The reason why I put single quotation marks around DJ before Jimmy Savile’s name in yesterday’s post was because it came to light after his death that no records, CDs or music software whatsoever was found in his various homes, nor any record or CD players on which to play his non-existent record collection. This suggests that he had no interest in, knowledge of, or liking for pop music whatsoever, and used pop music merely as a means to an end, as he evidently did with his charity work, in his case to meet and sexually assault young people.
I had two close encounters with Savile, both in the early eighties after I’d left Melody Maker. I had been warned by my predecessor as News Editor on MM, Laurie Henshaw, who was a bit longer in the tooth than me, to avoid him at all costs. Laurie told me that most everyone in the industry thought he was a nasty piece of work, largely because no ‘DJ’ took more bribes to play records than him. Want your record played on the radio? Drop Jimmy twenty quid and it’ll happen.
My first encounter with Savile occurred in 1979 when I was the PR at RCA Records in London. Among the acts I ‘looked after’ was Sad Café, then enjoying a hit with ‘La De Da’ which they had been invited to perform on a Channel 4 TV chat show that was filmed at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith in West London. Among the other guests was Savile and, if I remember rightly, George Wendt, the actor who played Norm in Cheers, one of my favourite TV shows. I was in the backstage bar with the members of Sad Café when Savile and his minders arrived. He was dressed in his usual downmarket yellow track suit with gold medallions dangling from his neck, smoking his big cigar and giving it his usual “guys and gals I’m Jimmy Savile me everyone and all right top of the pops I’m groovy doing this for charity me” patter to everyone within earshot even though he was off stage. Then he walked up to the bar and ordered a glass of milk. “Jimmy Savile doesn’t drink alcohol, it’s bad for you,” he said, strangely referring to himself in the third person and somehow implying that his abstemiousness implied a higher state of awareness than Sad Café and myself since all of us were drinking beer. He walked over to our table and introduced himself. We did likewise. “Sad Café. Great band, fab gear,” he said, implying that he had some knowledge of the group and knew their music. I thought this unlikely. I also thought he was an idiot. And only children drink milk.
My second encounter, oddly enough, was in Leeds, back stage at a Rolling Stones concert in July 1982 at Roundhay Park where I chanced to catch him in a rather difficult situation with Mick Jagger who was evidently called to explain why Savile hadn’t been permitted to enter the backstage VIP area. It seems Savile had tried to enter and had been denied access by a security bloke because he didn’t have the required pass, whereupon he’d asked for the Mick who eventually came out and tactfully explained to him that access was denied. No doubt it was because everyone in the Stones camp knew he was a creep though quite what Mick said I didn’t hear. Savile eventually stormed off and Mick went back inside. Ten out of ten for that Mick, I thought.
BTW, this was the gig where I learned that my old friend Bill Zysblat was doing the on-tour accountancy for the Stones from a caravan backstage. Bill had been a colleague of mine when I worked for Pete Rudge, his in-house accountant in the days when Rudgie managed The Who’s US affairs and was tour manager for the Stones, so I wandered in to have a chat with him. Every so often big blokes came in with briefcases full of cash, which they emptied out in front on him, the proceeds from sales at merchandise stands dotted around the arena. Bill would then count it, make a note and stash it away in a case guarded by a bloke bigger than any who’d delivered it. After a while there was a knock on the door and when the big bloke answered it he went over to Bill and whispered in his ear. Bill asked me to step outside for a moment and when I did so I passed Ronnie Wood on the steps. Two minutes later Ron stepped out and Bill asked me in again. What was all that about, I asked. Oh Ronnie wanted a sub, he said. How much? Ten grand, cash.