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Simon Napier-Bell- Finding Japan

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Simon Napier-Bell: One day in the mid-seventies a guy called Danny Morgan turned up at my flat in South Audley Street hoping I’d turn him into a rockstar. He wore horn-rimmed glasses and had a nose like a toucan. He was short and stocky and limped. “But I’ve got a wonderful voice,” he explained.

 

“Forget it,” I said, but he stayed on the doorstep smiling broadly.

 

“I’m a haemophilliac,” he told me.” I have permanently bruised knees so the government give me a car. It’s only a mini but I could drive you around if you like.”

 

“I prefer taxis,” I told him.

 

I can’t remember how I finally got rid of him but the next week he turned up again. “There’s a taxi strike. I thought I’d better pick you up and drive you around for the day. And I’ve been thinking … If I can’t be a rockstar, maybe I could be a manager? You could train me.”

 

He pointed to a rusting blue mini on a double yellow line. “It’s marvellous being disabled, isn’t it. I can park where I like. I never get tickets.”

 

I ignored him. I was in a hurry to get to a recording session and I searched for a taxi, but he was right, there wasn’t one to be seen anywhere. “Jump in,” he said cheerfully. “Where do you want to go?”

 

I was being hijacked and I wasn’t about to be nice. “Barnes,” I snapped. “Olympic Studios.”

 

“Who are you recording?” he asked, but I refused to answer. He could drive me to Barnes if he wanted, but he wasn’t going to get another word out of me.

 

“I’ve met a fantastic group,” he said. “They’re called Japan and they advertised in Melody Maker for a manager but I’m afraid they didn’t think much of me.”

 

“I’m not surprised.” It popped out all of a sudden and I was annoyed with myself. I’d intended not to speak.

 

“They’d sign with you though,” Danny said, “and you could give me all the work to do.”

 

 

I stayed silent but Danny didn’t. “The lead singer is stunning. He has yellow hair down to his waist, and his brother, the drummer, is dead ringer for Elvis at seventeen. The bass player’s hair is the same as the lead singer’s except red, so they look like twins. The singer’s as beautiful as a girl but he has a voice like gravel, like Rod Stewart. And they write amazing songs…”

 

It was non-stop all the way to Barnes, and as I got out of the car he said, “I’ve fixed an audition for you tomorrow morning.”

 

“I’m not interested.”

 

But he was insensitive to everything I said. “I’ll pick you up at eleven. You’ll love them!”

 

I did, of course. And I managed them for the next six years during which time they became one of the best-known and influential groups in British pop.

 

 

Initially I thought Danny might be able to help me manage them. I gave him fifteen thousand pounds to buy a van and equipment. After three days the van broke down. When he went back to the car lot where he’d bought it, the place had closed down. And he’d forgotten to take out insurance.

 

Danny had a strange way of walking – caused by arthritis induced by haemophillia. When he tried to pick something up he moved his hands and arms in a weird way that was actually rather cute. And if you were rude to him or told him to get out of your sight, he fixed you with an insidious smile and stayed right where he was, as if he thought what you’d said was just a joke.

 

Quite simply, he was the most annoying person I’d ever met. And the group felt the same. Nevertheless I split my percentage with him and allowed him to become a sort of co-manager come general help come general nuisance.

 

Whenever Danny was around he would aggravate me like mad, and the group too. When he wasn’t there we often felt sorry about how rude we’d been to him. Then he’d turn up again and be so annoying that within minutes we’d be telling him to bugger off. And this went on for five years. During that time he travelled around the world with us – to Europe, to America, to Japan, to Hong Kong – always trying to help and always getting everything wrong – annoying us pretty much continuously but always paid for without question as one of the travelling party.

 

One day Danny turned up at a gig and told us he had Aids; he’d caught it from one of the blood-transfusions he was given due to his haemophilia. The strange thing was, although we were all incredibly sorry for him, he was still as annoying as ever. We tried harder than before to be nice but in the end we ended up telling him to bugger off just the same.

 

Eventually of course he did. For good. Because at that time there was no cure for Aids. But now when I think of him it’s difficult to remember what made him so annoying. And without him Japan would probably never have happened.

 

Simon Napier- Bell’s next book is TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY a complete history of the music business.

Pledge now by ordering a copy here: http://bit.ly/1aHZHMO

 

 

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