14.1.14

DEREK TAYLOR - Prince Of PRs

My post about meeting Neil Aspinall prompted one or two people to write in about the great Derek Taylor, best known for having been The Beatles PR of choice on and off from 1964 until his death in 1997 whom I knew quite well. Here’s my favourite Derek story:

In 1972 Derek had left Apple and was ‘Special Projects’ manager at Warner Brothers Records in the UK. Alice Cooper, among their biggest acts in the US at the time, was coming to London but his concert at Wembley Empire Pool was only half sold out. This was a problem that only Derek could solve and he did so by renting a huge 18-wheeler flat bed open truck and stuck an equally massive poster (like a roadside hoarding) on it featuring Alice naked apart from his snake hiding his manhood. The driver was instructed to drive up and down Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly all day, like round and round and then, by some extraordinary stroke of ill luck (!), the truck broke down right at Piccadilly Circus during the five pm rush hour. Chaos. Traffic blocked everywhere. Huge jams. Cops furious. TV stations alerted. The Alice poster is on the news. Concert sells out. Derek’s a hero…
         As if that wasn’t enough, on that same UK visit Derek booked Chessington Zoo for an Alice party. No expense spared. Chessington was a big permanent fairground off the A3 past Kingston in those days and all the guests, bussed there in coaches, were met at the gate by girls who worked at Warners in schoolgirl uniforms (very non-PC!) with trays of booze. We had the run of the fairground for an hour or so, all free, then there was a circus performance, high wire acts, animals, clowns, the lot, masses of free booze still flowing all the time, topped off by a stripper or two which prompted several pissed and/or stoned party-goers to join in, including the schoolgirls, until there were about 20 people in the ring all dancing together, most of them in their underwear, whereupon some cops arrive and threaten to arrest everyone (especially Derek) unless everybody puts their clothes back on and go quietly to their coaches and back to London. Result – front page of the following day’s papers: “ALICE COOPER ORGY SHOCK – Naked party-goers riot at party for US shock rocker!”
         Orchestrating all this was that lovely little man with a tidy moustache and a twinkle in his eye, the best PR there ever was. 

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