Hello Andrew and thanks for talking to YO Mag, generally speaking how has 2015 been for you so far?
Basically taking care of the body and mind. The heart and soul are just fine. The hip mis-hap I had in Germany 15 months ago was quite severe, a triple fracture. I’ve been very lucky that I’ve had the time and the interest to get myself better in increments. Hip fractures and replacements are a crap shoot, sort of catch 22 when it comes to physio. Some of it is as banal and bad for you as white bread. I’ve been working recently with a chi gung recovery expert, li rong, a former Olympics winner, in Vancouver and that has been super. that and the grand dame of British Colombia pilates, Dianne miller. She taught me to walk without a limp by singing ” how much is that doggie in the window ?”. The chi gung original Chinese style is quite tough and military, there is no space for me to say I cannot inhale and exhale through my nose as a result of 30 years of marching powder. Just won’t wash … you just get on with it. The white feel good methods of chi gung are all very valid and I enjoy them, but it is silk compared to rope and right now I need rope.
Good to hear your recovery has gone well, but have you maybe taken it all as a signal to slow it down a bit, you know…on the road, the travelling, the airports?
The soap opera over ‘the hall of fame’ was long gone. The operations in Frankfurt had been both magnificent and a test on my system, in particular my hep C brothered liver, and I had passed. But the writing was clear, no more liver anger. Various God’s had noted my situation and had given me that little shove on the escalator. They wanted to be sure that I would not ‘ego accept’ the next invite to fly 15/20 hours to lecture for 500 people about a band that does not carry it’s own hand luggage and plays to an average of 50,000 people.
Lou Reed had passed. His new liver had rejected the old Lou. A new liver demands a new you. Jack Bruce had passed. He had a new liver. I’m sure that liver had not enjoyed the reunion with Clapton and Ginger Baker and said, “sorry, mate. I’m out of here “.
Rest assured I’m not in need of a new liver but it is the tricks you’ve been up to in life that, when the time comes, brings you down. And the luck of the uterus, location, location. A fact of life is that had I been born in ‘the Goebals’, Glasgow, or east of Bow and in another uterus I would not have had the genetic, lower middle class blessings I have had.
So, what have you been doing this year, work wise?
I’ve been writing. I’m on chapter six of a new book which is all over the place which is just as it should be. touches everything from David Bowie to Bobby Womack; Jerry Leiber to Alejandro Jodorowsky and about songs and fame and Basquiat and is steeped in the fact that this hip intervention has allowed me to recognize and drop most of the crap and enjoy the fact that I’ve been given the opportunity to prepare for my 80’s as opposed to the possibility of running out of steam in my 70’s. I’ve seen the Foo Fighters here in Bogota and Bette Midler in Vancouver, (my other home) in concert and both were epiphanic for similar reasons. You go to a concert to get a re-birth, anything less is Bob Seger.
You’ve been living in Colombia now for about 30 years haven’t you. Essentially how has the country changed from the one you first arrived at in the mid 80’s to today. And if any, what effect has Colombia had on you in that time would you say, as a person?
Colombia both saved me and gave me life, as did the woman who was the reason I first came to Colombia in 1975. It was not the marching powder, that came later. Colombia still has it’s dangers, in the beginning that was an attraction. The civil war rages on with no logical conclusion in sight. South American leaders are often as bland as what you have in the UK at least the Colombian ones. They run the country as if it’s their own private corporation and in many ways it is. We are the most linked, most friendly country to the US out of all the regions and the danger in that is that we could end up a satellite of the United States and not unlike the old Detroit in 20 years time. At least when the country was run by drugs you got some new schools, hospitals and the money spread around a bit whereas now the new money only goes to those who already have it. And Bogotá’s infra structure is in danger of collapsing under the new prosperity. That said it’s nice to see back packers moving safely through the country and enjoying the wonder that is Colombia.
How about South American artists, whether it be music, writing, films or fashion…who impress’s you?
