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ADVENTURES IN THE WORLD OF POP…three brushes with fame

Here is another of my attempts to broaden the range and tone of what we publish in Subud Voice. It doesn't all have to be solemn and serious. Here we have some light-hearted holiday reading if ever there was such. Just like you would find in a real magazine.

I felt a bit daring when I published these articles. Would people enjoy them, or would they fulminate, “how dare you publish such rubbish in the pages of Subud Voice”? But nobody protested; either you liked it or you couldn't be bothered writing about it. At least, you were not too offended...

I find these experiences of brushes with fame, particularly brushes with Mick Jagger, extremely at amusing, but perhaps the also more than that...perhaps they are also illuminating... what do you think?

OCTOBER 2011

JENKINS AND THE STONES… Peter Jenkins and the Rolling Stones

It is not generally known that Peter Jenkins, founder of the YES Quest,  was once offered the opportunity to manage The Rolling Stones. This is the story…

It was the early ‘Sixties, the dawn of ‘Swinging London’, and Jenkins was a young man making his way in the world, seeking fame and fortune in publicity and promotions around show biz and the media.

One day he was invited to go and look at the new decor of a club called “THE SCENE”, which was owned by his friend and client, Ronan O’Rahilly, the man who started the pirate radio station Radio Caroline.

The club was in a cellar and the decor seemed designed to render the effect of a subterranean cavern, an interior of fake rocks covered with silver paper.  The cubicles where people sat to drink their coffee were made to look like little caves.

“What do you think of it?”  Ronan asked.

“It looks like Santa’s grotto,” Jenkins said.

While Ronan was digesting this remark and figuring out if it was a good thing or not, a large, untidy figure came looming out of the shadows saying, ‘Hey, baby, I like the way you think… we can work together.”

Giorgio Gomelsky.

This man was Giorgio Gomelsky. He was about 30 years old and very good-looking in a dark, rumpled, cavalier, fashion. He looked like one of the three musketeers gone to seed. He was surrounded by a cloud of fumes from the Gauloise cigarettes he smoked incessantly and he kept spilling ash down his suit as he gestured wildly with his hands.

He and Jenkins hit it off instantly and they went to have a drink together, leaving Ronan to contemplate his grotto.  They exchanged life stories.  Giorgio was originally a Russian, from Georgia, but he’d been brought up in a little village in Italy.  He’d come to England about ten years before which accounted for his sometimes erratic English. He’d been a film editor, but now he was moving into managing rock groups and producing records.

He was very enthusiastic about one of his groups in particular. “Going to be the biggest  group in the whole world, baby,” he kept on saying.

The name of this group was The Rolling Stones. Jenkins had never heard of them. However, he allowed Giorgio to persuade him to come along and see them perform at his Crawdaddy Club at the Station Hotel in Richmond where they played every Sunday night.

 

Jenkins swings in London. Photo by his friend Jeremy Fletcher, paparazzi and documentor of the London scene.
When Jenkins arrived at the hotel, the  Stones were already playing.  Giorgio was on the door collecting money. “Go on, baby. Go on in,” Giorgio urged him, and so he went inside.

There were about twenty rather bored-looking people in the room and this five-man group playing up on the stage.  Jenkins doesn’t remember exactly what number they were playing.  It was some rhythm and blues thing, might’ve been “I’m a King Bee, Baby” or “Walking the Dog” or “Little Red Rooster”. Jenkins took the scene in at a glance and went outside again.

“Well, what do you think of them?”  Giorgio asked.

“I can see why you sit outside,” Jenkins said.

“No, baby, seriously.  Can’t you see the  potential? They’re going to be the biggest group in the world.”

Sure enough, the audience grew and grew and  Giorgio’s Crawdaddy Club moved to the much larger Richmond Athletic Club where a huge queue formed before each performance.

Because he and Giorgio became good friends and worked together for a number of years, he had quite a bit to do with The Stones.  They had a nickname for him.  They called him ‘Scarlet’.  Why they called him ‘Scarlet’, and whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, he never knew.

