Memories Of A Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Their work here over the past three decades and the positivity and friendship they exude has seen Larry Yaskiel and his wife Liz become ipso facto ambassadors of the arts and culture of Lanzarote. We have run several features on Larry and his book launches and his glossy seasonal English-speaking magazine loved by tourists and residents alike. We have even conducted an exclusive interview with Larry on these pages about his former life in Germany that saw him fulfilling almost every role in the rock and pop music industry, from doorman to record label director.

At the age of 84 Larry, with Liz, has just finished the next issue of Lancelot, due out early May 2021. In the meantime the recent publication of Steve Marriott; All Or Nothing, by the highly regarded rock biographer Simon Spence offers another reminder of Larry´s colourful career in music. The new book has been published in England, and Larry tells me ´its an absolute corker for all who were interested in the music biz in the UK during the sixties and seventies´.

He is not alone in that observation. The book published by Omnibus on March 18th has already garnered excellent reviews such as this below by Iain Key, published alongside several reader-reviews at the LouderThanWar website.

´Simon Spence’s ‘oral’ biography of the celebrated vocalist weighs in at 480 pages, with 125 interviews, warts and all, from cradle to grave. And beyond. Written with the full co-operation of the Marriott family and including a number of candid photos, this really is the definitive article.

I’ll be honest, before devouring this book, I knew very little of Steve Marriott. I was aware of him being a child actor, the cheeky chappy in Small Faces, and later of his tragic death. I wasn’t really that familiar with Humble Pie or his life post the 1960’s. All Or Nothing tells the whole story. Marriott’s rise to fame and struggle with it, the drugs, the drink and the fights etc. In a similar way to Jon Savage’s Joy Division book, This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else, the eye witness narrative draws you in and takes you on a journey which makes it much more emotive than a standard linear text.

I love a good music biography or documentary that entertains and educates, and this did exactly that from the off. I was struck by the high regard in which he was held by his peers and the influence he still has to this day. When you have accolades from the likes of Roger Daltrey; Robert Plant; Bob Dylan; David Bowie; Mick Jagger opening a book alongside Paul Weller and Bobby Gillespie you know the subject matter is something special.
Steve Marriott’s story is colourful from the off, his early days as a child actor are fascinating, especially his friendship with Sir Tony Robinson (aka Baldrick) who Marriott understudied. Robinson tells of a love/hate relationship with the singer and isn’t the only one.

When recounting Marriott’s fascination and dalliances with some of the seedier side of life, no punches are spared, although ultimately he would come to regret some of these. Perhaps the most famous of these being the relationship with Don Arden (Sharon Osborne’s Dad… but I guess you knew that).

The tales in the book are straight out of 60’s music folklore, with Arden ‘owning’ the band, fixing the charts, and creating a teen pin-up. The latter didn’t sit well with Marriott and led him to his first serious brush with drink and drugs. Although ‘rescued’ by Andrew Loog-Oldham or rather bought, for £25,000 in a brown paper bag, there are stories of how low self esteem and disquiet continued. Despite producing some of the era’s best regarded songs such as Itchycoo Park and Tin Soldier. Band-mates recount the poor and unfair business deals. Like The Smiths in more recent times, most of the money for the Small Faces was split between writers Marriott and Ronnie Lane with Ian McLagan and Kenny Jones missing out, but even then, Marriott still got a better deal than his writing partner.

The precedents are set and the chaotic story plays out for the next 20 plus years, with complex financial affairs; excessive tastes; troubled marriages and disastrous relationships; drink; drugs and yet more mobster/gangsters employed as managers ultimately leading to the inevitable, but somewhat tragic end in 1991.

Even in death, there isn’t peace. His estate remains contested and there are on-going grudges that are covered in great detail. I often found myself reading the book but shaking my head in disbelief. If HBO turned the Steve Marriott story into a blockbuster mini-series there could be accusations it was too far-fetched…
For all the turmoil of the 44-year-old singers’ short life, it’s clear that he lived it to the full, conflicted by his own demons, but perhaps not always aware or conscious of the impact on others. He was revered by his contemporaries regardless and his legacy lives on. It’s arguable that if it wasn’t for Paul Weller’s obsession with Marriott for example that The Jam may never have been and wouldn’t still be recording today.
Steve Marriott’s body of work, with Small Faces and Humble Pie speaks for itself.

All Or Nothing is the perfect book to complement those records.

