Star Interview: Carl Leighton-Pope

Photo by Kate Green/Alpha Press.
Photo by Kate Green/Alpha Press.

He has been a music star agent and now organises international bookings for the likes of Bryan Adams and Michael Buble, but it was in 1960s London that Carl Leighton-Pope first carved out his career.

It was the early 1960s when Carl snared a part- time job at London’s legendary Marquee Club, where he rubbed shoulders with names such as The Beatles, Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart.

He has now used the inspiration of ’60s music and fashion to pen a new musical called Carnaby Street, which is set to be performed at Milton Keynes Theatre from September 3-7.

He said: “I have been in the music business for 45 years and people constantly say ‘you should write a book or documentary of your life’. I thought ‘I don’t want to write a book, but a musical might be fun to do’.

“I wanted to bring in the characters of people I knew in the music business. In 1961, I was 18 and living in Soho. I was working in the Marquee Club with people like Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton and all these guys. No-one knew they were famous because they weren’t 
famous yet.”

But what was the experience of writing his first musical actually like?

“It was horrendous to start with,” Carl said. “I had lots of stories and resources and I started writing stuff. I started thinking, ‘this won’t be difficult’. Then I met Bob Tomson, an experienced musical director, and he came to my office and I gave him the manuscript. He read it and said, ‘on page nine, who is Jane talking to?’. I said, ‘Jack.’ He said, ‘Jack left the stage a few minutes ago.’ It was then I started to feel out of my depth. I began to work with Bob and we started to get the story from what it was to putting it on stage.”

But why were the 1960s so special?

“Something happened in the ’50s after the war, which changed the whole world,” Carl explained. “For some reason it was a time when people started thinking, ‘hang on a minute, what did that mean? Why do we say that?’. My mum would go to the doctor and I would say, ‘what did he say?’. She would say, ‘he told me to take this every day’. And I would say, ‘why did he say that?’. She would say, ‘I didn’t ask’. It was that attitude towards authority figures. Then there came a time when people started thinking ‘hang on a minute, that isn’t right, we will question that’.

“There was this optimism in the ’60s, you could leave work on a Friday and have another job on a Monday. And life was all about the weekend. I did not know a single person who was unemployed. Everyone had a job and a smile on their faces.

“The records were bought on a Saturday and that would determine what we wore, the dances and everything. We weren’t big TV watchers, we would buy a record and go back to our flat and all your friends would come around to listen to records. You would sing every Beatles song.”

“I got a job in 1964, they recruited me at the Marquee Club which had moved to Wardour Street. I was working at an office in Tower Bridge, but thought I would work at the club for some extra money. They put me in the cloakroom and I started hanging out with these guys. We all drank at The Ship, people like The Who would have been in there.

“By 1970/71 I was back in the music business and I had started a recording studio and was managing a band. In 1977 I was managing Sassafras, I was married and had four children and thought the music business was for me. Then I got a job as an agent and one of the first acts I signed was Dire Straits, I found them playing in a pub. I also found Simple Minds. Then there was Patti Smith and from then on my career just exploded, I was getting calls from everyone.

“By 1979/80 I was looking after 30 acts, who were all new acts. Then I met Bryan Adams. With Michael Buble, initially I fought for him to do six nights at Ronnie Scott’s, I thought that could make a difference and we have just sold out 10 nights at the 02.

“I like to think I’m part of a team, my role is now to pick the next venue and negotiate the deal.”

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