When Tony Calder and Andrew Oldham stopped talking way back in the

sixties the impact on their record label was immediate and disastrous.

Now they're talking again. And they have a great deal to say for

themselves, discovers David Belcher, and, suprisingly enough, a lot of

it seems to be about Abba.

FITTINGLY, we convene in a cramped attic in a converted coach-house

located down a cobbled mews in the heart of London's Belgravia, the

pulsing heart of the swinging sixties. It is an apposite spot because I

am here to meet two of that era's prime backroom movers and groovers,

and the conversational mood is non-stop, now-a-go-go, stay on the scene

like a sewing-machine . . .

There are gold discs on the attic wall, next to a plaque stating that

Art creates the Business, Business does not create the Art.

Secretary-birds ebb and flow up the narrow stairway; the telly's on in

the corner; the phone never stops . . . and bullet-headed, Buddha-shaped

barrow-boy Tony Calder is absently barking scabrous stories at me from

behind his desk, in between answering phone-callers via a headset

looping 'twixt his ears and mouth.

Tall tales from gruff Tony's 30 years in the chart-life, stories which

begin: ''The Bay City Rollers? I saw them play live in Edinburgh early

on, and they were atrocious . . . but there were police outside holding

back lines of screaming kids and Tam Paton was running my kind of a

scam, so I thought I'd grab a stake in some of that.'' Or there's the

story which begins: ''So Brian Epstein turns to me, a country boy fresh

from the sticks, and he says: 'This man's out of order!'

''All because I was making up these wonderful stories for the papers

about Wayne Fontana . . . not that there was any harm in them, not like

the stories that get made up for the papers these days.''

Regrets? Tony Calder has very few. Certainly not about the geezer

whose ankles he once gripped whilst dangling the rest of the geezer out

of a fifth-storey window. ''I can't remember who the geezer was

anymore.'' Tony was in there, you see, at the start of the great British

beat boom that rocked the world in the sixties. In there with his finger

on the popular pulse and his fists tightly locked round opportunity's


Beatles' manager Epstein eventually took rather a shine to the young

Calder -- ''He chased me round the table more than once, actually'' --

and appointed him publicist to his burgeoning Merseybeat empire: the

Beatles, Wayne Fontana, Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry and the


Tony had begun in the music business as a wee laddie, a fan. ''Decca

paid me for submitting reports to their Teen and Twenty Disc Club on

Radio Luxembourg. It got me out of doing a paper round, and more

importantly it got me the latest test-pressings.''

Shortly afterwards, Tony became a young recordbiz Herbert full-time,

round the clock. ''Decca by day, as a sales and marketing trainee, and

Mecca by night . . . Jimmy Savile taught me how to DJ at the first

dances that didn't use live bands, at what were then called

off-the-record sessions in Mecca Ballrooms up and down the country.''

Then Tony met the legendary London ace-face with whom he formed the

nearly-as-legendary Immediate record label, British pop's first

successful independent . . . the star-making Svengali memorably

described as a ''gangsterish nocturnal enigma'' . . . the

entrepreneurial sixties-zeitgeist-kinda-guy who was often lauded in

contemporary reports as the sixth Rolling Stone . . . the man who, that

very afternoon in London, had been exiting the converted Belgravia mews

coach-house as I was entering it . . . former Rolling Stones' manager

Andrew Oldham.

''We got on until 1969, me and Andrew, but then he had his problems

and was away in France, and I had mine, with ulcers and wanting to go

off and live in Antigua,'' Tony is saying, looking back to the one time

in his joint-career with Andrew ''Loog'' Oldham -- Immediate's fiscal

eclipse -- when acting like grown-ups might have been useful. ''We

didn't speak to each other when we should have, when it would have been

more sensible to keep the show on the road. When we might have merged

with other, bigger labels.

''But instead the Immediate catalogue got sold off, and it got

prostituted and badly-handled . . . and the acts got no royalties when

they should have done -- and every time I say this I get threatened with

having my legs broken, but why should I get the blame when I never got

any of the money, and Andrew never got any of the money?

''That'll be our next project, me and Andrew . . .''

Next project? Apart from running a new, resurrected Immediate label?

Old motto: Happy To Be A Part Of The Industry Of Human Happiness? New

motto: Happy To Be Apart From The General Malaise?

''Yeah . . . the next project is The Management Tell Everything. Did

you rip your bands off? Yes . . . but not as much as accountants and

lawyers do with all their pension plans and flow-charts. It's better for

a band to be with their manager when a bit of their money goes missing .

. . you can give it back to them if you get found out. OK, lads, you

want your $5m, the money's in my briefcase under the desk.''

Whoa, hang on. Forget the next project, and let's deal with the

current project. Messrs Calder and Oldham have just written a two-fisted

biography of Abba in which they hail the Swedish foursome as the

twentieth-century's supreme songwriters. Additionally, they applaud

Abba's lack of hipness; slag Bob Dylan and the bulk of the music of the

sixties for being profoundly meaningless, and accuse their most famous

ex-client, Mick Jagger, of ''craven narcissism''.

