Chas Chandler

London, 1969

Bryan "Chas" Chandler was born in Heaton, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England on the 18th December 1938. His first job after leaving school was in the Tyneside shipyards as a turner. He went on to make major contributions to British rock as a musician in the 1960's, and as a producer, and manager throughout the 1970's.

A big-built man who liked to drink and smoke and had, said Keith Altham:
"enormous drive and self-belief. It was that enthusiasm that helped both Jimi Hendrix and Slade become stars. He'd just tell everyone: 'They are the best in the world!'"

He learnt to play guitar and was playing bass for the Alan Price Trio in 1962 when vocalist Eric Burdon joined the band. They renamed the group The Animals. Their first hit song was House Of The Rising Sun in 1964. Other hits include Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, Bring It On Home to Me and It's My Life. Chandler was the most prominent of the group's backing vocalists and did some occasional song writing with Burdon.

The Animals: 1964 Alan Price, John Steel, Chas Chandler, Hilton Valentine and Eric Burdon in the middle.
"We toured non-stop for three years, 300 gigs a year and we hardly got a penny..."
Chas Chandler, The Independent 1994
The group split up in September 1966, by this time their business affairs "were in a total shambles" according to Chandler, and the group disbanded. Chandler reinvented himself, becoming a talent scout, artist manager and record producer.

The Animals had other line ups but none that could compare. Chandler's talents as bass player are rarely discussed, but his energetic and imaginative style were an important part of the band's sound; that's his famous riff opening We've Gotta Get Out of This Place, and more obscure tracks like I'm In Love Again and Bury My Body testify to his skill on the instrument.

During his final tour with the band in the US, he saw a then-unknown guitarist named Jimi James play at a New York club. James was doing an imaginative arrangement of a song, Hey Joe. In September 1966, Chandler convinced James to come with him to England, where he would make him a star.

Chandler's belief in Hendrix was such that he sold all his guitars to finance the project. After changing his name to Jimi Hendrix, Chandler recruited Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding to form The Jimi Hendrix Experience. He was instrumental in introducing Hendrix to Eric Clapton and it was through this introduction that Hendrix got a chance to play with Clapton and Cream on stage.

Chandler formed a partnership with Mike Jeffery, who was manager of The Animals, and together they co-managed the Experience but he produced the first two Hendrix albums, 'Are You Experienced?' and 'Axis: Bold as Love' along with studio engineers, Eddie Kramer, George Chkiantz, and Gary Kellgren.

He wasn't just a studio presence either, he was involved in the selection and refinement of the material and invaluable because he understood both sides of the glass. He quit halfway through the 'Electric Ladyland' sessions in 1968 when he became frustrated with the abundance of hangers-on in the studio. It was shortly after Chandler quit that Hendrix died in London in 1970.
"My only obvious regret is I wonder if I didn't walk out maybe he would still be alive. He is a loss; he was a good friend..."
Chas Chandler: 1991 Associated Press
He fell out with Jeffery over the way Hendrix's career was handled, and returned to London in 1969 with his Swedish wife Lotta, who was expecting their first child. Despite the falling out both Chas & 'Lottie' were present at the Royal Albert Hall performance in February 1969.

It is telling that, in the case of The Animals, history records claims of mismanagement and theft on the part of their manager Michael Jeffery and Chandler seems to have made the mistake of partnering up with him over Hendrix. Is anybody aware of evidence to set the story straight?

He then went on to manage and produce the rock band Slade for the next twelve years. It is infuriating that this accomplishment is trivialised simply because the group failed to crack the American market during their golden years. Chandler's guidance created one of the UK's most successful Rock bands ever. Outselling and outperforming almost every other band of that era. The group dominated the British charts during the early 1970s. They achieved 12 top five hits from 1971 to 1974, six of which topped the charts. In total, they had 17 top 20 hits between 1971 and 1976 including six #1s, three #2s and two #3s. No other UK act of the period enjoyed such consistency in the UK top 40 and Slade actually came the closest to matching The Beatles' 22 top ten records in a single decade. Three of their singles entered the charts at #1 and they sold more singles in the UK than any other group of the 1970s. Their mistake was to allow fashion to dictate their appearance.

In the late 1970s, Chandler bought the IBC Studios and renamed them Portland Recording Studios. The International Broadcasting Company studios at 35 Portland Place, London was once the leading independent studio in the British Isles. It was also home to George 'Porky Prime Cut' Peckham and the Radiotracks Studios. Chandler ran the studios for four years and also launched Barn Records.

In 1977 Chandler split up with his wife Lotta and married Madeleine Stringer, Miss UK 1977, after a whirlwind romance. On first appearance this would appear somewhat foolish. He proposed within a week of meeting and yet...
"Being with Chas was exactly what I wanted. I would have liked a bit less stress, but it was a home and safe. He was a rock, an anchor. He grounded me."
Madeleine Chandler
Chandler, although physically imposing and mentally astute, was never financially 'well off'. The couple sold their Surrey farmhouse, along with the Rolls, soon after their wedding in 1977. The royalties from his most famous hit, The House of the Rising Sun all went to Alan Price, according to Madeleine. She gave up her own Miss World earnings to help clear debts.
"Chas and myself never had money. I wasn't allowed to tell anybody, though. I never thought we would have any money problems but we did, all our lives."
Chandler kept an interest in the music business over the last two decades of his life through production interests in the recording studio and part-owning interest in the Newcastle Arena. He also recorded with the Animals on their reunion albums.