The Management Contract

With all this success it was time for Giorgio to sign a formal management contract with his group. So one day Giorgio and Jenkins went to the Rolling Stones’ flat in Edith Grove Fulham, contract in hand. Giorgio noticed a little red plastic bucket on the doorstep.  This was his little red plastic bucket which he had loaned to The Stones on a temporary basis for them to use when they went around pasting up notices about their forthcoming performances.

The bucket was full of congealed paste on top of which some mould had grown and other disgusting objects had been  deliberately added to the mix to create the foulest possible concoction.

This was a terrible affront to Giorgio’s sensibilities. “These nincomidiots”, he protested, “have been cultivating growths in my plastic bucket. I will not sign a contract with ninicomidiots”. He turned on his heel and stalked off.

As they walked towards Giorgio’s car, a sudden thought came to him. “Jenkins”, he said, “you don’t have a group, do you”.

It was the shameful truth. Jenkins did not have a group. Not even one. He hung his head.

“What about the stones, Jenkins? How much will you give me for the stones?”

Jenkins thought quickly. He really ought to have a group. Everyone else did. “Ok Giorgio, I’ll give you two hundred pounds.”

“Oooooh Jenkins. They may be nincomidiots, but they are good boys. two hundred pounds is not enough.”

So they left it at that and a couple of months later, Andrew Oldham picked up the contract. The rest, is history.

Jenkins Emigrated

Jenkins eventually emigrated to Australia where, at the time he told me this story, he was living on a hill in Dapto near Wollongong. He once told me that he’d had one hundred and twenty jobs in his life and been fired from sixty of them.  He could also name a number of jobs for which he’d applied and not been accepted and these include street sweeper and tram conductor.

On the other hand, he’d had a number of very good jobs. He had been Promotions Manager with Rupert Murdoch’s organisation, and Publicity Director for the Festival of Sydney, but he’d retired from all of that now to his house on the hill in Dapto with his wife and three children and the fourth one on the way.  He’d become a mature-age student at the University of Wollongong, right at the leading edge of the post-industrial society, a pioneer in the land of the education/leisure nexus, a toiler in the vineyard of the social impact of the new technology.  In other words, a drop-out.

Did he ever feel a twinge of pain when he read in the newspaper that The Rolling Stones have just grossed another $200 million from their  tour?  That a good chunk of that money would have been his? Did he ever wonder if he made the right decision?

If he had regrets, he hid them well.  High on his hill above Wollongong, he could afford to be philosophical.  In the evening, as the sun went down behind the escarpment and the kangaroos hopped through his front yard, he could reflect that money isn’t everything after all. Surrounded by wife and children, secure in hearth and home, content after his day of honest toil writing essays, he could conclude that he had a very narrow squeak with destiny indeed.

Think of the sheer hell his life might’ve been, the unrelieved torment of it all, the endless counting of the money, the squabbles, the needles and the alcohol, the suicides and the overdoses, the interminable watching of cricket with Mick Jagger, the frenetic activity, the absolute boredom. The unendurable ennui and grinding toil of ploughing through the endless queues of  panting groupies. The stress, the tension, the temptations. Ah no, a narrow squeak indeed.

Giorgio went on to manage other groups, including the Yardbirds, and on their record, “Still I’m Sad’ can be heard supplying a kind of Gregorian chant background in a rich bass voice.

A NOTE FROM PETER: 45 YEARS ON…

Around twenty years ago, Harris Smart interviewed me about my time in  the music industry in London in the sixties, and wrote several articles about my experiences with the pirate radio Sation, Caroline, Polydor Records and this one about the Stones. Two of them were published by Billy Blue magazine and we shared the money.

These events were all happening around the time I joined Subud. In those early days of latihan I could hardly remember who I was or which way was up and which way down.

Shortly after the Stones episode, I scored a lucrative five year contract with Ronan O’Rahilly to run  ‘Caroline Promotions Pty Ltd’, the merchandising arm of Radio Caroline. But after a few months it was all too much, so I got a job sweeping leaves in Kensington Gardens.

Giorgio turned up at the Gardens one day and said, “Jenkins…..I’ve got a job for you”.

I said, “Leave me here with the leaves, Giorgio. I’m happy.”

