building a new world: immediate sensation

by Art Chantry (

andrew loog oldham is the virtual inventor of “the crazy dangerous rock band manager”. this is the guy who “discovered” the rolling stones and created their bad boy image for them. granted, the lads in the band weren’t exactly the clean-living collegiate dorky types in most bands of the era. but, oldham took them under his wing and managed to totally piss off the pop world to such a degree that the ministers of parliament started to send the cops after them with trumped up charges. literal harassment ensued that eventually drove the rolling stones out of the country. everything you ever read about how awful and nasty and hype-mad malcolm mcclaren (who managed the notorious sex pistols) actually was, andrew loog oldham was ten times worse. the guy INVENTED the cliche of the crazy rock band manager.

AC:loog's history with the stones is already the subject a two volume biography. in it, immediate records (as important as it was) only gets mentioned in a few pages. so, that gives you a relative comparison of how much there is to tell. oldham's story is the stuff of legend. it don't get no bedda...

the guy really knew how to get a headline! he wrote and created all of his own advertising and used offensive copy and antagonistic shock value to gets results. “the record america was afraid to release”, or a song title called “her comes the nice” (marijuana was often referred to as ‘the nice”). one interview with a major music paper was titled, “oldham: talented, insulting, outrageous. ” this was 1965! he loved playing the role of the slightly villianous head of a independent rebellious record company.

oldham was young and bad and excessive and drug addled and mentally ill and utterly charismatic and charming. everybody loved him – idolized him. when he walked down the street people would stop and take his picture, not because they knew who he was, but because he was the stereotypical face of a young swinging londoner on top of the world. he spent money like it was nothing (he had a fireplace and a movie theater installed next to the bar in his limo). the chauffeur was nicknamed ‘killer’ by keith because he apparently had actually worked as a hit man for the crays or some such legendary tale. that driver had to quit because he lost his driver’s license due to old criminal convictions.

oldham also created money like it was nothing. he had a golden touch and anything he decided to do became a huge profit center. the rolling stones became rich songwriters because oldham literally locked mick and keith in a room and wouldn’t let them out until they had written a hit song. that song (‘as tears go by’) became a hit for mick’s girlfriend (marianne faithful) AND for the rollling stones – a double whammy. oldham did all the production, of course. he did all the recording production chores on the early part of the band’s career. he was brilliant in the studio and could make hit records like they were easy (and for him, they were). oldham was so involved with creating the stones that he and mick and keith became known as “the terrible trio”, drinking and drugging and causing trouble all over london.

eventually, oldham decided he wanted to start an indie label in london – exactly like all the cool old indie labels in the states they so admired. so, he and mick and keith started a small label they called “immediate records”. co-managed by oldham and tony calder, the label quickly became THE COOL record of swinging london. the offices were decorated in loon styles by oldham and the leading hip interior designers of the day – designed to intimidate. business was often done in cash (delivered in a brown paper bags) and the offices became a hang out for the hippest coolest people in london. the front desk was manned by chrissie shrimpton (sister of teen superstar model, jean shrimpton. chrissie was also mick jagger’s girlfriend). the production and engineering duties were placed in the hands of a young jimmy page, while calder and oldham played good cop/bad cop with the business deals. oh, and oldham often not only produced, but also often wrote the songs that became the hits.

their first single was by the legendary nico. but, after it stalled in the charts she decided to split for new york to hook-up with andy warhol’s new band called the ‘velvet something or other’. then the label signed american garage band the mccoys with their hit ‘hang on sloopy’. it hit good and solid and launched the label as a charting contender in the pop biz. immediate was suddenly the hottest record label in england. they signed people like john mayall (with then ‘god’ eric clapton), chris farlowe (produced my mick jagger). oldham often would simply see a band somewhere while on a bender and sign them on the spot. his taste and instincts were deadly sharp and he’d find bands like ‘the poets’ and other bands of legend.

so, oldham started striking deals, bringing in american acts like the strangeloves, the turtles and and barbara lynn and even released sam cooke’s back catalog. they released mod bands like the creation and kept writing new hit songs and creating new bands to play them (like house bands) building a studio system. he even managed to talk the who into signing with immediate, but oldham (in typical style) got too drunk and forgot to sign the contract. immediate also recorded and released keith richards very first ‘solo’ recording (never mind it was bunch of orchestral versions of rolling stones songs. did keith really sit in that studio? nobody knows.) it was oldham who who started adding that ‘s’ to keith’s last name because it was the then the same as british pop idols cliff richards.

