SHOCK AND AMAZE ON EVERY PAGE!
This was the brief, during the Eighties. We were the shady stars of the most outrageous rag this country had ever known. In 1981, Rupert Murdoch appointed Kelvin MacKenzie as the brash new editor of Britain's biggest-selling daily, the Sensational Soaraway Sun. MacKenzie hired me. He was the first newspaper editor to perceive that rock and pop stars were looting the limelight hitherto dominated by dull old Hollywood movie broads, and I was his brainwave: a fresh-meat girl-about-town columnist to augment the breathtaking celebrity gossip dished daily by jumpin' John Blake on his crackajack spread, 'Bizarre'.
Too many adjectives for you? Never enough on the Currant Bun.
CHEEKY TELLY GIRL!
A front-page headline proclaimed it, so it must be true. I got there via an internship (in those days known as 'work experience') at Capital Radio, a stint writing sleevenotes in the art department at Chrysalis Records, a regular gossip slot on Tommy Vance's show for BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service), and a Warholian stab at TV stardom as co-presenter, with DJs Gary Crowley and Nicky Horne, of rock'n'pop TV series 'Ear Say' for the new Channel 4. I soon found myself further down the Street, poached by the Daily Mail to interview rock stars. I spent the next decade on the road with the biggest artists in history, from Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, The Who and Elton John to David Bowie, Queen, Blondie and The Rolling Stones.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND
On the road, anything went. Old-school rock hacks knew about toeing the line and keeping their secrets. We got everything we wanted in return. Unrestrained by the managers, promoters, agents, PRs, record company reps and every other kind of hanger-on hell-bent on having their slice nowadays, journalists and musicians could and did forge close friendships. I was despatched to the New York bureau, where I shared rooms, briefly, with La Toya Jackson. Having dined with them both together, I was one of only a handful of correspondents able to contradict showbiz rumours that Michael and La Toya Jackson were the same person. Relocating to Los Angeles for the Mail on Sunday, I dossed chez Raquel Welch (she was 'Rocky, I was 'Baby'), and interviewed them all, in every imaginable circumstance: Grace Jones on a massage table, U2 in a pool, Cyndi Lauper on a plane to Vegas, Stevie Nicks inside the Betty Ford rehab clinic. Graduating, after the birth of my first child, to the paper's award-winning colour supplement YOU Magazine - in those days more world features than lipstick and fashion - I broke my share of cover-stories, hitting the road with Cher in a tour bus that also contained George Best's ex-wife Angie, the singer's personal trainer; getting nicked for speeding with Rod Stewart; breaking rules in the British Embassy in Budapest at a reception for Freddie Mercury and Queen; painting Amsterdam pink with the second-hand car dealer who taught Liz Taylor to like sex. It's what he said.
PIERS MORGAN TO THE RESCUE...
Piers airlifted me to the News of the World in the mid-Nineties. I wrote 'The Lesley-Ann Jones Big Interview' for him until he quit for the Daily Mirror. By then, Fleet Street was a memory, technology had taken hold, and the unions were buried. Our beloved industry was dissipated and in the early stages of decline.
I paused to marry and have another child, then wrote a biography of supermodel Naomi Campbell. I then began my first biography of Freddie Mercury, published to coincide with the birth of my second child. Eighteen months later, I had baby number three.
ONE NIGHT'S A LONG TIME IN ROCK'N'ROLL
A year or two out of newspapers was a life sentence. I was in love with the job, and took little luring back in 2007, post-divorce, skin-cancer surgery and all the usual old heartache, to a world so changed that I barely recognised it. I penned freelance features for the Mail, and wrote columns, comment, reviews and interviews for the Sunday Express. My editor there was Martin Townsend, one of the merry band of music-loving mischief-makers with whom I'd once hurtled about the globe. What goes around. A commission to update and extend my biography of Freddie Mercury, and another to chronicle the lives and times of
T. Rex frontman Marc Bolan, drew me into publishing full-time..
TALES I COULD TELL
But how to park such a back-story and move on? I was never allowed to. It occurred to me that I was often invited to dinner parties and on long weekends in country piles by Haves and Have-Yachts because I was a fount of filthy gossip and farcical yarns. I'd meet people at functions both domestic and foreign who'd perhaps seen me on 'E! Entertainment' in America or equivalent, and who'd say, 'You should write a book!' 'I do!' I'd reply. 'Look, here's where you buy them!'
'Not that kind of book!' they'd retort. 'A book about you!' 'Nobody would believe it,' I'd laugh them off. Eventually, it dawned.
I've had a life. Like my father Ken Jones, the former 'Voice of Sport' at the Sunday Mirror, sports columnist at The Independent, and a fixture on BBC Grandstand, I have ink in my veins. I've worked on-staff at five UK national newspapers and have freelanced for many more, here, in the US and as far afield as Japan and Australia, over a quarter of a century. I was at Live Aid. I've covered the Cannes Film Festival, the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Montreux Rock Festival and the San Remo Music Festival. I've toured with bands, toughed the talk circuit with Sir Ian Botham, and in 2009 accompanied the Royal Ballet on their historic visit to Cuba – the first by a foreign ballet company for forty years. I have wenched and wassailed with superstars across five continents, worked in countless countries, got away with it more than most would consider fair. I've lived the double life, and have survived. I've known my share of glory and ignominy, been party to the triumphs and despair of not only my cherished pals but also innumerable household names. The magic, dirt and marvelousness of the music industry and Fleet Street are long gone. But the memories live on.