He said, “I’ll pay you whatever you want”. So I left leaf sweeping to join him in Paragon Publicity, a company financed by Polydor Records to promote their product, which included the Track and Atlantic labels with Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding. I struggled to balance the initial round of Subud purification and the fast lane, but most days I went home at 2pm, laying down on the back seat of a taxi.

“Jenkins was one of the brightest young men in London,” Giorgo told a friend some years later, “And then he joined Subud.”

When I got my Subud name from Bapak, I decided to cut off all contact with my old friends and my old life. Not long afterwards, another letter from Bapak sent me to Australia, where for seven years the only work I could manage was cleaning, gardening and very basic clerical jobs.

But a couple of years ago, I felt an urge to make contact with Giorgio again, after a gap of 38 years.

It wasn’t too hard. I got onto Google and followed his career in the music industry from London to Paris for a number of years, and then New York.

It was lovely. We chatted on-line and Giorgio, who had just celebrated his seventy fifth birthday, suggested we write a memoir of those days together, as an email conversation.

I wrote several episodes and Giogio loved them. He has promised to provide his contribution soon, but I am still waiting.

The urge to contact Giorgio and the resulting exchange was strangely satisfying, drawing a line under an earlier life.

Peter Jenkins' current life - running the YES QUEST amongst other things.

The life that Jenkins drew a line under…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZq4cLd348w&feature=related

DISAPPOINTING MICK JAGGER…By Maya Korzybska

An interview with Maya Korzybska. Harris Smart writes…

While I was in Kalimantan, I was fortunate enough to do a long interview with Maya Korzybska, who as we know is the Deputy CEO of the WSA Executive Team(used to be called ISC). Part of that interview dealing with her Subud work has already been published. This part, in keeping with the theme of this issue, is mostly about her life in the music industry. But first, some background…

Her ancestry is interesting. She has been able to trace it back to the 16th century to a Portuguese sailor, named Bernardes, who washed up in Scotland following the ruin of the Spanish Armada.

Maya – along with her twin sister Osanna of course – grew up on the island of Jersey in the English Channel, because it was a good environment for their father who had been seriously injured in the war. Then, when the twins were 10, the family moved to Spain because their father needed a dryer climate.

She went to high school in Spain, but did not finish. (Children, although Maya has turned out well, you must not follow her example in not finishing high school.)  Instead, aged 17, she went off to join Osanna in Paris where, because both girls are tall (somewhat gorgeous and vaguely capable of dancing !!!), they became dancers at the Lido.

But she really wanted to be part of organizing rock ‘n roll concerts, and through a series of events and contacts was able to achieve her ambition. Then followed several years when she worked for the major rock and roll concert promoters in Paris.

During this time she met and married Thierry and they had two children; Giome whom we know because of his tendency to thrust microphones in people’s faces at World Congress and ask them provocative questions for Congress TV, and her daughter, Angelina, who has completed a degree in Cinema at the Sorbonne University in Paris, but is more interested in following her mother into the concert business.

For a time Maya and Thierry lived a very creative and successful life, setting up companies and coming up with all kinds of original schemes and ideas related to music, art, entertainment and culture, “ we were probably one of the largest employers of Subud Youth, selling t-shirts at concerts “, but then the marriage came to an end. Some years later, Maya met Halim Korzybski, an architect, who had bought and renovated La Source, the retreat center in the Pyrenees, where many exciting youth, cultural and family, Subud events have been held.

Now Maya and Halim live in Kalimantan and they are both particularly involved in the development of the Rungan Sari Resort Hotel. In the meantime Maya continues her role with the WSA Executive Team. If you ever want anything done or sorted out, go to Maya. You will be met with clarity, common sense, directness and decision (along with a nurturing quality).

When I interviewed her, I asked her about famous people she had come in contact with in her role as a concert organizer. She told me…

“John McLaughlin the avant-garde guitar player is one of my favourite people from that time, we used to talk about Subud and other spiritual things… I am still in touch with him, the other long term friend is Carlos Alomar 20 year band leader of David Bowie. Paul McCartney was very friendly, and Carlos Santana and many others.

