The highlight was peeing next to Paul McCartney in Abbey Road Studios. Well, clearly not in the studio itself but in the urinals set out for the intended purpose. I don’t know why peeing next one of the most well known faces in the world was the highlight of an evening where I got to meet Billy Fury and where I caused Andy Summers some degree of consternation but it seemed to be at the time.
The time was October 1982 and the occasion was the launch of the Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits, the first title to be published since I arrived at GRRR Books the previous November. We – I officially worked for Tim Rice in a team that included his brother Jo, and the DJs Paul Gambaccini and Mike Read – had spent several months organising this party at Studio Two, Abbey Road and were buzzing.
We had invited at least one representative of every act to reach number one in the UK singles chart and were expecting quite a crowd. I had done much of the organising alongside Tim’s new PA – Judy Craymer (Of course, that’s gonna be another post entirely) and was looking forward to the fruits of my labour. I was there with my oldest friend, Andi Maskell, and one of my newest friends, Goffs Oak’s own number one, ‘Buster’ Meikle.
My first job of the night was literally standing at the door meeting and greeting the stars as they arrived and taking them down to the studio. This allowed me to have such ‘witty conversations’ with the likes of Paul and Linda McCartney along the line of, “I better show you the way”. The Beatles had of course recorded most of their 17 number ones in the studio which is why we were holding the party there, so I think Paul knew the way but hey, I was 19 years old, callow and still quite shy. Stunning conversation was not yet a forte.
They were though two of the first I led down to the temple that is Studio 2. Later that evening, Linda was the one person I actually spent talking at length too. We were showing videos of all the number ones and John Lennon was getting more than a few spins. Linda was quite emotional. I won’t betray the confidences of our conversation except to say I was glad to hear that Paul and John had found some common ground before John died. Wouldn’t it have been unbearable if they had not.
Another person I tried to engage in meaningful conversation with was Andy Summers. They were a bit naughty really. We only invited one person plus guest from each band (Beatles excepted) but all three of the Police turned up. Stewart had his mates and was with them; Sting was a star. He went and kidnapped the policeman who stood on duty outside Abbey Road and brought him down to the party. He then posed for photographer Richard Young wearing the copper’s helmet. The guy knew how to make publicity.
Andy though, looked like a man lost. He seemed to me to be alone and unloved; unsure where to go. I was one of the organisers of this party and it was my duty to make him feel at ease. So I strolled up to him and using every skill in small-talk I had thus far developed said “So which of the Dantalian’s Chariot singles did you play on?”. He looked me up and down like the anorak I was, replied abruptly “All of them”, then turned on his heel and walked away from me as fast as his little legs could carry him.
That might have been it but the next night my new mate Linda invited me to the launch of her latest photography book at a gallery in Mayfair. Andy Summers also wangled an invite. I swear he spotted me from two rooms away and ran off into another part of the gallery. I didn’t see him again all evening.
I mentioned earlier that Billy Fury was there. He held court all evening with many of his colleagues hanging on to his every word. He was only 42 years old but a lifetime of a heart condition meant he looked 20 years older. I’m glad I met him; he was dead within three months.
Another we had moved heaven and earth to get there was Ronnie Lane. His multiple sclerosis was well established and he had just been to Texas to try out some radical, literally ‘snake-oil’ treatment. I think his girlfriend Boo felt that many of his friends had stopped ringing so she was determined to get him to the party. I liked Boo! We got him there even if he had to be carried down the stairs by the taxi-driver. He had a great night!
Others who had a great night must have included the little girl from the St Winifred’s School Choir. She was paraded around by her teacher/nun and looked so happy I almost forgave her for helping vomit up one of the most saccharine number ones of all.
A little less sugary – though not much – was Johnny Logan’s 1980 Eurovision winner What’s Another Year. At that time it was all Johnny was known for and he was as gauche and uncomfortable amongst all the celebrities as I was. My mate Andi and then I spent some time talking to Johnny and his manager. We even swapped phone numbers and promised to visit if we were ever in Ireland etc. Of course we never did. I think Andi still has the phone number in his autographed copy of the book. I wonder what became of his manager? What was his name now? Walsh? That’s right Louis Walsh!
There were others of course and one day I must go through Andi’s copy of the book and see all the signatures. The one I must mention before we close is ‘Buster’ Meikle. I had invited him along to represent Unit 4+2 as he was born in Goffs Oak and I reached him through his mum. He travelled up with Andi and me. At some point during the evening we lost him. By all accounts he was found by a security guard in some control room deep in the bowels of Abbey Road around 4am. They sent him home. I didn’t lose him again for many years and spent a number of enjoyable evenings on the lash with Buster or watching him play.