Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tony Secunda (1940 – 1995)

Anthony Michael "Tony" Secunda was born in Epsom, Surrey, England in 1940. Educated at public school he first came to prominence as manager of the Moody Blues. The Birmingham based group was signed to Decca Records and had a No 1 hit in the UK with "Go Now," in 1965. Tony also managed another Birmingham based band called the Move and promoted them as a mod band with a wild stage act (similar to the Who). He had the group dress in the style of Chicago gangsters and Carl Wayne (lead singer) smashed up television sets and effigies with an axe at the end of their act. The onstage antics were called "Auto Destruction," and had been made popular by Pete Townsend and Jimi Hendrix, who regularly smashed their guitar (or set it on fire in the case of Hendrix) as a finale. The group played a season at London's Marquee Club and the ensuing notoriety soon helped them gain a recording contract with Deram, a subsidiary of Decca Records.

Tony Secunda was an astute publicist and effective wheeler dealer and the group had a couple of hits with Night of Fear (1966) and I can hear the grass grow (1967). The former was written by Roy Wood who had been encouraged by his manager to write more contemporary songs for the group. Wood borrowed a catchy riff from Tchykovsky’s 1812 Overture for Night of Fear, something he would repeat later in his career. Ever the sensationalist, Secunda gained notoriety in 1967, when unbeknown to the band, he circulated postcards showing a nude caricature of the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, in a bath, The cards were supposed to promote the Move's latest single, "Flowers in the Rain". The innuendoes made about Wilson led him to sue the band successfully and in settlement all the royalties from the record went to a charity. Flowers in the rain got to No 2 in the UK charts but after the controversy the band sacked their manager. Tony Secunda had a business partner, Denny Cordell (Regal Zonophone) and he was a record producer who worked with the Moody Blues and the Move. Cordell produced another of Secunda’s groups, Procol Harum ‘s "Whiter Shade of Pale." This was another pop song based on a classic i.e. Bach's "Air on a G-String." The single was a hit in 1967 and went on to sell over 6 million copies.

Secunda continued his involvement with Trevor Burton (former Move), and helped him establish a band called Balls with singer Denny Laine (Moody Blues and Wings). The venture failed. In 1971, Marc Bolan asked Tony to become his manager and he was able to re- negotiate a new recording and publishing contract with EMI as well as set up the T. Rex Wax label. Despite early success with Get it on in the US they parted company after Bolan got drunk at a Carnegie Hall concert and fell over on stage.

In 1975, now the manager of Steeleye Span and the group had a surprise UK Top Ten hit with "All Around My Hat."

A year later he was manager of Motörhead and offered Lemmy and Co some outlandish promotions but by 1978 both parties had fallen out irrevocably and parted company. Tony wanted to break into the punk scene and after he heard of a singer song writer called Chrisy Hyde he helped her in her musical career. He dropped out then reappeared on the pop scene in the 80s as the manager of Marianne Faithfull, but their association was short lived.

By the mid-eighties he moved to San Anselmo, California, where he remained active in music publishing and promotion, and developed an interest in the ecology and green issues. He started a literary agency and published biographies of bands and musicians, until his death in 1995.

Worth a listen
Moody Blues.
Go Now (1965)

The Move
Night of Fear (1966)
I can hear the grass grow (1967)
Flowers in the Rain (1967)

Procol Harum
Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)

Marc Bolan
Get it on (1971)

Steeleye Span
All Around My Hat (1975)

Motörhead (1977)

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