Before he became an actor, manager of Leo Sayer and financial consultant, Adam Faith was second only to Cliff Richard in the pre-Beatles UK pop’n’roll gold rush. Born Terry Nelhams in Acton in 1940, he reinvented himself many times during a topsy-turvy life of glorious triumphs and often cataclysmic failures. Having made and lost several fortunes and, to the chagrin of his faithful wife Jackie, established himself as an incorrigible Cassanova, he died in the arms of his 23-year-old girlfriend in 2003.
He did have some principles though, as this extract from the just published Omnibus Press book Big Time: The Life of Adam Faith by David and Caroline Stafford, indicates. It’s in two parts, the second half tomorrow.
It is 1964 and, like Dusty Springfield before him, Adam Faith is about to find himself in hot water for his opposition to the repellent policy of apartheid in South Africa.
In the South Africa of the sixties, people were either “white”, “black”, “coloured” or “Indian”. There were no grey areas. If you were a borderline case, the Race Reclassification Board would run tests. They might, for instance, put a pencil in your hair. If it stayed put, you were “black”.
It was a criminal offence for the races to intermarry or have sex. The Reservation of Amenities Act specified which races could use which buses, beaches, benches, hospitals, schools and so on. The Black Self-Government Act effectively disenfranchised native Africans. Anybody who uttered a whimper of protest was branded a Communist and jailed. On June 12, 1964, one such, Nelson Mandela, was found guilty of “sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government” and sentenced to life imprisonment on Roben Island.
Getting round the Apartheid Laws was difficult and dangerous, but it could sometimes be done. There was, for instance, a degree of haziness about the regulations concerning multi-racial audiences at cinemas, theatres and concert venues because these came under the heading of something called “culture” for which a special case could, maybe, be made. This left a very limited possibility for wriggle-room.
At the beginning of December 1964, Dusty Springfield flew out to South Africa with her band The Echoes to play seven dates. Aware of the situation, she and her manager had specified in her contract that she should play before multi-racial audiences at the majority of the concerts.
She completed five of her seven gigs, the last in front of a mixed audience at the Luxurama Theatre in Cape Town.
The Luxurama was owned by Ronnie Quibell, one of South Africa’s biggest promoters. It was, he claimed in a later enquiry, originally built as a non-white venue, but when he started booking overseas pop stars to play there, whites wanted to come, too, and sometimes the whites outnumbered the non-whites. The result, just about, fulfilled Dusty’s demand for a mixed audience.
Officials of the South African Government’s Ministry of the Interior took a dim view of anything that transgressed their profound belief in racism. They didn’t do wriggle room. They presented Dusty with an ultimatum – “sign this pledge not to play before non-segregated audiences again or get out”.
For a day and a half, the Men from the Ministry, three heavies, leaned on Dusty’s manager, Vic Billings, encouraging him to sign. When he and Dusty refused, they were, in effect, deported from the country. The Ministry issued a statement saying, “Miss Springfield came to this country with the avowed object of defying the Government’s stated policy with regard to multi-racial audiences and she was on two occasions warned through her manager to observe our South African way of life in regard to entertainment and was informed that if she failed to do so she would have to leave the country.”
Back in the UK, 15 MPs signed a House of Commons motion applauding Dusty’s defiance in the face of “the obnoxious doctrine of apartheid in South Africa”. This left another 600 and something MPs who didn’t sign.
Tito Burns, a noted London booking agent, promptly cancelled forthcoming tours by The Searchers and The Zombies.
[Adam Faith’s manager] Eve Taylor, it seems, was largely oblivious to events in the wider world.
“She had no idea about wars and revolution,” says Sandie Shaw, another of her clients. “Her knowledge of social unrest stopped at the Harrods sale.”
Adam had been booked to fly out to South Africa at the end of December. Cynical commentators, even at the time, suggested that when Eve saw the publicity that Dusty got out of her set-to, wild horses couldn’t have stopped her going ahead with Adam’s tour, but it does take an unhealthy dose of cynicism to believe that a manager – give or take a Don Arden or an Allen Klein – would endanger a client’s life and liberty for a few column inches. Besides, she wasn’t just putting her turn’s safety at risk. Eve’s husband, Maurice, was going along, too, to look after Adam.
If Eve was genuinely unaware that Adam was flying into a hurricane, she should at least have gleaned some inkling when the Musicians’ Union, which had a blanket instruction to members not to accept any work in South Africa, insisted that The Roulettes pull out of the tour. Defiance of the ruling would have resulted in their union cards being torn up, an act which, in those days of the closed shop, would have sent Russ [Ballard], Bob [Henritt], Peter [Thorp] and John [Rogers] down to the Labour Exchange looking for alternative careers.
Adam, however, as a singer/performer/actor, was not a member of the Musicians’ Union. He was in Equity, the Actors’ Union, and they dithered about South Africa for years.
A couple of days before Adam was due to leave, the South African authorities insisted that before they would issue a visa he would have to sign a letter giving assurance that he would play to segregated audiences only. As a sop, they would allow him to give, in addition to 42 performances to white audiences, two performances for non-whites.
Adam refused to sign. “I am prepared to lose a lot of money and four weeks in the sun.”
It was a stand-off. Later the same day, the South African authorities withdrew their demand and granted Adam his visa. Adam also received a telegram from Ronnie Quibell, the promoter of the tour, saying that he’d sort out any problems with the government. Ronnie had sold a lot of tickets. If Adam didn’t turn up he, too, stood to lose a fortune. Under such circumstances, any promoter would say whatever it took to get his artiste on the plane.
When Adam flew out on the December 23, arrangements were still unsettled. Adam, however, remained determined to do what was right. “My contract states that I will appear before mixed audiences,” he said. “If I am not allowed to do so, I will have no option but to return home.”
Tomorrow: What happened when Adam got there.