I’m back in the suitcase, but this time I'm not talking just about my dad's experiences, but also about someone who was very close to him. His brother, Philip Hall.
Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to meet Philip as he passed away before I was born. Gone too soon, but never forgotten.
When I first discovered the suitcase I rifled through it and took things out that I thought deserved to be somewhere a little less dusty and hidden away. So on my desk in my room lies an old brown 80’s self-adhesive photo album. Each page is filled with sun-damaged newspaper cuttings of my Uncle’s NME, Record Mirror, Sounds, and Melody Maker music reviews and interviews that he wrote from the late 70s to the early 80s. I have sat and read every single cutting and have imagined myself in his position so many times... I’m packed into the Marquee club, the Buzzcocks are up on stage Pete Shelley’s slightly out-of-tune voice screams ‘What do I get?’ down the microphone. Or it’s 1978 and I’m at the Roundhouse watching Siouxsie and the Banshees. The first line of that gig review my uncle wrote read “Anyone who said punk is dead would have felt rather embarrassed on Sunday night”. He was 19 in 1978, watching an iconic punk band and writing them a review for a music magazine, it couldn’t get better than that in my opinion.
My dad is the youngest of 3 brothers, Martin being the middle child and Philip being the eldest. They lived in suburbia just 13 miles outside of London. All three of them had a huge love for music. So getting the train into London to go see gigs was a common occurrence especially for Philip. However, his love of writing actually started at school age, when he started to write for the school newspaper. Then at 16, he was going to gigs every week, writing music reviews and sending them off to various music magazines over and over in the hope that his work would get noticed and published. And it did!
By the early 80’s he was working at EMI in the PR department handling new music releases and dealing with all the press. After his time there he went to work at Stiff Records, where he became the head of press. During this period Stiff was a major player in the new wave/ post-punk scene and had an amazing roster of bands that are some of my absolute favourites, for example, The Damned, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, The Pogues, Lene Lovich, and Madness!
In 1985 whilst at Stiff, Philip won the Music Week PR Award for his handling of The Pogues press campaign and when Stiff Records folded a year later in 1986, Philip launched his own independent PR company called ‘Hall or nothing’. He represented The Pogues and soon became noticed for his way of working and started representing high-profile bands such as James, The La’s, The Stone Roses, Radiohead, The Waterboys, Paul Weller, and Beautiful South.
I love the Stone Roses, to me, they are THE band of the 90s. A few years ago I was in a book shop and picked up a book called ‘set in stone’. It was full of Ian Tilton’s photographs that he had taken of the Roses. As I was flicking through a familiar face popped out at me. It was a picture from the 1990 Spike Island press conference.
The caption read “Mani, Ian, Reni, John and the Stone Roses’ press agent/publicist Philip Hall. Rarely fazed by anyone, Philip Hall looks amused by Ian Brown’s confident counter-attack to the press’ interrogations.”
The day after the press conference My dad and Martin joined Philip in attending the infamous Spike island gig on the powerplant in Cheshire. My dad accounts that on the day there were huge queues of people standing on bridges over luminous green water waiting to get in all dressed in bucket hats, lemon t-shirts, and baggy jeans. At one point whilst waiting for the Roses to come on stage a police helicopter flew over the crowd of 30,000 people, everyone started dancing to the sound of the rotor blades. Once the band were playing apparently there was this universal feeling that this was a moment in time that may not ever be repeated.
Shortly after Spike Island in 1990, Philip received a letter out of the blue one day. It was from a band in South Wales expressing their interest and sharing their dreams of making it big, Philip decided to drive to South Wales to meet them. When he got there he watched them play and decided there and then that he would manage them and therefore set up Hall or Nothing Management. That band was the Manic Street Preachers, they came down from Wales not long after that to live with Philip and his wife Terri in their flat in London which later became the subject of the Manic's song 'Askew Road'.
The Manics got signed to Heavenly Records and released their first single ‘Motown Junk’, before being signed to Columbia, Sony and releasing their first album Generation Terrorists in 1992.
Sadly Philip passed away in 1993 but Hall or Nothing kept going with the help of my Dad and Martin, The Manics are still represented by Hall or Nothing to this day. In 2004 NME created a new award called ‘The Philip Hall Radar Award’ in dedication to his work. After Philips passing a lot of friends/ musicians and people that knew him spoke out as a tribute:
Published in the NME 18th Dec 1993: “One of the NME's favourite memories of Philip is at The Stone Roses' legendary Spike Island gig. While lesser characters would have crumbled under the pressure, he was laughing and enjoying himself, completely unfazed in the midst of so much seeming chaos - at ease, yet inspiring confidence in his ability to remain in control.”
Manic Street Preachers: "Philip was the first person who understood us. He was more than a manager and input into the band was invaluable. Without his help, motivation and generosity, it is doubtful whether we, as a band, would have carried on."
Pogues guitarist Phil Chevron: "Apart from losing a press officer we have lost a gentle soul, of which there are very few in this business. Philip was admired and respected throughout the music world."
Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood: "His quiet intelligence made the greatest impression on us: he gave us the room to learn from our own mistakes."
It’s such a shame I never got to meet my uncle, he has been the inspiration behind me starting a music blog, making zines, and my love of interviewing bands. I wish he could see how much of an impact he has made on me and many people that loved him.