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Much to the delight of European Fun Club members, and the public in general, Paul has been prominent on the TV screens recently. Having an international hit with "Once Upon a Long Ago" inspired Paul to do some television promotion in Holland, France, Germany and most recently in Italy where he appeared at the famously chaotic San Remo Festival, around which we base our major feature for this issue. Naturally, these events have further stimulated the public's desires to see more of him, but Paul has no plans for any tours until he completes his next album, on which he is currently working.
Continuing our theme of 'All The Best', we have features on the making of the "Once Upon A Long Ago" video and the TV ad, and in this issue we meet Mike Ross, who designed the album cover and co-directed with Paul, the charming video.
‘All The Best' has already become one of Paul's most successful albums, with only 'Band on the Run' outselling it in the U.K., where it went "Triple Platinum" for selling 900,000 copies shortly before Christmas. It has earned similar awards worldwide: (Platinum) in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland; (Gold) in Italy, Canada and Japan. As we go to press the album is still climbing the charts in Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Brazil and Argentina, and with the assistance of the hit single, "Once Upon a Long Ago", which has made the Top 30 In 15 countries so far, has achieved worldwide sales approaching 2 1/2 million.
A number of our American readers have written to me asking why the United States version of the LP was different, and why it did not include the single "Once Upon a Long Ago". (The American LP and cassette only included 17 tracks instead of 20, and substituted "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey", "Junior's Farm", "Goodnight Tonight" and "With a Little Luck", for "Pipes of Peace", "Once Upon a Long Ago", "We All Stand Together and "Mull of Kintyre" on the Compact Disc.) The answer is that marketing of records lies very much in the hands of record companies, who are sensitive to local sales conditions. Capitol Records in the U.S.A. advised Paul that compilation albums don't do really well there because of the comparatively high cost of TV advertising and the difficulties in promoting a collection of past hits on traditional radio and press outlets. They only wanted to include the songs which had been U.S. hits, and to omit the new song from the album believing that November wasn't a good release time for a single. Not to release the album at all would have been most unfair to American fans, so after some consideration Paul agreed to let Capitol go ahead in the way they thought best. In the end, "All the Best" has done rather better in the U.S.A. than anybody at the record company expected, with America contributing nearly 20% of the total worldwide sales to date!
But for those of you who want to buy the U.K. version of "All The Best" for your collection, send an International Money Orderin STERLING, or a credit card number for £8.49 plus £2.85 package and posting to:
Mail Order Department
1 Piccadilly Circus
LONDON W1 (Tel. 01-439 2500)
Mail order forms are available at the same address for other McCartney records as well.
'Til next time,
MEET MIKE ROSS
'Once Upon A Long Ago' was a fine song, building on traditional McCartney strengths; All The Best was a collection of top-notch goodies: this much we know. But whoever you are, at Christmastime the competition's intense, so more than ever the public eye must be caught. So, a strong video for the single and a well-planned campaign for the album mattered even more than usual.
Which is where Mike Ross came in. British McCartney fans relished his work on both releases, so we thought it was time you met the chap. Co-director of the 'Long Ago' video with Paul (in close cahoots with Geoff 'Rupert' Dunbar), designer of the All The Best sleeve and "MPL's visual representative" on the TV advert, Mike set up his own Normal Service operation with his wife Lindy after Mike's years of experience with record companies had left him well qualified for both video and graphics.
Born in Galashiels, Selkirkshire, Scotland in 1946, Mike and your humble editor attended rival schools near Edinburgh. (Though not at the same time: no ancient scores are settled in this piece.) Four years at Kingston Art School near London followed. Had this helped him in his career?
"Absolutely. I took my portfolio round and soon got a job on The Observer, starting on the colour magazine. Then I moved to the newspaper, which was much more interesting, being more immediate. I even drew a sports cartoon, though I was into cartoons rather than sport - I still do them, though not professionally." (Just like a left-handed bass player we know.)
After two years, Mike moved to DJM Records as art director when Elton John was at his most prolific, joining him in the same capacity when Elton set up his own Rocket Records and doing the sleeves for such albums as Honky Chateau, Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, the last winning Music Week's Top Sleeve Design Award. A spell of freelancing in America followed, when the Ross imprint was applied to albums by Diana Ross, Neil Diamond and others. The final preparation for Normal Service was Mike's long spell with A & M Records in London. Of which sleeve is Mike proudest from this period?
"I got three Grammy nominations at A & M - people say there are no real winners, if you're nominated that's honour enough! They were for Joe Jackson's Look Sharp (the white pointed shoes), Joan Armatrading's The Key (I did several of her albums) and Bewitched by Andy Summers and Robert Fripp. I also did the first three Police albums and some of Squeeze's. More recently, I got another Music Week Award for Sting's Bring On The Night and did his Dream Of The Blue Turtles too."
Rising names such as Annabel Lamb, How We Live and The Fixx have also received the Mike Ross treatment. Did Mike get his artistic bent from his parents?
"My father was a banker and died when I was young, so he doesn't really come into the story. My mother started me on life drawing, which helped. I got really interested at 10 or 11, when I began to get better at it. My school didn't have the art centre it has now, but there was scope for the arts if you were good enough."
How did he make the leap from designer to video director?
"I'd wanted to direct for a long time and aimed to work my way up to it at A & M and gain experience before going on my own. After being Art Director, I was Director of Visual Arts (including video) for my last year, though I'd been doing the same job in effect for some time before that. I co-directed one video while I was at A & M: 'Down The Wire' by The Quick. Usually I scripted the video, then found the director - Captain Sensible's 'Wot' was one example."
When we spoke, Mike had just finished a video for Bolland and Bolland from Holland (honestly), writers and producers of Falco's 'Rock Me Amadeus', his "fourth or fifth" directing job. But what of the background to his third or fourth, for 'Once Upon A Long Ago'?
"Paul had scripted it, then there were a lot of meetings with him and Geoff Dunbar. The cartoon wasn't finished when we shot the performance footage, but the transfer points from film, to cartoon and back had been agreed before. It was very ambitious to do what Geoff did in the time - he finished it while we were in post-production. The location decided the performance footage."
Mike had a similar collaboration with Derek Hayes, director of the TV advert for All The Best: "I was there for the shoot to make sure the sleeve was translated faithfully into video, but wasn't really involved in production. The idea for the sleeve needed to work for absolutely everything, including TV, posters, CD and the single. Showing Paul in black and white and animating the songs were planned with TV in mind; then it was up to Derek to take it further."
The full stories of the video and the advert are elsewhere in this issue. Observant fans will have spotted that Paul's black look (we don't mean his scowl) has been carried over into TV appearances by him and his band. This is the work of Lindy Ross, who has styled their clothing throughout. She and Mike live in Surrey ("between the park and the river") with their two sons and two cats.
It's doubtful whether Mr. & Mrs. Ross have much time to stroll in the park or take the air along the towpath - two days after we spoke, Mike was off abroad for a month. Still, that's life when you're in demand: looking at the 'Long Ago' video and the All The Best campaign, one can see why the demand is there.