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I loved the man, who more than any other made me what I am, showed me a path and set me on it to explore alone, because he knew that was what he should do.

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Andy's Tribute to SANDY ROBERTON

Alexander William ‘Sandy’ Roberton, 1942 - 2022


This afternoon I heard that Sandy Roberton died in hospital in London, yesterday. He was my manager, my publisher, my producer, and above all, my friend over 54 years. 

His is not necessarily a well known name outside of the music industry, but this linked biography, taken from his own business’s website, shows the breadth of his influence, over nearly 60 years of relentless good work.

I met Sandy in 1968, after he had made contact with us in Liverpool, asking if we wanted representation. We were already playing out of town quite a bit (a measure of success in Liverpool), largely because John Peel was championing the band so much, though it wasn’t until early 1969 that we made our debut on John’s radio show, Top Gear. The original 1968 draft contract was to be for an act provisionally called The Andy Roberts Band, but of course we signed as The Liverpool Scene. We had played in London, at the ICA, UFO and Implosion, but we needed a boost into the mainstream, and Sandy was it. He was working under Teddy Holmes at Chappell Publishing just off Bond Street. We made our first album in their studio, with John Peel nominally producing, though Sandy was in the background too.

Sandy got us signed to RCA, and then worked tirelessly to promote us, and build a career for us. It wasn’t easy. We only had a payphone in the hallway of the house most of us roomed in, at 64 Canning Street in Liverpool. But within a year, we had toured with Led Zeppelin, appeared at the Albert Hall, played on the same day as Dylan at the 1969 Isle Of Wight Festival, and then jetted off to our first (and only) tour in the USA. He was that good. There was never a week without a mention for the band in Melody Maker, and NME.

We recorded 2 albums before that fateful tour, and then another after it, which celebrated the experience, but also chronicled the savage decline thereafter, as accrued debt bore down on the band, and killed it.

But Sandy was eternally optimistic. Surrounded by a stable of acts by then, notably the first line-up of Steeleye Span, he steered my band Everyone, until a road crash put paid to that dream, and then carried on handling me as a solo recording artist, while I played with the Bonzo Dog Freaks, and began a session career, notably with Iain Matthews.

I had a fantastic time touring as a support for Steeleye, and then late in 1971 Iain and I decided to form Plainsong. The story is expansively told in Ian Clayton’s new book, In Search Of Plainsong, with plenty of anecdotes from Sandy, who managed us, and produced the seminal In Search Of Amelia Earhart. He was philosophical when it all fell apart in less than a year.

I recorded 2 more solo albums under his oversight – Urban Cowboy and Andy Roberts and the Great Stampede. By 1974 I was in GRIMMS, writing my first stage musical Mind Your Head, and scoring my first TV drama Something Down There Is Crying, which had an electrifying performance from Elkie Brooks.

It was Sandy who suggested I didn’t need him any more, which hurt, but was true, up to a point. He set me up to publish my own material with Island (now Universal), and watched me sail away into a career that he had created for me in those early years.

We stayed in touch all through. He worked with Iain again in the late 70s – The Rockburgh Years as the new Cherry Red collection has it. When I fought to recover the Liverpool Scene’s catalogue from Sony, who were erroneously claiming it, Sandy stood at my shoulder urging me on, and then after 3 years he finally found the missing proof that enabled me to assert our claim and control all our recordings again.

We fell into the habit of having the occasional catch up lunch at the Chelsea Arts Club, or tea at the Old Ship Hotel here in Brighton, when he came down for the Great Escape, and it was always fabulous to see him.
Iain and I heard he was ill, very ill, only in June, and now he has gone after a thankfully short but hugely distressing time. He was characteristically brave till the end, and now has found peace, leaving Dinah, Christian and Niki with a lifelong broken heart, as Rodney Crowell once put it, and it’s true.

I loved the man, who more than any other made me what I am, showed me a path and set me on it to explore alone, because he knew that was what he should do.

(July 2022)