A Review: The Life And Times Of Andrew Loog Oldham

August 4, 2015

 

 

A Review

The Life And Times Of

Andrew Loog Oldham

Of The Rolling Stones

by

R.E. Prindle

Oldham, Andrew Loog: Stoned, 2001, Vintage

Oldham, Andrew Loog: 2Stoned, 2003, Vintage

Oldham, Andrew Log: Stone Free, 2012, Escargot Books

Oldham, Andrew Loog: Rolling Stoned, 2013, Because Entertainment

 

-1-

Who Is Andrew Loog Oldham

Andrew In The Day

Andrew In The Day

For those who know this introduction will be superfluous, but for those who don’t know this essay will be an introduction to a man who through his exploitation of the Rolling Stones was an important influence on that memorable Sixties decade. Perhaps moreso than is commonly thought.

Out on the consuming edge of the record industry in those days the name Andrew Loog Oldham seemed to be displayed as prominently on the record covers as The Rolling Stones themselves. In the early days Andrew Loog Oldham might be known before Mick or Keith and certainly the other members of the band. Yet Oldham wasn’t in the band so who was he? And then records were issued bearing the name The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. Where did he get that name Loog anyway? And just as suddenly the name Andrew Loog Oldham disappeared but the Stones remained. Who was this guy anyway?

In those days when information could be gathered, if at all, at the proverbial snail’s pace, things have changed today when I can make a few clicks and see Andrew moving and hear him speaking; actually see his fabulous style of dressing as he described it. In addition he has written two thousand pages describing himself more or less in full. Now we can know who Andrew Loog Oldham is and what his relationship to the Rolling Stones was.

Andrew’s, we’ll take a familiar approach throughout, great tragedy is that his fated life opportunity showed up too early. He was only nineteen in 1963 when the opportunity that few ever get a chance to grasp showed up on his front doorstep, so to speak. That was the appearance of the London music group The Rolling Stones. In order to come into his inheritance as he was under twenty-one and couldn’t legally act in his own name, Andrew had to find a surrogate to act in his stead. Chance provided an old reprobate by the name of Eric Easton. Eric was a plodder who had served as an organist at the resort town of Blackpool while representing two or three nondescript acts of which one was the redoubtable Mrs. Miller. While not a household name at the present time Mrs. Miller whose act consisted of being an amusingly terrible singer, had her moment in the spotlight both in England and the US. She did have records released and they did sell no matter how modestly.

Easton was slow on the uptake not realizing the cultural shift that was taking place with the arrival of the Beatles and would have been incapable of managing the Stones without Andrew’s grasp of the changing cultural situation of the Sixties. However he was not too slow to understand money in the bank of which he made off with a fortune or two much to the chagrin of both Andrew and the Rolling Stones.

Andrew’s four volumes are records of his vicissitudes being a young Lancelot reaching for the Grail. Andrew was green, he was. In ordinary times he would have been cleaned and discarded never to be heard of again but these were the Sixties and not normal times. Even in failure the times conspired to make Andrew comfortable by luxury standards, perhaps even rich, but not filthy rich. The marvelous Sixties did that for so many people most of them undeserving. By undeserving I mean takers with nothing to offer.

Well, this isn’t a tale about justice but one of the Sixties in which the whole concept of justice disappeared like the vapor from a nuclear plant. As an extra special gift of the times to Andrew he is today still alive and kicking having passed the seventh decade barrier at 71 years of age. The good didn’t necessarily die young just the unlucky. Andy is lucky.

He can be seen introducing his third book, Stone Free, at his Face Book site for those interested. Always the fashion plate he is a dapper impression of his hero Phil Spector, pointy nose and all. His hair is becomingly combed back on the sides making for a very presentable 71 year old young at heart gentleman. He wears a mint green light jacket and shirt, something of a cross between a butch femme and an effete hommy, but altogether passable. He projects a pleasant aura indicating little brain damage from his very legendary drug use. A look at him shows how Alex, the chief Droog of A Clockwork Orange may have looked as he made the passage from rough youth to a more dignified mature, the word ‘old’ does not apply to one like Andrew, or I might vainly say, myself.

