It is with some astonishment that I realise almost a year has elapsed since Tony Edwards died. It’s been a difficult period, and we’re still feeling the repercussions. But as a man who was enormously proud of his part in Deep Purple’s evolution, he’d not forgive me if I didn’t at least attempt to write a few words. Even if he did consistently refuse to let me interview him! I knew Tony for over 30 years, and he was my longest and most consistent business contact in the music industry. And one of the most helpful.
Tony Edwards was born in 1932 to Jewish parents (he had his Bar Mitvzah at the Brighton Pavilion) and grew up in London and Brighton. Their fashion business (Alice-Edwards) was based on the ready-to-wear market; looking at upcoming high-end fashions and making affordable versions for the mass retail market.
Tony accepted that he would probably end up working in the business but fancied branching out if possible, though early ambitions to act on stage were never fulfilled. He spent the sixties zooming round London in a sport car (a Jensen – we’re jealous already!), enjoying the ambience of the era, while his fortunate position enabled him to cast around for projects and the story of how connections made when trying to push the career of Ayshea Brough led step by step to the formation of Deep Purple are well documented. Chris Curtis was full of ideas and Tony was able to indulge some of them. “I financed the concept. All my personal shareholdings in the family business were there as collateral for financing equipment, subsistence, rents. I don’t think I was familiar with the sort of music they were creating. I was rather aghast, but I believed in artistic integrity and felt they knew better than I did.”
It was Tony’s backing which enabled Lord and Blackmore to team up with Nick Simper and hole up in Deeves Hall, and that paid for the masses of Marshall kit which so impressed visitors. It is for this reason alone that we can say that without Tony’s involvement, the band would never have got that far. And being then years or so older than the band, he had that little bit more experience of handling difficult situations, as Ian Paice remembered. “Back in the manic early days of Deep Purple, Tony was the quiet voice of reason, when all around him would be getting excited or angry or disheartened with the daily chaos of the music industry.”
Tony must have felt his investment was ready to pay off when Tetragrammaton signed the band and paid them an advance against earnings, something Edwards and Coletta (who Tony brought on board at an early stage for his marketing and advertising experience) hadn’t expected, but the collapse of the label a year later must have seemed a bitter blow.
HEC kept the project going through another lean period, and the launch of Mk 2 with the Concerto was another of Tony’s spur of the moment moves following a conversation with Jon.
Of course during 1972 and beyond, Deep Purple began to generate an income which made the band very wealthy, and brought rewards for the managers too. Yet when the group disbanded, Tony though disappointed wasn’t idle for long, and in 1977 set up Safari Records with John Craig, who had helped to run Oyster Records out of the original Purple management office in Newman Street. I can remember visiting this legendary location as a teenager at the tail-end of the glory days. A narrow tall Georgian town house (with a separate business on the ground floor), the Purple office boasted a massive circular purple marble boardroom table which couldn’t but fail to impress.
Edwards and Coletta agreed to leave the building when the band split, though Coletta later changed his mind and stayed on, an act which Tony never really forgot. But in his own new basement office, Safari were quickly joined by Connoisseur and First Night Records, and all proved successful in their own way. First Night hit a winning formula of recording West End musicals (Tony did a deal on Les Miserables before it even reached the West End, and the live recording sold millions); Connoisseur issued some of the first budget reissues and struck gold with a massive selling Barry White collection, while Safari signed Toyah, one of the biggest post-punk acts of the time (and we mustn’t forgot the two-fingers of Wayne County and the Electric Chairs, whose classic If You Don’t Want To Fuck Me EP topped the indie charts!). The label also signed The Boys whose guitarist Matt Dangerfield told The Independant how he remembered Tony as “a fantastic old-school music biz character of a kind you don’t come across any more. I will always remember him turning up at the Marquee for a Boys gig at the height of punk. He was wearing a tweed cape and Deerstalker hat à la Sherlock Holmes. To say he stood out a bit would be an understatement.” Tales of how Safari covered the press on one new single by hiring a trained dog to deliver review copies to secretaries desks, or shipping copies of a live German recording out to Germany so they would arrive back in London with a German postmark (only to find customs impounding them, suspicious of what was going on), highlight a different age of record industry indulgence – and fun.
