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ABOUT ME - FRANK CHAMBERS

From a very young age I can only remember really being interested in two things, One being music and the other being collecting. I gradually built up a huge collection of old and foreign coins, bubblegum cards, comic books, football programs, for some bizarre reason old keys and of course vinyl records including whatever new US imported records I could get my hands on. I would travel from my home by bus into Oxford and spend most of my Saturday milling round the various independent record shops of which there were an absolute multitude. I was of course a massive music fan and my music taste was quite varied. I liked all the pop music of the day but my interest would drift much further into the progressive rock and underground world as well as the opposite end of the scale folk music. The folk music scene was particularly abundant in Oxford in those days probably because of the large student population living there from many different parts of the world. Collecting vinyl records gradually became my main pass time as well as listening to what music I could. I would go to some very seedy little record shops in Oxford every Saturday afternoon listening to the latest US imports. I had a small transistor radio that I played in my bedroom constantly trying to get a good signal and every night I would tune into radio Caroline. I remember listening and dreaming of one day becoming a DJ on radio Caroline. During one of my Saturday afternoons walking around the record stores, I was introduced to a lady who I was told was the auntie of Simon Dee, Simon was one of the DJs on radio Caroline and in effect one of my heroes. I must’ve written hundreds of letters to Ronan O’Rahilly in the hope of trying to land a job on radio Caroline. I contacted all the DJs of the people like Roger Gail, Tony Blackburn, Roger day, Tony prints, Johnny Walker, Robbie Dale, and One of my all-time favourites Tommy Vance who I managed to eventually get in contact with and over time we became great friends. Tommy was one of the first radio DJs in the UK to really push hard rock and heavy metal music. Tommy first of all let me do some research and I recommended various bands and LPs to him for consideration to play on his radio shows, we got on very well and he would often send me albums just to get my opinion. I eventually got to do work for him as a researcher and in later years I helped on his mainstream radio shows and his TV work where he introduced me to some amazing people when he was doing interviews for his TV shows and his books. I was in touch with him until he died in 2005. It was a very great loss to the world of music. I started my own work as a DJ in hospital radio and for several youth clubs around the Oxford area I never did make it onto radio Caroline but it always remains in my memory as the starting point for my own career. At that time I was working in a local record shop I originally started just as a part-time worker while I was at school and then on a more regular basis after my school years.I soon became the manager of a very popular independent shop and I gave myself the position of shop DJ on the weekends playing music that I liked and but I thought that some of the customers who came in would be interested in but may not be fully aware off. I found this allowed me to create some influence not only in the shops but surrounding the local music scene generally. It was not long before I was offered the opportunity to become manager of a small chain of six record shops in the area. The people who owned the business weren’t really music fans, they were business people. Their concern was just to make a profit. My interest still firmly lay on the music side. At that time small bands would play concerts mainly to promote their album and several business people including the shop owners would explain to me that the money was made in selling the records, not playing concerts. The concerts were just an advertisement for the LP or record that was available in the shops and at that time tickets for concerts were mainly just sold through the record shops. That’s when I came up with the idea of getting the local bands to come into the shops and sign copies of their albums as a promotion to the customers whilst at the same time selling the tickets to the concert. Although this was not overly popular with the owners, I was given the green light to attempt this and I can proudly say the idea went so well the chain of shops that I was managing became the most popular and most profitable in the area. I like to believe it was amazing good judgements but there was possibly a strong element of good luck involved with the first store signing I organised. I had approached a few bands but none of them seemed to think it was a good idea even to the point of one guy telling me he didn’t think anyone would buy the album if he spoiled it by writing his name on it! We used to sell tickets for concerts at the local town hall and believe it or not we got some pretty good bands in there. I noticed that a band I was quite a fan of and who I had seen several times in London were on the list for the town hall, I had it in my head that this band was going to be big although a lot of people disagreed with me at the time. So on a wet Wednesday afternoon on the 11th of November 1970 I brought two guys called Marc and Mickey into the shop to sign some promo copies of their album that was to be released the following month. The band was T Rex.  After the initial success of the T Rex signing I brought more and more bands in to do signings and the success rate was phenomenal and I became quite a celebrity myself even to the point of getting several other record store chains offering to employ me to do the same for them. At this time I was still in Oxford and as much as I loved the place we were quite still limited because we were a bit too far away from London. This is when i decided to take the plunge and move myself directly into the heart of the UK music world and took up residence in a little one room flat in Camden Town. I started doing the same thing that is to say organising album promotional signings in record shops but instead of just doing it in one shop I became a freelance organiser so I would set up signings and in many cases take the band around from shop to shop sometimes doing four or five signings in the same day. A friend of mine who is sadly no longer with us was working as a plug for one of the major record companies that means it was his job to plug or promote the new records and albums released by bands on that record label. One day he suggested we join forces as I could help him greatly with his job and he can organise a lot more and a lot bigger signing opportunities. It was at this time when we decided to start one of the countries very first ticket agencies selling concert tickets for lots of venues in and around London. I was working seven days a week and very long days. This continued pretty much all the way through the 1970s and into the late 1980s and early 1990’s. At this time the landscape in the music world was changing, the small concert venues will be coming less interesting to the bigger bands and larger venues were springing up everywhere and in some cases international ticket agencies were taking over the venues and the ticket sales. My next Venture was a freelance job with virgin radio in London i would book bands and artists for interviews and promotional slots and I also spent a lot of time in the in-house recording studio. When virgin radio was sold in 2006 I found an opportunity to move back into doing concert promotions and with the help of two colleagues we started actively promoting the idea of some of the big bands from the 1960s 1970s and 1980s to get back together and get out on the road. A lot of the bands I had known from that timeframe had suddenly found their income from record royalties were totally drying up as people were no longer buying records or CDs as it was by then so we approached lots of the people we worked with years ago and we were able to re-establish them in many cases with a whole new fan base and of course we were able to bring back the old idea of album signings to promote the concerts. Well as they say if you wait long enough everything is comes back into fashion. 

Frank Chambers