The next one had me scratching my head, too. I kept saying about both of the tracks “I know it “and Tim kept saying “You’ll kick yourself when you
realize.” He was right. The second track was ‘Pretty Vacant.’ The arrangement Tim had used proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the bands from the Punk groups had indeed written some classic songs. This was to my delight as this is what I had been preaching so many times before, when people used to laugh at me. I think the excitement that punk brought to the music was perfect timing and just what the Music Industry had needed for a long time and it’ll be remembered for a long time to come.
The first hint that Chas was selling Portland Studios was when I was walking down the corridor and I saw David Arden there. I waited ‘till he had gone and I approached Chas to find out what David was doing there. Chas said that he was just looking round the Studio, to which my next line was: “Just make sure that they pay as they have a reputation for not paying all their bills.” Chas just said that it was not a problem.
But not too far in the future the staff upstairs told me that the Arden’s were to move in and take over the place. At this point I went to see Chas and asked him to come with me for a sit down chat in the Dover Castle pub at the rear of the building. I said to Chas, “Just what the hell are you selling to the Arden’s for?” He said that he had done some deals with them years before and he owed them money and this was the easiest way to clear any debts with them. He said that the Studio upstairs wasn’t making any money and that he had been pouring his personal money into it for a couple of years.
I asked if he’d included me in his deal with the Arden’s and he said that he had to make it look like a decent turnover in the company books, at which point I told Chas that he could have at least give me the chance to move on as I was really not very happy with the idea of working for them and not for myself. Chas had paid for all the cutting room equipment and I just ran the business and received payment out of my turnover which obviously would now change under the Arden’s.
I had discussed the situation with the rest of the staff working there, warning them that I thought that within six months it would fold and all would be out of a job. I was wrong: it took between one year to eighteen months before the crunch came. Each week the Bailiff would come around for the money owed to the owners of the building, the Prudential. Each week they would collect some of the money. It’s the first time I had ever been on first names with a Bailiff before. He would always come to my room first and open it and say “Guess what, George.” I knew as I had become used to his voice and knew it well that today could be the final day.
When the final day did come the Bailiff was not in his usual jolly voice. He told me that this could be the last as the Prudential had just about reached the end of their tether and if the full money was not forthcoming it was to be a lock changing day. My tummy had that horrible sinking feeling and when the Bailiff came back I knew. He said, “I’m sorry George you’ll have to get all your personal belongings and take them with you, don’t take any studio equipment with you, and wait by the back door for me I need to have a word with you.”
I thought oh hell all my working life is stuck in that room, what the hell am I going to do? Things like wages, Mortgage, Bank Manager, food, car, all running around my head. I stood there waiting for the Bailiff like a man at the Guillotine awaiting his turn. A real horrible feeling. At last the Bailiff came out and said to me that I should attend the Prudential tomorrow morning urgently as there may be some good news for me, but that I mustn’t tell anyone else.
I got to the Prudential on time and waiting for me was a suited gentleman who led me into an office. There were books and paperwork all over his desk and he showed me a book showing payments made to Portland Studios which, in one column, showed all of my monthly payments for the rental of my room. He said this showed that I’d paid on the same day each month without fail and on time, adding “not that we have received any of your money, but you are faultless in your payments and because of this we are willing to let you carry on trading from the Studio until you can find a new premises which are suitable, will six months be enough?”
Yes was my very happy answer, but how will I pay you, I asked? He told me that they would set up a Standing Order with my Bank. I just couldn’t believe my luck, I was so happy but I was also free of the Arden’s too. I went straight to see my Bank Manager to inform him as to what had been happening. He was pleased at the situation but added “What are you going to do for equipment now?”
I came down to earth with a bump and asked the Bank Manager “What if I make an offer for the equipment to the Arden’s? They’ll be in need of money right now as they must find other premises to base their business in. My Bank Manager said “What is the value of the equipment now?” I told him between twenty thousand pounds to twenty five thousand pounds. I could approach the Arden’s and tell them it worth between fifteen to eighteen thousand pounds.
Off I went to see David Arden with these figures under my belt. He said to me that he thought that the equipment was worth more than that. I turned around and said if you can get more money all well and good, but the Prudential won’t let you take it from there until you pay them what is still owed first. Even then they may hit you with some legal bills which will raise the figure. I’ll see you, David!
He quickly called me back and said, “If I sell the equipment to you for eighteen thousand pounds you can sort it out with the Prudential to move it out and they won’t be chasing you for any money then.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was already cut and dried and now I had made a good transaction which really pleased the Bank Manager. He now allowed me to sign whatever cheques I needed to - at last I’m on my own again!
It took me near enough a year to find my premises in Shaftesbury Avenue, but the Prudential were very understanding with me and didn’t push too hard as they said that they wanted to renovate the Studio but I was not in the way.
I had worked really very hard at Portland Studios again working with lots of great artists and great producers too. I loved the Manchester scene musically. I worked a lot with Martin Hannett a great producer and nice guy too. He did loads of work for Factory Records which was Tony Wilson’s label and Tony had the Hacienda Club.
Tony came down to Portland Place to sit in on quite a lot of sessions with his artists. Martin Hannett had a record label called Rabid Records and there were loads of great artists on his label. It was such a good ‘Melting Pot’ of extreme artists there we used to drink in the pub behind the cutting room called the Dover Castle. I spoke to Mike who was the boss of the pub and let him know that I would be bringing lots of artists into the pub who were not his usual clientele. Mike said “Hey no problem I’ve had The Who, Small Faces and Status Quo in here and they are not the quietest”
He was cool with all my customers always very friendly and would even get the girls from his pub to bring over sandwiches if we couldn’t get out. I think he was very sad to hear that the Studio had gone and when it was my turn to leave he said he wished that we could have stayed much longer as we had never brought any trouble to his pub.
There was one occasion when my pal Wilf turned up at the Studio and said “Come over to the Dover as I’m over there with Charlie having a drink and I’m sure he’d like to meet you.” When I finished cutting I popped over to the Dover Castle and Wilf pulled me over to his table and said “This is my mate George, and George this is Charlie Kray and his wife Diane.” Without thinking I came out with “Wow Charles and Diana I’m with royalty now” Charlie just looked without much expression, but Diane said “A mickey mouse (Scouse) I might have known”.
I spent the next hour having a laugh with her she was a real good giggle, I was passing on all my latest acquirement of jokes and funny stories, I thought she really enjoyed my company, but sadly I had to go back to work and wished them both well and gave my pal a big hug.