-II-

Andrew Finds That Life Has It Hazards

Andrew: Is He Experienced?

Andrew: Is He Experienced?

I don’t really envy the English kids that came along after my birth year of 1938. The war years were tough enough but then the long years of national poverty after 1945 must have been grating. I can’t imagine a life without candy that the lads and lasses had to endure for nine long years. In my paradise in the US candy bars in those days at a nickel were monstrous. I couldn’t eat a whole one at one sitting. Stuffed at less than a half. Andrew must have known hardship and suffered horribly.

The war babies, mostly from ’42 and ’43 can have no memory of the war but the long ten years of rationed everything gave a cast to their psyches. When the war babies grew up and became rockers they laid out long tables of delicacies and then ignored them letting them go to waste. The pain was forgotten but lived on in the subconscious. Andrew was conceived in ’43 and popped out in ’44. Tragic for Andy, he should have born in ’42 and been 21 in ’63.

His was a special case. In a country in which the majority of men were US soldiers, normality had flown out the door in ’43; his mother not unnaturally took up with one. It was a tough time. Andrew’s father, Andrew Loog, was a soldier from Texas. He had a wife and son back there. As a younger man I applied my moral training to people in Andrew Loog’s situation and condemned them but now hopefully wiser and certainly older I understand. As a soldier in an active war Andrew Loog could die at any time so why not a little happiness? Perhaps he cringed at violating his peacetime morals. In any event as a member of a bomber crew he didn’t even make it across the Channel just after impregnating Andrew’s mother with his future self. Big Andy hoped he’d dodge the bullets but as it didn’t happen at least it resolved what would have been a difficult emotional situation.

Big Andy hadn’t married Little Andy’s mother so that made little Andy the bastard son of a bigamous father. Having been in the orphanage myself being a bastard means nothing to me. But society is unkind to bastards and orphans. Having read all four of Little Andy’s reminiscences more than once it seems clear that his bastardy left its mark on Andy. He had stormy relationship with his mother, perhaps beating her frequently while in his late teens. She said he did but he says he can’t remember doing it while it would have been wholly outside his character, however, he definitely admits booting her out of a moving car while she was pregnant. Those temper tantrums he had!

Possibly Andrew blames his mother for bringing him into the world as a bastard. He shouldn’t, better a bastard than not at all. Now, Andy discusses this from different angles constantly in his memoirs so my purpose here is to try to put his mind at ease.

The war had a devastating effect on social life especially in England which was merely a staging area for US forces in those years. Churchill was merely a stooge of Roosevelt’s.   Just as in WWI a million or English men died or were incapacitated meaning that just that many women were condemned to spinsterhood or whatever. Oh, I know that the dyke Gloria Steinem said a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle but Steinem was an unnatural woman. Andrew’s mother wasn’t.

As she gave Andy his father’s full name, that is Andrew Loog, I’m guessing that given the times and circumstances she really loved the guy so she named what surely must have been her darling Andrew, Loog, tacking on her name Oldham. Maybe I’m sentimental, but coming from the orphanage, I find that touching.

Now, Celia Oldham, for that was her name, was a Jewish girl. Andrew Loog I’m guessing from his name was probably of Dutch ancestry. Probably a Protestant but possibly a Sephardic Jew. Andy may know but I don’t.

So, here Celia Oldham is post-war with the little tyke, Andy, and no husband or father for his child. There is a massive shortage of men after the GIs clear out so while Celia is attractive the mating pool is small. Celia did the next best thing and probably with Andy in mind did it well; she became the mistress of a wealthy man while including Andy in the equation. Not only was he wealthy he was a decent man who maintained her and Andy as a second family. No kidding. He kept them in relative style while putting Andy through the public schools. (Public is private in England.)

