The Rolling Stones: How It Happened

By 1963, The Rollin’ Stones lacked only a “g” and a manager. Enter Andrew Loog Oldham, 19-year-old music publicist and soon-to-be Stones Svengali…

Andrew Loog Oldham: “In early 1963 I was doing public relations on a freelance basis for The Beatles and some other Brian Epstein acts. Contrary to popular opinion, I wasn’t looking for anything else to do. I was a very happy man. One day, I went to see Peter Jones ofRecord Mirror, trying to sell him something, probably an Epstein act, but he wasn’t interested, He kept talking about this other group, they were still called The Rollin’ Stones then, playing around London. Record Mirror had decided to allow its R&B expert, Norman Jopling, to write an article on them.”

Norman Jopling (journalist): “I was just amazed, because Record Mirror‘s policy was only to write about people who had records out, but there was such a buzz about them, Peter told me to go ahead. To be honest, I was reluctant. British R&B was a contradiction in terms. Our bands were all like Alexis Korner or Cyril Davies’s band, coming out of the trad movement, with no resemblance to real R&B.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “On Peter’s recommendation, I went down to see them that Wednesday (April 23, 1963) at the Station Hotel in Richmond, which was run as The Crawdaddy Club by Giorgio Gomelsky. As I walked down an alley at the side of the hotel to get to the entrance at the back, This couple in the alley were having a very loud lovers’ tiff. I just said, ‘Excuse me’ and went past. It wasn’t until Jagger came on stage that I realised it had been him outside, and the girl was Chrissie Shrimpton.”

Norman Jopling: “They came on looking like students, but what amazed me, because I was a huge Bo Diddley fan, was that they could replicate his raw sound. I’d never seen a British band that came anywhere near that.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “Right off, I liked the appearance of the front line – Brian, Mick and Keith. That I did understand. Bill and Charlie, they were different, but cool. Bill was sort of just standing there, next to the amp that had got him into the group. Charlie, even then, looked as if he’d just zoned in from Ronnie Scott’s. Then there was Ian (Stewart). It’s a subjective opinion but…he was ugly. He didn’t look right. But what was really running through my head was that I didn’t know a really successful group with six people in it. Peter Jay And The Jaywalkers? Cliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers? The public can’t count up to six. Even so, there was this one-ness between them and the audience. And the sheer power of the band. That strength, that passion, was the thing I remember.

“On that first night, I didn’t go and talk to them. The next day I went to Eric Eastern, a music business agent from whom I was renting an office at the time, and told him what I thought and made arrangements to see them again the following Sunday. I wanted to manage them, but GLC regulations at the time meant that you could not function as a manager without an agent. You could manage, but you couldn’t book gigs without the licence. I needed Eric because he had the licence.”

Eric Easton (agent/manager): “I went along hoping the evening wasn’t being wasted. Outside the hotel was a queue of teenagers, all dressed in the clothes of the day. We tagged on the end, feeling conspicuous. Inside, it was the most exciting atmosphere I’d ever experienced in a club or a ballroom. The Stones were producing this fantastic sound which was obviously exactly right for the kids in the audience.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “From Eric’s point of view, they had a number of things against them. For a start, as far as someone like Eric was concerned, Mick Jagger simply couldn’t sing. They had also failed a BBC audition, which was very important because it could stop them getting exposure on the radio.

“That was the night we introduced ourselves to them. The following day I rang and asked Brian to come and see us and discuss whether we would like to get into bed together. Brian was the leader then, and he was the one we had to negotiate with. One stumbling block was Giorgio Gomelsky. He saw the potential and wanted to be their manager. He had given them a great gig, done a little promo film about them, set up some recording sessions and, in the world they lived in at that stage, these were all very important moves up.”

