Keith Goodwin

Early professional music publicist
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Keith Goodwin, music publicist: born London 22 July 1935; married 1958 Geraldine Atkins (marriage dissolved), 1964 Pat Sanders (one son, one daughter); died Mellieha, Malta 25 January 2004.

Keith Goodwin was one of the first professional music publicists in the UK. He was also a music reviewer with a diverse, even oddball, taste. As a publicist, he was open to new talents and styles. Yet, he was primarily a big-band and jazz fan. He avidly followed and would eventually do publicity work for the three Bs of British big-band music - Chris Barber, Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball.

During the mid-1950s, when rock and roll became all the rage, the New Musical Express, although still in its infancy, was a hugely popular weekly music paper. Goodwin, then in his twenties, landed himself a job as a reviewer for the NME, but in the early 1960s decided to take up music publicity.

He started off with the Springfields, then a young folk band, which featured the singer Dusty Springfield. Goodwin had great faith in the band and their young singer, whom he once described as possessing "the finest female English voice in pop". When he married his second wife, Pat, in March 1964, Tom Springfield was their best man.

Goodwin also managed the folk talent David Swarbrick. He described Swarbrick as "a captivating violinist" and they kept up a strong friendship, with Goodwin attending Swarbrick's appearances at Cropredy Festival. Another early 1960s act that reaped considerable benefits from Goodwin's publicity was Temperance 7. He moved on to manage PJ Proby, an American artiste who was never really big in his homeland but proved to be very influential in the UK.

During the 1960s Goodwin faced healthy competition from Keith Altham and Max Clifford, as well as many other publicity entrepreneurs who were starting out - and folding - ten a penny. He kept his head above water thanks to hard work and perseverance. For more than 15 years he toiled first in offices in Wardour Street, then Oxford Street and then Manette Street.

His publicity work became more diversified with the onset of psychedelia and its aftermath with Camel, Donovan, Black Sabbath and Argent ranking among his most prestigious clients. Cat Stevens, whose publicity was also handled by Goodwin, recalls one incident back in 1966, when he felt confounded searching for a title for a tune he had just written. As he and Goodwin wracked their brains in the Wardour Street office, Stevens looked out of the window and glimpsed a hardware store sign that stated "Matthew and Son". It helped inspire the title and the lyrics of what became one of Stevens's biggest hits.

With Yes, Goodwin's publicity grew bigger and bolder. He toured incessantly with the band after promoting their early 1970s albums Yessongs, Close to the Edge, Fragile and Tales from Topographic Oceans. In 1972 he was featured on the cover of Argent's most successful album Altogether Now, which featured their hit "Hold Your Head Up".

Goodwin had a penchant for producing up-and-coming and obscure acts, with one French band, Magma, featured high on his agenda. Goodwin capitalised on their eerie blend of pomp rock and their thematic albums, which were sung in a strange self-styled language known as Kobaian. His relentless publicity brought the band moderate success with their 1973 album Mekanik Destructiw Komandoh.

Other acts that Goodwin promoted included the Irish rock band Horslips and their eventual successors Host, as well as If and Frupp. Long after its mass appeal had faded, Goodwin believed that symphonic and pomp rock would regain the success it had enjoyed in the early 1970s and he took on a wave of new talents that drew heavily on this genre and which included bands such as Pallas, Twelfth Night, Pendragon and Marillion. Marillion proved Goodwin partially right, but this was the only band from the fold who enjoyed considerable success.

Fish, their former lead singer and now a solo artiste, often stated that it was Goodwin who charted the band's to stardom:

Not only did he fervently push our cause, but he would often use his vast experience to help us broaden our perspectives. And, when we screwed up things, he would immediately tell us that we had done so.

Goodwin's publicity strategy mainly rested on live appearances and, as a rule of thumb, one of the first things that he would do for clients would be to send them on live gigs, particularly across Europe.

The stresses posed by the highly competitive nature of music publicity took their toll on Goodwin. By the mid-1980s, he was already suffering from ill-health and finally, in 1988, he retired and settled in Malta. The move also helped him dedicate more time to his family. He resumed his work as a music critic, with two local publications, mainly treating classical music, having become disillusioned with the countless manufactured pop-music acts.

Eric Montfort

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