Damn Critics

New Musical Express, April 1st 1972


…says manager Chas Chandler. Last week he discussed his years with Hendrix. Here he covers the period from Hendrix to Slade.

From last week 
"AS IT HAPPENED I had his return ticket to America in my brief case and I took It out and walked out of the control room and into the studio to give it to him. I told him if he really felt like that we should forget it and he said 'Let's try again'. 
"…don't want to give the impression I was the only person responsible for Jimi's success, though. We bad help from a lot of people. 
In particular there was Kit Lambert - who practically knocked a table over in his excitement to get at me and sign Jimi for Track Records after a performance the Experience did at the London Speakeasy, People like Lennon, Jagger, McCartney and Harrison  were helping just by mentioning him around. 
"Noel Redding and Mitch were also very important. There was never much love lost between me and Mitch, but his drumming knocked me out and Jimi had a lot of respect for him. Noel kept Jimi down to earth - he was very down to earth in those days, and Jimi used him to decide which direction he should go. 
"The first big break we got in the States came courtesy of Paul McCartney, who they were trying to involve in the Monterey Festival. He told them it wouldn't be any kind of music festival without Hendrix. From there on things just burst wide open." 
Chas had already promised me he would take me with him on his first trip to the States with Hendrix and as a man of his word I went to Monterey and witnessed the festival on which Hendrix preceded the only group la the world who could have ever followed him - The Who

When Hendrix exploded onto that stage and left amidst blown out amplifiers and blown out minds the Flower Children had something else to talk about besides their negated ideas of love and peace. 

He was a personification of active and positive force - suppressed anger and explosive excitement. It was like listening to a brain storm. It was only at the point I realised what the word genius meant as applied to a musician. 

Hendrix was still worrying about his vocal powers;
"In the early tracks he kept asking me to put his voice back and bury it," said Chas. "I wouldn't do it because I realised that, like Dylan, the voice had identity and the one thing went with the other. No one could sing his songs the way they were intended. There was something unique in the timing between his voice and the guitar that made it one. . 
"The perfect Hendrix single for me was 'Purple Haze' because it was the best example of his work in 2½ minutes and flip side and was a clear indication of the man's unique brilliance as a musician," 
Approximately two-thirds through Hendrix's career Chandler sold out his interest in Hendrix's management to his partner Mike Jeffries. The big question was, why? 
"There were a hundred reasons," says Chas. "The most important was that Jimi didn't appear interested in advice any more. We were in New York and working on an album but he wanted everything his way or not at all, and I didn't feel like being along just for the ride. 
"If you are going to manage anyone yon have to feel that you are contributing some thing. At that time Jimi didn't want to listen to anyone, and so I thought 'OK' this is the time to do something new." 
Chandler's departure from the scene seemed to coincide with Hendrix's withdrawal and the eventual dissolution of the Experience, althougb I may be reading too much into the split. 
"I think be began to lose his nerve just a little," Chas told me on reflection. "He recorded some great stuff which he wrote, produced and played himself just before we split, but he couldn't bring himself to release it on the market. By then he had become conscious of just how big be was, and there was no-one standing next to him and telling him just how good he was. 
"It's not possible for me to tell how much of a mistake he made by breaking up the Experience because I was out of touch for six or seven months and a lot happened in that time." 
It was around this time that I found myself once more in New York and attempting to contact Jimi about his transition from the Experience into 'The Band Of Gipsies' with Buddy Miles. He had been virtually a recluse In his New York flat for almost a year and only ventured out in the early hours of the morning to do recording in his new studio, 'Electric Ladyland'
"Eventually he spoke to me on the phone and told me of his new plans, explaining he could not see me personally because of a swollen gland." 
I talked to Chandler about the circumstances of Jimi's death. He told me: 
"He'd been on the phone to me the day before and asked if there was any way that we could get together again for recording purposes, and I said 'Terrific, I'd love to'. I was going up to Newcastle to see my parents for the weekend and that was the Thursday. We were on the phone for about two hours and be told me he was going back to New York to pick up the tapes he had been putting in the can and we could work on them back here. I said 'OK see you in London on Tuesday', and the next day I went up to Newcastle and my father met me from the train and told me that Jimi was dead." 
Following Hendrix's tragic death, there was a period when Chas was concerned with the formation of a band called Fat Mattress, led by Noel Redding. It was his most notable failure. 
"It was one of the most confusing times of my life. The first Mattress album knocked me out - they produced it, they wrote it and it seemed inevitable to me that they would be huge. But it fell apart around everyone's ears. No matter how much time and effort was put into the group, nothing seemed to go right." 
The Mattress, if you will forgive the pun, split all ways and sideways, but Chandler was already into another rich strike. A group called Ambrose Slade from Wolverhampton had appeared upon the scene ••• 

