1975 Decca Records UK
A component of my job as Marketing Manager at Decca was to work with A&R to find new local talent to sign.
Every weekend I would take home the tapes that had come in from producers and artists seeking a contract. One Sunday I’m home and I put on a tape by an artist named John Miles; it is just in a tape box titled “John Miles: Music” with a name and address of the sender. I have already listened to a couple of dozen awful tapes so I’m not expecting anything startling.
I start the tape and I can’t believe what I’m hearing: a full orchestral demo of the most amazing song.
Music is my first love and it will be my last
Music from the future, music from the past
To live without my music would be impossible to do
In these times of troubles, my music sees me through.
I play it over several times and tingle with excitement. I can hardly wait for Monday to arrive. First thing Monday I’m in Ken East’s office early and raving about this tape. I play it to him and he gets excited too and I’m given authority to try and sign John Miles to a contract.
I phone the guy whose name is on the tape, a Cliff Cooper, and arrange for him to call in for a discussion. We meet and Cliff gives me his card; he is the owner and MD of Orange Amplification and John’s manager.
Cliff is quietly spoken. He tells me about john and I enthuse over the demo tape, the song and the singer. I say we would like to sign John to Decca and he says, “OK, but what sort of advance are you offering?” I porcupine him and say, “How much do you expect?” he replies in a whisper; “One Hundred Thousand Pounds”; I say, “What was that again?” Cliff says again, very quietly, “One Hundred Thousand Pounds”.
So it’s time for me to enthuse some more and tell Cliff I would have to get him to meet Ken, who would need to approve that amount of advance on royalties. We agree to stay in touch and I will arrange a meeting with Ken.
Ken is seeing Elton John that evening (they are close friends from his EMI days) and will take the tape and ask Elton for an opinion. Next day he brings me up to date. Ken put the tape on for Elton and after just a couple of bars Elton says, “That’s John Miles, he’s great.” Apparently all the musicians know and respect John and it is only record company people who don’t know of him yet. Ken and I meet with Cliff and a contract is agreed.
We get Alan Parsons to produce the album (Rebel) and over the next few months I get to know John well. I go to many gigs, including one at a small function in a hotel in Piccadilly: John sings “Music” with just him on piano. It was spine tingling.
Our A&R team want “Highfly”, a straight pop song to be the single but I want “Music”. I bow to their wishes and we go with “High Fly” which becomes a minor hit and makes the chart.
“Music” is our 2nd single and is a huge hit reaching No3 on the charts and breaking John in Europe.
The album containing the two singles, REBEL, was a top ten UK album in 1976.
John later became part of Tina Turner’s touring band and her musical director on tour and on several of her albums. He often sang duet on stage with Tina.
John started touring again with Tina in 2008.