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Village Music & Drama

My rock ‘n’ roll life

Posted on October 25 2014 at 12:56:46 0 comments

Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons shares tales from the music business with Sally Oldaker.

In 2002, former music mogul Tim Parsons swapped the crazy world of international music promotion for retirement in a quiet corner of Hopwood – but now he’s been inveigled into spilling the beans on his fascinating career in the latest initiative by Apollo Community Arts.

Golden Years: a Promoter’s Career in Rock and Roll is an exhibition of Tim’s huge collection of memorabilia dating back to the 1970s, and will be on display at Alvechurch Library from November 15 to December 15.

On the first day of the event, at 11am, Tim will be talking to villagers about the career he describes as a “fantastical journey”.

As the co-founder of Midland Concert Promotions (MCP), Tim worked with artists from U2 and INXS to Oasis and Bon Jovi, travelled all over the world and mingled with everyone from politicians to supermodels to royalty – and he has more than a few stories to share.

It all started in May 1976, when he was a Business Studies student at Birmingham Polytechnic.

His flatmate came in and said he’d heard that Birmingham Town Hall needed another “humper” (someone to move equipment) for an ELO gig.

Tim offered his services and was paid the princely sum of £5.

“I was thrilled with that,” he recalls. “I then did the same thing for Leonard Cohen, who was one of my heroes – I couldn’t believe I was getting to meet these people and being paid too!”

When the lad who organised the “humping” decided to become editor of the college magazine, Tim took over, promoting gigs and assembling stage crews for shows.

But his career really began when he met Maurice Jones, who was looking to set up a promotion business, and the pair did just that in January 1978.

They started off with punk bands, comedians (including Jasper Carrott), and exponents of new-age British heavy metal.

“Punk bands didn’t want to work with middle aged guys, they wanted to work with young promoters,” says Tim.

“Then punk and post-punk really took off – it wasn’t just a niche thing any more, and bands like The Clash were seen as the vanguard of British music.”

Most of MCP’s bands started off as support for already-established groups; if the promoters saw potential they would get them gigs at bigger venues.

Simply Red began as support for UB40, who themselves started out supporting The Pretenders, while the mighty U2 began as second fiddle to The Ramones.

MCP were involved at the early stage of artists’ careers, trying to identify the ones who would be really successful.

Most of the time this worked out for them, sometimes it didn’t – Del Amitri, for example, never quite hit the heights, and Tim turned down the opportunity to sign Sade who went on to enjoy big success in the 80s.

At the height of their era they were putting on 5-600 shows each year, including 10-15 open air shows in the summer.

There was a U2 concert for 320,000 people, while Oasis pulled in 240,000 at Knebworth and Erasure held the record for the number of nights playing the NEC.

The seminal Knebworth gig had to be planned like a military operation, says Tim: “It was like building a small city, and I am really proud that a team of just 20 people were able to pull it off.

“We were in charge of about 5,000 people when you take in security, catering, merchandise, acoustic engineers, not to mention heath and safety. . . that’s something that really changed over the years we were in business.

“There was nothing like that at the start, although of course we always took the necessary precautions anyway, we didn’t need to be taught how to suck eggs!”

It was a truly international job – Tim spent a lot of time in America booking bands direct from big agents, promoted the likes of U2 on a worldwide basis, went to Australia with Crowded House, won International Concert Promoter of the Year: “All a far cry from the house in Walsall where MCP originated!”
MCP were undoubtedly the biggest in the business for a period of about 10 years, from the mid-80s to mid-90s, and Tim’s collection of laminated backstage passes – he’s kept every one. but will shortly be donating them to the Worcestershire Archive – are testament to the incredible number of groups promoted by MCP in its heyday.

One of the biggest events in Tim’s career – and the achievement he is proudest of – was the Live Aid concert in 1985, with which MCP got involved via their promotion of The Boomtown Rats.

Rock impresario Harvey Goldsmith may have received most of the credit for pulling off the epic concert on both sides of the Atlantic, but MCP played an integral part behind the scenes.

“When Bob Geldof told us about his plans, we immediately wanted to get on board – but we didn’t do it for the prestige,” says Tim.

“We were never interested in the ego side of it; the artists were the celebrities, not us. And the public don’t care who sells them their tickets.”

MCP are also renowned as the creators of Monsters of Rock, the massive annual festival at Donington Park (now known as Download). American bands such as Guns ‘N’ Roses were so keen to perform that they would fly over on Concorde.

And because they owned the leasehold at Donington, MCP also organised everything from track days on the circuit and events in the exhibition hall to the Formula One Grand Prix, Moto GP, truck racing and motorbike challenge events – not to mention individual concerts, the biggest of which was the record-breaking 103,000-strong crowd for AC/DC in 1984.

Despite the excitement of such a varied and international career, Tim was glad enough to get out of the business when he and Maurice sold MCP to US giants of promotion Live Nation in 1999.

“It’s a young man’s business, and we weren’t interested in world domination!” he remarks. “Social media has totally changed the landscape, the way artists are marketed and the way their image is reflected in public.”

And so to the exhibition and talk, in which Tim will share anecdotes about his favourite-ever gig (The Clash at Brixton Academy in 1982), the biggest diva he worked with (Axl Rose), and the time Diana Ross sent him to get her a Chinese takeaway.

“Through our own bands, we also met all sorts of politicians, film stars, supermodels… the lead singer of Counting Crows dated both Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox – not at the same time! – so we met them both.”

Tim says it was hard not to become emotionally involved with the bands because they became so close.

“We saw bands such as U2 grow up and we grew up with them – we all had kids, got married and divorced, shared each other’s homes in the early days.

“I’m still in touch with a lot of people – I’ve been to some great parties and some great weddings!” 


* Apollo Community Arts also presents Breakbeat Open Mic at Alvechurch Village Hall on Weds Nov 19 and Weds Dec 17.

All genres welcome, just plug in and play. Entry £3 on the door. BYO drinks. More info: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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