Sunday, 12 June 2005

The Rolling Stones & A.L.O.

It's been a long time I know, but finally getting around to continuing where I left off from 'A Strange Romance' back in February.

I got so sidetracked with other memories that I quite got away from life at Stratters. I was going to tell you about the time The Rolling Stones came to stay. They often popped into Stratters when Gene Pitney was in Town and you certainly knew when they were in! What a noisy, scruffy, uncouth lot they were - in such great contrast to Gene who was always polite and friendly to everyone and always smartly dressed. There was one person accompanying them who seemed at odds with The Stones, I assumed he was one of their ‘minions’, a fresh-faced young man of about 18-19 years old, always nicely dressed in grey flannels, white shirt and navy blazer, his gingery-blond hair nicely cut. I got to know him as Andy Oldham, he always used to smile and say hello and eventually we got to chatting. I was always happy to see him - I came to think of him as a pal, he’d always pop his head round the door of the switch room to say Hi. The Stones continued to pop in, either together or individually, but after a while, there was no sign of Andy - I quite missed his cheery face.

I came into work one day to find The Stones gathered around the Reception, noisily checking in - they looked me up and down with an arrogant leer - I couldn’t wait to get into the switchroom, perhaps my lack of response irked them - because we telephonists seemed to become the butt of their wrath. My fellow telephonist, Dottie, had no time for them at all, and let them know of her disdain in no uncertain manner, I came into work one day to find that one of them had reported her to the manager for being rude lol! The manager knew full well the difficulties The Stones were causing the staff - my friend Bernie was one of the Housekeepers at that time, and the tales she told me regarding their ‘personal hygiene’ - or lack of it, and the state of their rooms - were quite sickening. Dottie had no compunction about listening in to The Stones’s phone calls - she was listening in to one of their conversations one day when she turned to me, "You should hear the way they are talking to this fan", she whispered. Personally, I always suspected that the guests could tell when there was someone else on the line and did not feel inclined to make matters worse for ourselves. She told me later that their language had been absolutely foul and had told the female fan exactly what they were going to do to her, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination!

Someone who used to ring up regularly whenever any Pop Stars were staying at Stratters, was DJ and Record Producer, Tony Hall.  He was always very friendly and said he would pop in the switchroom and say hello the next time he came to Stratters.  He was true to his word too, but I was never there on those occasions - and although we would become good friends, it would be a while before we finally got around to meeting.

On coming out of the switch room one day, I found The Stones were at reception so I was in no mood for smiling, I saw this young man standing in the Front Hall - seemingly quite aloof from everything and everybody around him. His high buttoned, close fitting, pinstriped suite emphasised his rather skinny frame - he looked quite the Dandy lol! His hair was long around the back of his neck and ears, although cut quite stylish. But what struck me most were the narrow, rectangular spectacles he wore - they gave him a rather sinister demeanor - I disliked him on sight and perhaps it showed in my face, I don’t know. Later, I asked Mitch, the Head Porter, who he was - Mitch knew everything - he told me that the strange young man was the manager of The Rolling Stones, and his name was Andrew Loog Oldham! I was dumbfounded - how could anyone change so much and so completely? There was no sign left at all of the nice Andy Oldham I’d once known, but even though I hadn’t recognised him, he knew me - I hadn’t changed. But there was no friendly hello. I was saddened to have lost a friend, and for years, remained totally baffled at the reason for this about-face.

Goodness knows why - it was pretty obvious really, that the ‘nice boy next door’ image did not fit well with being the manager of the notorious Rolling Stones. Fine, change the image then - but did he have to change his personality to the extent that he felt he couldn’t speak to me? Of course, there’s also the possibility that he found MY demeanor rather off-putting - perhaps if I’d recognised him and said a cheery hello and maybe complimented him on his new image (even though I hated it!), things may have been different. I re-acted to what I perceived as his hostility, with hostility of my own - I was quick to judge him. Perhaps underneath the new image - he was still the same nice young man I’d known - lessons to be learned here - hmmm?

Gene and The Stones often went off to the recording studios together, and jammed around, sometimes with Gene on the drums - a not widely known fact that Gene was the ‘guest’ drummer on some of The Stones’ recordings. They also put their composing hats on for Gene’s hit ‘That Girl Belongs to Yesterday’ (Jagger-Richards) which got to number 7 in the UK Charts in 1964.

Gene’s manager popped his head round the switchroom door one day to tell me that they would be having a bit of a party in the hotel, they would be giving a spin to Gene’s latest recording as well as listening to some demo discs and needed a record player. I volunteered to lend them the joy of my life - my Dansette record player. I was invited to join the party - which I would love to have accepted but for two reasons - 1. Staff were not allowed to fraternise with the guests. 2. The Rolling Stones would be there! My old mate Dennis, had been invited and came to Ashley Court to pick up my record player and take it back to Stratters for me. Dennis had a car, I wouldn’t have wanted to struggle with this rather cumbersome piece of equipment on the bus - how very different from the mp3 players of today lol!

Gene came to see me the next day to say thanks for the loan of my Dansette and to say how sorry he was that I hadn’t managed to get to the party as it had been a blast, but as a thank you, he was giving me all the records they’d been listening to, which included a mix of singles, LP’s and single sided demo discs. They all had ‘not for sale’ stickers on them, which seemed quite ironic bearing in mind that one of the LP’s was ‘Beatles For Sale’ lol! I also found a large envelope from Gene’s manager with lots of lovely A4 size photographs of Gene in it, all of which Gene had signed especially for me. Whilst looking through my record collection (which has travelled with me through the decades lol) I found a single of Gene’s and on the paper record sleeve he’d written a little message to me - aah! I often wondered if the songs/singers on the demo discs ever saw the light of day - one of them was a little ditty called ‘Bubblepop’, but the singer didn’t get a mention........wonder who he was???