Larry Yaskiel’s Corner – El Almacen, Arrecife

My first holiday on Lanzarote in 2001 introduced my wife and me to a vista, particularly along Timanfaya, of yawning chasms and hidden mountain passes. This landscape reminded me of views described in songs by my favourite singer-writers like Townes Van Zandt, and I was hooked by Lanzarote for life. My wife, Dee, and I decided on that first visit that we would one day live here. It took us another fifteen years to arrive and leave behind the ‘career’ that had seen me work freelance as a publicist for Americana music and later as a publicist for art organisations in my home town of Rochdale.

Imagine, then, my surprise on reading the advertising blub a couple of weeks ago for an exhibition of photography, culminating in a mediated interview before a live audience, by a guy called Larry Yaskiel, a name with which I felt strangely familiar.

Larry, and his wife Liz, said the blurb, have become known for his outstanding career as a music publicist and subsequently in tourist promotion of Lanzarote. By then, Larry had spent twenty years in the higher echelons of global pop and rock music, having worked with artists of the status of Hendrix, The Who and Deep Purple.

His support also helped bring recognition to acts such as The Bee Gees and Supertramp. Looking for ‘retirement’ The Yaskiels settled here and became the editors of the Lancelot magazine that remains recommended reading for many tourists from the UK who holiday here. We read the current editions on all our twenty or so visits here, and I realise now why Larry’s name seemed vaguely familiar to me.

Throughout August, the wonderful Cine El Almacen arts centre in Arrecife staged a photographic celebration of all that Larry has achieved in these various phases of his life.

The front of house staff at this venue, all young and ‘artsy’ looking, are always smiling, welcoming and helpful. We arrived there with about forty minutes to spare before the advertised time of Larry Yaskiel’s talk, and we were advised to have a wander round the ground floor exhibition, housed in a small gallery, entitled Conjunciones by Carlos Matallana. We were hugely impressed by the slightly Dali-esque work and will return to this artist in later reports, but the showing runs until September 22nd and the exhibition and the venue are warmly recommended.

After looking at the works of Matallana we moved across the floor into an elegant bar area where hard working staff were serving a number of people obviously gathered for the Larry Yaskiel event. This area, which we had not noticed on previous visits, had been turned into ‘Larry Yaskiel’s Corner’ with an attractive and informative display of scores of photographs chronicling his career.

There were shots of The Rumba Bar in Germany, circa 1958 / 9, where Larry was first hired to publicise the acts appearing there and to update the records on the venue’s magnificent juke box. In a section that covered from 1960 to 1967 we viewed collected photographs, all black and white, reflecting a time in Larry’s career in which he worked with The Searchers as they recorded hits like Sugar And Spice, Chris Andrews who recorded the seemingly forgotten and much under-rated pop song of Yesterday Man, and Eurovision winner Sandie Shaw who’s name I have so much mis-used to create the title of this piece.

Photographs under a dateline of 67 to 69 depicted that Larry formed a business arrangement with the then emerging Robert Stigwood who went on to rule the pop world for several years with record labels, film productions and event promotions. These photographs showed us that during this period Larry worked promoting the likes of The Kinks, Jimi Hendrix and The Bee Gees in what many of us today now see as the halcyon days of pop culture.

The breadth of creativity on the arts scene in this period was incredible, of course, and from 1969 until 1973 Larry found himself working alongside talents as diverse as Liza Minelli, Sergo Mendes and Deep Purple at the A and M London label.

There were more photographs and information covering from 1973 to 1979, Larry’s time with Warner Brothers London division, years in which he worked closely with Leo Sayer who, having enjoyed chart hits in the UK, became a superstar in Argentina.

It was impossible not to be impressed by the photographs of the countless major pop acts that Larry had worked with and there were in Larry Yaskiel’s Corner some more black and whites of Marsha Hunt (who had strong connections with The Rolling Stones), Carole King, Humble Pie (remember Peter Frampton?), and Manfred Mann in their Mike D’Abo incarnation.

There was even a picture of The Hope And Anchor pub in Islington, which became synonymous with excellent annual festivals, from which emerged bands such as Dire Straits.

By now, a smartly dressed crowd was assembling around the bar as Larry and his wife stepped into the venue, followed by men and women carrying lap tops and all manner of technology such as boom mics. The audience seemed to cover a wide age range, and whilst some would have been there to hear more about his work in the music industry I would suggest that many more were there because of his association with Lancelot and Lanzarote.

We were all soon invited to follow the stairs up to the small cinema and as we took our seats we could see that the stage was laid out with two comfy chairs either side of a table on which was a lap-top and two glasses of water. The back drop indicated that the talk was to be accompanied by a power point presentation.

As Larry and his mediator/interviewer took their seats to massive applause, the backdrop showed black and white video footage of a young Leo Sayer, looking handsome and exotic, performing his slightly self mocking hit of I Know I Can’t Dance. The opening exchange between the two men at the table included Larry responding with ‘not the chance of a snowball in Hell’ when asked if he knew at the time the level of success Leo Sayer, managed by Adam Faith, would enjoy.

Having worked in the music publicity business I immediately realised that this would be a talk of great interest me. Unfortunately, though quite rightly, the conversation was to be conducted in Spanish and my heart sank as I faced the prospect of not understanding one per cent of what would be said. However, Larry’s talk was delivered slowly and surely, and with the names of so many well known British and European pop icons adorning the sentences it was relatively easy for us to follow the chronology and import of what Larry had to say.

