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Chris Wright: One Way or Another - Hardback Hardcover – 1 Jan 2014
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Chris Wright was not at Woodstock in 1969 (this absence, he says, was one of his "greatest regrets") but it is about the only major music event or artist in the past 40 or so years he seems to have missed. A good autobiography (and this is a very good one) tells you as much about the era as about the subject. If you want the low down on how the music, radio, television and sports industries really work you will find it here.
"One Way or Another" (he borrows the title from Blondie one of his numerous A list artists) is the ultimate insiders guide to the rise and rise and subsequent digital transformation of the British music business. Wright's recollections of himself as a wide-eyed 23 year old visiting America for the first time as the part manager, part roadie for his first major band Ten Years After paint a vivid picture of just how seat-of-the-pants the early rock tours were. They had to share rooms and he could not afford the price of phone calls back to the UK. His even earlier experience of booking bands, as the social secretary of Manchester University, seems incredible now. Did The Who really play for just £325 a night? But Chris Wright was there in the 1960s and he does remember it - or at least he kept good notes.
The music business is one of big egos, bitter competitions and massive fallings-out. Mr Wright has been through them all and lays the out the details for us to enjoy in lucid and self-deprecating style. He's the guy who nurtured Jethro Tull, Procol Harem and Spandau Ballet but failed to sign David Bowie, The Kinks and Vangelis. He is refreshingly honest about triumphs and disasters.
In the later sections Mr Wright describes the rich man's dalliance with owing football teams, rugby clubs and race horses each with different measures of pain and joy. He ruefully acknowledges have "lost £20 million" on his ownership of soccer team QPR and rugby side Wasps. On his complex personal life his is extraordinarily frank and candid - on the basis of his own evidence when they audition for the next Archbishop Mr Wright will not make the short list. But it is this forthright honesty that makes the book so compelling. No airbrushed PR job this.
There is far too much detail in 400 plus pages to be covered in a review but if you enjoy the machinations of the music, television, radio and sports business you will surely enjoy this excellent text.
The Acknowledgments section carries a delicious misprint (or possibly a brilliant inside joke) when the author comments (about his memories) that he had the urge to "record for prosperity." He presumably dictated this as "posterity" but the phrase provides a perfect leitmotif for the book and the man. Here is someone who mastered the trick of turning fun into money and earning living out of providing entertainment. By recording great music he did deliver prosperity to himself and his shareholders and then in writing down how it all happened he has given posterity a valuable historical record. And for his readers he has produced a most readable, surprisingly charming and enjoyable book.
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