Gail leaves the building

Gail has left the Building.

Just before Christmas Gail cleared her desk, shut up shop, handed back the keys and walked out into the future. I’m here to toast her on her way.

I’ve known Gail Colson – a name with which those who bother to read liner notes will be well familiar – for the whole time I’ve been involved in the Music Game. In fact, I knew her before I could really claim to be a professional musician at all.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that it was always Gail who got things to work from the earliest days. At first, as Tony Stratton Smith’s assistant, she had to make sense of whatever latest wild scheme or rash promise TSS had come up with. (Such as, for instance, signing up a not-quite-group called VdGG when, really, his attention would have been better served by paying attention to his other two acts, the Bonzos and the Nice. That one worked out, of course!)

Later, hers was the hand on the tiller of Charisma in its Golden Age.

Then, management.

Gail’s been my manager for the last thirty odd years, bar the odd break here and there. As of now, I am – as is, indeed, the ongoing VdGG – managerless and intend to remain so. Put simply, there is no-one else who could possibly replace Gail in the role.

Happily, it’s voluntary retirement that’s come calling. Time to get out: pretty well everything’s been done, everything’s been seen. That’s not to say that – still – she won’t come up with something that enthuses her or pisses her off. But she, we, have seen most things by now.

As far as I know her first Music Biz work (maybe first work at all) was as PA for Shel Talmy. Not a name on the tip of your tongue? He was only the producer of both “You Really Got Me” and “My Generation” among many other (mono) Hits. The start of the modern world, in other words.

(I digress, but…keen students of stuff VdGG will know that Shel also did a (mono!!) remix of The Least We Can Do, which , er, didn’t quite work out. I still remember playing Gail the *stereo* version in Trident Studios, when she, I think, first really understood where we were coming from…as opposed to “got” us.)

Then she became Strat’s PA. Which was mainly for the Nice, who were then, deservedly, one of the hottest bands in England. And so in time came Charisma, in all its variegated forms. Gail was there throughout and ended up MD.

But, if my memory serves me well, she was never *quite* given the credit she deserved. And so, in the late seventies, she left and immediately went into the business of management: her first clients were PG and myself. Self-sufficient types, yes, but not much given to being told what to do. Except when we really needed to be told.

This, of course, is where Gail comes in to her own. You don’t need to be an Industry insider to know that the following is, frankly, for Music Biz, pretty astounding. In all the years I’ve known Gail she has never stated less than her full, frank, honest opinion; never sweetened the bullet; never “loved what you’re trying to do”. This has meant, at times, in my case, saying to me that she had no idea what I was on about and so actually couldn’t work an a given project. But because the sentiment was expressed it meant that the other, more normal (sic!0 stuff could continue.

PG was always the more likely, more destined, more driven one out of the two of us to head for genuine Star status and of course eventually this did come along. Shortly thereafter…actually, not so shortly, there were quite a few bumps along the way…Gail and PG parted company.

A succession of “difficult” – but interesting – artists came under Gail’s wing over the years. I’m not going to do a roll call here, but I do rather hope that, eventually, Gail herself will sit down and write about it/them all. Or on reflection, maybe not!

I’m not, I like to think, a complete oaf, but I’m pretty sure that without Gail’s calm presence and advice – and our lunches bitching about the State of Music – I wouldn’t have been able to make it through to whatever stage of career I’m at.

I can definitely say that, in my opinion, if Gail hadn’t taken the slightly poisoned chalice of managing the reformed VdGG then we wouldn’t have made it past the first show or so, let alone into the continuing, if unlikely, story which continues to unfold.

Here’s the final thing: Gail and I never had a contract. Everything has been on the basis of trust, with the understanding that if things fall apart it’s only the lawyers who’d win in any court case.

You see, Gail and I come from that far-off planet, the Sixties. That place where, actually, music was both its own reward and its own justification.

I like to think that, retired or not (and GC will still be taking an overseeing & guiding/advising, if not overriding, role in the affairs of both myself and VdGG in the future, I hope) we’ll stick with those principles.

We, who came in then, were not lawyers, accountants, bootleggers, pirates, corporates or investors. We didn’t want to cross-collateralise or merge the brand with other luggage. We just found Music and the making of it the most exciting thing in the world. I don’t mean to over-romanticise, because obviously music is a business and if you don’t – eventually – make the numbers add up then you’’ll go under.

But back when the UK Music Biz was located in just a couple of streets in Soho piling up the cash was emphatically not the overriding motivation.

The links to that world are going fast now but some of us remember it still.

Thanks for everything Gail. Here’s a public raising of the glass to you!