"I was walking down the stairs of a London club and I heard what I thought was a record. It was a well-known number but with a different treatment. I remember thinking 'that's a great record' and I walked into the place and there was the group playing live.  
"When I first heard them it was not long after I had been looking after Jimi and somehow the exuberance was like a breath of fresh air. They were just four kids having a ball and their audience were having a great time too. They weren't trying to be the greatest musicians in the world but they were enjoying themselves and getting across to others.  
"I enjoy managing Slade more than I've enjoyed anything in my whole life. In many ways they remind me of the old Animals - that's probably why I'm so attached to them. We have more in common and I can share things with them, which just wasn't possible with Jimi at the end. 
"The reason I say Slade are a 'breath of fresh air' is that they are so young and brash - when you're that age nothing frightens you, and to them nothing is sacred. They're out to enjoy being young and if they happen to tread on a few people's toes in the process they don’t care too much. 
"They really don't give a damn what the critics think of them - they just laugh at those bigots who think they are not contributing anything worthwhile to the  music scene. Let's face it, the attitude of some bands is so 'heavy' that they are crumbling under their own weight 
"Their humour is very ad-lib, and if it happens to be a bit vulgar at times - so what, so is life. They're certainly not obscene to my mind, but do get rude turn-arounds. For example, on the new live album Noddy sings a tender John Sebastian song and just at the end you get a loud stereophonic belch. Now that is going to upset a few people but it wasn't rehearsed, it just happened like that on the night and it's going on the album. 
"There was never any question of excluding things like that, because I wanted an album which would capture exactly how they are on stage. This album Is Slade as they were last October. When you go to a Slade concert it's not just a question of sitting down and making a concentrated effort to penetrate the quality of the music. It's like being in good company and you go away laughing, having enjoyed the performance. 
"Those four fellas have a sixth sense among themselves and they're good musicians made better by the fact that they pool their ideas to produce something that is a group identity.” 
It has taken Chandler almost two years to break Slade, during which time a number of singles fell by the wayside and the group went through that amazing 'skinhead' image when they were shown shorn and dressed in the inevitable braces and 'kicking' boots. Was it worth the ‘bovver'?  
"There's no way of telling now how much bad or good it did but at least it got people to realise that there was a group called Slade around and half the battle is getting people to acknowledge your existence. It’s possible that if they had kept their hair long they might have been ignored as just another group. 
"As long as I live I will never understand why it took quite so long for them to make it. One of the problems was of course getting the airplay - on the first single we had no plays at all. We made the break through with 'Get Down And Get With It' by attempting to write something which would condense and capture the feeling of the live shows in just three minutes." 
The only occasion, apart from the relative failure of Fat Mattress, on which I can remember Chas not fulfilling his promise was when he failed to make the kick-off for a pop business football match which I had organised against the  'Fleet Street Friends' one cold and frosty morning in Hyde Park years ago. 

It appears that he had overindulged at a riotous party the night before and was found by incredulous friends the following morning, draped hugely over a settee, wearing one new football boot, black shorts and a decidedly silly 'out of the game' smile. The boot was reputed to be on the wrong foot. 

I mention this merely to demonstrate that even one who is so infuriatingly right so often is not perfect in spite of his simple maxim for success, which is: 
"Follow your nose and if you believe in it - do it and then put everything you have into proving you're right. If you don't you spend the rest of your life regretting it" 

On the following Sunday, Slade played at Coventry Theatre, apparently, with Ben E. King and support bands. Interesting act to share the bill with, I find the mental picture of Ben E. King fans mixing with the Slade teenyboppers hard to imagine. Slade fans giving Ben E. King a hard time is much easier to conjure up?

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