What more could a single mother with no prospects do? Perhaps Andrew’s schoolmates were typical louts and ragged him continuously for being a bastard. I know that in the orphanage during and after was hell on wheels but that was the hand that was dealt and I had to play it; four deuces, trey high. Could have been worse. I’m not saying my psychology wasn’t affected and as Andy tells it his sure as hell was.

My point is that life being what it is he should be grateful for a loving mother who made the very best of a bad situation.

-III-

Lost In The Ozone Without A Parachute

Andrew In Midpassage

Andrew In Midpassage

As noted Celia Oldham was Jewish and while Andrew says that the religion didn’t play a big part in their lives nevertheless the mother is the culture bearer. The culture she passed on to Andrew must have been Jewish.

Judaism is an identitarian faith. To be Jewish is to separate oneself from the ‘gentiles’, from all others, the rest of mankind. As the US Zionist Samuel Untermyer was to proclaim on nationwide radio in opposition to Hitler’s claim that the Germans were the master race: We, the Jews, are the aristocrats of the earth. In other words, Drop this master race crap because you ain’t it.

Thus in a country nominally English, as Andrew describes his youth it was lived in an entirely Jewish community. As he describes it he associated with no one who wasn’t Jewish. Like the Jewish Bob Dylan he is always surrounded by Jews. As he set out to find his way in life he chose the record business as his métier. I think Andrew wanted to be where it was happening and as his antennae flickered about sensing for that taste of honey he perceived that his future lay in records. The entire music business if not the entertainment business was in the control of his fellow Jews.

Andy took his sense of reality from movies. There are a couple influential films he refers to frequently. One is the American film The Sweet Smell Of Success which however is about two Jews, the one based on the newspaper columnist Walter Winchell and the other his sidekick and the other is the British film Espresso Bongo. Naturally I obtained both movies and have checked them out. Also naturally at this age and distance I do not see them through nineteen year old eyes.

In Sweet Smell Andrew concentrates on the character Sidney Falco played by Tony Curtis. Andy identifies with Falco as a hustler in US terms and a Wide Boy in English terms. Thus Andrew identifies himself as a Wide Boy. Falco was an unsavory character, a stooge of his boss J.J. Hunsecker played by the repulsive Burt Lancaster. Curtis played the role well. One laments Andrew’s fascination with the character.

Espresso Bongo is a pretty decent rock film. It takes place I believe at the actual legendary 2i coffee house in which English rock was centered. The film puts you back in the day. The star is Andy’s all time hero Laurence Harvey who also turns in a stellar role. Harvey has that downtrodden hang dog look that carried David Janssen through the US The Fugitive TV series so well. As I lived in a constant depression until I was forty I knew the look and it suited me well. I identified with both Janssen and Harvey. Harvey was one of my favorite actors too. Depression and Laurence Harvey go together

In Espresso Bongo Harvey plays a role of a hapless manager of a singer who gets away from him much as Andrew himself would let the Stones slip away from him.

All the managers were Jewish and all exploited their ‘boys.’ Perhaps the most famous of these, what the English amusingly call manipulators, was Larry Parnes. As England emerged from rationing in the fifties and the rebuilding of the infrastructure destroyed by the bombing of WWII created a sort of false prosperity those young people who survived the bombing and rationing were coming of age. The war had caused a generational break. Young England began creating an England in their own image. They rejected the pre-war England of their elders. It was a world they never made. Of course neither had their elders.

Parnes sensing the direction began creating an image of recording stars to gratify youthful yearnings, especially of young girls. He found god looking boys giving them great stage names such Georgie Fame, Billy Fury, Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Vince Eager and my favorite, Lance Fortune. There can be but little question that he exploited, not to say cheated, his ‘boys.’ Parnes was both Jewish and homosexual, a killer combination that dominated the industry.

For instance this about Vince Eager from the Widipedia entry for Larry Parnes

Vince Eager began to wonder why he had never received any record royalties. ‘You’re not entitled to any.’ Larry Parnes told him. ‘But it says in my contract that I am.’ Eager protested. ‘It also says I have power of attorney over you, and I’ve decided you’re not getting any.’ Parnes replied.