25 Comments on “Gail leaves the building”

  1. Peter Donovan says:

    Purely by chance, I came across this, I had the great fortune to work for Peter in VDGG and a memorable solo day jaunt up from London to Leeds and back, in a Ford Cortina estate car, Peter and I, plus piano.
    I worked for Gail back in Hit & Run days when she was taking care of Random Hold, I too was randomly held in time of times that, alas no longer exist in these days of contrived corporate rock, of which I toil on here in San Francisco, USA.
    A bit late, but Gail, I do remember you with much affection and respect. Enjoy your life, you too Peter.
    Peter Donovan

  2. says:

    Good to hear that there are still a bunch of us hanging onto the sixties ethos.

  3. Chris Blackford says:

    Yes, very well done Peter for writing about Gail, and very well done Gail for persevering with

  4. Jay Tausig says:

    Raising my glass too …may the future be bright for Gail, and I thank / admire her for all of the hard work and dedication over the years. I’m sure that she could never be replaced.
    Happy New Year to all…

  5. Well Peter we will always have something in common. Gail has made a permanent (and positive) stamp on both our lives. I am raising my glass with you. Thank you too for October and Novembers posts I read those before getting to December; strange to realise we were both watching the ‘Bridge’ document. Pehaps I was in London at the time as I cant imagine I saw it while I was here in Lagos. Happy New Year to you.

  6. Jean-Michel Raveu says:

    Thank you to Peter for this very fine post to read.
    Thanks too for the journal whole year ! It’s been a growing pleasure.
    Best wishes to Gail 🙂

    and a happy new year all !

  7. Willi Rupp says:

    Dear Gail

    In the times without internet you were my first refuge for P.H.’s gigs. Telephon callings/letters! Not simple for a Swiss primitive. I remember standing in front of your office, but I didn’t have the courage to enter to see you… Thank you for all your supportings.

    From Switzerland with love


  8. Peter,

    Very well written indeed. I for one know the name very well (I read all the notes) Met Gail once in 1982, I think she was in Shaftesbury Avenue ? loverly lady…

  9. Chad says:

    All the best to you, Gail!!!

  10. Steve Bage says:

    Very nice, Peter – and well done, Gail. I raise my glass, as well.

  11. Thanks for the insight…thanks to Gail…and isn’t it funny how things come about.

  12. willy vlyminck says:

    Best wishes for you, the family , the band an all involved who keep things running.Also a succesfull new musical year with the band and of course solo, with the new cd being coming our way somewhere next year

    • willy vlyminck says:

      A beautifull and intresting tribute to Gail. Say thx from us for all the great work she did and the best wishes for her future

  13. dpcoffey says:

    Even though she may not have always known what you “were on about” — thank God she had the wisdom to back you in the production of A Black Box!!!

  14. As ever – a wonderful read. Thank you for filling in the role behind the sleeve notes. We are all indebted to Gail. Wishing her all the best!

    And of course Happy New Year to everyone too!

  15. G. Gollinger says:

    Thanks Gail! Enjoy your retirement.

  16. Richard Vernon says:

    Wishing you all the best, Gail. I never met you, but as a former recording engineer I csn remember working with a few of your artists, though not, unfortunately, PH. But congratulations. The simple fact that Peter speaks so warmly of you after all these years speaks volumes.

  17. Fez says:

    Well it seems we owe Gail quite a debt so I for one word like to wish her a long and happy retirement and to say thanks.

  18. Mikayel Abazyan says:

    Thanks for this post!

    It is always interesting to learn from the creative persons about someone who plays(-ed) the key roles in his or her story. Of course, we all read Gail’s name on the albums, but for most of us it remained transparent, but still vital. Now we know a little bit more.

    A new chapter starts. A new year begins. Quick glance into the Past, summing all things up today, and onward into the Future!

  19. What a poignant eulogy! Pleasure to read.

  20. A rousing cheer and best wishes to the power of Gail Force. Always in the background, with noted credit and a gifted, steady hand at management through the often murky waters of the music business. All success and happiness in your future ventures.


  21. Jim Keyerleber says:

    Gsil was as great strong person. I had a long talk with her back stage at a Peter Gabriel show. 1984ish. She hated Peter new live version of Games without frontiers. I like it and she thought I was wrong as well. She said PG could always make her laugh but Peter Hammill could always make her cry. She went on to talk about your talents and we discussed favorites albums etc. I said I always have a favorite but the next Hammill will always amaze and shock me.
    Happy New Year and Gail good fortune you will be missed

  22. transrealfiction says:

    Wow, end of an era. As you suggest, writing an autobiography would be something to fill the time with! Happy New Year!

  23. Best wishes indeed – for the New Year and for the Future!

  24. May the Force still be with you – best wishes

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