Andrew Loog Oldham: The Former Rolling Stones Manager Interviewed

Legendary record producer and manager of The Rolling Stones talks music, the 60s, and the internet...
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Legendary record producer and manager of The Rolling Stones talks music, the 60s, and the internet...

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Andrew Loog Oldham's 'Stoned' publications make up some of the most definitive music bios ever released.

Gathering his thoughts and feelings on a range of subjects and issues, such as Britain today, the current music industry, the internet, TV (Peaky Blinders to currant Argentinian films), The Stones, his induction into the 'Hall of Fame' and former radio show, his life today, future plans and much more.

You've been living in Colombia now for some time, a place you describe as "a divine country, although obviously dangerous. I prefer to live in a country with faith.". What was it that originally took you there?

Did I really say that? Must have been before Syria and ISIS, Israel, and Gaza. Look, I left the UK in 1970, I was a tax exile, I was 26, I had no idea what an exile was, let alone on Main Street. The Stones and I had parted ways in ' 67; they went to the south of France, I went to New York and Connecticut.

We had spent all our money trying to 'keep up with the Beatles', to look as important and well to do as John, Paul, George and Ringo. Total nonsense. It was in the interest of the Stones and my business manager, the late Allen Klein, to keep us broke, beholding and performing. After 'Satisfaction' we were less interested in seeing how well we'd done as coming up with a follow-up. Tax in 68/69 was 83%, after paying 30 % withholding tax in the US. No wonder the Stones now incorporate every show.

So we became exiles. You could leave with the money you had and basically you couldn't come back for four years. The Stones got over it - they could perform. I did not, I stayed away and discovered South America. Well, not officially, but I did get a life, a wife and a home. Something I had never worked on before.

What's your view of the UK today, both socially and politically. And would you ever consider moving back ?

I would never go back to England. One; I could not afford it, two; I'd have no privacy. The wheels of revisionist history tabloid daily. I mean I need to live in a country where Gary Barlow's business investments are an issue? And three; it would not be good for my health. Politically or socially? It's karmageddon.

You reap what you sow, or at least, what your forefathers reaped and raped and sowed.

Today it feels as if rock'n'roll has sort of turned in on its self, kids are 'rockin' to the same groups their parents do/did. We've seen it recently with The Stone Roses reunion shows, quite unique but is it healthy. Wasn't the 60's about rebelling against the taste's of your parents, does this sound frightening to you?

Not really. What is actually frightening is what constitutes a career, a recording, the ability to write songs and what a manager is able or not able to do.

The managers are basically bean counters in sheep's clothing. I've met a few and most of them leave the dressing room when the act gets uppity or has a question. I got fooled by a few because they dressed like and looked to be at one with the act, total bollocks. Not even a zen baseball bat in the room. John Silva is the present time guvnor in America, but he's old school - old rules. He has Dave Grohl and a feast of others. And in England you have Jazz Summers, still one of the best, who by the way has a great book called 'Big Life'. James Endicott is a worker - I like what he's done, and done again, and again. That remains the test doesn't it? To be able to repeat.

I read last year Woody Allen stating that "if you are born with a gift, to behave as if it were an achievement is just not right". I agree with that. I have always tried to learn from older folks, what to do and what not to do. My best teacher was my Mother. life is pretty simple now.

Brian Epstein decided to visit earth because his job was to discover the Beatles. Nothing more, nothing less. Brian Jones was sent here to form The Rolling Stones. I got here to help them on their way. That is not being modest. I told them who they were and they became it. I picked the singles. I'm not talking music here, that's half the loaf, I'm talking about the big picture. The rest is hear'say and wishful thinking.

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Do you manage to keep an eye on British music, new groups and artists, anything caught your attention?

I was watching that great music show hosted by that awful Jools Holland. They really should inject his hands with cocaine so that he cannot play piano any more. I've watched him walk all over Bill Medley, Amy Winehouse, Paul Weller. I'm sure he went to the Russ Conway piano school..... Anyway, 'Later With Jools Holland', that's the show and a very good show it is apart from Jools (who looks like Bernard Cribbins in pimp gear).

There was this band from Chicago - The Orwells - very, very good apart from the drummer. But great chops and a great figure. I was getting excited. Then they came on later in the show and showed they only had one song. Not enough, kiddies, not enough.

But we live in an era where songs don't last any more, and even if the song has the brainwash to place itself inside you and call you home, more often than not the voice ruins it by attempting to sell itself as opposed to the song. We serve the song, otherwise the song cannot serve us.

What's your thoughts on the Internet and its mass effects on today's music industry and culture?

Steve Jobs just became the new guy who stopped us getting paid. The record companies still do it, hiding behind the technology to fuck you. Steve Jobs just invented the new game and, ironically, paid for it with his life. The phenomenon of the second stage of Saturn return.

Record companies and music publishers keep their doors oiled by underpaying.

A friend of mine, the songwriter Jim Vallence (acclaimed Canadian songwriter/producer - Rodger Daltrey, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, Bryan Adams, Aerosmith) was recently asked by some anal manager to prove he had written a song with two 'superstars'. The superstars were not taking his corner. Those who perceived themselves as screwed are usually happy to have their new minders screw on their behalf. The molested molests syndrome. Fortunately Jim located a work cassette in his attic of the writing session.

I got told by a house lawyer at BMG recently to prove I'd made a certain record with Humble Pie. The Internet and all the apps and inventions that go with it give you the same choice the old corner shop used to do. You either head for the yogurt or you head for the porn. As for the acts the road is still king - the rest is window dressing.

