How Not to Make It in the Pop World

How Not to Make It in the Pop World

by John Barrow
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How Not to Make It in the Pop World by John Barrow

Tenor sax man John Barrow has played and recorded with world name artists. This is the tale of his stroll through the labyrinth of dreams that is the pop industry.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781412202237
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Publication date: 01/28/2007
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.81(d)

About the Author

Tenor saxophonist John Barrow is one of the journeymen of pop music. His playing career began in 1975 with Soul / Funk outfit Sister Big Stuff playing the clubs and discos of the U.K. playing support to a number of chart acts. In 1977 he joined funk band Black Gorilla who scored a top 30 hit enabling him to make his debut Top of the Pops appearance. They toured extensively across Europe headlining top funkvenues.

After the demise of Black Gorilla in 1980, John played on releases by the Newmatics and the Sinatras and recorded a Sinatras live Radio One session for John Peel. Tracks on albums by the Godfather of ska Laurel Aitken followed.

In the same year he founded the Swinging Laurels with college friend Gaz Birtles. They signed to Albion Records and their debut release Peace of Mind reached No 1 slot in the embryonic independent charts. By 1982 the outfit was gaining national music press attention and building a solid reputation as session brass players. During a hectic 1982 they: Recorded a Radio One session for John Peel Released a 4 track. EP A Taste of ... on Dining Out Records Signed to major label giant WEA Records Played session brass on the Fun Boy Three hit The Telephone Always Rings making several TV appearances including: Top of the Pops - Cheggars Plays Pop - Saturday Superstore - Something Else - Riverside - Generation 80 (Belgium) with Bananarama. A video to promote the track was produced by Ultravox vocalist Midge Ure and featured cameo appearances by: Bananarama - Madness - Ultravox - Alexei Sayle and David "Kid" Jensen.

Other recorded brass sessions included: A Jerry Dammers produced single for 2-Tone Records bythe Apollinaires called The Feelings Gone Tracks on an album by Worldbackwards for Illuminated Records A session with teen chart toppers Musical Youth (produced by the Fun Boy Three) A single by Coventry band Splashdown Work on the Fun Boy Three follow up hit Summertime. Recordings with French chart act 24hrs Live work with Coventry band Team 23 who were managed by Specials drummer Brad (they later transformed into chart toppers King) upported chart acts, Shakatak Mari Wilson Classix Nouveau.

The first Swinging Laurels WEA release, Rodeo, hit the streets in September 1982 and featured the distinctive percussive influence of Scritti Politti drummer Tom, but despite saturation Radio One airplay, was restricted to lower reaches of the national chart. Culture Club producer Steve Levine lent his expertise to the second single Lonely Boy which originally featured a fine vocal contribution by Boy George but due to contractual objections by his record label Virgin Records was eventually released minus his efforts.

1983 saw John touring with the Swinging Laurels, in their own right and as a special guests of Culture Club, at the request of Boy George who was a self-proclaimed fan. They were special guests on both of their sell-out UK tours in March and December. A Janice Long Radio One session was followed by a highly-successful Dutch festival tour where they supported Nick Lowe and Osibisa as well as headlining dates.

After parting company with WEA Records the Swinging Laurels formed their own label identity, Happy Records based, at their Leicester Studio Happy House.

The first Happy Records offering Zoom (Take the Test) achieved critical acclaim in 1984 and in promoting the disc they appeared on Radio One road shows hosted by disc jockeys Peter Powell and Adrian John.

Through 1985/86 John worked with Happy House featuring ex-Specials vocalist Rhoda Dakar. 1987 ushered in another Swinging Laurels platter Push and Shove through Happy Records.

During 1988 John was playing session sax with Food / Parlophone Records act Crazyhead, most notably on an eleven-nation tour of Europe and Scandinavia as special guests of godfather of punk Iggy Pop.

This was followed by a live T.V.appearance for the Thames Television series The Concert in 1989 and a slot at the prestigious Reading Festival. A chance to audition for Beautiful South along with the other Swinging Laurels brass men Gary Birtles and Tony Robinson was passed over due to other commitments. In hindsight this wasn't the wisest decision as they went on to notch up many hit records.

