Gail leaves the buildingPosted: December 31, 2011
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.
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!