Aspenbeat - Chris Wright

Feb 16, 2014

Chris Wright is a part time Aspenite and a leading figure in the music industry for more than five decades.  He's just written his autobiography, One Way Or Another: My Life In Music, Sport and Entertainment.  It's the personal story of arguably one of the most successful media and music entrepreneurs in entertainment and music business history.  

Chris Wright
Chris Wright "One Way Or Another: My Life In Music, Sport and Entertainment"

Chris Wright signed bands like Jethro Tull and Ten Years After, who were at the forefront of the British rock invasion of America that took place in the late sixties and early seventies, and then went on to embrace punk with Blondie and Billy Idol and many more.

In a life story that reads like a Who's Who of the rock business, Wright's book charts his humble beginnings as social secretary at Manchester University through to the formation of Chrysalis, one of Britain's most influential and successful record and entertainment groups.

Chris stopped by the studio last week to chat with Aspenbeat host Andrea Young.
 

Aspenbeat "Love Hurts" radio show broadcast on 2/15/14, with 7 min interview of Chris Wright at 00:34 on Aspenbeat website

Full interview with Chris Wright (22 min) on SoundCloud

Chris Wright is appearing in Aspen this week at a book signing.  More information is available at Explore Booksellers.

TRANSCRIPT (7 min)

AY: Your book is a chronicle of superstars really that you developed or worked with over the years.  The index reads like a who’s who of the rock and roll industry.

CW:  Well, I think it is a who’s who of the rock and roll industry, and a lot of them are people I worked with in one form or another.  But I thought when I wrote the book that not everybody would want to read a book just about me, or even just about me and Chrysalis, but they might want to read a book that talked about a lot of the different trends in music and how things developed, and all of that kind of thing.  So I thought I would make it more interesting by making it not just a history of Chris Wright or a history of Chrysalis, but a history of the music industry and the music scene over the last 50 years, and that’s what I’ve attempted to do.

AY:  Are you still involved in music?

CW: Yeah, I’m always involved in music, but I’m not as hands on as I used to be.  I’m more in a sort of advisory and consultancy capacity.  I’d love to get my hands dirty again but

AY: And what does that mean ‘getting your hands dirty’

CW:  Well you know it would be great to walk into a club somewhere and see a group that you thought were fantastic and go back right to where I was in 1967 and really set my stall out and try to develop someone and make them into a superstar again.  That’s the most exciting thing you can do, to do that, and maybe at my age its difficult to do but I’ve still got the inclination if the opportunity arose.

AY: And you did that with many groups over the years.  Could you just name a couple on the Chrysalis roster.

CW: Well, going back to, starting with Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Bloodwyn Pig, Procol Harum, Leo Sayer, Blondie, Huey Lewis & The News, Pat Benatar, Billy Idol, Spandau Ballet, Ultravox, Sinead O’Conner, I’m sure I’m missing a few, but that’s sort of for starters. 

AY: So you got in because of the love of music and because you needed a job while you were at university---

CW: No, it wasn’t the job, I was the student that did it, it was a part time thing that I did whilst I was still studying for my finals.

AY:  And yet you managed to build a media empire

CW:  Yes, I know, two actually, because we built the record company and then we built another media empire in the 90’s, staying with music and creating a new record label as well, but also we became a very large tv production company and one of the top three radio station operators in the U.K. as well, all from a standing start, so arguably two different times.

AY: So do you think artists have the same chance today or a better chance or a worse change of being developed and getting out there and being superstars like Jethro Tull or Blondie.

CW: Back in those days the groups only got off the ground because of the live performances. Jethro Tull or Ten Years After or someone like that would get signed to a record label because they could go on stage in front of maybe three or four hundred people as a support group for someone else, and they could make those three or four hundred people think, wow, this group is great, they are fantastic.  And the groups developed from that. 

Well, the live scene on a worldwide basis isn’t anywhere near like it was in those days, and it costs a lot to tour these days compared to what it used to.  So the groups don’t get to tour and play in front of people as much as they used to, unless they’ve got someone supporting them financially to be able to do that.  Which means they really have to get a record deal before they can even get on the first rung of the ladder.  And its difficult for people.  Of course, it is just as easy in a way, but its not as easy in a way as well.  You know, if there was a new Bob Dylan out there today, he may struggle, because he’s doing something different, he was bucking the trend, he was plugging in an electric guitar at the Newport Jazz Festival when people thought that was the worst thing you could do.  He would have probably struggled today, those kind of artists. 

It’s easier today for the more pop artists, because you’re living in a world where the visual elements of what you can create with a video clip and that kind of thing can get you across to millions or hundreds of millions of people easily.  So, if you can be photogenic and [have] a bit of pizazz to go with it as well…. 

So the real music is the tougher side.  But then you can take someone like Adele, who is not the most glamorous looking person in the world, but she has a certain charisma, she has a fantastic voice, and all she needs to do is stand up and sing.  And just as much as in the same way that would have applied in the same way to a Joan Baez or a Janis Joplin, Adele can still do it and sell a load of albums more than they ever sold, so it’s still possible if you’ve got a really unique talent.

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