My music business life in seven offices
My music business life in seven offices
By Doug D'Arcy
 
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Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones and Gordon Mills

Engelbert Humperdinck, Tom Jones and Gordon Mills

We’re in the same office but a new world. It’s not Chrysalis, it’s Chris Wright’s Chrysalis. He now owns a majority share of the company. It didn’t take Terry Connolly long to come up with a scheme to replace the loans that Chris borrowed to finance buying out Terry. It involves Chrysalis making what’s called a reverse takeover of a public company called Management, Agency and Music (MAM). The Chairman of the company is Gordon Mills a music entrepreneur who built the company through his songwriting and the astute management and recording of Tom Jones, Englebert Humpderdink, Gilbert O’Sullivan and Lynsey De Paul. The merger happened quickly as Gordon was keen to step down and cash in. Sadly he died soon afterwards. We’re still the Chrysalis Group with MAM’s music copyrights becoming part of Chrysalis, as well as their other activities such as hotels, slot machines, juke boxes and an aircraft charter business. Chris is still the major shareholder and the rest of the shares are now owned by city investors. It’s Terry Connolly’s job, to restructure and integrate the MAM divisions along with Barry Clayman a MAM director and an old colleague from the Leo Sayer days who joins the Chrysalis Board.

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The management of Chrysalis has always been informal, and it’s success has been something of a mystery. It involved Terry Ellis’ yellow legal pad, Chris Wright’s diary and the back’s of envelopes until I bought a Filofax. Things have changed completely now we’re a public company. Board meetings are formal with lengthy written reports. I’m not mad about these meetings. There’s a lot of juggling of figures, window dressing and posturing and I know nothing about hotels or slot machines. Around the boardroom table there’s little support for the US label it’s seen as a problem and risky, unless it’s selling millions of albums of course. Chrysalis Records Ltd is the biggest profit maker in the group so that’s different. My main problem is the dress code. It’s smart suits with brightly coloured designer ties and shiny shoes. I make a point of dressing differently usually something by Yohji Yamamoto. 

Labi Siffre

Labi Siffre

Chris is enjoying the freedom of not having a partner. He’s now the leader of the whole group of companies worldwide. He’s changing things. He’s appointed a new head of music publishing. The TV production deals that Terry made have been closed down. He’s made a label deal with Derek Green who used to run A&M in the UK and now has a new venture, the China label, with new bands the Art of Noise and Labi Siffre. Chris is also organising an International A&R meeting soon to review our entire artist roster. 

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I’m signing a new contract. I’ve kept to my conviction that Mick Jagger knows best so this time it’s his lawyer Paddy Grafton-Green. Along with the agreement comes a new title President of Chrysalis International. It does mean Roy Eldridge can be promoted to Managing Director and Stuart Slater becomes A&R Director. Stuart has brought some talented young people into A&R. Simon Fuller who, after bringing Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ to Chrysalis Music, has brought The Adventures and Paul Hardcastle to the label. Paul’s first solo record ‘19’ is a smash hit and it’s been recorded in many languages and become a worldwide phenomenon. Peter Edge has been brought in to create a new label Cooltempo to work with dance, soul and hip-hop music not usually considered Chrysalis material.

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We’re maintaining the strategy of working with other labels. Geoff Travis  created the Rough Trade label and distribution where much of the best new music in the UK has surfaced. He has made a deal with us to have a label called Blue Guitar. We’ve also licenced Andy McDonald’s Go Discs which has Billy Bragg a singer/songwriter with an acute consciousness and a great live presence. Go Discs also has the Housemartins from Hull who have great songs. One of our A&R people, Pete Lawton, had wanted to sign them to Chrysalis but Andy McDonald claims he got to them first.  We do need to manage this label strategy carefully. 

John Waite and Chris Stein

John Waite and Chris Stein

Chris is now in charge of our US business and we both agree we should replace Jack Craigo with a new President and also add to our US A&R strength. Easier said then done. We finally choose Mike Bone ex-Elektra Records, which is a label close in style to us and the one that was Terry Ellis’ original inspiration. We also add Kate Hyman to our US A&R staff to bring a fresh approach. The UK label makes an increasing profit year on year. The really big profits though have been coming from the US and it’s there we’re beginning to have a problem. Our major sellers are faltering. Blondie is unable to work because of Chris Stein’s long term illness. Huey Lewis’ Small World album is great but has no hits and Pat Benatar’s sales are also slowing.

We’re trying to sign established artists who bring immediate sales volume like Stevie Winwood, whose deal with Island has run out, but Virgin beat us with a very big offer. We do manage to beat Virgin to buy the Ensign label owned by Nigel Grainge. The roster includes The Waterboys, whose preference for us pushed the deal our way. They are creating excitement in Britain and the USA and we believe have great potential. Pretty much immediately after the deal is done Karl Wallinger, the keyboard player, leaves to start his own band World Party. This band also looks exciting, as does the solo artist Sinead O’Connor who makes an amazing appearance in the World Party video for a song called Private Revolution. We’re hoping that the next Waterboys album will be a breakthrough for them and us. It’s been a long time coming and costs have accumulated.

An unexpected vacancy appears at Chrysalis Music so Stuart Slater is moving into fill that job. That leaves an A&R vacancy. We hire Peter Robinson from RCA. His background is pop and r’n’b orientated. We’ve got quite of an array of A&R talent now in the UK and the A&R meetings are crowded. Chris wants as many options as possible but I’m not convinced and I don’t think the cost is going to be sustainable for very long.  

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The UK label has lots going on Jellybean Benitez writer and DJ is producing ‘Just Visiting this Planet’. New signings Go West are on a run of hit singles in both UK and the US and new Scottish duo The Proclaimers have just played a short set on our main staircase surrounded by everyone in the building and got a great reaction. However in America our losses continue to grow. The analysts who advise the institutional shareholders and the Stock Market in general are pursuing us for constant updates on our figures and looking for profit projections that will build the share price and dividends. This is creating pressure on Chris who is desperate for hits to solve our problems, but we really need to rebuild the US label. In the meantime Terry Connolly has announced he plans to step down and would like to buy Chrysalis Properties. He’s been invaluable to us and his departure is a blow.

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My office life and my private life have often got tangled but at this moment they grip tightly. My father went into Hull Infirmary as I was going up to Hull for a Housemartin’s show at the nearby venue Bridlington Spa where as a teenager I’d seen the Kinks and the Rolling Stones. Whilst I was at the gig my father passed away. I found out the following morning. In between this happening and the funeral a week later I went to Dublin to see the Waterboys in concert. They played a new song called Fisherman’s Blues. My father was from an Aberdeen fishing family and somehow the song feels like it’s meant for him. I went back to Hull for the funeral, which was difficult because of my mother’s dementia but I have great support from my family.

Then it’s back to the office.