Parnes was of course both Jewish and homosexual. As he had many of these performers on salary he was cleaning up. Of course he had merely plucked them off the streets and set them up designing their acts, teaching them stage presence, choosing repertoires etc., they may have been little more than employees. However they did have ‘contracts’ although as the above quote indicates they were more than one sided making the contractees little more than slaves

The whole record scene was exploitative and homosexual. When London’s leading criminals horned in on the record scene, the Kray brothers, Reg and Ron they were Jewish and homosexual while their older brother Charlie who was straight with no police record managed the business end of the record racket.

As Andrew was coming up through the years this was the situation he perceived. While he couldn’t have broken into the Parnes style star system once the Beatles hit and the emphasis switched to groups an opening appeared. Parnes who had his star system going disdained the group thing leaving that open so that the Beatles manager Brian Epstein slid through the opening developing his group and star roster dislodging Parnes.

The market had expanded exponentially since the fifties when Parnes developed his system. Andrew, then, aquiver with the possibilities had his eye out for the new Beatles. He was told about the group working in Richmond called The Rollin’ Stones. He went, he saw, he signed.

-IV-

A Clockwork Orange

As Andrew freely acknowledges by his late teens he was experiencing mental problems so I am merely discussing what he has disclosed. He says he was suffering from manic depression. Probably so, but he must also have blended in a little schizophrenia. The stresses of his childhood were taking possession of his mind. I know whereof I speak. This combined with his disastrous choices of role models that would be joined in 1962 by his reading of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange issued that year made him something of a phenom. Burgess, there’s another sicko.

A Clockwork Orange Boy, there was a Satanic book if there ever was one. The book took a certain mentality by storm, organized it and gave it expression. Its history is intimately connected with Jagger and Richards.

As influential in its limited sphere as the book was, Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 movie was perhaps the most destructive Satanic movie ever produced. It set the tone for the years that followed. The movie just tore a certain type of mind apart; Alexes by the dozen, nay, hundreds, thousands moved roved out every night after it was shown, snatching girls off the street. Clockwork was seconded by the movie The Collector that appeared about the same time. The book of Clockwork was less powerful but would still influence Andrew and through him Jagger and Richards. The other Stones led separate lives not involved with Mick, Keith and Andrew’s antics.

The Mad Andy Warhol

The Mad Andy Warhol

So Andrew’s brain is in a complete turmoil as he tries to find his way through the maze of life. Influenced by the real Larry Parnes and the fictional Johnny Jackson for a modus operandus he went in search of an act to manage and found his way to The Rolling Stones. Having discovered his mother lode, having a clear vision of what to do he was stymied by being only nineteen in shark infested waters without a cage.

Short of twenty-one he had to team up with a shark. As he was renting an office from an inoffensive appearing shark, Eric Easton, he convinced Eric to essentially through himself represent the Stones. Eric may have been a pretty sincere stodge but he was no fool when it came to his self-interest. He may have been close to a bottom feeder but that didn’t mean he hadn’t learned most of the tricks of the Great Whites. The ins and outs of contracts presented no problems to him while dizzy Andy and the naïve Mick and Keith probably hadn’t considered the existence of contracts. Give them a pen and dotted line under their name and they would sign. But, really, it was never a fair fight.

As Pretty Boy Floyd the Outlaw is alleged by Woody Guthrie to have said: Some will rob you with a six gun; some will use a fountain pen. Oh boy! Those contracts. The advantages are all on the side of the contractors; contractees beware. As Larry Parnes said: I’ve also got your Power Of Attorney and I say you don’t get anything. Revoking a Power Of Attorney is simple but how many amateurs think of it.

 

But legally contracts don’t really matter unless money is involved. There wouldn’t be a lot of money for a few years but when there was Andrew and the Stones not unsurprisingly got the bum’s rush.