This was made easier for us, also, by the gentle but very skilful manner in which his interviewer nudged and nurdled his subject along the track. There were occasions when Larry was obviously so enjoying himself that he happily went off at a tangent to his main story, but he was lightly guided by his on-stage companion.

The talk was also neatly broken up at appropriate places by some footage of rock’s most influential artists. This even included what I would take to be pretty rare clips. Following a fascinating piece of a very young Elvis Presley leading his accompanying musicians with absolutely certainty through a rock number, there came a clip, that I had never seen before, of Big Mama Thornton singing Hound Dog, which Elvis later recorded. I am a fan of the early work of Elvis and acknowledge his importance in leading us to the promised land of fusion music, but this Mama Thornton song was what is now recognised as the undiluted ‘real thing.’ When song writers Lieber and Stoller recognised in Elvis a white man with a ‘black’ voice they began writing songs for him that were adaptations of the rhythm and blues sounds of artists like Big Mama.
Larry also mentioned working to promote Petula Clark and there was a film snip of her singing Downtown, in German, She looked so young, and slightly nervous, as she picked her way phonetically to the chorus.

So many other star names lit the conversation as Larry was asked about connections between the Star Club in Hamburg and The Cavern in Liverpool where groups like The Beatles and The Searchers learned their stage craft. This little section saw Larry jiving in his chair as he sang us snippets of Needles And Pins(a) and Sugar And Spice.

There were power point images of the record sleeves of Beatles’ German releases of the time such as Sie Liebt Dich, (She Loves You) as the interviewer led Larry to chat about the amalgamation of Vogue Records and the Pye label that saw Larry publicising The Kinks through their early rock efforts like You Really Got Me. It amazes me still to think that from these very rudimentary beginnings The Kinks went on to deliver a series of songs that became the English soundtrack of my teenage years. Days, Waterloo Sunset, and Wonderboy were all three-minute slices of musical and storytelling perfection.

It was in this section of the interview that the name Screaming Lord Sutch fell out of nowhere, alongside Raquel Welch as Larry was guided towards discussing his working partnership with Robert Stigwood. The Robert Stigwood Organisation managed artists, formed its own record label and film production companies and even an artist-management agency that served to provide the most commercially successful years of my favourite American performer, John Stewart, who wrote Daydream Believer for The Monkees. Speaking of Stigwood enabled Larry to talk about artists like The Yardbirds, of the Eric Clapton incarnation, and even Nanci Sinatra, with this part accompanied by a power-point of her very sexy performance of These Boots Were Made For Walking.

Larry later talked of the first time he saw Hendrix perform Purple Haze and of working with Manfred Mann, and even reminded us of the unique sound of The Caravells singing You Don’t Have To be Baby To Cry. He recalled the death of Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles and of working with A and M Records, half owned by Herb Albert of Tiujana Brass fame who, if I recall correctly, once recorded Spanish Flea ! This period of his career also brought Larry into contact with chart acts like Supertramp, rock acts like Humble Pie, (Larry showed us a gold disc they were awarded for outstanding earnings from live performances) and Joe Cocker who had massive hits with A Little Help From My Friends (a Beatles song) and Up Where We Belong, and went on to become a magnetic performer.

Larry name-checked not only musicians and their management but also record producers who make it all happen, and repeatedly he spoke of the ubiquitous Glyn Johns,…. and if you want to know just how ubiquitous, check the production credits on your cd sleeves.

The Montreaux Jazz festival was mentioned as including performances by Cream and Frank Zappa, also artists with whom Larry worked.

Mr. Yaskiel then spoke of similarly delivering positive publicity not for rock and roll but for rock and sea, when he accepted an offer to become editor of a magazine launched to sing the praises of Lanzarote as a place to visit or even to relocate to from Britain and make a contribution to its society. Larry worked with Cesar Manrique, the island’s iconic artist and brought over musician Brian Eno to deliver an ‘ambient concert’ in Jameos Del Agua.

That the island now boasts record tourist numbers, a significant immigrant population and, in the three years we have lived here we have seen grow from strength to strength, and that Lancelot is still widely ready by British tourists and residents speaks volumes of Larry’s hard work and deft skills.

My own work in the UK saw me arranging press conferences for record launches at venues like Ronnie Scott’s and arranging coverage of UK tours by American musicians, until I eventually became a revenue-funded advocate of arts and culture in Rochdale and the North. Our careers were similar and ran parallel through the same time frame, although Larry’s skipped along the top rung of the ladder whilst mine clung for dear life to the bottom rung, but hey ho !

When a short question and answer session with the audience led to the conclusion of the evening, I risked a question, preceding it with an apology for only being able to ask it in English. Larry graciously accepted, so I asked him to identify the common thread that had allowed him to enjoy so much success in his career as a music publicist and as a publisher on Lanzarote. He explained that he felt that a common skill set had served the two posts but that he believed what really enabled him to achieve success was his ‘genuine enthusiasm’ for both the music and for Lanzarote. He then translated that question and answer for his overwhelmingly Spanish audience. Larry Yaskiel is that kind of man. He wants to share.

This had been a wonderful night, delivered professionally but quietly, that combined nostalgia with foresight and optimism. It had been free admission, too, and nights like these welcome tourists and residents alike.

A heartfelt thanks to all concerned.

Read about the Jameos Music Festival.