My own involvement at the outer edges of Tony’s empire (after first putting together what became the Powerhouse album) came with suggestions that Connoisseur reissue some of the Deep Purple back-catalogue and various archive recordings we’d unearthed. He invited us out to lunch, travelling in his beautiful old Bentley Silver Cloud, and took the ideas on board. I met Mark Stratford at the Connoisseur office, and we later set up our own reissue label, RPM. Tony agreed to license us a few Deep Purple tapes, and a few years on when RPM was taken over by Mark, Tony readily agreed to my setting up a new version of Purple Records. Though with hindsight I might have been a little too quick to agree to pay a small over-ride just to use the name!
Over the following ten years, Tony enabled me to indulge my interests in Deep Purple, writing and sleeve design. I discovered years ago I was never going to be rich, but to me getting by and enjoying the work was always more important. Although we always had to refer back to Tony for approval, and take on board any problems he felt releases might raise, the system worked well and the freedom he allowed us led to some great archive reissues and was the envy of many other band’s followers.
I always remember being impressed when, following our hard work on getting the BBC In Concerts out in the early 80s, Tony mailed up a test pressing and a compliment slip with a nice congratulatory comment on (which I still have). He’d been up early in the morning listening to the music and confessed he’d been bowled over by the album (I wish I could have shared his enthusiasm for West End musicals!). And I think that’s why we got on most of the time, as he understood why fans would want this sort of material when many others hadn’t a clue. He also understood that it kept things ticking over and earned money.
In recent years, with Tony suffering a number of health problems, the release flow certainly tailed off. He was understandably reluctant to cause more problems when he had enough of his own to cope with, and I certainly didn’t feel like pushing ideas which might end up causing him trouble. Tony had been suffering from cancer for some time, though the treatment proved largely successful. However the side-effects weren’t great and affected both his voice and his mobility.
At one of our last meetings together I showed him the book publishing plans we were working on and he immediately began getting enthusiastic all over again and even emailed to let me know if we were looking for investment, then to think of him. It was that keen eye for new projects which really marked him out to me and many others.
Email of course enabled us to keep in touch much more in recent years and he certainly took to new technology readily; one sad task following his death was to archive much of our recent correspondence which I was shocked to discover amounted to over a thousand emails. Some about projects, but many just gossip and chit chat, as he was always keen to hear the latest nonsense from any errant band members (needless to say these emails will be locked away for the statutory 50 years). Indeed we were scheduled to meet up the November he died, and I found instead of a meeting, I had to prepare for a funeral.
Though by nature I’m a fairly solitary person, Tony was always at the end of a phone or email network, and though I probably didn’t make as much use of this contact as I should over the years, for much of the time it was comfort enough.
I’ve no idea how the future of the archive scene will pan out, but I can’t help feeling with Tony’s passing, for me at least, part of the reason for doing it all has slipped away.
When I heard he was very ill earlier this year I opened dialogue with him via email (as he couldn´t speak comfortably) for the first time in many, many years, and it was a mutual treat for both of us. So much water under the bridge, but, I can say it was a heartful reconnect. There were three management figures involved at the very beginning when it was HEC Enterprises. I never met the ´H´ & only worked with Tony Edwards & John Coletta, the E & C. Of course, my relationship continued with Mr Coletta into the early, formative years of Whitesnake, as I was led to believe at that time, incorrectly as we discovered later, that it was a contractual necessity. Who knows how things would have turned out had TE been directly involved… Once again, it was wonderful to re-meet after so long & very sad it was so short-lived …
Buddy Bohn / aka Moro (Purple label arist)
Tony was good company and often took me around London in his nifty Jensen sport sedan while we spoke of many things. One evening he dropped in and told me I needed to get out more, that I needed to come with him to see Tony Ashton sing at Kings College. So off we went.