On the upside I've written four books on it. Stoned, 2Stoned, Rolling Stoned, an updated combo of Stoned and 2Stoned, and my most recent tale of impresarios.

'Stone Free' plus made one record; 'The Andrew Oldham orchestra plays the Rolling Stones songbook volume 2'. So I feel very well served. and, and I did it all with one finger.

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Though we're all now communicating on a totally new and exciting level the net also has its negatives too, the way it drives celebrity culture through narcissistic on line personas, like were all mini stars in our own worlds now. 

Of course, you can take it too far. Someone told me that David Bowie used to go into chat rooms pretending to be someone else and asking questions about David Bowie. The story does not have to be true, but it is delicious. Brian Jones used to do that before Internet. I just heard the new Bowie single; he seems to be cloning the worst of Scott Walker. As I've said old people make old music. As for your point about The Stone Roses, whom I love the same way I love Bruce Willis, meaning I love the aura, I'm just not sure about the content.

Well, it was not that much different for the Rolling Stones in 63 and 64. We gradually just edged our way outside of the London suburbs, into the Midlands and east Anglia and pushed north into alien Beatle territory. I didn't go that often, I was hustling them from London. But I will always remember the freezing bed & breakfasts with the lusty landladies (not unlike 'aunt Pol' in Peaky Blinders) in Great Yarmouth in March and standing on a dump looking down into Newcastle going " oh, my god ! ". Word of mouth and pushing against the walls and minds of resistance with good music every gig, every night. That's what the Stones did. I doubt the same can be said of The Stone Roses. Different era, different role models and, of course, drugs.

Some of the most wonderful moments in the 'Stoned' publications are your takes on your favourite films, and how they played their own roles in your life. Memorable scenes and inspired dialogue from films such as 'Saturday Night & Sunday Morning' and 'The Sweet Smell of Success' to late 50's French films like 'Les Cousins' all making big impacts on you. Does film still move you today?

I love Peaky Blinders and Ray Donovan. the Cillian Murphy guy in Peaky Blinders is great, so to the Aussie actor Sam Neill. Murphy is kinda like Paul Newman. Killer eyes that'll keep him employed for life, and I bet he knows it. Paul Newman was once asked if he had any nightmares. He replied that his nightmare was that he'd wash his face in the morning, raise his head and look in the mirror and his eyes were no longer blue, they were brown. Now there is a guy who had a real handle on his assets.

I just saw an Argentinian movie 'White Elephant', from 2012 with Ricardo Darin, a fine actor who can really pick great roles. Check out 'Nine Queens', 'Thesis On A Homicide'. Great choices, great flicks. Some great writing that can remind you of early Bresson, Melville and Italian 50's stuff. I am not a fan of many recent music bios. 'Cadillac Records' was a joke although Beyonce and Jeffrey Wright were great in it. Jeffrey Wight is great in nearly anything. I think he was in a James Bond flick.

I've loved Jeffrey Wright since Basquiat (contemporary New York artist). The Julian Schnabel thing with Dennis Hopper and David Bowie doing one dimensional takes on an art dealer and Andy Warhol. Just fluff. But Jeffrey Wright and Benecio Del Toro were great together. The basketball scene and the riff on fame and art should be taught in school.

And I still love 'The Good Wife', but Peaky Blinders is sheer brilliance. Helen McCrory as 'Aunt Pol' is a very attractive, dangerous turn.  And the guy who created the show, Steven Knight, just brilliant, but he wrote 'Eastern Promises', one of the great ones.

Has film been just as big in your life as music has?

I just realised speaking to you now on this subject that films can still guide me and tell me, remind me who I am. music does not seem to. Though if Keith Richards hits the solo road again that'd be a night out for sure. Leonard Cohen I've passed on. I'm not into grateful old men, at least, not flaunting that one on stage. That's what you gotta love about Mick Jagger, you get the act, the rest is off limits. Sharing, moping and opening up came with the next generation.

What are the things which take up most of your time today, producing, studio work, writing or the show on Sirius Satellite radio/North America (on Steven Van Zandt underground radio show)? 

I no longer do the radio gig for Steven Van Zandt. It's a long, short story.

You may know of the American yearly event organised by the owner of Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner, the 'Rock 'n Roll Hall Of Fame'. It used to be a great off the wall event held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Now it's just another television awards show. Along with Brian Epstein I got inducted this year with the Ahmet Ertegun award (legendary former Atlantic Records boss). I knew it was a no go the moment I found out that neither McCartney or Ringo were going to be inducting Brian Epstein and that their would be no music saluting the Beatles and the Stones. The Stones, by the way, had a great no-show reason. First they were on tour in Australia and then Mick was mourning the suicide of l'Wren Scott. Not that I expected them to show, when you get off the train the train keeps rolling. With Epstein it is different, he's dead. No skin off the remaining Beatles noses, or current images they hold of themselves.

So I declined the invite. Steven Van Zandt had worked very hard to get me inducted even though I'd told him many times not to do it on my account. A lot of my life I've attracted people who either wanted to fuck me or save me. I gave the American press a lot of high flying answers as they really revere the Hall Of Fame. The truth is that I did not wish to be inducted with a dead guy (Epstein) by Peter Asher. Peter (of mid 60's duo Peter & Gordon, brother of Jane Asher) has a very accomplished career as a manager and producer of middle of the road rock, but to me, and Americans just could not get this, to me he's the wrong half of Peter & Gordon. So Steven got offended and cancelled our friendship and took away half of my radio shows, the weekday shows.

Image credits: Beine La Plante