Once upon a time…
…in a previous life I worked in Children’s Television. At that time I had contact with a lot of record pluggers, those young, enthusiastic and thick-skinned people whose difficult job was to promote artists that they often didn’t like to unsympathetic people like me and persuade us to book them onto our programmes. As an inducement they would regale us with free tickets to see the acts playing live and as much vinyl as we could carry. One of this gallant and hard-boiled band was Ed who worked for the NEMS Agency. He knew almost everything there was to know about the pop scene although he was always very discreet about it.
When he was at Leeds University during the mid-1960s he was Entertainment Secretary booking acts like The Who (£250), Jimi Hendrix (£350) and The Kinks (£350). After leaving university he briefly played drums with the distinctly fading pop star Jess Conrad and then got sacked as a drummer from the prototype Average White Band. “You’re was not Scottish enough!” they said - i.e not good enough.
Broke and directionless one day on Oxford Street, Ed bumped into an agent he knew from his Ent. Sec days at Leeds Uni. The man offered him a job. “I can’t pay you anything but you can have half of everything you earn for the office” he said. And so Ed became of record plugger.
One winter night in 1977, just before Christmas, Ed invited me for dinner at his tiny flat in Acton. During the course of the evening I asked him how the record plugging business was going. “Oh it’s alright”, he said “but I’m thinking of moving over into management.” which I thought was a risky step. Record plugging might not be the most lucrative job in the music industry but it least it was consistent in its misery. Managing recording artists can go badly wrong, personally and financially. To succeed the acts have to be:- a) very talented and b) have popular appeal. Also any potential manager has to know exactly what they are doing. I knew that Ed was up to the last part but as for the rest…?
Ed told me that a few days earlier he had received a phone call from John Stainze who was an A&R man (Artists and Repertoire) at Phonogram. The company had just signed a new band and now they were looking for someone to manage them. Was Ed interested? While Ed took a nanosecond to think about it John suggested that Ed went to see the band playing live in a small club in London…
“So I did” he said. “It was a small club alright but it was packed and the band was terrific. They were being paid an extremely modest £25 for the gig which was nothing at all considering that they had already paid out £75 to hire a PA system!”
When I left at the end of the evening I wished Ed the best of luck with this new venture. In return he wished me a Happy Christmas and gave me an unexpected present - a cassette. “This is a demo recording which we are thinking of releasing as their first single”, he said. “When you’ve had the chance to listen to it tell me what you think.”
On the way home in my car that Christmas night I listened to the cassette for the very first time and my world changed - and so did Ed’s. As the song says - I got a shiver in the dark! Here is the song…
Ed no longer lives in a tiny flat in Acton. He’s got a waterfront property in Barbados and he probably turns left every time that he gets onto a plane. When it comes to managing bands though he is still generous with his advice…
If you can’t read a poster from the top of a double decker bus it’s not going to be worth diddly squat. As for the rest:- Who it is? Where it is? When it is? and How much? is all you need to know.
Have yourself a very Merry Christmas.
– from Martyn Day