ROCK / Summers' seasons: In an occasional series on the men who manage, Simon Napier-Bell talks to Jazz Summers, with whom he once launched Wham]

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The Independent Online
I hadn't seen Jazz since we stopped managing Wham] together. Then he was a hot-tempered soul, but now, sitting in his office at Big Life Records, he seemed benign and calm. Could this really be the same person who once considered slinging the VAT lady down three flights of stairs?

Jazz's idea of negotiation was always to shout loudest and first. Mine was to compromise. Sometimes his methods embarrassed me; sometimes mine embarrassed him. But the end result was a great partnership, and sometimes I quite approved of his quick temper. On one occasion someone second-rate in A&R told Jazz: 'The music business is going to rack and ruin. It's being taken over by blacks and gays.' Jazz snapped back: 'My girlfriend's black and my partner's gay.' Then he grabbed the offending person round the neck and lifted him towards the open window.

Before Jazz became a manager he was in the Army. When he left, he became an orderly in a mental hospital. In the Army he was stationed in Malaysia where he formed a pop group and played drums. Weekends, the group flew round Asia playing gigs. Saigon paid best and most weekends the group entered the war zone to earn a few hundred pounds, then jetted back to be in barracks by Monday morning.

While Jazz was working in the hospital, he took on Richard Digance, then unknown. And then he went full time with the group that gave him his first hit, Blue Zoo. After that he met me and we signed Wham]

Jazz was a good partner. He liked administration and powerhouse persuasion. I liked creative thinking and roundabout manipulation. This combination provided the framework for Wham]'s success. After Wham], Jazz got together with Yazz. For him it was both business and personal. For me the two seemed incompatible, so I left him to it. But by pulling it off, Jazz secured himself a permanent position in the league of top managers. Getting a second big act is always the real test, and since then he's done it yet again with Lisa Stansfield. He's also built up his own highly successful record company.

Now, in his office at Big Life, Jazz is all smiles. 'I've changed, haven't I? You see . . .' He points at his face. Eight years ago it was covered with erupting red blotches and he was always trying a new cure; drugs,

homeopathy, macrobiotic food. I thought his bad skin was a sign of inner turmoil.

'You were absolutely right,' he says. 'And at last I've sorted it out. Recently I met someone who helped me delve back into my childhood. Once I'd done that, bingo] My skin started to clear up.' 'And are you nicer now?' I ask. 'Better tempered and less aggressive. Ask people who deal with me.' 'I already have,' I say. 'They say there was a furious row at Phonogram the other week. They say you're as bad-tempered as ever.'

'Bastards]' He looks angry, then smiles. 'But I'm never nasty with people who are good at their jobs.'

I ask him if there's a conflict in being both a manager and a record- company boss.

'Management's more serious. You're in a relationship with someone who trusts you to look after their best interests. Running a record company is more like playing a game; taking on the industry and doing things your own way. Last week I had a sales conference for Big Life and invited all the reps - the people who actually go round record shops. I asked each one of them for advice about current trends in retail shops. They said no one at a record company had ever asked them something like that before.

'You see how much better I am. You thought you were going to get me going, but you can't. I've changed.'

I look doubtful. 'If you've got rid of all your emotional problems, what's left to get you going?'

Suddenly Jazz explodes and thumps the table angrily. 'It's those swine at the record-companies, of course. I hate them]' A few of the old red blotches are coming back. I feel relieved. The record industry needs Jazz Summers just the way he's always been; fiery and aggressive.

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