In 1996 I attended the funeral of my friend Chas Chandler and Record Collector magazine asked me to 'cover' it for them. Here's what I wrote:
Chas Chandler, the North-East's most legendary rock figure, was laid to rest in Cullercoats, his home town, on Monday, July 22, following a private cremation attended only by his family. Earlier there had been a service at St George's Church, a stone's throw away from the Chandler home. The large church was crammed with over 400 friends and business colleagues, and crowds of holiday makers dressed in beach clothes lined the sea front route as the funeral cortege made its way to the church. Chas, who always believed in the grand gesture, would have enjoyed the spectacle.
Among those attending was Al Hendricks, Jimi Hendrix's 78-year-old father, who had flown over from Seattle with his adopted daughter Janie and son-in-law to meet for the first time with the man who "discovered" his son James playing in a Greenwich Village bar almost thirty years ago. Instead he stood alongside other mourners from the world of rock, among them Noel Redding, the bass player from the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Ironically the Hendrix family was to have met with Chas in London on the day of the funeral to discuss the release of Hendrix material that was still in Chandler's possession.
Buddy Holly's music played inside the church as the mourners assembled, and during the service there were numerous tributes to 'the big man' who played bass guitar with The Animals, discovered, produced and managed Jimi Hendrix and Slade, and, in later years, became the leading figure behind the construction of the Newcastle Arena, now the biggest rock venue on Tyneside.
Nigel Stanger, Chas' partner in the Arena, told mourners how Chas revelled in learning all he could about the construction industry, seeing it as a new challenge after his successes in music. Keith Altham, the former NME journalist and press agent, spoke wittily about Chas' love of a good argument, which he could never bear to lose, and the enthusiasm he would bring to any project in which he was involved, including a plan to link Sydney with Perth by a canal. It was an infectious enthusiasm that inevitably communicated itself to all around him. Doubters never stood a chance when Chas was ramming home his opinions.
Noddy Holder, now a DJ with Piccadilly Radio in Manchester who attended with the other three members of Slade, also referred to Chas' ability to argue long into the night. At his recent 50th birthday party, Noddy and his former manager were, at 5 am, the last to leave, propping each other up, still arguing over what was wrong with the music industry. "We'd been having the same argument for 20 years," said Noddy.
Finally, Steffan Chandler, Chas' eldest son, from his first marriage, spoke quietly but emotionally of a father and family man that friends in the music industry seldom saw. Chas left three other children from his second marriage, all of them much younger than Steffan, and there can be few among those present who weren't touched by Steffan's words.
The coffin left the church to strains of 'Spirit In The Sky' by Norman Greenbaum, and later in the afternoon many friends gathered in the garden at the nearby family home to express personal condolences to Madeleine, Chas' widow. Many hilarious 'Chas' stories were exchanged, and it was evident that 'the big man' – Chas was 6' 4" – was held in great affection by anyone who had the good fortune to spend any time with him.
Chas, whose real name was Bryan, started his working life as a turner on Newcastle's shipyards. Then he played bass with the Alan Price Combo which became The Animals. Eternally modest about his bass playing, he steadfastly refused ever to play in front of Jim Lea, Slade's bassist, because he was embarrassed about his shortcomings. From The Animals he went into record production and management, firstly with Hendrix and then Slade. Both sold millions of records for the PolyGram group – and this correspondent was not alone in noticing that the record company for whom he made many millions had failed to send a representative to pay their respects to Chas.
Not often do management figures inspire such endearing respect from all quarters bar the record company but anyone who knew Chas Chandler knows full well that he never looked upon the music business as a means of enriching himself, but as a means whereby he could help the artists he managed. As Keith Altham remarked in his memorial address, Chas was a 'hands-on' manager in the tradition of Brian Epstein, Kit Lambert and Peter Grant, all of whom put the welfare of their acts above all else, all of whom were larger than life characters themselves and, alas, all of whom are now also dead.
Chas Chandler loved rock and roll and those who played it, and he dedicated his life to them. He was immensely proud of his Geordie roots, a plain-speaking, honest and hard-working man, and he could cut through bullshit like a hot knife through soft butter. His legacy will linger on in the music of The Animals, in the extraordinary records he made with Jimi Hendrix, and in the cheers that will ring out as future generations of rock stars appear on stage at the Newcastle Arena.
They should build a statue of Chas directly outside the building.