The inexorable rise of Lethal Lisa

The Brits Awards - an open invitation to pop's naughty little monkeys to misbehave. So what? According to executive producer Lisa Anderson there's more to life than kow-towing to music business bigwigs. And she should know. By David Lister

Tonight the Brit Awards, the annual celebration of British rock music, is bound to provoke a display of outrage by the young and publicity- hungry. Which means that its executive producer, 47-year-old Lisa Anderson, must be wondering whether she will be spending the following day in the Cabinet Office or down the nick.

Last year she ended up in Whitehall, leading a delegation to apologise to John Prescott after Danbert Nobacon of Chumbawamba doused the Deputy Prime Minister with the contents of an ice-bucket. Mr Prescott duly lectured Ms Anderson and various record company chiefs about the discourtesy to him and his "womenfolk".

The previous year, Anderson had been obliged to protect Jarvis Cocker physically, from both the police and (far more threatening) Michael Jackson's choreographer, who had fallen upon him menacingly after Cocker invaded the stage to wiggle his bottom in protest at Jacko's messianic set.

"I saw Jacko's people coming after him," she recalls, "and the choreographer didn't look at all friendly. So I said, 'Now come on Jarvis, you come to the dressing- room with me', and I managed to look after him."

But you can't win them all. When Fleetwood Mac last year insisted that their dressing-room area be painted beige, she gave in, recognising that the band was stuck in a Seventies time-warp. But generally, she wins.

No one in the music business will be surprised at that. Certainly not Geri Halliwell. As soon as she parted company from the Spice Girls she rang Anderson and asked her to be her manager. Geri knew Anderson to be the most influential woman in the music business, but hers is a name that few outside the industry would recognise, and her face is unknown to the general public.

Which is a pity, because the British music scene, not always big on humour or humility, has probably never had a more human face, or a more down- to-earth role model. The only thing remotely scary about her is her laugh - a fruity chuckle, which increases in heartiness as it reaches its climax: a laugh that began in a Hertfordshire girls boarding school, was developed at the Pony Club and was perfected at a finishing school in Switzerland.

Anderson was brought in to remould the Brits eight years ago. The event was a joke at the back end of the Eighties. It's possible now to feel nostalgia for Samantha Fox and Mick Fleetwood's performance when the autocue broke. "Here are The Four Tops," announced Sam, and on came Boy George. "Hello, I'm the One Top," he said.

Worse, as Anderson quickly discovered, it made only pounds 10,000 in 1990 and there were constant accusations of vote-rigging by the record companies. It now brings in pounds 300,000 a year to help fund the Brit School for young musicians, and other charities. She has democratised the voting structure, sees that the brochure is sold in 2,500 UK shops and has switched the television contract from the BBC, which didn't pay, to independent television companies, which do.

Finishing school had already made her a distinctive voice in record company land. "When I came into the industry 20 years or so ago, everyone still found it necessary to speak like David Bailey," she says. "But I just couldn't be bothered with all that. I talk posh. I'm middle class. That's the way I am. I'm not going to disguise it."

Nor has she been prepared to kowtow to the attitudes of an industry that even now, for all its business and exports prowess, can be adolescent in its attitudes to women - not least the sales conferences she had to attend, which were often preceded by the statutory soft porn videos. "They'd say to me 'where's your sense of humour?' I'd reply, 'evidently not in my cock'. The music industry tends to enjoy going into a clan, into a posse. And women tend not to do posse. It was going on all around, lots of bonking on sofas and other extracurricular activities. But I never got involved in all that. When Richard Branson tried to throw me into the swimming-pool, I simply glared at him and said: NO, Richard! I've been to public school, I've done all that, been there. Don't."

Branson asked her to join Virgin, soon after she had left Chrysalis at the age of 23. There she had been assistant to the boss, Chris Wright (music-industry-speak for buying his presents and his furniture and delivering his dry-cleaning). She arrived at Virgin just as punk was dawning, with its bile, spit and vomit. Vomiting is not her style, however, and she concedes that she has only ever thrown up twice, out of nerves: "Once was the day I became managing director of RCA Records. The other time was when I had to go to court to give a character reference for Johnny Rotten."

Punk may have died that day (Anderson says she testified to the effect that Rotten was too weedy to hurt anyone), but Anderson's career continued apace. As managing director of RCA, she was the first woman to achieve the top position in a record company in Britain. While there, she insisted, against much opposition, that the parent company BMG introduce a 12-week maternity leave and child allowance agreement for all female workers. She also introduced two weeks' paternity leave, but insisted that it be taken within a month of the birth, "not saved up for the rugby tour".

Two years later she was sacked. "I'm not very good at corporate politics. I tend to say the wrong thing, like what's really happening. Wrong! Chairmen want to hear that this record is so great. They do not want to hear you say that this record is a bit of a turkey. Also, we didn't make up the numbers they wanted. Eurythmics split up, Fairground Attraction split up, Rick Astley failed to deliver his album. Not my fault, really."

As it happens, on those issues where she took a stand, pop history has proved her right. "They weren't at all sure they wanted to sign M People, but I signed them and they haven't done too badly. And the dance boom was just getting going, but the major record labels weren't interested in it... I thought it was really exciting and invested a lot of money in it, and started a subsidiary dance label. I was a bit of a dance girl."

She is now married to her second husband, David Campbell, the former manager of UB40 and older brother of two members of the band. She was previously married to Bram Tchaikowsky, who was a guitarist with the late- Seventies power-pop group The Motors, who had a hit with "Airport". At their 15th- century Kentish mansion David plays the role of house-husband. "I made a decision not to suffer from guilt about jet-lag or about leaving the children," says Lisa. They have two children, Hereward, 14, and Hannah, 11, who in fact see their mum quite a lot and enjoy little bonuses - such as occasional calls from the erstwhile Ginger Spice.

"I was surprised when she approached me," Anderson says of Halliwell. "I had said hello to her at the Brits, but we didn't really know each other. She is a very impressive young woman, very focused on her new direction." The new direction so far has involved a UN ambassadorship, a song at Prince Charles's 50th birthday party and a well-received appearance on Parkinson. Significantly, the one dubious image of Geri - Baroness Jay citing her as a role model for schoolgirls - had nothing to do with either Anderson or Halliwell. New Labour made up their own minds there.

Now Anderson, who knows more about the record business than most, is renegotiating Geri's record contracts. That won't delight the record companies, as she is known as a tough negotiator. Jonathan King, who presented the Brits pre-Anderson, and now snipes from a distance, calls her "Lethal Lisa".

"I'm not aware of how people perceive me," she shrugs, "I can be pretty scary. But I weep under tables, too." Undoubtedly, her control of the Brits is meticulous. And, much as she likes a bit of pop madness to enliven the ceremony, she is not taking too many chances tonight, especially as a major campaign to persuade world leaders to cancel Third World debt is being launched at the Brits.

Quietly, she has made sure that the Cabinet ministers and Cherie Booth will be seated in boxes which only accredited waiters may enter with an ice bucket.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport