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.”
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.
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 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.
The life that Jenkins drew a line under…