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Mickie Most

From Academic Kids

Mickie Most, born Michael Peter Hayes (June 20, 1938 - May 30, 2003), successful record producer notably with a string of Number 1 hit singles with his own RAK Records label and acts such as The Animals, Herman's Hermits, Donovan and Suzi Quatro.

Contents

1 Discography

Early career

Most was born in Aldershot, Hampshire. The son of a regimental sergeant-major, he moved with his parents to the north London suburb of Harrow in 1951. Most was heavily influenced by skiffle music and early rock 'n' roll in his youth. Leaving school at the age of 15, he worked as a singing waiter at London's famous Two I's Coffee Bar where he made friends with future business partner Peter Grant, and formed a singing duo with Alex Wharton who billed themselves as The Most Brothers. They scored a minor hit with Decca Records called "Takes a Whole Lotta Loving to Keep My Baby Happy" before disbanding. Wharton later went on to produce the Moody Blues single "Go Now". After officially changing his name to Mickie Most in 1959, he travelled to South Africa with his wife Christina, and formed a pop group, Mickie Most and the Playboys. The band scored eleven consecutive Number 1 singles playing mostly cover versions by Ray Peterson, Gene Vincent, and Eddie Cochran. Returning to London in 1962, Most appeared with other musicians on package tours as well as recording "Mister Porter", which became a minor hit in 1963.

Producer

Becoming tired of touring clubs, Most decided to concentrate on other aspects of the music industry. His first job involved selling records in stores and displaying them on racks (which was the later inspiration for naming his own record label, RAK) before finding a niche with production for Columbia Records. After spotting The Animals playing at Newcastle's Club A-Go-Go, he offered to produce their first single called "Baby Let Me Take You Home" which reached Number 21 on the UK charts. Their follow-up 1964 single, "House of the Rising Sun", became a worldwide Number 1 hit. Most then won the "Producer of the Year" award at the 1964 Grammy Awards.

Most had instant success with Manchester band Herman's Hermits after being approached by their manager Harvey Lisberg. Their first Most production, "I'm Into Something Good", went straight to #1 in 1964, beginning an incredible run of single and album sales (ten million units over twelve months) by the band, with the group for a time even challenging The Beatles in popularity in the United States. His down-to-earth handling of the band, his business acumen and his unerring knack for selecting hit singles established Most as one of the first and most successful producers in Britain and kept him in high demand throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

In September 1964, with Most at the control board, singer Brenda Lee recorded "Is It True," and "What'd I Say," "Is It True," was released in England, and later in the U.S. and became a major hit, with subsequent gold record achievement. "What'd I Say," became another hit throughout Europe, but was strangely never released to the U.S. record market. Most had equal success with other artists for whom he produced a string of chart-topping albums and singles between 1965 and 1969, notably Donovan with "Mellow Yellow", "Jennifer Juniper", "Hurdy Gurdy Man", and "Atlantis" and Lulu "To Sir with Love", "The Boat That I Row", "Boom Bang-A-Bang" (which finished equal first in the 1969 Eurovision Song Contest), "Me the Peaceful Heart", and "I'm a Tiger". Most also produced The Seekers singles "Days of My Life" and "Love Is Kind, Love Is Wine", in 1968, and Nancy Sinatra’s "The Highway Song" in 1969.

Most's productions were regularly backed by top London session musicians including Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass guitar and arrangements, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. He produced Jeff Beck's hit singles "Love Is Blue" and "Hi-Ho Silver Lining" and the influential Jeff Beck Group LPs Truth and Beck-Ola, teamed the Beck group with Donovan for the single "Goo Goo Barabajagal", and signed up new artists such as singer-guitarist Terry Reid.

By 1967 music was turning to a heavier and improvisational sound that was at odds with Most's formulaic singles selection format. After the commercial and critical failure of The Yardbirds album Little Games, he decided to steer clear of rock groups, realising they mostly did not share his vision. The Yardbirds objected to his obsession of aiming to cut down every song to within three minutes and albums were just an "afterthought" following the singles. His focussed but undeniably successful approach also led to a split with Donovan in late 1969.

RAK Records

Despite these setbacks, Most set up his own production office at 155 Oxford Street, sharing it with his business partner Peter Grant. It was through Most's association that Peter Grant was eventually asked to manage The Yardbirds. In 1968, Most and Grant jointly set up RAK Management, but Grant's involvement with The Yardbirds which soon evolved into Led Zeppelin, meant that Most had control in late 1969. RAK Records and RAK Music Publishing was launched in 1969.

With RAK Records, Most's success continued with folk singer Julie Felix's hit "El Condor Pasa". Felix was the first artist signed to the label. Most then produced Mary Hopkin’s 1970 Eurovision song contest entrant "Knock Knock Who's There?," followed by the single "Temma Harbour". In 1970, Most approached Suzi Quatro for a recording contract after seeing her on stage at a Detroit dance hall with the band Cradle (which also had Quatro’s sisters Arlene, Patti, and Nancy as members), while on a production assignment in Chicago. Quatro was amongst a growing roster of artists signed to RAK Records which included Alexis Korner's CCS, Angie Miller, and Chris Spedding. Hiring the songwriting production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, RAK scored a slew of British #1 singles with Suzi Quatro ("Can the Can", "Devil Gate Drive"), Sweet, and Mud.

In 1980, Mickie Most "discovered" singer Kim Wilde, who was originally doing backing vocals for her father Marty Wilde at a Luton recording studio session. After hearing her voice, Most signed Wilde for a recording contract and produced the single "Kids In America" which reached Number 2 in the UK and most other countries, and Number 25 on the US Billboard charts.

Later career

Most was also a panellist on various television talent shows such as ITV's New Faces and presented Revolver, a program devoted to punk rock which was at odds with his "studio factory" approach to music. Most personally asked singer Kate Bush to appear as the series first guest on the pilot episode. In the 1980s, the band Johnny Hates Jazz, which featured Most's son Calvin Hayes, was also signed to RAK Records. RAK was eventually sold to EMI Records in 1983 but revived in 1988. Most was one of the first producers to own the rights to his own records and his RAK Studios, opened in 1976 in St John's Wood, remains active.

In 1995, Most's fortune was estimated to be valued at £50 million and he appeared in the Sunday Times annual Rich List amongst the Top 500 in England. His house was claimed to be the largest private home in Britain worth an estimated £4 million. His production work became less numerous after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. On May 30, 2003 Most died of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, in his London home, and was later cremated at Golders Green crematorium in north London. He is survived by his wife Christina and their three children Calvin, Nathalie, and Crystalle.


Discography

Compilations:

  • Best of Mickie Most and His Playboys (1994)
  • To Sir With Love: The Complete Mickie Most Recordings (2005) EMI
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