Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

From Leazes Terrace to Sunset Boulevard; DAVE MORTON Meets Terry Ellis, the 1960s Newcastle University Graduate Who Became a Pop Music Mogul

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

From Leazes Terrace to Sunset Boulevard; DAVE MORTON Meets Terry Ellis, the 1960s Newcastle University Graduate Who Became a Pop Music Mogul

Article excerpt


HE is every inch the successful businessman, with a well-cut suit, carefully shaven head, confident easy manner and well-honed Home Counties diction.

But turn the clock back 50 years and Terry Ellis was a long-haired, bespectacled, opinionated student.

And that's how we meet him - in an unplanned cameo in the 1967 Bob Dylan documentary film Don't Look Back.

The celebrated monochrome classic covered the folk icon's 1965 UK concert tour, and the cameras just happened to be rolling when Ellis, a Pure Science student at Newcastle University, turned up backstage at Dylan's City Hall show.

For several minutes, the unknown student and the superstar singer are seen engaging in verbal and intellectual jousting.

They debate the nature of friendship before the notoriously spiky singer asks: "Why would I want to know you?" Ellis takes up the story: "It's wellknown that Bob Dylan didn't like journalists, but somehow I was able to talk my way back stage on the pretext of interviewing him for the university newspaper.

"It's odd that all these years later, I'm best known for that short film clip, rather than my other achievements in the music industry."

And it's true. You've probably never heard of Terry Ellis, but you will certainly be familiar with the A-list pop and rock acts he's been associated with over the decades.

Born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, in 1944, Ellis's parents were from the North East, but had moved south to find work.

Like thousand of teenagers the world over, the rock'n'roll explosion of the mid-1950s had a major impact on the young Terry.

"I loved Little Richard and Tutti Frutti. Looking back now it's a record of huge cultural significance, of course. And there were others - Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis were so exciting - and I thought Elvis was God.

"Rock'n'roll was seen as the devil's music and, at first, it wasn't played on British radio. You had to tune into Radio Luxembourg to hear it, and that's what we all did as teenagers."

Ellis arrived at Newcastle University in 1962 to read Pure Science and, at first, he remembers, he "went nuts".

"It was all girls and beer, with a little bit of science thrown in," he said.

Desperate to get the most out of the full range of university life, Ellis talked himself into the job of social secretary with the brief to attract better, more exciting bands into playing at Newcastle students' union.

Showing he had a nose for talent right from the start, Terry was able to book a young band who'd been making a name for themselves at the city's famous nightclub Club A'Gogo, run by the man known as 'Mr Newcastle' at the time, Mike Jeffrey.

"They were called the Alan Price R'n'B Combo, and they were fantastic. They played for two-and-a-half hours and I paid them PS25.

"They played a couple of times at the university, and then I got a call to say they were moving to London and changing their name to The Animals". Live music at the students' union began to thrive. "I booked a band called The VIPs," remembers Terry, "And they went on to become Spooky Tooth who had a lot of success. And I booked another outfit called Jimmy Powell And The Five Dimensions who had a young harmonica player called Rod Stewart. I wonder what became of him. "Then there was the Graham Bond Organisation, with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, which would evolve into the band Cream." Spending so much time and energy on his job as social secretary was bound to impact on his academic work - and this came to the notice of his professors. He was given an ultimatum: quit as social secretary or re-take the academic year again. And that is what happened, with Terry successfully graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Pure Science in 1965. Instead of pursuing a scientific career, a young Ellis had been bitten by the musical bug during his time at Newcastle. …

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