We have to start with Carlos Vives. He’s Cliff and Elvis all wrapped up into a Colombian one. An incredibly bright and talented entertainer who 20/30 years or so ago managed to align and combine Colombian roots into a form that sold and entertained parents, grandparents and kids. And in doing so sold more records in Colombia than Julio Iglesias and the Bee Gees combined. He is a national treasure and a total pro. He’s on the road right now with Marc Anthony, another amazing artist who started in the trenches around the time of Fania records, as did Ruben Blades, and is just amazing. Looks and acts like a pimp , a sort of “wee git “. Latin Ike Turner , but is a master not only of the Latin trade, but can cut it meticulously in English well. Tomorrow night we are going to see Robi Draco Rosa. He’s tremendous. He is the dude who started out in the teen group Menudo with Ricky Martin and went on to write and produce all those Ricky Martin football hits. He makes great records for himself. Dark, Radioheady, Doors-ish but Latin in texture and rhythm with a top drawer ability. He’s seen the dark side and brings light to it. But with all of that there is still a part of me that would like to have been at Glastonbury with the Dalai Lama, Patti Smith and the Who.
You yourself over the years have worked with a number of popular South American groups and musicians, including one of Argentina’s biggest solo rock artists Charly Garcia
I was recording my favourite Argentinian group ‘Los Ratones Paranoicos’ (rhythm & blues quartet) in New York in the 90’s and Mick Taylor came by to add some parts. We had never met, but of course had a history with the Rolling Stones in common, so were were a bit wary of each other. We played the track, I told him roughly what I heard him playing for me. He looked at me and said,”in other words you want me to be fucking brilliant immediately….”. On another occasion in the same New York studio I was working in the next room to Sean Lennon. He asked me to stop by, he played me a track, then said, “my mum told me you did a lot of arrangements with the Rolling Stones. Could you give me some ideas for the background vocals on the track I played you “. I was slightly gob-smacked. I was now being asked to be fucking brilliant immediately. ” oh” Sean added after a pause ” and if possible could your ideas be like the Beach Boys “. That of course was no problem. We are here to serve the artist as long as he serves the song.
in ‘qi gong’ pose – image by Li Rong
You’ve had great success with the already classic music-bios; Stoned, and 2Stoned’, but is writing something you yourself get something out of?
In the past five years I’ve released two books, ‘Rolling Stoned’ (the updated combo of Stoned and 2-Stoned), ‘Stone Free’ and my Andrew Oldham orchestra ‘Rolling Stones Song book volume 2’. I’m very lucky I can afford to do both. I used to say that the record companies got taken by the Steve Jobs gang because they knew all the new tech words, but really didn’t know what they meant.
The same can be said of me. ‘Stone Free’ ran into trouble when we realised that e-book and kindle were not enough and for the bulk of my readers we needed print. We dropped the ball and I did a hissy fit and took my book from the publisher, something I somewhat regret. The orchestra record showed me how much I, and any new act, will miss the old fashioned concept of record company support. The record company was like the rabbi and the synagogue, via it’s investment and shout-out it told you what was kosher, what was blessed, and then left the decision up to you.
How about the Lambert & Stamp doc/film, featuring what must be some of the most exciting and authentic footage of any UK scene/era ever caught on camera. Your thoughts and feelings after seeing?
I loved it. It’s all in the detail. such as ? …. such as Pete Townsend talking about how when he moved in with co-manager Kit Lambert, Kit taught him all about how to live without paying your bills. that was Kit. He came from a part of town and a background that neither Chris Stamp, his brother Terence, myself or Pete Townsend came from. I came from Hampstead and we paid our bills, but in the part of town, mainly SW7, that Kit lived and Terence Stamp’s first manager lived you did not pay your tailor, green grocer or wine shop. An amazing part of English life, a long way from holidays in Tunisia. The scenes in the documentary of Kit ordering everybody about in French and German and he and Chris in the speakeasy with Jimi Hendrix and Chas Chandler are priceless. And the film is blessed by having Chris Stamp to tie it all together a couple of years before he passed. A very valuable document of the time.
Another very interesting bio-pic is the Mike Myers flick; SUPERMENSCH on Alice Cooper manager Shep Gordon. Shep was the first american manager post Albert Grossman who got it. There is some unnecessary accolades from the likes of Michael Douglas and Sylvester Stallone about what a great cocksman and humanitarian Shep is, but as a guide for management do’s and don’ts it’s a vital document. Shep tells us that when he signed a client he always told them that if he did his job properly it would kill the act. That’s his take on the results and aftermath of fame. Anyway Shep Gordon is one of the very best and it’s good to see that fact captured.
pic by Jerry Shatzberg
So what would be the chances of seeing your life and the ‘Stoned’ memoirs made into film?