In 1975 the original Animals reunited and recorded an album called Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted which did not get a release until 1977. Punk Rock then ensured that it got buried. It also all but destroyed the career of Slade. In 1979 they parted company with Chandler, although they remained friends.

In May 1983 The Animals reunited again and the album, Ark was released on 16 June 1983. It spawned the singles The Night and Love Is For All Time and a world tour followed for which Chandler had to relearn bass guitar. It was not a happy experience as the group spent most of the time arguing and at one point Chandler was seen grabbing Eric Burdon by the scruff of the neck. The final concert at Wembley Arena, London was recorded in 1984 and released as an album aptly entitled Rip It To Shreds. The original Animals broke up for the last time at the end of 1984.

In the very late 80's Chandler spent three months in hospital for heart surgery. In that time his kidney's collapsed and he suffered strokes. It did not stop him from helping local bands in the North East to record their own music during the early 90's. Dennis Munday worked at Polydor in the 70's and recalls a chat with Chas in the early 80's that

"Chas Chandler gave me call; he wanted me to check out a new band that he had taken on. They were playing in a pub in Whitley Bay and I met up with him to make the travel arrangements. When I walked in, Noddy Holder was sitting at the table and I can honestly say, there was nothing big-time about Chas and Noddy. 
We took the train up to Newcastle and... I spoke to Chas about The Animals, and Jimi Hendrix. He informed me that he had many tapes of out-takes by Hendrix, but owing to legal problems, he couldn't do anything with them. I have no idea what has happened to Chas's collection of tapes since he died in 1996, but hopefully, they will see the light of day. 
There was a question I wanted to ask him about Slade and this was just the opportunity. I noticed that whenever I played a Slade 45rpm, the sound levels were higher than all the other singles. I asked how he managed this and he replied. 
"When I was recording the band, I'd put gaffa tape over the VU meters, which pissed off the engineers, as they couldn't see what levels were going down on to the tape. Then, I would tell them how loud I wanted it. They didn't like it, but that's how I got the Slade sound."
I have to say Chas Chandler was gent, and one of the few that I met in the record business. There was no side to him, and he didn't boast about his achievements but then he didn't have too, his achievements said it all."
Dennis Munday : Ex Polydor Marketing October 2012

He also set himself up in business with architect Nigel Stanger, one-time saxophonist with The Animals. They established Park Arena Ltd, which developed the Newcastle 'Metro Radio' Arena, a 10,500-seat sports and entertainment venue that opened in 1995 after nine years of work. It has featured artists such as Neil Diamond, David Bowie and Pulp. Building the arena meant a lot to Chandler and he told his wife Madeleine that watching Ray Charles play there was "like watching him play in my own front room".

Unfortunately, Park Arena Ltd. were left in financial difficulty over the project.

"The arena was supposed to be a family investment. We had re-mortgaged to pay the accountants and it was supposed to be leased for 20 years... That didn't happen in the contracts."
Madeleine Chandler, The Journal 2004
Seven years after his heart surgery he had a relapse and died within a week. Chandler died of a heart condition in Newcastle, days after performing his final solo show. He sadly passed away on Wednesday, 17th July 1996 at the young age of 57 in Newcastle General Hospital where he was undergoing tests related to an aortic aneurysm.
"It appears he suffered some form of attack while he slept..."
Keith Altham
Chandler is survived by his wife and four children. Two sons, Steffan (1969), (from his first marriage) and Alex (1979), and two daughters, Katherine (1983) and Elizabeth (1989).

35 Second Avenue, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

Steffan is now a father himself, his daughter Lili Lotta was born early 2004. He owns a record label in London, working in production and management like his father. It was Steffan who helped to ease the family financial problems after his dad's death by selling tapes of Chandler's which gave Madeleine some capital. An obituary for The Independent was written by Chris Welch.


More to read about Chas Chandler, written by Chris Charlesworth, can be found here.

Trivia: Madeleine Stringer launched herself on to the beauty pageant merry-go-round with her eyes firmly set on Miss World. In a bid to get more modelling work, she took part in and won Miss UK 1977 and became a serious contender for that years Miss World crown.

Andy Williams with Miss World Contestants
November 16th, 1977 © Bettmann/CORBIS

Singer Andy Williams who was to host the Miss World Contest next day, clowns around with some of the contestants during a dress rehearsal. With Williams are:

Left to right, Miss Australia - Jane Hopewell; Miss United Kingdon - Madeleine Stringer; Miss Canada - Marianne McKeen and Miss Sweden - Mary Catrin Stavins, who was to win the title.

Stringer was tipped to win Miss World 1977 but as she faced the final, the Daily Mirror published topless photos of her which she believes hampered her chances of winning. She finished runner up and rules were put in place regarding nude photography.

"The pictures were taken in St Tropez and I was never paid for them."

1 comment:

  1. I liked him a lot and even though we only met twice, I can honestly say I miss him.