intoxication and drugs were a constant source of trouble for odlham’s fledgling business. he soon became a walking pharmacy and started to exhibit irrational behavior (irrational even for oldham). he began to explore psycho-therapies just like he explored exotic drugs, getting involved with coma-like sleep therapies (really hard on business meetings and scheduling). he even underwent extensive electroshock therapy, administered with great regularity. this was back in the days when shock therapy was a serious charge, unlike the low-level voltage of today’s version. his life became utterly chaotic with extreme highs and lows and incidents of violence. gunplay was common.

his relationship with the rolling stones began to falter and a falling-out happened. andrew loog oldham had threatened then head of capitol A&R, the legendary clive davis, with “placing a

on the bus he commutes to work on” after a particularly screwed up meeting. after that oldham and immediate were persona-non-grata in american record label offices. the fix was on (not that oldham didn’t deserve it. oldham was getting scary). after that the stones and andrew loog oldham split the sheets. and sadly, oldham’s old business contact allen klein, stepped in to take over the management of the rolling stones, costing them millions.

around this same time, john phillips asked oldham to help out in setting up the monterey pop festival. it was oldham that insisted they book the then-unknown jimi hendrix experience and the who at monterey. oldham dragged his old drinking buddy, brian jones, along for the fun and history was made. somehow, afterwards oldham lost his shot at signing hendrix, and the who wanted nothing more to do with the guy.

oldham was getting desperate to keep his business active and on top of the scene and needed to build it. he signed he hottest act in london – the small faces. lead singer/guitarist steve marriot was a huge rock star and a dapper flirt and immediately went about stealing chrissie shrimpton away from mick jagger. that didn’t help things much either. but the small faces became THE signature ‘famous’ band on the label, releasing most of their recorded output on immediate records, including the american hit single ‘itchycoo park’ and the amazing LP ‘ogden nut gone flake’ (which was not promoted at all in america because of oldham’s terrible relationship with the industry.) during this time, other bands getting connected to the label included initial releases by the nice (featuring keith emerson), rod stewart (as a solo act), fleetwood mac (the earliest lineup with jeremy spence and peter green), and even a young david bowie (recorded, though never released).

the label was also trying to establish itself in the blues and soul markets. they release a series of blues anthologies and recordings by eric clapton (thought hey were recorded under sleazy and sneaky circumstances that created a rift between jimmy page and eric clapton that lasted for decades). they also started to release songs by a young soul singer named p.p.arnold and she was promoted as “the first lady of immediate”. meanwhile they began to dabble in soundtracks and even comedy records. basically, they were throwing everything at the wall to see what would stick. many of these records were little more than drug addled whims by oldham.

even though p.p. arnold and the small faces and even chris farlowe and ‘pop’ band amen corner sold very well in britian, the essential ‘blackball of all things immediate’ crippled american sales to point of near invisibility. immediate label superstar steve marriot fell for peter frampton’s brilliance (the young guitar hero from the band ‘the herd’) and wanted to work with him . so, he left the small faces and formed ‘humble pie’, releasing and touring ferociously as a hard rock arena style band. the remains of the small faces ended up hooking up with fellow leftover singer rod stewart (steam packet, various john baldry bands and the jeff beck group) and mod band heavyweight ron wood (the birds and jeff beck group) to form the new band ‘faces’, which went on to fabled success in america. even keith emerson jumped ship to become a huge star in his new group, emerson lake and palmer.” oldham was finding himself abandoned, left holding the bag.

the world had changed and ‘rock and roll’ had become ‘rock’. oldham was too fucked up and stoned to even keep track of daylight hours. the business was being run out of his pocket and all his money was spent. everything collapsed quickly and the label went into lawsuits that took decades to resolve (in fact some may still be in the courts). his partner split with what he could grab and everybody else faded away. soon oldham was running the thing out of his apartment, racking up enormous debt. then he took the money he had left and split the country, living the next few decades in a haze.

immediate records was probably the single coolest, hippest, most outrageous record label that ever existed in england. during it’s brief years (1965-69), it charted the future of rock and roll away from it’s blues/pop roots into something later referred to as ‘progressive’ rock. it helped introduce soul into the british music scene and was the first to record future superstar bands that would eventually dominate the charts of america. many of those songs he wrote and recorded still get covered by the most antagonistic of punk bands. andrew loog oldham managed to define the course of british rock for several decades – all while completely stoned. the guy was dangerous, maybe insane, and brilliant. he had the gift of gab and everybody loved him and thought he was a genius. but, like most geniuses, he couldn’t be bothered with any sort of self-protective understanding of the reality he was operating in. instead, he simply built a new world.

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