Giorgio Gomelsky (Promoter): “If I had drawn up a contract, I suppose I might have become a very rich man, but I never believed in those stupid bits of paper.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “I can’t say I had a master plan. Luck had a lot to do with it. As it happened, Gomelsky was out of the country for his father’s funeral. During the discussions about management, they didn’t mention Gomelsky. Really, I think they were stringing him along.”

Ian Stewart (Rollin’ Stones pianist): “The Stones liked Andrew. Like us, he was young, irreverent, full of enthusiasm and eager to make a fortune.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “We formed a new company, Impact Sound, for the deal, which was to be a three-year management contract with Eric and me getting 25 per cent between us. Brian Jones signed it on behalf of them all on May 1 1963. Three days later, he signed a three-year recording contract, which gave them six per cent between them. The only side-deal was that Brian Jones, as leader, got an extra five pounds a week. He did that with Eric.”

Giorgio Gomelsky: “I thought we had a verbal understanding and felt tremendously let down when they left me. But I never like to work with monsters, no matter how talented. They had this satanic power. Jagger was organised and ambitious, but selfish. Keith was very spoilt. Jones should have had treatment. His responses were never those of a normal person.”

Ian Stewart: “In the office, Easton, who didn’t know anything about pop music, said to Brian, I don’t think Jagger is any good. And so Brian said, OK, we’ll just get rid of him. I felt sure Brian would have done it. I said to him, Don’t be so bloody daft.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “I told them Ian had to be removed from the stage during a gig at Eel Pie Island. He could still play piano for them, but not on stage.”

Cynthia Stewart (widow of Ian): “Whatever Stu or anybody else said, he did care about being relegated. The bottom line for Andrew was that Stu’s face didn’t fit. Andrew loved the pretty, thin, long-haired boys. Stu felt bitter about the savage way he was kicked aside.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “Then, after everything was signed, they said, we forgot something. We are signed to IBC studios. This was the session Gomelsky had set up, engineered by Glyn Jones. The deal gave IBC a specific time period in which to do something with these tapes. So we rehearsed Brian to go to them and say he felt the band was going nowhere and he had this big opportunity to join some other outfit, and so could they let him go if he managed to pay back the £106 in studio costs? And they went for it. Thank God.

“Once I had them for management, I explained to Eric that I didn’t want a standard record company deal for them. My strategy was based on what I had learned, not from Phil Spector as is usually written, but from another producer, Bob Crewe. He had signed The Four Seasons direct to VeeJay Records, and they got f***ed – made hits but never got paid. So they got out and went to Philips and did a tape lease deal. This meant they made the records and delivered them. Philips just marketed them.”

Norman Jopling: “My feature appeared in Record Mirror dated May 11, but it was on the streets three days earlier and immediately three of the four major British record labels, Philips, Decca and EMI, were on the phone to me. They all wanted to know where they could contact The Rolling Stones. I put them on to Andrew.”

Eric Easton: “Because there was a lot of interest from other companies, I could go after a really good royalty rate on record sales. And we got it.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “I wanted them to be where they’d be the Number 1 priority. EMI already had The Beatles, so I was really only interested in Philips or Decca. But I knew that Joe Meek had already done a tape lease deal with Decca, which meant they were open to exactly the deal I wanted. So I targeted them, partly ‘cos their A&R man, Dick Rowe, was vulnerable.”

Dick Rowe: “When I saw them live, I was fascinated by the audience reaction, and the dancing. As I’d turned The Beatles down earlier, I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.”

Andrew Loog Oldham: “Sure, I exploited that. I had called up Chuck Berry’s music publisher and told him how we were planning to record all these Chuck Berry songs. He was sufficiently impressed to call up Dick Rowe two days before I did and tell him he’d just heard the best thing since sliced bread – The Rolling Stones.

“The deal we signed was for two years, giving Decca first option on any Stones product we produced. I was still only 19, so my mother had to sign for me. I felt like everything I’d done up to then had been a rehearsal. I thought I was looking at the rest of my life. It didn’t quite turn out that way…”

© Johnny Black, 1995

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