Thursday Book: Music - the Key to Getting Rich, High and Laid ; Black Vinyl White Powder by Simon Napier-Bell (Ebury Press, Pounds 16.99)

Article excerpt

"SO HERE it is," writes Simon Napier-Bell, "money, sex and drugs. What more could you ask for, except perhaps for a little music?" Indeed. Music often seems like a mere by-product of an industry primarily dedicated to supplying itself with the largest possible quantities of Napier-Bell's unholy trinity. Few know this better, and describe it with more acrid wit, than the charmingly louche and urbane former manager of The Yardbirds (but not Jeff Beck), Marc Bolan (but not T Rex), Wham! (but not solo George Michael), and Japan.

Black Vinyl White Powder is the belated sequel to his delightfully scurrilous, hugely entertaining and piercingly insightful pop-biz memoir, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, named after an Italian song for which he wrote an English lyric during a 10-minute taxi ride. That was a hit for Dusty Springfield in the Sixties and was revived by Elvis Presley in the Seventies, providing Napier-Bell with both an income over and above his management earnings and a licence to bite the hand that feeds him.

The first book was a sort-of-autobiography; this one is a an eye- opening social history of the British music business analysed in terms of - you guessed - money, drugs and sex. Peppered with first- person anecdotes, it's also the cold-print equivalent of a sparkling evening in the company of a world-class raconteur.

"If you can remember the Sixties," goes one of the hoariest gags in the catalogue, "then you weren't really there." Napier-Bell drops so many micro-clangers (the editors of Oz were busted for obscenity rather than sued for libel; The Dave Clark Five's records were issued by EMI rather than Pye; The Rolling Stones were on London Records in the US during the Sixties, rather than CBS; Eric Clapton left The Yardbirds to join John Mayall rather than to form Cream; The White Panther Party was Mick Farren's drinking club masquerading as a political movement rather than a band; and so on) that it constitutes definitive proof that he was there.

Napier-Bell's lifelong involvement with the music business began in 1956 when, as a 17-year-old wannabe jazz trumpeter fresh out of public school, he became the "posh bandboy" for the Johnny Dankworth Orchestra. …