‘Roger Daltrey instructed me I ought to have written this years in the past’: PR guru Alan Edwards on his rock’n’roll lifetheinsiderinsight

Publicity guru Alan Edwards is used to being the person behind the scenes. However his new memoir, I Was There, places him in the course of the motion, as he recounts over 4 many years of working with a number of the most legendary figures in leisure – from The Rolling Stones to David Bowie, Blondie, Prince and the Spice Women.

In I Was There: Dispatches From a Life in Rock and Roll, Edwards particulars how a former “scruffy, stoned 20-year-old” fell into London’s buzzing punk scene and arrange his personal PR firm, The Exterior Organisation. All through, he observes the unusual world of PR and his recollections of enjoying soccer with Bob Marley, being grilled by Mick Jagger and a short stint the place he was tasked with attempting to make Gary Barlow look “extra edgy”.

Edwards, 68, instructed The Unbiased that the concept of writing a guide had been on his thoughts for years. He used his diaries (“10am, Motorhead. 12pm, dentist. 3pm, Marvin Gaye”) to jog his reminiscence, in addition to the struggle tales he’d logged via years of “hanging out with journalists in resort corridors, bars…”

“It was a lot more durable than I believed,” he stated. “It was an odd expertise, as properly, as a result of there have been issues I hadn’t even instructed my household – hadn’t instructed myself, actually.”

Writing down so many tales, lots of them involving wild and raucous journeys with a number of the greatest rock stars on the planet, was additionally at odds along with his longtime mantra: to not turn into the story. Educated by Keith Altham, then one of many lead rock PRs, he was instructed: “Be sure you’re not within the shot; don’t be the story.”

It was solely till he saved listening to about individuals who claimed they’d “labored for David Bowie” that he thought he wanted to set the report straight. “It received on my nerves as a result of I’d by no means heard of them,” he stated. “They’d labored on the switchboard for per week, or one thing. So I felt I ought to declare that area. Roger Daltrey instructed me I ought to have performed it years in the past!”

Alan Edwards (right) with David Bowie
Alan Edwards (proper) with David Bowie (Courtesy of the writer)

Edwards arrange his personal firm in 1977, representing acts together with Blondie, whom he took on after going backstage after their gig at Dingwalls in Camden. “Debbie was probably the most pretty, particular, eccentric particular person you might want to meet,” he writes in his guide. “At all times heat and beneficiant – and naturally, at that time, each schoolboy’s fantasy.

“A lot later, once I came upon that Debbie had been adopted too, it made me really feel an excellent stronger bond along with her. Now and again, she’d take pity on me and ask if I’d had a sizzling meal that day. The band grew to become one thing of a surrogate household to me. And I couldn’t assist however admire how irreverent they have been concerning the business.”

“I used to be an outsider,” Edwards stated. “I didn’t realize it on the time, I simply was. I used to be a great communicator, however I’d nonetheless be off doing issues alone and I had this non-corporate air to me that I feel made an infinite distinction with musicians. They noticed me as a kindred spirit.”

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Folks typically ask him concerning the “worst artists” to work with, he revealed: “I can’t consider any… There have been some who have been actually boring. However the worst ones are sometimes the artists who haven’t actually made it, however they assume ‘that is how stars act’ they usually’re impolite or late on a regular basis.”

Jagger taught him quite a bit about PR, he stated. “Being interviewed by him [for the job of publicist] was like an examination. He’d grown up within the Sixties and he was actually enthusiastic about newspapers – he had an excellent respect and a implausible understanding for journalism and advertising. When he sat down for an interview, he additionally needed to know the final three items that journalist had performed for the journal. Which was very exhausting, earlier than the times of Google!”

Bowie got here at it from a special angle, he stated. “He actually liked writers, and loads of journalists have been his buddies, in a approach. David would typically, after he’d performed an interview, name them up and have a chat.”

Alan Edwards with Naomi Campbell
Alan Edwards with Naomi Campbell (Courtesy of the writer)

Music journalism and PR have modified quite a bit, in that respect. “It wasn’t uncommon for a journalist to ask to spend two or three days with the artist. Are you able to think about saying that to a PR now?” Edwards requested. “They’d have a meltdown!

“We used to take individuals out on their very own they usually’d spend per week there. I despatched Nick Kent to do the Rolling Stones in 1982 and I don’t know if he’s come again but. The editor was calling me up and asking me the place he was – he was gone for 3 weeks.”

Fashionable PR, he stated, has all turn into “very tightly managed… I really feel it’s actually counterproductive. I don’t assume you essentially go on the journey with artists anymore.”

Maybe some of the stunning issues concerning the guide is how frank Edwards is about his struggles with psychological well being, whereas juggling the calls for of such a high-pressure job. On the time, he stated, the concept of getting psychological well being points was “unthinkable”.

“There was no such factor,” he stated. “So it was terrifying and lonely, and I nonetheless get flashbacks typically – it doesn’t ever absolutely go away you.”

Rock and roll calling: Alan Edwards on the phone
Rock and roll calling: Alan Edwards on the cellphone (Courtesy of the writer)

Edwards arguably writes most fondly concerning the late Bowie, who died of most cancers in January 2016, two days after releasing his ultimate album, Blackstar.

“I labored with him for practically 4 many years, and there have been loads of totally different Davids,” Edwards stated. He puzzled in the event that they received on so properly as a result of, to the Brixton-born star travelling the world on tour, Edwards was “a strolling little bit of London”.

“Very often earlier than reveals, I’d be referred to as in and I’d have a chat with David, and we’d discuss books, or London, simply stuff,” he stated. “I look again and I ponder if for him perhaps it was this good calm, anchoring factor. As a result of we’d grown up a few mile other than each other.”

I feel David Bowie noticed me as a strolling little bit of London

He was referred to as out to New York whereas Bowie was engaged on what, unbeknownst to Edwards, can be his ultimate album. “That wasn’t uncommon – he did it with each report,” he stated. “II stated I’d be out in a few weeks, and his PA Coco Schwab requested if I might be there any sooner.

“So we went out, and I walked into the studio, and David was sitting there watching The Good, The Unhealthy and The Ugly, which was fairly uncommon. It was 9 within the morning. And we have been chatting, and he was telling me these humorous tales about gangsters and every little thing.

“We did this for an hour or two, simply swapped tales. Then Coco got here to gather David, we went downstairs to the road. I feel David gave me a hug and walked off. And that was it, I by no means noticed him once more. He died a few month later. I suppose it was his approach of claiming goodbye.”

Alan Edwards in his Covent Garden office
Alan Edwards in his Covent Backyard workplace (Courtesy of the writer)

Edwards stated he’s typically nonetheless requested what his “Plan B” was, if his profession in publicity hadn’t labored out. “I simply did it,” he shrugged. “I by no means considered anything. And that’s the factor, you do need to sacrifice. It’s not simply your job, it’s your life.”

His cellphone rang throughout our dialog. “Would you consider it,” he stated. “It’s Roger Daltrey!”

I Was There: Dispatches From a Life in Rock and Roll is out now.

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