I’ve just read an article in Rolling Stone about Almost Famous. For those of you not familiar with the film (shame on you – do a penance right now) it’s a recreation of Cameron Crowe’s teenage years as a young journalist on the road with the Allmans and Zeppelin. In the article Crowe mentioned that his mother, who takes quite a beating in the flick, had fully supported him during the arduous writing process and late one night faxed him this thought: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” What great advice! I have treatments to write this weekend and will use that as my motto.
I once saw on the fridge door of a friend of mine a list of ten things that the most successful people in Hollywood all had in common. One of them was a mentor. I remember being concerned because I felt that I didn’t have one – “Bang goes your Hollywood career,” I thought. It was ages before I discovered that I had indeed spent five years working for the man who was my mentor and had never even noticed.
This reminded me, rather elliptically, of the time I used to be the publicist for Desmond Dekker the first man ever to have a reggae hit outside the Caribbean with “Israelites”. We were promoting his brilliantly titled “Black And Dekker” album and to my anger and dismay no journalist in Britain was interested in interviewing the man who was to reggae what Robert Johnson was to the Blues. Surely this icon deserved some respect? “Bollocks!” I said and decided to interview The Man myself.
He told me the sad tale of how he’d become a success in his native Jamaica, had travelled the world but had earned very little from his world-wide smash. His tale was the kind of story we’re all too familiar with now every time we watch “Behind The Music” but no restorative third act loomed around the corner for Des.
Then he let slip a small detail that fascinated me. As his records sold and sold in his native island, and the label had pocketed all the dough, Des had continued to work at the local factory. When the English cricket team came to visit he would clock-in at work and then sneak out taking a young lad from work with him, also a cricket fan, to watch the game. They would spend many a happy afternoon lying in the sun on the corrugated roof of the stadium watching the cricket for free and then sneak back to work before they clocked-out at the end of the day.
The young boy played guitar and was happy to have the successful Des as his mentor. One day Des took the kid and his guitar down to the studio and persauded his producer to cut one of the teenager’s songs. It wasn’t a hit but under Des’s tutelage the kid persevered and eventually gave up his job in the factory to pursue singing and guitar playing full time.
Like I said not one British music paper would take the time to chat with Des. But when I’d finished my interview with him I typed it up and included it with every copy of “Black & Dekker’ that I sent out for review. Subsequently three papers printed the interview verbatim putting a staff writer’s name at the top of the piece instead of my own. Countless others used pieces of the interview in stories they later did on Des’s album.
Why? The young lad Des helped out was Bob Marley.