Bill Graham the concert promoter was not only a powerful and influential figure in the story of rock ‘n’ roll but also a very fair and decent human being. You know he created these venues like the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, which was one of the launching pads for all those great bands and artists like Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and so on.

Once, while I was working with him on a Santana concert; it was an important concert because it was being televised; two groupies had attached themselves to members of the band and had got themselves up on stage where they were dancing, flailing their arms about and so on. It was not appropriate, and the stage manager asked me to stop them.  They were not part of the act.

“I went and told them, very politely, that they should desist and watch quietly. They said, very rudely, ‘Who do you think you are to tell us what to do.  We are with the band. Get lost.’ Or words to that effect. It had been a long tiring week and I was so upset, I was reduced to tears.

“Bill Graham came upon me crying and asked me what was the matter and I finally had to tell him what the girls had said to me while I was trying to carry out my job. Later, when everyone was gathered in the dressing-room and the two girls were present, Bill Graham said to them, “No one treats people who work for me like that.  Get out.” and they had to leave

“Some years later, Bill Graham, like others in the world of rock ‘n’ roll, died tragically, in a helicopter accident, piloted by the above mentioned stage manager Steve Killer Kahn, another good guy.”

*

I was particularly interested to hear of any encounters Maya might have had with Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones. Maya told me that at her lowly level, she did not always have a lot of personal contact with such illustrious figures as the Rolling Stones.  Nevertheless, she had had two experiences with them.

“On one of their visits to Paris, the Rolling Stones wanted to have some Parisienne showgirls on stage with them for their opening number. I was given the job of finding these fascinating creatures.  The budget was 250 francs per dancer, not a big sum.  I searched around and I was told that for 250 francs I could have the dancers, or their costumes, but not both. Still I persevered and I found, not just ordinary showgirls, but the Can-Can dancers from the Moulin Rouge.”

But the performance did not go well. It turns out (here is some secret knowledge) that when the Rolling Stones go on tour they take with them a special stage that is tilted and has a slippery surface to enable Mick Jagger to accomplish his famous moves. (Once the great Russian ballet dancer Mikhail  Baryshnikov remarked ”There are two great dancers in the world, myself and Mick Jagger.”)

But when the Can-Can dancers tried to perform on the surface, it was a disaster; they could not keep their footing and went slipping and sliding and slithering all over the place, even ending up on their ‘behinds’, and the experiment of showgirls on stage was not repeated.

“My other exchange was with Mick Jagger himself, the only time I got to speak to him personally. The Rolling Stones were performing at night in an open-air stadium in the South of France and Mick Jagger told me that he wanted a ceiling of light over the stadium (the next day).

“I found out that there was an air base nearby which possessed extremely powerful searchlights.  The searchlights that are used to locate aircraft in the night….. I began to negotiate, to obtain some of these lights, but in the end I was unsuccessful, not enough time for the permits and authorizations. I had to go and tell Mick Jagger that he could not have his ceiling of light.”

Thus, Maya, a Subud member, enabled Mick Jagger to experience a human emotion that is all too commonly felt by the rest of us, but which is probably only rarely experienced by Mick Jagger: That human emotion known as disappointment.

Maya adds, “We can save the story of my wild night with Diana Ross and party at the Lido for another time….”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW6OXRLKq68


MICK JAGGER AND SUBUD… A final word from Latifah

Latifah Taormina, Chair of SICA, writes…

Latifah and Mick Jagger in the sixties

When we had out improv company back in the 60s, CBS was going to do a sort of hit parade type show, and our company was going to host it. We were sent to UK to do some teasers and also some television shows there to prime us for hosting.

It was great fun, we were put up in nice digs, and a chauffeur came every day to take us to the studios in the UK. We were on some shows there with the Moody Blues and others. I can’t remember it all.

And then we did some sessions with Mick Jagger and also Janis Joplin. And we did some midnight performance at some theater the Beatles liked. And we did some other TV shows in the states — all to groom us to be the hosts.

And then someone in the company made some stupid political remark on a late night radio show about the then President Nixon, and boom, we were dropped and did not host the show at all. But I have this little memento…