Larry Yaskiel and I have become pretty good friends over the five years I have lived here, although he is good friends with everyone, to be fair, and he pretty much added his own review in the e mail he sent me to inform me of the book´s publication

´Hi Norm,

This is a fabulous account of Marriott’s life, from childhood through The Small Faces, The Faces, Humble Pie; Frampton, warts and all. Nearly 500 pages based on author Simon Spence interviews with 124 people who worked with him very well researched and written. Think of the Small Faces!!!! Marriot Humble Pie – Ronnie Woods Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart, wow – all in one group.

I was asked about the signing of Humble Pie to A&M which I answered, and within two years they were filling 70,000, 80,000 sports stadiums in America and their firs Gold Record was Live at the Fillmore from that era. 

I remember when Marriot died in a fire at his home, where I used to go to hear his latest songs.

Very sad.

In case this is of interest I have attached everything I told the author in the interview, about my role in getting Humble Pie signed to a label. Incidentally, this author has written many good music biogs including Andrew Loog Oldham’s two books Stoned and 2Stoned which I had read and enjoyed. Mr. Spence asked me about my role in signing Humble Pie, including Steve Marriott, to a record label´.

To that e mail Larry kindly attached the piece he had then supplied to the author, and kindly gave me permission to use it if I wished. I´m sure you´ll agree it makes fascinating reading, and given that his is just one of 125 interviews invisibly pieced together by Simon Spence has encouraged me to place my order for what sounds a fascinating work. Larry´s contribution reads as follows:

´During his visit, I arranged for Herb Alpert to go down to Olympic Studios in Barnes (London) where Humble Pie – Steve Marriot, Peter Frampton, Greg Ridley and Jerry Shirley- were making their first album for the label with Glyn Johns the best producer of rock music in England at the time. Among his other major artists, the Rolling Stones, the Who and Led Zeppelin. The next morning Steve Marriott called to say that it was great fun meeting Herb Alpert who stayed at the session for several hours. He added, ‘he was even dressed like us wearing jeans with holes in them, except that his holes looked as if they had been cut by a tailor!’ The biggest problem I faced when pursuing Humble Pie was that the legendary Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records was also trying to sign them and I was getting into an auction with him. He was claiming that his label had shown its ability to market the best British rock by successfully launching the careers in America of Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin and a host of others as opposed to A&M who had no experience at all in this field.

When Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton threw this argument at me I countered by saying, if you come on A&M as our first rock signing you will be our Hendrix, Clapton and Zeppelin all rolled into one. We guarantee to get you the best management and agency team in America and will give you financial backing for your American tours in support of every album we put out. Humble Pie had no manager at the time, they were being advised by Andrew Oldham, the former Rolling Stones manager and former head of the now defunct Immediate label, on which Humble Pie’s first recordings were released.

A&M brought in Dee Anthony to manage them, who had a track record as one of the best managers in America, in tandem with Frank Barcelona as their agent. In any case, my arguments won them over, and they signed to A&M for a $400,000 advance, two albums a year for five years with options. Their first two LPs did moderately well but they finally broke into the American market with their third, a live album, Performance – Rocking the Fillmore, which went gold. Later, when Peter Frampton left the group to go solo, his triple album Frampton Comes Alive, released in 1976 became one of the biggest selling live LPs in record history.

There was a slight hiccup before Humble Pie´s first tour of America when the British police stopped Steve Marriott and found the remainder of a joint in the ashtray of his car and he was charged with possession. They were in danger of not being allowed into the United States because of his police record, but Dee Anthony was able to pull some strings in Washington so that the charge was expunged from his file. Marriot with his typical “tongue in cheek” sense of humour, hinted at the story in a lyric on a track on the first album, Only a Roach …..can keep me from crossing the ocean. When they returned to England after their first tour of America, Steve Marriot gave me details of what happened on the road and was particularly excited to have met Joe Bonano nicknamed Bananas, head of the Mafia family of the same name and one of the founders of the organisation.

Simon Spence is a writer, journalist, and biographer who has not only collaborated with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham on the acclaimed memoirs Stoned and 2Stoned, as Larry has pointed out, but has written for the NME, i-D, Dazed & Confused and the Independent. He lives in London, England.

This fairly simplistic device, employed here by Mr. Spence, of collecting this kind of anecdotal, recollected ´evidence´ often lends impetus to a biography and offers a more complete perspective of the subject than a traditionally linear methodology.