I’ve tried and failed. I’m from the school that believes if it doesn’t have legs in six weeks then move on – that might not serve me well in a world where it can take six weeks to get a phone call returned. If a young director came in and had the right vision so I could say get on with it, Okay. But there are complications in that the music would be either impossible to get or too expensive and, anyway, the whole process would be as awful as spending time with the first wife again because former clients are all first wives. Just not possible to do. Too much luggage brought into the frame mainly by third parties. Apart from that there is a part of me that thinks that the story telling should be the privilege of the act. I don’t think my books violated that trust, but I have total control of my books. That has nothing to do with me liking the documentaries on the managers of the Who and on Shep Gordon. Anyway Shep still manages Alice – that makes it different I asked the Stones to be interviewed for STONED and 2STONED and they said no. Or to be rigorously fair a third party did. And a film without the music? Look at those awful films on Brian Jones and that questionable one on Jimi Hendrix. The core fans smell the musical rat. You’ve also got to get the costumes right. You can’t have Brian wearing something he wore in ‘ 66’ in a scene from ‘ 64… the fans know better. No, it’s ‘Sexy Beast’ or nothing.
But say there was a way around it, who do you think would have the attributes to play you, which actor would you like to see play thee role?
Before I decided to drop the film ball I wanted Johnny Borrell to play me, he would have been perfect. I saw him in Razorlight a few years ago. He did the best Jagger in ’65 I’ve ever seen. But it’s not good for the long haul, is it Johnny ? Later I fancied this young american actor, Devon Graye, who had played the teenage Dexter in the first season of ” Dexter”. He had studied in London for 4 years so getting NW3 down would have been a breeze. Jude Law was interested in playing Brian Epstein a number of years ago. he’d have been good, but now he’s too old. I’d like to see Damien Lewis play Alan McGee, I’m sure Alan would too. Nicolas Cage could play a great Allen Klein …or Jonah Hill…. and finally Ray Winstone as Albert Grossman, now that could be a movie !
A film covering your full career is an exciting prospect, which actually began in fashion, not music. The world of the Chelsea sets/models, short Channel dresses, The Kings Rd, & Mary Quant. What did the fashion industry back then teach you, how did it inspire you for the things you went on to achieve?
I would say mod-ism was the final enlightenment. Everything else I’d adopted earlier was someone else’s clothes. The writer George Melly summed it up very well so I’ll quote him. “mod was a sleek, sophisticated look, influenced equally by american jazz, the French new wave, Italian elan and British pop art”. I would throw in German darkness and angst and we all had a home. It also progressed, the mod look did not stand still, it progressed with the music and the changing times as it flirted with and embraced psychedelia.
As you know Mary Quant was my very first job. Sadly the man who interviewed me, and gave me that first all-important opportunity, Archie McNair just passed. Mary and her husband Alexander Plunket-Greene were a joy to behold and work for. I had lucked out, as I put it in STONED, ” the carpets were thick and the tea-cups were thin “, but more than that , although I did not realize it at that time, I was able to watch a relationship working at work. And this was 1961 . There were not many woman out there heading the work place. Quant was total, not just the designs but the shop where the clobber was sold, that may seem old hat now but it was not then. Mary Quant followed Chanel and Doir, she took over the crown and dressed the new girl in town ! And I was lucky enough to be there. I didn’t wear the dresses but I bought the life.
Anyone you think cuts a fine shape today, do you see any smart looking groups out there at all?
Difficult. Liam Gallagher looks like Susan Boyle’s younger distressed sister, although I have a healthy respect for his fashion line. Johnny Marr always dresses like a reformed mod pimp and I like it. Prince is super. I’ll never forget his doing the solo to ” while my guitar gently weeps ” in a George Harrison tribute at the grammy’s. He just came out in a great red suit, did an epiphanic solo and split. Morrissey still looks like Ian Stewart. However in a world where you should dress to reflect yourself and where that reflects your music if your music is great then you probably look great to. Stand up Bryan Ferry ! alarmingly we must admit that Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran are a work in progress and that Duran Duran still look like Barbarella rejects whereas Adele looks great because she truly is. I don’t need to tell you that Mick is giving Al Pacino a run for his money and that Charlie Watts is smart and that Keith is Keith…coz you already know that
picture by Jerry Schatzberg
Back in 63 you had the Stones dress as they felt, no suites, just jumpers & slacks, the perfect response to the collar-less suited Fabs. Yet it brought uproar from the media & such, even branding them ‘dirty’. Do you then think maybe the way a group looked back then had much more impact than ot does today?
