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Charlie's Angle

"Meanwhile I'm playing records on the radio still, and a couple of people tell me I've got to go and see this band called Kilburn & The High Roads. It took two different people a couple of times, and eventually I went to see them. This was Ian Dury's group. And I was absolutely knocked out by them. I came back and said to the listeners, 'You have to go and see this group. They're just extraordinary.' I went to see them again, and the third time I took Gordon as well. It was the days when the same band would play two sets with a gap in the middle, and in one of the gaps the singer hobbled over to us and said 'Oy. You keep saying these nice things about us, why don't you manage us?' So I turned to Gordon and said 'Did you hear that?' and he said 'Yeah, why not?' So that was the next 18 months of our lives spoken for, which was horrendous, basically."

"What we did was get a deal for them with Warners, a label called Raft. We persuaded Raft to make an album and on the day, literally, on the day we walked in with the finished masters the guy said 'I'm really sorry, the label's been closed down'. So we then shopped this album - it wasn't a very good record, it didn't represent the magic of the band, unfortunately - and in our shopping around we drew a blank except at relatively recently formed Virgin, where the two A&R guys were Simon Draper and Jumbo Vanrenen. And Jumbo particularly liked The Kilburns. We went back to Ian and he said 'I don't want to be on a label with a bunch of hippies. They've got Hatfield & The North, that's going to be very confusing. I want to be on a label with Max Bygraves!' And they went off and signed up to Pye Records. We went back with our tails between our legs to Virgin, who we really liked, and they said 'Haven't you got anything else' and we said 'Well, we've got this compilation of stuff we did from Louisiana' and they said 'Wonderful!' So that's how Another Saturday Night came out, two years after we'd put it together."

"It took another four years before Ian surfaced, but when he did he deliberately put There Ain't Half Been Some Clever Bastards, a song that we published, on the B-side of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. It was the first song that made any money for us - £10,000 each for us and the writer."

"We found Lene Lovich and placed her with Stiff Records, and Lucky Number was literally the next single on Stiff after Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. That was a Top 3 hit in Britain and sold half a million here and all over the place, so that made quite a bit too. And then in 1981 Gordon and I were in the basement of my house, which is where our office was at the time, and somebody just came down the steps and put a cassette through the door and went away again. That was a group called Direct Drive, whose keyboard player turned out to be Paul Hardcastle. 11 records later, 19, which we published, sold nearly 3 million in the world, in 1985."

This feature first appeared in fRoots 218-219, Aug/Sep 2001


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