at SXSW in 2004. In 2008 you then hosted In The City in Manchester England. Can you discuss your lectures and data you try and impart to the punters, professionals, and would be music business volunteers and victims entering the scene. Is it good and healthy?
It’s all healthy if you are the new 20 which seems to be 35. I just take out my Zen weapons and give them a work out and trust that some bright spark will relate to what I am about and move it forward just as I did when I first started knocking on heaven’s door. It’s a circle, Harvey, a wheel, I am just a spoke, a breath, a grateful participant who likes moving the baton forward.

Where is the music and record business going in 2013?
Fuck all the doomsayers, fuck the cancerous record companies that keep their doors open to a great extent by shortchanging or not paying acts. The U.K. still exports 3% of the world’s goods, and 6% of the world’s services and accounts for 13% of global music sales. So the talent and the movers and the folks who sign and promote the talent are still there.

Just remember that we have always had a very confusing business. The front office is welcoming the artist, telling him, her or them that they are the greatest thing since white bread and the back office has already worked out how to screw you. Doesn’t matter. You just get up, dust yourself off and get back into the ring for the next round… and the next. And if you can’t take it, if you moan and complain instead of create and get out there then you get off the roundabout, go back to the day job and say thanks for the memory. It’s always been like that, pros and cons, so to speak….

Just remember that in the ‘50s a hit single didn’t pay the rent, it just got you another 20 quid on the road. The road is king. Music will always survive because it gives life, it gives hope and it’s the best thing God invented for us to do with ourselves…. apart from that other thing.

Can you discuss at length the goals and concepts about your radio program on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. The playlist, the joy and memory and moments being on the subscription airwaves. How do you like the gig? Why does this concept work so well? Is it a reflection of Little Steven?
I had a letter the other day from an old friend, the drummer in the Werewolves, a Texas band I produced in the late ‘70s. He, very kindly, congratulated on my radio gig and my “Third act” in a business, as the bobby said, “There are usually no second acts.”

I have, in a huge way, you to thank for that Harvey. When we met back in 2000 at the Hollywood Bowl Brian Wilson Pet Sounds show, you urged me to say hallo to little Steven the next time I was in New York and gave me his phone number. I was hesitant, mainly because I saw no point in meeting anybody I would not have the opportunity to work with. That is how it is. My work is my life, what I do is my motor, my best friend. I thought Steven was committed. Bruce, the whole schmear. Boy, was I wrong. I had forgotten that there are no accidents.

I met Steven, as you know. I fell in love with him right off the bat. An amazingly pure, grounded pragmatic, alive American musical spirit. I just enjoyed being around him.

And then came the gig with Sirius via Steven’s Underground Garage. Boy, has that turned out to be my Robert Forster moment, my Mickey Rourke return. It’s been something like six years now and it remains a joy.

I started out just doing weekends, but I just wanted to own the role, to get better, and I wanted more. Steven gave me the weekday slot as well, so I do about 20 hours a week. The vision is his, the playlist all centers around that moment I talked about earlier, that moment when the Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show. That moment when American youth, feeling the subtext, feeling the great unspoken hurt of a nation still traumatized by the assassination of its president just a few months before. It’s an incredible moment, suddenly American youth had its own music, a reason to be alive.

Steven plays everything that influenced that moment and everything that came after it. It has been a great way to keep in touch with our music. I have a great and healthy relationship with his listeners. Mum, I finally have a job, but it still ain’t that regular, it is just blessed because the foundation is music.

As someone who goes back to Radio Luxembourg, the BBC, and Pirate Radio, AM and FM in the U.S. what is the premise and promise of satellite radio from your perch. Should radio be licensed and paid for? Do you have one Pirate Radio anecdote since some people saw the movie Pirate Radio.
That film was awful. Richard Curtis was the wrong man for the gig; it was much darker than that, and much brighter. He made it so Mary Tyler Moore in the ‘60s, whereas it was much more Johnny Stacatto.

There were villains, there was mayhem, action and if we had not had Pirate radio I might not have had a hit with Marianne Faithfull’s “As Tears Go By.” The BBC would not touch it; they said Marianne could not sing. Mind you, that’s what they’d said about Mick Jagger a year earlier when the Rolling Stones failed their BBC live audition. They said “The singer cannot sing.” The BBC was the enemy, a limp wristed arm of the government trying to keep kids on a rationed musical diet of trad jazz and skiffle.

As for your question about getting paid, of course. Fuck Steve Jobs. He got paid, he just took the record companies, and therefore the acts, to the cleaners, because the front office could pronounce the new words but they did not understand the new business. Jobs did. That is not to say that it was not somewhat karmic payback. The ‘70s and ‘80s were just out of hand when the acts got paid enough money to retire before they’d even delivered. That was not very good for the power of the long lasting song or artist. That said if you were a carpenter you expect to be paid for making a chair that folks can sit in.

I think an act and a writer should be paid when you choose their song. It is now a tough business to make a living in, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It was sort of tough in 1963 if we’d stopped and thought about it. But we didn’t…. We just went for it and as a result we are having this chat today.


In spring of 2013, Harvey Kubernik’s 40-year study of the regional radio world and pop and rock music of Southern California during 1956-1972 will be published by Santa Monica Press.

This century Harvey Kubernik penned the liner notes to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s “Tapestry,” Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish,” the “Elvis Presley ’68 Comeback Special” and the Ramones’ “End of the Century.”

Harvey Kubernik also serves as a consultant for television and film endeavors. In 2012 he was a featured on camera TV interview subject in documentaries that aired in the U.S. France, Australia and the UK.

In 2013, Kubernik was licensed for a BBC-TV documentary on Bobby Womack directed by James Meycock and the Neil Norman-directed documentary about the Seeds.






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