The most fashionable thing you can do is to be fit. And not let the leisure wear, gymnast look allow us to be soft and flabby. A lot of us exercise to much to combat the food we are forced to eat. Meat and chicken is not animal, it’s a chemical. sugar is designed to shorten our lives. Paleolithic cultures did not have diets that were grain based, and here I quote Alberto Villoldo M.D. in the wonderful maggie, THE INTELLIGENT OPTIMIST. He says “…the minute we picked up a shovel and started eating wheat and barley our life span was reduced by 50%.” as we know carbs turn to sugar the moment we eat them. therefore agriculture lead to a shift in temperament. sugar feeds the lower brain , the primitive brain that focuses on survival and is tremendously aggressive and competitive, as opposed to collaborative. Sugar is everywhere. 100 years ago we consumed 5 lbs of sugar, now it’s 200 pounds per year. Sugar is everywhere, it’s today’s nerve gas. It’s killing us.”
I’m loathe to quote the scientologist Ron Hubbard , given all the recent hoo-ha’s but he did have it right with his book title CLEAR BODY, CLEAR MIND. It’s a tough call. Right now I’m vegan and I like it, but I can afford to be a vegan. A friend of mine who owned a construction company in Canada said the first to fall on the job were the vegetarians, they just could not do the work. I don’t want to sound like the elitest cunt I may sound like but I do urge you to look further than the night. It’s a long life if you are lucky. I loved the advice Noel Gallagher had for the kid who left ONE DIRECTION, ” it’s a long life, get yourself a good accountant .”
How about recent comments by Bill Wyman on the unveiling of the new plaque in Dartford train station…another case of deliberately rearranging music history, or was that meeting at the train station in 1961 in fact the real beginnings of The Stones legend?No, Bill was completely correct. I’m glad he took the time and had the clout to address it. If Mick and Keith had their way you’d think the band was formed when Ronnie Wood joined, and that SATISFACTION, THE LAST TIME and all the rest were songs they did whilst they were getting it together in clubs and stuff. No, there was that whole early ” my time ” pop period stones and before that there was the band that Brian Jones created with Ian Stewart , Mick, Keith, Charlie and Bill. That said what Mick and Keith have done with the band and the revisionistic channels they have run the band’s history through are totally appropriate for what they are doing now. Do we ask Boadicia where she got her knives sharpened ? the Rolling Stones supply the fans and the world with totally minimalistic data – the shows do the rest.
I have not seen the stones US tour but it seems apocalyptal and re-birthing via it’s similarity in pace, dates and locations to the first 1964 tour, apart from the days off which are par for the course and the best way to respect themselves and the shows. I saw a clip of DEAD FLOWERS from Nashville with brad paisley. it was very, very good
Do you some times find it a bit tiresome being asked about the same things time and time again, the Stones, Mick, Keith, the record Industry, the 60’s and so on? I was in Berlin end of last March doing a lecture for the Berlin School of Creative Leadership. Terrific people, terrific location, but as I looked at the audience I knew that my speaking days would be over when I finished that day’s work. I looked at all the students and guests and saw the same faces I’d see in Buenos Aires, Liverpool, New York; Toronto who, after I’d spoken, would ask me the same questions I was asked at every gig. This is not a criticism, it’s an actuality. What’s the old ode on addiction? repeating the same thing expecting a different result. I had my tricks down, I knew how to spice my audience but it was a dishonest trick because it deviated from the plain truth to an entertainment. It was not even an edutainment, so as I sat down and spoke and parried the always third question from the audience which would always be about Brian Jones.
Lecturing, speaking and writing my books had been a great part of my return to life since I straightened myself up in ‘ 95. I had been ‘out to lunch’ for more than 25 years – and I had a lot of war stories to brag into context but I’d done it. You have to know when to leave the ring.I hung around Berlin for a couple of days, over shopped as addicts do and then headed for the airport to take me, via Frankfurt, back to Bogotá, Colombia. I’d been away from home five days. In Frankfurt airport I became the effect of too much hand luggage and too much airport. I fell on the escalator trying to grab my falling way-to-heavy hand luggage and ended up in the B.G.U hospital with three fractures in my hip. I stayed there until the second week of may, then headed for Vancouver and physio and pilate’s and then in September returned to Bogotá and the dogs.
So what’s next Andrew…what do you see the future holding for you?
I read somewhere recently that if you can live as if you’ve died you have all the advantages of living in reasonably present time, without the luggage, the past or the future. after all is not the past a memory of a present moment ? and , as the Beatles song goes ” nothing to get hung up about ” …… that’ll do for now.