Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In the music business, "suits" often have ears

People who talk about "the suits" in the music business (or any other business come to that) usually don't know what they're talking about. I met up with Rob Dickins yesterday. I suppose many people would call Rob a suit. He used to be Chairman of Warner Music UK, which is the kind of job people lazily associate with boardroom politics and a complete disengagement from the products which the business deals in.

There's no point trying to rattle your rock and roll medals in Rob's direction because he's got more and bigger ones than you have. He went to see Jimi Hendrix when he was sixteen, was booking the Faces as Social Sec at Loughborough University when he was twenty, and was plugging Neil Young's "Heart Of Gold" to Radio One when he was twenty-two.

We were talking about 1971 and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On". I pointed out that Gaye took it to the West Coast and secretly remixed it to bring the congas up in the mix and to make it sound more ethereal. Rob pointed out that the really extraordinary thing about "What's Going On" is the sound of the triangle.

I've just been playing it and he's right. Not bad for a suit.


  1. It's clear on vinyl and CD but can you hear that triangle so clearly on an MP3 file?! :-)

  2. As soon as I saw the headline, I thought, 'that sounds like Rob Dickins'. To be fair, he's not the first and he won't be the last...

  3. Isn't even the whole idea of categorising people as 'Suits' quite elitist and judgemental? It's never a good way of judging anything abut anybody in my experience; unless you enjoy the almost permanent sensation of being proved wrong.

  4. But it's still okay in magazine flanel panels, is it, David?

  5. Full marks and gold stars to Rob Dickins (seriously) and all those several just like him.
    But come on, David, wotchoo-onabartnar? A man of the word* like you? Isn’t this a tad judgemental? (Sorry Charlie, but please note, I’m smiling as I scribble this).

    Okay you did qualify your comments with “usually don’t know what they’re talking about” but really.
    For me “Suits” in this context is a generic term, that sometimes fits and sometimes doesn’t. Hmm, I think there’s the germ of a pun in there somewhere.

    I’ve met a few suits who do know their business, I used to be one of them (he says modestly) but most of the suits I encountered when I was wearing my suit couldn’t manage a decent knot in their tie, never mind talk coherently about anything, let alone the business they were immersed in. That’s usually because they’d been drafted in from Planet Elsewhere.
    (Tie.........that’s how long a ago it was.)
    This was not the music business I hasten to add. I know bugger all about that, beyond a failed audition at EMI back in the mist and prices and short changing music fans.

    “Management,” another generic term interchangeable with “Suit,” and usually uttered with the same sneer, is how me and my lot were referred to. Which to some extent was true. Though anybody who found themselves even half a step off the shop/factory/whatever floor was “Management”.

    Exceptions there are, but too many of the suits we encounter in everyday matters (usually via third party employees) know far less than the people they’re patronising. I should, of course, qualify this and say “In my experience”. Which isn’t vast and maybe I should get out more.

    And, back where we came in, isn’t Rob Dickins an exception? Perhaps the absolute epitome of Exception?
    Incidentally, wasn’t it Warners (and Harvest) that dear old Morrissey was chomping about recently?

    *I meant to to type “man of the world” but somehow I knocked the “L” out of it. It still works even with a capital “W”.


    Really recommend Steve Knobber - appetite for self destruction
    Read with an open mouth and new understanding of what the suits did for the music industry