Big Life

Last night we celebrated the launch of Big Life by Jazz Summers, which is published this week, at the Groucho Club in London. I reproduce my short address below.

Ladies and gentleman, and distinguished guests, I promise to be brief – for I know from past experiences that long speeches don’t go down well with people who are here to have a good time. So brevity has become an essential part of any address I make on these occasions.

We are here this evening to celebrate a great event: the publication of Big Life, an idiosyncratic, memory-lane chronicle of the life and times of Jazz Summers, who burst onto the music scene in 1986 by forming Big Life Music Management with Tim Parry – a management team that was involved in the sale of well over sixty million albums and seventy-two million singles around the world.

It’s the same outfit that was also responsible for over one hundred Top 40 hits during the past thirty years.

But before then, Jazz had already proved his formidable talents. A former musician, he first switched to management when he represented a rising folk singer called Richard Digance in the seventies. Jazz discovered an immediate aptitude for management when Digance was quickly established far beyond the confines of the UK folk circuit. His success was followed by the pop group Blue Zoo and the English gothic rock band, Danse Society – both of which he managed.

In the mid eighties, Jazz’s creative skills reached their zenith when he masterminded the phenomenal global success of a young English pop group called Wham! Jazz exported the group’s UK pop star status to the world, especially to the United States where Wham! achieved three chart-topping singles and a number one album. By the mid eighties, the group had sold over fourteen million albums worldwide, an achievement cemented by an unprecedented stadium tour which included the very first Western pop shows in China, an event later documented in a bestselling film and subsequent video.

I could go on for a long time talking about the many achievements of Jazz Summers, but I’m here to celebrate the publication of his book and not to engage in a thorough appraisal of his many talents. I’ll leave that to his readers and to posterity. In the meantime, I would rather enumerate the many divergent characteristics of the man.

I read his manuscript over a weekend and could not put it down until the last page. I found it down to earth, bereft of the bullshit one so often encounters in other showbiz memoirs. His language, brash at times, has nevertheless a musical resonance to one’s ears and becomes rather addictive. His many adventures, whether in the line of business or in pleasurable pursuits, are always riveting. His encounters with many of the leaders of the music industry are memorable since they shed light on the way they operate and provide the reader with a tunnel vision that he or she is unlikely to have access to in the normal run of things.

Suffice to say that Jazz has lived his life to the full, unperturbed by the narrow rules of the Establishment, and coped with the vicissitudes of time with the dexterity of a man determined to keep ahead – no matter what the odds stacked against him are.

But my main role tonight is to urge everyone here to buy a few copies of his book as a tribute to his achievements, and in so doing defy the present impasse in the book trade which is playing havoc with small independent publishers such as Quartet.

As word of mouth is the most effective weapon today in promoting a book, I leave it to our distinguished guests to show us the generosity of their spirit and the colour of their money.

Having preached the gospel of publishing, which I hope I was eloquent enough to convert some of you, I now hand you over to Richard Digance – who will give you the first comprehensive review of the book.

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