ANDY ROSS aged 65
JUST A BLUR
Born in Upper Norwood, South London, his parents were Ian Ross, a draughtsman in the oil industry and Marlene Bates, a secretary at the London Management entertainment company.
After getting a scholarship to Dulwich College where he completed his schooling, Andy went to study social and economic history at Leicester University. There he formed a punk band called the Disco Zombies, who played the Leicester pub and club scene. He was on guitar and vocals.
Once graduated he got a job in a record shop in Forest Hill, London, moving the Disco Zombies to the capital. Quickly he took over managing the bookies which was next door to the record shop (doing both jobs simultaneously).
But then it was a dull two-year spell working at the Inland Revenue, to pay for a mortgage.
He loved music and was quite a talented musician, with an ear for a tune and an ability to mimic other musicians’ styles. He wrote his own songs – but was not great at lyrics, with them often proving wordy and awkward.
Unable to get a record contract, Andy launched his own ‘indie’ label, South Circular Records. The first single released (in 1978) was ‘Drums Over London’, by the Disco Zombies.
He then moved into music journalism and started writing for ‘Sounds’ magazine, under the pseudonym Andy Hurt. He was feted as an important, relevant writer who loved the use of puns, but could be sarcastic, ironic and critical if necessary. He claimed to have invented the term ‘shoegazing’, for bands who looked down at their feet instead of at the audience.
He met and formed a good friendship with Dave Balfe of the band ‘Teardrop Explodes’. The two of them joined together to create ‘Food Records’, which went on to become one of the biggest Indie labels. Dave had an understanding of how the music industry worked whilst Andy had the ability to find bands that had potential and ability (He was still writing for Sounds).
He believed demo tapes told you nothing about a prospective band – you needed to see them live. “It’s essential for any artist to play in front of a live audience for interaction.”
They did a deal with EMI records, who became partners, which enabled Food Records to expand, and they discovered bands like Jesus Jones, Idlewild, Shampoo, Dubstar and Diesel Park West.
Around this time, he met Helen Potter, who became his partner. They eventually married in 2004.
In March 1990, he went to the Powerhaus in Islington to scout a band called ‘Seymour’. He was very impressed with them and followed them to another gig at the ‘Bull and Gate’ in Kentish Town and offered to sign them on the condition they changed their name. He suggested ‘Blur’ as an alternative…and the rest is history.
When they signed he gave them a small advance and bought them a pizza.
He managed Blur throughout the 1990s and their Britpop chart battles with rivals from Manchester, Oasis. Andy was able to orchestrate the rivalry and develop the publicity machine (with gimmicks like releasing singles on the same day as Oasis, so they never had a clear run at the number one slot e.g. ‘Country House’ came out the same day in 1995 as ‘Roll With It’.
But he soon realised they were missing a trick and contacted Alan McGee, head of Creation Records (Oasis’ label). From then on they abandoned the head-to-head policy and released records alternately. “We had a plan to avoid one another. It meant we both had number one records and everyone’s a winner.”
Thus he ensured Blur sold millions of records worldwide. And he became a good friend of Alan McGee.
With Andy as their music executive, Food Records had over 100 consecutive chart singles, with many number ones. They were enormously successful.
EMI / Parlophone took full control of Food Records in 2000, so Andy stepped down. Blur left Food Records (after 6 albums), when he did.
He always said his best moment was the 1993 Reading Festival when a largely unknown Blur had their ‘breakthrough moment’.
He continued in band management with the band ‘The Bluetones’ and resumed playing with the reformed Disco Zombies.
He loved football and quizzes and even appeared on the TV show ‘Only Connect’.
He drank in the North London pub, the ‘Good Mixer’ owned by his friend Bal Croce of ‘The StingRays’. It was a real musicians pub. Morrissey and Pulp were regulars there.
He also had his own radio shows on Boogaloo Radio, North London, based in the Boogaloo pub in Highgate. One of them was about his complaints about modern life – ‘The Gripes of Ross’.
There were plans for him to go on tour with Oasis manager Alan McGee and do ‘An audience with…’ But the plans never came to fruition.
Andy had a stroke – but during recovery discovered and managed new bands such as CuT and 485C.
But then Andy contracted cancer and died after receiving treatment. His death was announced by Steve Lamacq on 6Music.
Tributes have come in from throughout the music world. Dave Rowntree the drummer with Blur said, “He was one of the good ones – generous, warm and kind.”
Jesus Jones paid him a glowing tribute. “We’re heartbroken at the loss of Andy Ross, one half of the mighty Food Records…Without him, we’d have not been able to do what we did. We’ll always be grateful, and we’ll always miss him. Goodbye Boss. XXX”.
Chris Eastwood, the executive of Boogaloo Radio, said, “I am deeply gutted to hear about the death of Andy Ross… I produced his shows on Boogaloo Radio and he was a joy to be around. He was always full of amazing music and even more amazing stories. His shows were as funny and interesting as he was. I am desperately sad there won’t be any more.”
RIP – Recording Indie ‘Parklife’