No Label Records reissued Push and Shove by the Swinging Laurels in 1990. Further brass sessions resulted in releases in the 1990s. One was in 1991 for Norman Beaton, star of Channel 4 world wide hit sit-com Desmonds, as well as tracks on an album by top ska exponents Ska-Boom on Extremely Nice Records in 1992.

Compilation CD albums featuring some earlier work surfaced through 1994 / 95 / 96 / 97. These included:

The 2-Tone Story and the No. 1 Ska Album (featuring versions of the Apollinaires track The Feelings Gone

Fun Boy Three compilations -The Best of the Fun Boy Three - Really Saying Something (Featuring Bananarama)

The Best of the Fun Boy Three and Colourfield (featuring various mixes of The Telephone Always Rings and Summer of 82.)

A six track Swinging Laurels CD was released in 1997 entitled Be Someone - signalling another collaboration with song writing partner and Beautiful South sax man Gaz Birtles. 1996 / 97 heralded re-runs of Fun Boy Three, Top of the Pops appearances on UK Gold television.

2000 saw the release Be Someone released by Internet label and in the same year John completed a highly successful UK / Irish tour with Baby Genius as special guests of The Beautiful South. Baby Genius also scored a prime time TV appearance on BBC's Children in Need with Louise and Atomic Kitten. A 15-track Swinging Laurels compilation album Greatest Bits was issued in 2001 and tracks were recorded for an album called Learning To Cope with Happiness by The Charmers in 2002. In November 2002 a re-run of an earlier Top of the Pops appearance with the Fun Boy Three was shown on BBC2 s Top of the Pops 2.

In 2003 tracks were recorded with Normal Position for their album Rave Killed the Romance.

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How Not to Make It in the Pop World 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A book full of laughs and heartbreak with massive ups and downs, John Barrow was and is a member of The Swinging Laurels, a band that so nearly hit the big time they could actually taste it, but sadly it wasn't to be. This book is a testament to John's good humour and sheer determination not to give up. Brilliant
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Barrow proclaims himself to be one of that all too un-rare breed of those who try to make a living from the music business and fail. John plays tenor sax and has sustained a playing career for over 20 years, albeit not always a paying one. Hailing from Leicester in the UK, John moved from band to band from the 70's thru to the 90's, and this is his diary of those days and the adventures he had. John Barrow is a real journeyman of the trade in all sense of the word. John's main claim to fame is his part in the group The Swinging Laurels, a band who could have been but never quite made it. The Swinging Laurels played an unusual combination of synth and brass, and received much critical acclaim. One of their near-miss singles also featured backing vocals by Boy George just after Culture Club went huge. They appeared on tour backing Culture Club, played as session brass section for Fun Boy Three on The Telephone Always Rings (one of their best tracks imho) and had a video produced by Midge Ure of Ultravox. On top of this they did numerous TV appearances either in their own right or as backing for others. There is a lot more to be told on this story and on either side of The Swinging Laurels. The story of how much luck plays on whether you make it or not, the commitment and hardship of trying to play for a living, the responsibilities of having a family and juggling work with your true love of music. The basic premise that holds this narrative together is timeless and is incredibly apt for a scene like the modern synthpop one where very few bands or artists are able to sustain full-time musical careers. John himself has no regrets about anything he has done, even though he admits it has cost him in financial terms at the very least. His story-telling style is very down to earth and he has a rich deprecating style that just seems at times to be like a conversation you'd have with your mates in a bar. At times he tends to namecheck and wander off on a tangent, but this is not a 'look who I knew' kind of deal. John documents the times and puts his experiences into perspective with those around him at the time. He is never bitter and actually rarely has a bad word to say about anyone. I can't recommend this book enough. Anyone currently in the business of making music will recognize most of what has happened to John Barrow. Those who aren't can see what happens to those unlucky enough not to get the breaks. A hugely enjoyable read.