Andrew’s brain was a regular pinwheel especially as in addition to his youth and mental condition he imbibed drugs freely. If your brain’s not already a mess drugs will certainly paint it black.

Even though Andrew chose poor role models he got the drift of what had to be done to make stars of random stones. Very few performers, they only become artists after success, know how to get from point A to point B and beyond. That’s where the manager, if he’s any good, comes in; he recognizes the possibilities of the raw talent and nurses them through the actual birth process. Believe me: this is worth a lot.

It is somewhat like Larry Parnes.   He sensed what the teen public wanted and rather than wait for it to come to him, he created it from the rawest material and then took more than the lion’s share or the benefits. But then, he also inadvertently gave his ‘boys’ lives. There were actual careers awaiting them after Parnes had scraped off the cream.

The question then is were the Stones too talented to fail? I don’t think so. Not without Andrew to shape them and point the direction anyway. Andrew couldn’t sing or play but he could turn dross into gold not too much differently than what Larry Parnes had done with his ‘boys.’ The Stones were the evidence.

The key to the Stones’ success was when they learned to write songs. Would they have learned to write songs if Andrew hadn’t literally forced them into it? I would answer with a clear cut negative. The Stones playing nothing but crappy old Chicago blues and would have sank without a trace. In that sense Brian Jones insistence on playing ‘pure’ R&B would have led to dismal failure. But then, maybe that is what Brian wanted.

Let me point out here that in the US all this crappy old blues stuff was unlistened to but by a very small minority. Nor would the stuff ever have gained popularity without the English influence. Even today very few listen to that junk. ‘I woke up this morning, lordy, lordy…’

While Mick, Keith and Brian were boggling their minds concentrating on the ‘music’ Andrew realized that teen age girls (the Parnes influence again) weren’t going to get too enthused about grizzled old Negroes complaining about how their mama wouldn’t drop down. Does anyone think sprightly young teenagers looking for a good time are going to wallow in anybody else’s misery? Not likely.

So Andrew directed his ‘boys’ toward a more pop sound alienating the ever insistent ‘purist’ Brain from Mick and Keith. Bill and Charlie were pretty much just boys in the band.

Thus faced with the overwhelming competition of the Beatles, the lovable Mop Tops, Andrew made the fatal choice of turning Mick and Keith into his criminal Droogs, taking the low road and leaving the high road to the Beatles. Alex in A Clockwork Orange called the members of his gang Droogs. In a sense Andrew tried to make the Stones Andrew and the Droogs.

All very well but as Andrew got a little money his brain went from a pinwheel on a stick to real fireworks where pinwheels shoot flames. His brain was really in a whirl. He was passing out at parties.   He became self-absorbed. He became interested in other projects that took his time, setting the Stones more or less adrift. His protégé Mick was no fool while being a quick learner. Why, Mick said to himself after becoming successful should I pay all these dufuses for what I can do myself. He couldn’t of course do it himself but it seemed like it at the time. He slammed the door in Andrew’s face.

-V-

Where’s Strength And Wisdom When You Need It?

Andrew: The Story Of His Life

Andrew: The Story Of His Life

The four years Andrew was with the Stones could have been a couple three or four lifetimes for the changes Andrew was forced through. Success is rightly called the bitch goddess. You’ll never know until you’ve said hello. The time from when he and Eric Easton signed the Stones to the time Andrew sold the Stones out to that Devil In Disguise Allen Klein nearly destroyed Andy. Allen Klein wasn’t in that much of a disguise either.

The trajectory of Andy’s career was so rapid it was hard to follow. It wasn’t so much that he bit off more than he could chew as that he tried to chew without biting it off. First things first, Andrew.

Anthony Burgess: Droogmaster General

Anthony Burgess: Droogmaster General

Obsessed with A Clockwork Orange he moved in with Mick and Keith where he gave them lessons in Droogism. Both were apt pupils. This is difficult to follow but his brain captured and sensing what seems to have been the book’s importance Andrew approached Burgess to buy the movie rights. Burgess told him the rights had already been sold but he wouldn’t tell Andy to whom.

