A-Z of London
Part 2

Simon Napier-Bell’s Cheyne Walk apartment was as luxurious as any on that well known Chelsea street. Its windows looked directly over the river and we were impressed. We filed into the lounge with its expensive furniture and Simon got straight to the point. He loved our name, thought we had talent and wanted to manage us. He said that he hadn't seen a band like us since he had once checked out the early Rolling Stones at the Station Hotel in Richmond. The hairs had stood up on his neck that night and he said he felt the same thing watching us at the Roxy. We couldn't believe it.

He'd even had contracts drawn up for us. One for management and one for song publishing. He explained that he wouldn't do one without the other. We all sat there on his leather sofa staring at these eight badly Xeroxed contracts that he laid out across his glass coffee table. They didn't mean a thing to be honest. Simon said that in each contract there was a clause that stated that if he hadn't got us a recording contract with a major label within three months, we would all part company no hard feelings. This seemed pretty good to us. It either meant that we would have a record out within three months or so or we could just walk away and try our luck with someone else. As far as we could make out it was a win-win situation.

We were all keen to sign but as Simon unscrewed the cap from his Parker pen, Jon said he wouldn't sign. He was more cautious. He came from a business family and wanted to talk things over with his father Lionel. Jon knew that there was money to be made in the music business and didn't want to be ripped off by the first person who wanted to sign him. He told Simon that we would need to have the contracts looked at by a solicitor. Simon seemed OK with that and we left the flat.

Things were now getting pretty exciting. This guy Napier-Bell wanted to manage us and was even promising a recording contract within three months. We didn't know much about him to be honest. This was before the days of Internet when you could have Googled his name and seen all his achievements in a nanosecond. All we knew really was what we had learned from his trusty assistant Danny. That he had once managed The Yardbirds and Marc Bolan and had also co-written the song
You Don't Have To Say You Love Me for Dusty Springfield.

The next day Jon and I went to see some big shot showbiz lawyer in Covent Garden who charged some extravagant amount for the ten minutes that we sat in front of his desk whilst he checked out our contracts. He speed read through them and then declared that there was nothing dodgy about them. He even said that the percentages in the publishing contract were well above the norm (in our favour) and he didn't see anything scurrilous anywhere. He wished us luck and we walked out into Southampton Street feeling confident.

By two o'clock that afternoon we were back in Simon's plush apartment signing away like nobody's business. The job done and the ink drying, we all expected Simon to break out some Champagne and toast the deal. He didn't. In fact he said he had someone to meet in Mayfair and would we mind leaving? That was him all over. Always on the move. Always off to meet someone somewhere else. Always making deals.

Once he had us signed, Simon was quick to act. He thought it was time that we made a record in an attempt to interest a major record label. He told us that we would be recording at IBC studios in Portland Place a few minutes walk from Oxford Circus. Again we were impressed. I told the others that this was an important studio. I had often been in there during my RSO days either delivering or collecting acetates or master tapes for Robert Stigwood's main acts the Bee Gees and Eric Clapton. I filled in the others on who else had recorded there. The Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Small Faces and The Who. At that time we used to do a cover of The Who's
Pictures of Lily so I knew that Steve would be impressed.

We were a bit surprised to discover that Simon wanted us in the studio at midnight but learnt that he was getting the place cheap during what is known in the music business as 'dead time'. He had a good engineer called Hugh Jones who later went on to produce top acts like Echo and the Bunnymen and Simple Minds. There was also an assistant engineer called Andy Miller who I had a long association with after
London split up; he produced some of my solo records. This was the team that would produce all the London records for the next nine months.

We settled in and ran through two numbers –
Everyone's a Winner which Simon was convinced would be a hit single and Handcuffed. Simon produced and got us a meaty, aggressive but clear sound and upstairs in the control room it sounded more than good to our inexperienced ears. Danny Morgan even helped sing along with the chorus to 'Winner'. Simon quickly mixed the songs down and then had about fifteen cassette copies run off. His next action however was bordering on arrogance.

He phoned a motorcycle messenger service and had the cassettes now in Jiffy bags picked up. There was one for each of the major record labels of the day. The bags went off to A&R men at EMI, CBS, Island, Virgin, MCA, etc. Each one had a note attached that Simon had personally written. It said "This tape is by the band
London. If you want to sign us ring this number by midday today." Simon's Chelsea home number was written out. We were not impressed. All of us thought he had gone too far. Surely it was not that easy to get a recording contract. Simon agreed that it was probably a hopeless task but nevertheless it was better than doing nothing. At that time all the record companies were being inundated with demo tapes from aspiring bands, it was vital to do something to make us stand out a little. He said he'd call us if there was any news. Dawn was now breaking and we were tired so we all went off to our respective homes.

I was crashed out in my West Hampstead flat when just after twelve noon, the phone rang and woke me up. It was Danny Morgan and his message was short.

"Simon's had two offers. One from Virgin and one from MCA. We'll get back to you with more details as and when."

I just couldn't believe the speed this was all happening. I quickly rang Jon who was as usual cautious. "Let's see what they're offering first, Riff."

As the next few days went by we carried on with gigs that our agent Paul King had promptly arranged. We played the Roxy again although even by this time the club had had its heyday. The crowd who came to see us were brand new second generation punks. Nothing wrong with that but it was a different atmosphere than when I had seen Billy Idol and Generation X play there a few months before.

We also played Dingwalls supporting the outrageous Wayne County and the Electric Chairs. That gig was notable because halfway through our set I looked out and saw Debbie Harry and the whole of Blondie troop in. They had obviously come to support fellow New Yorker Wayne County but we met them in the bar afterwards and Debbie and Chris Stein said how much they had enjoyed our set.

We eventually signed with Roy Featherstone at MCA Records and then Simon called one day and told us that he had fixed up a nationwide tour supporting The Stranglers. All had been agreed between The Stranglers' managers Ian Grant, Dai Davies and Derek Savage except for one thing; The Stranglers would not accept a band supporting them that they hadn't personally approved. As we had only played a handful of gigs and there had definitely been no Stranglers present in the audience (when you play to a room of three you tend to notice famous faces) it was suggested to Hugh Cornwell and Jean Jacques Burnel that they might like to come and hear us knock out our set in our rehearsal room.

There was nothing else to do. We were going to have to audition for the Stranglers...

Click here to read part 3.