Have you ever been offered job that sounded so amazing on paper that you had to pinch yourself to prove that you weren’t dreaming? A job so fantastic that you spent the entire two weeks before you started swinging between walking on air and vomiting with excitement?
I was lucky enough to be in that position at 19 years old. Plucked out of a down right dodgy, South London recording studio where I started work, aged 16 as a naïve tape op (in the days when music was recorded on analogue tape – I have no idea what my equivalent in the digital age would be called). I ended up running the place by age 17 because the boss snorted so much coke the he didn’t know what day it was half the time.
While I will always be grateful to that studio for making me grow up very fast, there came a point where I had to get out of there. Luckily, as a teenager, I spent most of my time hanging round in Camden and gaining access to many celebrity haunts and more backstage parties and album launches than I could fit into my schedule. It was the height of Britpop, and I had a very big mouth and way to much confidence, so I managed to get to know some very influential people.
One of them owned a record label and told me that if I ever wanted to work in A&R, to give him a call. I made that call on the day the studio boss made me stick the contents of a bag of pot pourri to the toilet cistern with PVA glue. Sadly, this is a very true story; he would often get as high as a kite and have ridiculous decorating ideas during the quiet days when we had no bands booked in. From wallpapering a wall with Melody Maker and NME news papers to sticking two pence coins to the floor with superglue, I’ve done it all and could give Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen a run for his money in the shit interior design stakes. I remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, stinking of pot pourri and covered in glue, and thinking “fuck this” and deciding to take Mr. Music Mogul up on his offer.
Skip forward to my first day at the record company, and I knew I had made a terrible mistake by lunchtime. You know how people sometimes act completely differently in their work environment to how they do in public? Well, Mr. Music Mogul, while fun and friendly at the pub, turned out to be a narcissistic, chauvinistic, hate filled, angry little beast of a man. Just a vile, horrible person to be around. His public persona, on television and in the pub, was vastly different from how he was at work.
Two hours into my new job I retreated to the toilet and cried as he viciously berated me in front of everyone for not knowing (the as yet unknown but now hugely famous) band were that he had signed to the label a week previously. If it hadn’t have been for a member of Tom Jones’ management company who rented a space in the same office and told me “darling, he’s a cunt; take no notice” I would have walked out there and then.
I wouldn’t have been the first to do that either. I discovered that the company had an extraordinarily high turn over of staff, due to Mr. Music Mogul suddenly deciding he didn’t like them and firing them, or the staff leaving as they couldn’t work with him a second longer without wanting to gouge their own eyes out.
He was obsessed with various far eastern religions and would have random people come into cleanse him and the office environment. He also had OCD and was fastidious about every inch of the office being as clean and tidy as possible: I was screamed at another time for hanging my coat in the wrong cupboard – the coat was red and I had hung it in the cupboard for coats on the ‘cold’ colour spectrum. One of the staff told me that a previous employee had been sacked after the boss had some Hare Krishna’s in who scattered flower petals all over the floor. She knew of his OCD and thought he would hit the roof when he saw them, so she hovered them up. Big mistake. As turned out he liked Hare Krishna’s more than he liked a clean floor.. She was gone by lunchtime.
I lasted four weeks in that job. For long, miserable weeks where I would cry on the tube on the way into work most days and have panic attacks in the office. Four weeks of being barked orders at and hearing other people get spoken to like pieces of rubbish for the smallest misdemeanor.
It was also four weeks of the greatest gossip of my life. It was like a living tabloid newspaper. I knew of all the scandals going on with the biggest pop stars of the time and got to go the Brit Awards as a VIP that year, but I couldn’t stand feeling so depressed ever time the alarm clock went off and I knew I had to face another day in that office, with it’s miserable, unfriendly staff and the boss from hell.
I handed in my notice and was told, by Mr. Music Mogul to leave the office immediately. Walking to the tube, free, was the greatest feeling of my life.
I still continued to see Mr. Mogul socially and through social engagements with my next (thankfully more relaxed) position, but I was blanked. Almost twenty years later, if I run into him, he still stares straight through me. It was like the Devil Wears Prada, only it was set in a record company in Maida Vale.
(I can’t divulge who Mr. Music Mogul is, but the clue is in the title)