It turns out that the rights had been sold to David Bailey the fashion photographer who had made Mick his ‘mate’ and possibly bought the rights jointly with Mick. If so, one wonders where Mick got the money. Sometime in 1963 the pair split with their rights to New York City to interest Andy Warhol in a film project. This also is rather remarkable because Andy was not yet that prominent while he hadn’t made any kind of stir with his puerile movies as yet. Somehow the rights passed to Warhol and finally to whoever acquired them to make Kubrick’s movie.

Warhol did make a film based on the book although the connection seems tenuous while not being worth watching. More importantly Alex and his Droogs had a profound effect on members of Warhol’s group. The group left Warhol’s atelier, the Factory, at night on their predations a la Alex and his Droogs. I believe Bob Dylan is referring to them in this lyric from his 1965 song Desolation Row:

Now at midnight all the agents and the superhuman crew

Come out and roundup everyone that knows more than they do

Then they bring them to the [F]actory were the heart attack machine

Is strapped across their shoulders…

For some reason both Oldham and Bailey thought Mick was the perfect Alex while the Stones could be the Droogs. It didn’t work out but Mick and Warhol bonded like superglue. They would be very close friends until Andy died in 1987 when Mick flew to Pittsburgh for the funeral. Not only did the Stones practice Black and Blue at Warhol’s Montauk compound but Andy did two or three covers for them most notably Sticky Fingers. As a result of Mick and Warhol’s friendship the Stones always had the key to Greenwich Village.

So Andrew lost out on his bid for A Clockwork Orange. But then his brain racing a mile a minute and wanting to be a record magnate he founded Immediate Records. Not one for details Immediate stretched him pretty thin. I know we’re talking ancient history here, or at least ancient technology, so the reader will have to let go of the present to imagine the impact of Immediate Records on the cognoscenti of the time. I modestly include myself in that number.

Andrew was on the far edge of flamboyant; his ideal Larry Harvey who he met about this time thought him arch camp so Andy in his eye makeup and fey manners must have cut a startling figure. A lot of people thought he was queer and not just ambiguous. The Immediate label was an astounding pink, almost fluorescent seemingly confirming homosexual tendencies. It got your attention but in those days you almost had to apologize for buying a record with such a label. His covers were all good, in a class with the best and perhaps…. He signed and produced a lot of very good groups. The label’s production values may have prevented him from having any smashes, at least I don’t remember any.

I’m sure few will remember the Nice or even have heard of them but the first Nice was a pretty good record while the members went on to greater things. The sound wasn’t as immediate as it could have been. I worked it in my store but couldn’t get anywhere with it.

In those days British imports were all the rage on the West Coast while US records were despised. When I first went to England in the early seventies I was astounded to find the fans waiting for American pressings because they were thought better. Oh, I said, how strange. What makes them better? In so many words they said production values. In still other words they thought they had more immediacy. So Andy’s Immediate records lacked immediacy. I thought they were great anyway and they were always the first of the new releases I auditioned.

But, the devil is in the details, and Andrew wasn’t much on details so he went broke although he did hang in there until 1970. Not a bad record for an independent.   He doesn’t tell us what happened to the masters but they must have been worth something.

By that time Andy was not only deep into drugs he was legendary. In Stoned and 2Stoned he has some great descriptions of being out of it if you like that sort of thing. His first two books were based on the oral biography method of Jean Stein’s biography of Edie Sedgwick called Edie. In that book acquaintances were interviewed and then cut and pasted to form a continuous narrative. Knocked out by ‘Edie’ Andrew did the same with the exception that he commented on the interviewees’ comments.

Rolling Stoned begins in a straight autobiographical style then begins to wander and meander. Andrew is always a good read but unless you want to read three different four hundred page books covering the same ground with variations I would recommend his most recent, Rolling Stoned, or perhaps 2Stoned. Still, I don’t mind…

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