POP MUSIC / Slade and Jimi and all that Chas: In the second of our occasional series on the Men who Manage, Simon Napier-Bell bumps into Chas Chandler, the bassist from the Animals who introduced Hendrix to 'Hey Joe' and Slade to Christmas

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Chas Chandler is a mountain of a man, 6ft tall and 18 stone. The most gentle, good-natured person you'll ever meet. He's in his fifties now and we bump into each other, after a gap of 15 years, at a noisy TV chat show. The show's subject is drugs. Both of us agree the only solution is legalisation, but on the programme the people who oppose that idea are loudly abusive.

Chas tells me: 'The ones who want to restrict other people's choice of pleasure are always the noisiest. And the most ignorant on the subject. In the past I've done every drug there was and I would today if I found one that interested me more than alcohol. People talk about the danger to kids, but I've got three young kids plus a 24-year-old son by my first marriage. I don't want them to get messed up on drugs, but the greatest danger to kids is hiding the facts from them.'

Chas was Jimi Hendrix's manager. Before that he was bass-player in the Animals, and after Hendrix he produced and managed Slade. Now he's retreated to his native Newcastle and is finalising plans to build the Newcastle Arena, a music-cum-sports auditorium. He's doing it in partnership with the original sax player with the Animals, Nigel Stanger.

Chas explains: 'Nigel quit the group just before we happened. The Animals used to gig around Newcastle. We'd do anything. If people phoned up and said they wanted a modern jazz group, then we'd be one. If they wanted Bill Haley cover versions, that was OK too. Nigel left to go to Oxford and Hilton Valentine joined, and that's when the group took off.'

In 1962, long before they were famous, I happened to see the Animals' first London gig. In those days kids didn't have much money, and there was nowhere warm indoors where they could make love. So a London promoter had a brilliant idea. On Sunday afternoons he provided them with a club called 'the Scene'. It was just a huge sex dormitory. There were no lights and no alcohol, and when the Animals arrived they had to play in the dark.

'When we saw what was happening we couldn't believe it. On Tyneside, people went to clubs to fight. What they did at the Scene was one hell of a lot more fun.'

Life with the Animals was an endless party with a few good brawls thrown in. 'We toured non-stop for three years, 300 gigs a year and we hardly got a penny. But our manager, Mike Jeffries, did all right. Twenty-five per cent of the gross of 300 gigs a year, that was good money.'

Then, in New York, Keith Richard's girlfriend took Chas to a club in Greenwich Village where there was a brilliant guitarist called Jimi Hendrix. Chas had found a song called 'Hey Joe'. It had been released the year before by Tim Rose and done nothing. He thought it would be perfect for Hendrix and arranged to meet him the next day.

'When Jimi arrived to see me, the first thing he did was to get out the very same record and play it to me. That was it] We decided there and then, I'd manage him and produce 'Hey Joe'.'

Chas was still under contract to Mike Jeffries so he had to come to some sort of arrangement with him. 'We decided I'd leave the Animals and Mike and I would manage Jimi together. But then Mike disappeared off to America with Eric and the Animals and I didn't see him again for eight months. I had to do it all myself.'

That was at the end of 1966. Chas got Jimi a gig at the Speakeasy in London and Kit Lambert, the Who's manager, did a deal on the spot for his new label, Track Records. 'It was only a pounds 1,000, but I really needed it. Then, two months later, 'Hey Joe' was No 1.'

Paul McCartney arranged to get Jimi on to the Monterey Festival in June and when Chas and Jimi got there Mike Jeffries turned up.

'It was aggravating as hell. Jimi took the festival by storm and Mike was claiming he'd done it all. Then he went back to New York and Bill Graham offered Jimi the support for Jefferson Airplane at Philmore West. When we got there Jefferson cancelled and Jimi topped the bill. Suddenly he was the biggest thing in the US. Then Mike Jeffries calls up and says he's pulled off a coup. He's got Jimi the support slot on the Monkees tour] I told him to piss off, but really I should have flown to New York and thumped him. He just hadn't a clue what Jimi was about and after that he started interfering more and more. He was doing far too much acid. He didn't manage people, he just screwed them up.'

By the end of 1968 Jimi had drifted into drugs and was recording in America with pick-up groups. Chas was managing him, but no longer producing him. Then Jimi came to England and Chas invited him round for a meal.

'We had a great evening talking about music. Jimi wanted to make a fresh start and we agreed I would produce a new album with him. I had to go to Newcastle for the weekend so Jimi said he'd go back to New York, collect his guitars and come back on Monday. The next day I went up to Newcastle on the early train. When I got off someone rushed up to me on the platform and told me 'Jimi's dead]' '

I ask Chas how much he made out of Jimi. 'Nothing] Nor from the Animals. But then I met Slade and became their manager and producer. Groups who tour for the first time together soon get on each other's nerves, but Slade had been through all that and come out the other side of the hate barrier. They were the most delightful, easygoing, pleasant bunch of people I've ever known. They didn't even complain when I suggested they wrote a Christmas song. I said I wanted them to capture that incredible silence that follows a heavy snowfall - no echoes, no footsteps, no traffic. I wanted to hear that hush.

'We made it in June in New York in the middle of a heatwave and we just couldn't get the sound right. Then John Lennon turned up with a harmonium he was about to use in the next-door studio. It was just the sound we wanted and six months later 'Merry Christmas Everybody' was No 1.'

After a few more years Chas got married for a second time and decided to retire from management. He gave Slade back all rights in all their recordings and went home to live in Newcastle. Now, 15 years on, he divides his time between his wife and children and the complexities of finance and planning permission for his multi-million-pound arena. He also admits he's found a new group. It's an old story you hear from everybody who tries to leave the music industry and Chas is no exception.

'I just had to get involved. These guys were such stunning musicians I simply couldn't say no. I think it's my dad's influence. He used to tell me: 'Refuse nowt but blows.' '

(Photograph omitted)

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