This is the interview I did with Chas Chandler that was published in Melody Maker in October, 1972.
“We gotta get out of this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do.
"We gotta get out of this place, girl there’s a better life for me and you.”
— Written by Cynthia Weill & Barry Mann, recorded by The Animals, 1965.
Brian James Chandler, who will be 34 in December and who has been called Chas since his schooldays, is learning to play the guitar again.
His reason this time around is simple — Father Christmas is bringing his three-year-old son a guitar next Christmas and Chas has to be the teacher. Chandler Junior is already well into rock: he can sing along to Slade and some of The Beatles, but he doesn’t seem to like Jimi Hendrix. He likes Ray Charles but only because dad recommends it.
It’s not surprising that Chandler Senior has this influence on his son. Chas Chandler was the original bass player with The Animals which taught him as much about the rock business as Georgie Best knows about football. From there he went on to discover, produce and manage Jimi Hendrix and now he’s managing Slade, the hottest property to arrive on the rock scene for a long while.
For a one-time docker in the Newcastle shipyards, Chandler has put a real meaning into the words of the old Animals’ hit. Now he lives in a rambling country mansion on the road to Eastbourne and has offices in Mayfair.
He lives, he says, for the present and the future but it’s the past that has taught him all he knows. He can recall a list of names of businessmen to trust and with whom he has dealt – and he can reel off a bigger list of characters who are crooks, swindlers and conmen. It would be very hard to swindle Mr Chandler today.
In his youth Chas’s main preoccupation was avoiding conscription. To this end he enrolled for engineering college where he learned to design power stations. On the day conscription ended he quit college and worked on the docks. He was docking by day and playing in a variety of Newcastle clubs by night.
Various combinations of the five musicians who became The Animals played together before the band was formed, and docking seemed much less attractive. Eventually docking occurred on Sunday afternoons only — with double pay for the same amount of work.
Towards the end of 1963 The Animals came down to London to find work. Eight months previously Chas had been sacked from the shipyards for irregular hours. He’d play music all night and go straight to work in the mornings and work suffered the most.
On arrival in London, the Animals met Mickie Most who wanted to produce their records. The first one ‘Baby, Let Me Take You Home’ was a hit and three years of being an Animal began. It was, says Chas, three years of total lunacy – working every night, touring all the time and never knowing who to trust.
“We were green, so green we hardly knew what was happening to us. We just did what we were told and so long as we had enough money to live on it didn’t matter.”
‘House Of The Rising Sun’ was their second record and biggest hit. It was also a massive hit in America and The Animals became the third British group to cross the Atlantic – after The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five.
“We spent the money so fast we never had time to sit down and count it. We were screwed here and screwed in America. We had a big turnover but no capital and we always stayed in the best hotels. Then, one day in Ireland, we just decided to drop the whole thing.”
Alan Price was the first Animal to leave. Price has a phobia about flying and he opted out of a Scandinavian tour at the last minute and went home to Newcastle. Mick Gallagher was brought in as a temporary replacement and Dave Rowberry, who is with The Kinks today, became Price’s permanent replacement. Next to go was Johnny Steele, the drummer, who went home to Newcastle and who, today, is Chandler’s assistant.
“Eric (Burdon) and I were starting to get wise to things,” says Chas. “We had done our own production deal by this time but the whole thing was still crazy. One night we just decided to quit – we would carry out all the engagement booked and no more.
“I didn’t want to stay a bass player all my life or play one ever again at that moment. I hadn’t a clue what to do but we all knew The Animals were over.”
The last few months of The Animals, says Chas, were their best days. There were no tensions or arguments as all the band knew it was over. It was during this period that they made what Chas considers to be their best record ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’.”
“During the last eight months our only objective was really to make some money while we still had the chance. It was a question of grabbing what we could before it was all over.”
It was during the last Animals tour of America that Chas met Jimi Hendrix. “I was asked to go to the Cafe Wah? in Greenwich Village and see him and that was it. I had thought about producing records and this was the man I wanted to produce.”
When The Animals finally split Chas came back to New York and brought Hendrix back to London. He had just £1,400 to show from his days with the group and he grabbed most of this during the closing months.
During the next three years he managed Hendrix and produced his records until a point was reached where Jimi no longer wanted to work. They parted company amicably and Chas, who had improved substantially on his £1,400 by this time, was out of work again. In the three years with Hendrix he was married and his wife, Lotte, was expecting Chandler Junior. For most of the time he had shared a flat with Hendrix which was rented from Ringo Starr, but the time was now ripe to move out to the country.
After four months Chas joined the Robert Stigwood Organisation with no specific role. “By this time I had become very hardened and learned a lot about the business. I was supposed to look for new acts with Stigwood and do some record production.
“One day I had a call from a guy who told me about this group called Slade and that they wanted a manager. I went down to see them at the Rasputin Club in London and they knocked me out. I was as impressed when I first saw Slade as I was when I first saw Jimi Hendrix.
“I wanted to find something different from the blues. The Animals had been mainly blues, and Jimi was the same thing but Slade just had a ball on stage. After watching them work I had to sign them.”
Chas signed them up and shortly afterwards left Stigwood to form his own company and concentrate entirely on Slade. He has no plans to manage any other acts.
“Slade were very young when I first met them – much younger than the Animals when we came to London – and they were getting screwed just like we had been. As far as publicity was concerned they weren’t very successful in the early days but they were still earning good money. The business took every opportunity to knock them because of the skinhead thing, but they were slowly building up a very big following.”
Slade, originally on the Fontana label, switched to Polydor and the rest of the story is too recent to recount again. America is Slade’s next goal and already they have received rave reviews around the country – unlike T. Rex.
“Slade are far and away better musicians than The Animals ever were,” says Chas. “Hilton Valentine couldn’t play a guitar like Dave Hill and I could never hope to be able to play bass as well as Jim Lea. I have a guitar now and I bring it out once a year.
“My attitude as a manager is to get as much success and as much money for the act I am managing, and my experiences as a musician have helped me a lot. I never try to analyse my own actions which are mainly inspirations based on experience. That’s how I picked up Slade.”