The legendary A&R man talks about the psych/pub rock/punk ’70s, The Stone Roses, and missing the Fabs’ last gig.
THE MOJO reader knows Andrew Lauder’s works. In his decade tenure at the Liberty/UA label, he oversaw a diverse catalogue ranging from the Groundhogs and Can to pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz and Dr. Feelgood, on to The Stranglers and Buzzcocks. After he left in 1977, his later imprints included Radar and its successor F-Beat (Costello, Nick Lowe), Demon/Edsel (whose catalogue curation presaged the MOJO mindset) and Silvertone (The Stone Roses). These tales and more are told in his frabjous new memoir Happy Trails, which details a young Hartlepool music nut seeking his fortune in London in 1965. “I got very, very lucky,” says Lauder, a genial and modest presence, from his home in France. “One thing after another fell into place, in a ridiculous manner…”
The book details how you missed the chance to see The Beatles on the roof of Apple in ’69.
I did. My friend Wayne Bardell, who was working at Apple Publishing, rang up and said, “Get yourself over here, The Beatles are going to play on the roof!” I just looked at this page of meetings I had and said, “Give me a bit more notice next time they do it.” Ha! I remember opening the window, because [Liberty/UA] was in Albemarle Street, which isn’t that far from Savile Row, and I thought if the wind’s blowing in the right direction, I might be able to hear it... but it wasn’t, so I managed to miss that one.
All the clubs are in walking distance from ’65. You’re in the right place and at the rightest time.
That’s true. One day I was picking bits of sheet music out at Southern Music on Denmark Street, next to where songwriters John Carter and Ken Lewis were chatting about a record they’d sung on, which was The Who’s I Can’t Explain. They told me [The Who] were playing the Marquee every Tuesday and I should go. I did and it was full, but it wasn’t rammed. You could go to the bathroom, come back, and still have your place. I managed to stand opposite Pete Townshend’s amp. The following week that was impossible.
Yeah. But all I can think of is, I wish I’d been in Liverpool in 1963 watching Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes, or at shows in San Francisco in 1965… never mind, I was lucky to be where I was.
What were your A&R instincts at UA based on?
I was sort of a frustrated musician, so I almost projected myself – what bands would I like to be in? Brinsley Schwarz, or Hawkwind, and I would love to have been in Dr. Feelgood! Rock’n’roll – what I liked about Merseybeat or The Pirates, the Feelgoods brought all that back really. And I loved collecting records and got a buzz out of putting them out. I hadn’t had an education in how to run a record company, like if I’d got a job at Decca or EMI, so you didn’t know what you weren’t supposed to do. I was putting out High Tide records and signing Hawkwind, and no one’s kind of stopping me.
Do any labels still have that spirit? Probably Lawrence Bell from Domino, Geoff Travis [Rough Trade] is still doing it, Mute are still going – putting out records by Neu! and Can that I put out in the first place!
The book takes pains to say that The Stone Roses’ allegedly-awful deal had nothing to do with you.
Well, it didn’t. I’d love to say I signed The Stone Roses, but it wasn’t me. It was actually Roddy McKenna [A&R at Silvertone parent label Jive]. Their contract was as bad as anything I’ve ever seen. But you could talk all day about Gareth [Evans, Stone Roses’ manager]. Obviously, the group fired him later, but he was definitely partly responsible for their success, but also for their demise. The only people that really benefited, and I’m really glad they did, was Rockfield Studios [in Wales]. The Stone Roses basically kept Rockfield alive – they were there for about a year of turning up, or turning up late, or not turning up at all.
Tell us something you’ve never told an interviewer before.
The idea that mixing friendship and business is a no-no – I found it to be almost the opposite. I became very friendly with the Groundhogs. Doug Smith, who managed Hawkwind, is still a friend, Jean-Jacques from The Stranglers is a really good mate. I could go on. So, you can mix business with pleasure.
Happy Trails: Andrew Lauder’s Charmed Life And High Times In The Record Business by Andrew Lauder and Mick Houghton is published by White Rabbit on April 27.
“What band would I like to be in? Dr Feelgood!” ANDREW LAUDER