Wednesday, May 9, 2001
Stones' Svengali recounts street fighting days
BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) - Long before gun-toting rap stars roamed
America, the first manager of the Rolling Stones was terrorizing "Swinging"
London, throwing errant journalists out of windows and others off bridges.
Accompanied by a thuggish bodyguard, teenage pop Svengali Andrew Loog
Oldham was said to be quite the rogue 40 years ago: Sporting a cape, he
would careen around the city in his Mini Cooper, speakers blaring from the
roof of the tiny car.
This is not all completely true, especially the bit about the cape, but the
anecdotes and rumors metamorphosed into "facts" over the years, a
consequence of the hype and mystique Oldham engineered on behalf of his
Now 57, he is setting the record straight in his memoirs, "Stoned"
(St. Martin's Press, U.S.; Secker & Warburg, U.K.), which details the
early days of the so-called greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world. The
star character is not Mick Jagger or Keith Richards, it is Oldhaman
arrogant genius redeemed by self-effacing British sense of humor.
"I would hope that (Stones guitarist) Keith Richards would turn around and
say, 'Well finally, Andrew's working on his favorite acthimself.' Which I
am," Oldham said in an interview in his three-story Bogota apartment.
Oldham managed the Stones from 1963 to 1967 (in partnership with the late
Eric Easton through 1965) and produced all their records during that
period, including the hits everyone knows and loves to this day: "(I Can't
Get No) Satisfaction," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Mother's Little Helper,"
"Play With Fire," "Paint It, Black," "Get Off Of My Cloud," and others.
More importantly, practiced at the art of deception, he transformed the
nice, middle-class boys into the anti-Beatles. To underscore their outlaw
image, he invented the line, "Would you let your daughter go out with a
ROCK 'N' ROLL URCHINS
These days, with the Beatles bigger than ever 30 years after breaking up,
he still considers the Stones to be underdogs, albeit filthy rich ones.
"We're always gonna be the bad boys. We're always gonna be urchins," he
said. "I had to wait until the Rolling Stones had their last hit before my
early work was recognized."
After splitting with the Stones in 1967 -- a case of mutual boredom.
Oldham essentially disappeared. He did more drugs than any of his proteges,
married a Colombian film star, moved to Bogota, got sober six years ago and
became a Scientologist.
True to its subtitle, "A Memoir of London in the 1960s," "Stoned" focuses
on life in what would briefly become the hippest city in the
world. Tantalizingly it ends in 1964, after the Stones had released their
first album but before they had set foot in the United States. Two sequels
Richards and bandmates did not cooperate as their relations with Oldham are
distant. But singer Mick Jagger's publicist sidekick, Tony King, was one of
70 contributors to supply anecdotes, giving the book a hint of official
Other contributors include entertainment impresario Don Arden, Who
guitarist Pete Townsend and former Led Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones.
Just 19 when he signed the band, Oldham already boasted a colorful resume,
including stints doing publicity for fashion designer Mary Quant and
Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
Although he was younger, the Stones warmed to his gung-ho ways, which were
inspired by American gangster movies. And, inspired by American producers
like Phil Spector and Bob Crewe, Oldham secured a lucrative recording
contract, something Epstein did not initially do for the Beatles.
All this would have been pointless if Oldham had not forced blues
aficionados Jagger and Richards to write their own songs, instead of
"sparring with (covers band) the Swinging Blue Jeans for some black guy's
song that hadn't been recorded to death."
He got a songwriting credit on "As Tears Go By," one of the duo's first
tunes, originally a 1964 Marianne Faithfull hit.
By his own admission, Oldham knew nothing about producing, he tried to plug
an electric guitar into the wall, but he was a quick learner and eager
collaborator, and the records "fell together ... Next one, next one, next
JUMPIN' JACK CASH
The fruits of those labors, gold records galore, adorn his apartment, which
he shares with his wife, Esther Farfan, their teenage son Maximillian and
He does not need to work because he has a modest financial participation in
publishing revenues generated by the Stones catalog up to and including the
1971 album "Sticky Fingers." When director Martin Scorsese crammed a bunch
of Stones songs into the 1995 film "Casino," Oldham hit the jackpot.
He is already putting the finishing touches on a sequel, "2Stoned,"
expected to come out in Britain by fall 2002. It will trace the band's slow
conquest of America through 1967.
"If the first book is in some ways an applause to the dream of America,
then '2Stoned' is the reality. 'Stoned' is like 'Little Women;' '2Stoned'
is like 'In Cold Blood,"" he warned.
A third book, "Stoned Free," will trace his downfall when he became a drug
addict and smuggler. Now a bit of a health freak, he is hooked on a few TV
shows: the "Law & Order" franchise, "Homicide" and "CSI:
Crime Scene Investigation."
Which brings us to his own criminal endeavors. "Stoned" attempts to correct
some myths, but he inadvertently adds to the pile by including some of his
contributors' dubious tales.
For the record, he does cop to barging into a critic's office along with
his bodyguard, Reg "The Butcher" King and threatening to defenestrate the
hapless scribe. And when a record company employee leaked the titles of the
next Stones album to a music paper, Oldham and King threw him in a car and
threatened to drop him into the Thames wearing concrete boots.
"It's all theatrics," he now explains. "You do what you do to keep yourself
energized, to make every day count. Remember, it was us against them. We
all have our own devices."
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