In the Spanish version of Larry´s own book, La Rocola del Bar Rumba, there is a photograph of the contract-signing of Humble Pie taken in his A&M office in London. The photograph shows Greg Ridley, producer Glyn Johns, Jerry Shirley, Peter Frampton, a cardboard cut out of Herb Alpert, the A of A&M, used in record shops for marketing, and plonked on his head is the black hat Steve Marriot used to wear, Jerry Moss the M of A&M, Steve Mariott and the two lawyers and Larry is seated at his office desk. Inside the back of Larry´s book is the Gold Record of Performance, Rocking the Fillmore.

Larry also has a photograph, not in the book, of Herb Alpert being presented to the Queen at the London Palladium Royal Command Performance. Next to him, are Tom Jones and Harry Secombe with Frankie Howard in the background and Bernard Delfont doing the introductions. That was in 1969, the year Alpert had the hit This Guy’s In Love With You, reaching number 1. (On chauffeuring duty at the time, Larry was not in the photo.) Larry has been holding on to these photos in case an English version of the book ever gets published, but at 84 years of age he’s given up hope, and admits that any English publishers to have expressed interest in the book have suggested he makes it more salacious and Larry is far too honourable to do that. Whenever I have spoken to him about those days the conversations have always been fascinating. Larry has always been far more professionally involved in the music scene than ever I have been as a freelance writer and journalist. Nevertheless we have so many mutual acquaintances that it seems almost incredible that we had never met before and only got to know each other when we had each ´retired´ here.

However tenuous, there seem to be so many links joined by invisible threads, with even that passing reference above to Harry Secombe recalling to mind a time I spent working with Sir Harry´s daughter Kate on a voice-over for a commercial video.

Larry´s e mail also pointed me towards a You Tube he wondered if I had seen of Steve Poltz singing his own song Quarantine Blues. I followed his link immediately and found an engaging ´country´ style artist delivering a disposable but very funny, and sharply observed song about the difficulties of lockdown. The video danced in and out of live footage and clever cartoon-like graphics reflecting the lyrics. All very Old Grey Whistle Test for those of you still young enough to remember that. But knowing Larry is a gift that keeps on giving and by following his link I tumbled into the world of a live event called Salmonfest, with all sorts of clips of all sorts of wonderful musical guests. And there I bumped into a beautiful lady who, in her debut album in the mid nineties recorded a song that has stayed with ever since called Who Will Save Your Soul. Somehow it was just a summer romance of radio play and I somehow lost touch with her career. To see and hear her now, all grown up, and a feisty, funny, sassy, sexy woman. Her name is Jewel, and to my amazement there she was on stage with Steve Poltz, a guy I had never heard of. I have now sent details of Jewel to Larry, who he, perhaps, he has never heard of. He will have heard of her soon ! I have just written a very lengthy article about her for my sidetracks and detours blog.

Larry and I must have been orbiting the same musical world for many years until we met here on Lanzarote around four years ago now. Not only do we seem to share a taste for almost exactly the same music, but also seem to share a similar ethos and belief in the power and positive qualities of music. It was no surprise therefore, to find a follow up e-mail the following day to tell me of an inspiring event that took place earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.

´To raise funds for out of work artists´, Larry told me, ´the Spanish affiliates of Universal Music, Sony and Warners collaborated to produce and distribute a new version of Himno a la alegria the song which propelled Miguel Rios to stardom in 1970. In this latest version 40 major Spanish artists are shown participating singing one stanze each, plus Brian May with some dazzling guitar riffs and people like Messi and Rafael Nadal showing support with hand gestures. Plus shots in hospitals showing doctors and nurses treating patients etc.  Its on You Tube I don’t know the exact link but just write ´Himno a la alegria Miguel Rios y 40 artistas.´ 

It really is something worth watching, and Larry was at pains to also point out that  the artists did not receive royalties and the money raised went directly to the fund,. The song is from Bethhoven’s 9th symphony and many readers will also know it   as the Eurovision anthem.

His book about music tells of Larry´s involvement in the release of the original English version recorded by Miguel Rios and released on A&M to sell around 5 million copies worldwide in 1970. We also learn that the release of the orginal recording by Rios and the signing of Humble Pie at A & M happened in the same year. Those were musically momentous times.

Larry has written two books,
The British Connection to Laanzarote & The Canary Islands
La Rocola del Bar Rumba

You can read other articles on Larry and his writing in my archives here on Lanzarote Information as well as in the archives of Sidetracks & Detours, my daily blog and his own regular articles in Lancelot.

Featured image: By Dina Regine –  CC BY-SA 2.0, Link