Apart from the last bit, this is somewhat surprising -- but not as

surprising as Andrew Oldham's continuing absence from our interview.

Where is he? What's he doing? Setting up some dodgy management

connections? Having a few geezers hung off tall buildings by their


Andrew returns, all leather and a reddish goatee. He has been on the

phone. Laying into a teacher. At his son's school. In Bogota. Colombia.

''I've been living there since . . . 1974, 1975? For 20 years English

has been my second language. I'm not often back here . . . have I been

back here this year, Tony?''

As Tony shakes his head, you realise that Andrew's wheezy, slurring,

jet-lagged tones are strangely familiar. You realise that Andrew Oldham

speaks with Keith Richard's vague and deathless languor. Or vice versa.

Sentences winding down into nothing. A voice that is liquid; laid-back;

gravelly; halting; rheumy; kippered; aged for centuries in the

high-octane malt liquor of rock'n'roll.

So in the light of this . . . in the light of Andrew Oldham's own

colourful and authentic rock'n'roll history, there can only be one

question with which to begin: Andrew Oldham, formerly known as Andrew

''Loog'' Oldham in a percipient act of homage to the brutal yob-speak

created by Anthony ''Droog'' Burgess in his novel Clockwork Orange . . .

how come Abba aren't writing a book about you?

You're much more interesting than they are. All they ever did was

dress badly, trot out a few cretinous tunes, and quaintly mispronounce

the English language.

Andrew Oldham laughs a swampy and primordial-sounding laugh, much


''It's not to do with interesting,'' he says, stalking around the

restrictive confines of Tony's office in a curiously-folded-at-the-waist

and preoccupied fashion., his eyes desperately scanning the horizon,

with one hand holding a cigarette. ''It's about the amount of pleasure

that Abba have given people. The songs, the sound . . . there's an aura

that affects people.

''Folk don't need to know what Abba's words mean. You just have to

feel comfortable with the phrases they use. It's like . . . there's

people . . . all over South America . . . my wife's Colombian and she

sings: 'I can't get no satisfaction' and she doesn't know . . . like,

what it means, but it . . . feels right.

''Abba,'' Andrew says, his sentences having become more disconnected.

''Abba . . . have the English language . . . down to . . . a mundane . .

. level. They have mastered . . . the use of. . . no words.''

Abba made no preposterous claims. That's another reason why Andrew

likes them so much.

''For me, Abba are like the Everly Brothers . . . it's an incestual

thing . . . if that's a word. Abba's craft. I love their consistency.

The volume of stuff they did. Raising hairs on your hands and lumps in

your throat.

''And except for the glitter, there's the feeling that it could be you

doing it. That has a good cause-and-effect on people . . . perfecting

the idea of a family singing along in every room with you when you're on

the telly.

''I've never put on an Abba record and taken it off before it's

finished. It's never been a wrong call. They're very clever and very

lucky. Their songs are like movies, but they allow you to write the

screenplay. Lindsay Kemp, right? We never got to meet him in the

sixties, we were so busy then, we had no time, but he came to Bogota . .

. the state of his feet, he works . . . and he was wild.

''Cut to the chase . . . Lindsay Kemp came in, and he started -- and

suddenly I had no luggage. And Abba can do that.'' Andrew fixes me with

a stare of urgent triumph. Do I understand what he's trying to say? I

think I do.

Neither Andrew nor Tony met Abba. Didn't even try to. ''The book's not

meant as an intrusion. It's meant to be another reward. It's not like

the old days when we were making stuff up to keep the New Musical

Express filled every week.''

What do you think of current British music? ''Portishead . . . a

voice, and songs, and they're radio-friendly, they're good. The rest of

the industry is over-salaried peons who don't know when to leave. We're

in the world of overkill. We didn't know that after the Rolling Stones

there was going to be a second chapter . . . and we'd have no control of

what was written.''

As the man who dreamt up Would You Let Your Daughter Marry A Rolling

Stone for the Daily Express, fancy writing me a similarly-arresting

headline for this story?

''I like that. Very nice. So much so that I'm stumped. Hang on. I'm

not going to give you something clever with no substance.''

As Andrew ponders, we ruminate about the Glasgow band who signed to

Immediate in the sixties, the Poets. ''The lawyers for my first

marriage, to Sheila Clyne, which took place in Glasgow . . . why did we

go to Glasgow to get married, Tony?

''Anyway, these lawyers said: 'By the way, we've got this band.' So we

saw them, signed them. I met this taxi-driver in London about four years

ago who was more impressed that I'd signed the Poets than managed the

Stones . . . Now We're Through, what a single.

''Got one!''


''A headline. Thank You For The Music -- Now Buy The Book.''

If you're selling, Mr Oldham and Mr Calder, we can't help buying.

* Abba: The Name of the Game, by Andrew Oldham, Tony Calder and Colin

Irwin, Sidgwick and Jackson, #14.99.