Jerry Lordan and I had run into Ashton days earlier at a pub where we’d talked about Mozart. Ashton sang to a casual audience who sat on the floor. He worked up quite a sweat. As he walked off after his final frenzied encore, I patted him on the back.
“Great job, you killed ’em” I said.
He smiled and nodded, and my hand felt like it had been immersed into a bucket of hot dirty dish water. His shirt was so thoroughly soaked, it was as though he’d been standing in pouring rain for hours. Awesome!
Edwards got a kick out of that.
He had me bring my guitar and perform an afternoon mini concert for a small group of Purple People at the Edwards digs. Everyone listened attentively, including the Edwards’ five Irish setters.
During the middle of ‘Samuel’, I heard a sob from Edwards and glanced over at him. This tough, cigar-smoking business tycoon had a soft spot. Something about that song got to him, and his tears freely flowed.
I sent him a CDR the other week, I included a solo version of Samuel, performed exactly the way I did it for his party that afternoon (for he hated the Jimmie Horowitz arrangement on A Drop In The Ocean.
A few days ago – fittingly, on Remembrance Day – I lost a friend. He was my manager from 1968 to 1976, my daughter Sara’s Godfather and the man who was instrumental in helping me to realise, in 1969, the dream which defined my musical life – that of a Concerto for Group and Orchestra.
Tony Edwards was a good man and a man also of deep-seated enthusiasms. He had a passion for, and a great interest in, Deep Purple and its various member’s careers, as well as a genuine enjoyment of the band’s music.
He was the reason that Richie and I were able to get together at the end of 1967 and the sole reason too for our being able to form the band that changed our lives. Without him and this early financial and emotional support, there would have been no Deep Purple.
He was a rock and a firm foundation on which we could build our musical house. It still stands, and it stands as a monument to him.
Thank you Tony.
Without Tony Edwards there would be no Deep Purple. Tony was the man behind the scenes for Deep Purple. He was instrumental to the existence and sustenance of the band and its music from its inception to present day. Tony’s insight and intuitiveness were unparalleled in the music business. He will be thought of often- and missed greatly. Roger Glover
Tony was the driving force of Deep Purple’s management in the early days. My first impressions of him when I joined the band in July 1969 – a man of ideas, an intellect, a man of taste, a man of action. I remember him rubbing his hands together with enthusiasm and saying, “Now what can we achieve today?” He was the kind of man who could think of something and then turn it into reality with his drive and passion. It was his instinct to book the Albert Hall in order to stage Jon’s Concerto, an event that was to propel the band in more ways than one into the future. He also dreamed up the cover image of In Rock, the album that changed everything for us. I am always grateful for his powerful contribution at the start of our long journey.
Though of Jewish parents, Tony himself wasn’t weighed down with religious leanings. So the funeral service was a balance, befitting the sober surroundings of a chapel while at the same time highlighting aspects of Tony’s life and work through the recollections of friends and family. Music which he had helped bring to the market was played, and the service closed with a loop of You Keep On Moving which worked so well. The place was packed, with Jon Lord representing the band, and afterwards there was a reception at the Ritz, which is where Tony had married his second wife Manuela.
In early 2011 a second memorial service was held in Italy, a place Tony lived for much of the year having moved there on doctors orders (though he was often back in London at his flat).
The photograph at the top of the page was taken by Misao Sawa, and shows myself, Tony and Masaki Tanaka in Tony’s London office back in 2005. I’m the one eyeing up the gold records! Masaki organised many of the Japanese editions of the Purple archive material for Tony.
Maurice Anthony Edwards: born London 30 June 1932; married 1966 Judy Moyens (two daughters, one son; marriage dissolved 1977); 1984 Manuela King (one stepson); died London 11 November 2010.