Jazz Summers has sadly passed away aged 71 after a two-year fight with lung cancer.
Over his long and successful career, Summers earned himself a reputation as a no-nonsense, driven and imperious operator – yet one with a wicked turn of phrase.
His giant music industry achievements will be rightly written about and discussed for days to come. (A snapshot of his pedigree: his artists sold over sixty million albums and seventy two million singles.)
But Jazz could also be fantastic company for anyone with a decent sense of humour.
This was never more evident than in his acclaimed autobiography, Big Life, released in 2013.
As a taster of what to expect, here’s 23 of Jazz’s best quotes about the business he made his home for 40-plus years (and a couple of other related subjects) – many of them taken from his must-read tome…
- “I’ve never burned a venue to the ground. I’ve never even hit an A&R man. I locked one in a cupboard once, as punishment for some racism and sexism.”
- “Ask yourself this: record sales have gone down over the years, but what’s happened to executive salaries? You already know the answer.”
- “Don’t they teach you English at Legal School? Deal breaker means deal breaker, not fucking ‘send me another email’.”
- “When you get famous and the pressure comes on, your mind closes down and fear comes in, and stress, and your channel to the universe is somehow lost… It’s my job to remind [artists] that their relationship with the universe is more important than their relationship with their record company.”
- “I’m not interested in [music biz] players. They’ll all be fucked in a few years anyway… All those executives earning $15 million a year. They’re just milking it.”
- “Listen to that. Nirvana. Listen to Cobain’s voice… he’s not trying to be cool… not like fucking wipsy, fucking, I don’t know, what’s his name, the lead singer of Radiohead? DJs rule the roost at the moment, OK. Do you know why? Too many half-decent but essentially wimpy indie bands knocking around.”
- “In response, I pushed them both and threatened to set fire to the building. The police got called, I’m told, and they arrested me.”
- “The start of the 80s it was easier. You’d show up at the radio station with a bag of coke and a bag of money and give them the song. Sorted.”
- “For me, success is simple: If I really love a piece of music, get it recorded, get it released and it sells one copy – that’s a success. It means you’ve created something. You’ve added something to the world. You’ve contributed a piece of music to life.”
- “I went from being a wanker to being a genius, as you can in the music industry – though you’re normally a wanker again by the following week.”
- “Maybe it was the fact I’d been trapped in the army for the sixties, when I should have been playing music… but I certainly shouldn’t have punched that promotions guy.”
- “I once wired myself up with a spy device before a meeting with a record executive.”
- “I tried to persuade George Michael to go to India once. The real India, not the new one. The Himalayas. He needed to go somewhere where people wouldn’t recognise him, to alter his perception of himself and the Universe. The energy would have flowed from the summit of Everest, through George Michael and down through the Gangees. But he didn’t fancy it. I think he went to LA.”
- “What kind of man trashes a hotel room post 1975?”
- “‘This Jazz Summers’, I said. “He wants to sign your band?… Tell me something. What does he look like?” The guy leapt from his seat and sprinted out the restaurant so fast. Bullshitters, I thought. Slick, cock-sure cowards. You meet them in the music industry from time to time. Bravado for breakfast. Cocktails for lunch.”
- “Success leads to very serious partying – I’ve seen it many times. I’ve seen great artists burn their fucking brains out. I’ve seen it recently. I’ve never taken acid. I once saw a bloke jump out of a window into a fish-pond. But I do like ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’.”
- “Drugs these days are commercialised. They’re fucked up – dipped in all sorts of stuff. I think drugs these days shut your mind. Dope’s no good. My French girlfriend used to paint rows of beautiful trees… but that was before she started smoking too much. These days she paints black squares.”
- “Really, the creative process ain’t that different from the process of becoming a human – becoming a good person. Integrity, authenticity, honesty; they’re not easy things to be. If they were, the world would be full of authentic, honest people, and it’s not, is it?”
- “If the Universe offers to take you out for a cup of tea and a sandwich, you accept, OK.”
- “There wasn’t one woman in the room. It was a pandemonium of penises – testosterone hell.”
- “You win some, and other times all you get is a weird lunch.”
- “As an artist you have to cut your chest open and let your soul out. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
- “What other people say about me is none of my business.”
(For more of Jazz’s impeccable one-liners, check out the excellent ‘Quotable Jazz’ Twitter page, set up and run by Big Life insiders to celebrate his book.)Music Business Worldwide