It is the quintessential ‘running away with the circus’ story. At just 18 years old, Julia Parsons fled her home to pursue a career in the music industry - something which teenagers can usually only fantasise about.
Although many have tried and stumbled, Julia was not fazed by the daunting prospect of becoming an Artist Relations Manager for a major record label, rubbing shoulders with the greats, and labouring night and day. If anything, she could not think of anything more rewarding.
Label directors, producers and radio hosts are the unsung heroes of the music industry, and Julia’s latest mission is to give them a voice before it is too late.
Launching her own company ‘Music Majors’, Julia will bring out the masterminds from behind the velvet curtain and give them their chance under the spotlight in a series of revealing shows.
“There are so many people that have got great stories to tell that have worked in the music industry,” Julia says.
“People like Bruce Springsteen would not be a massive star today if someone at the A&R New York office hadn’t signed him.
“Then somebody would have to find a record producer, and somebody in the art department would have to choose the record sleeves - there’s a whole back story going on to create this big star.”
I detect the slightest twang in Julia’s voice and the mum-of-two tells me that her career has taken her all over the world, but standing with Julia on Steyning’s High Street as she reminisces, it is clear she has not forgotten her roots.
Beaming with feelings of nostalgia, Julia shares her memories of watching the town’s running day, standing at the bus station and frequenting the local tuck shop.
However, by her teenage years Julia had been whisked off by her family to live in Brighton. But at the age of 18, an argument turned out to be the pivotal moment that changed her life forever.
“One night I ran away up to London. It was 10.30 and I had an argument with my father and I said ‘that’s it, I’m out’ and I grabbed the train to Victoria.”
Moving in with her uncle Mel Collins - a band manager for Active Management that represented groups like Argent - Julia was made his office messenger.
“From there, I just worked my way up through record companies, from labels like 20th Century Fox to CBS in Los Angeles.”
Offered the job of a lifetime as Artist Relations Manager for CBS London, Julia was suddenly immersed in the music big leagues.
“We were a great record company and we had huge, huge American artists, and my job was to keep the artists happy.”
Picking up the biggest stars of the 1980s from the airport and taking them to do a ‘Top of the Pops’ promo tour; arranging tickets for the label officials; organising the backstage parties; and sending gifts to the artists to say ‘good luck’ were just some of the important roles Julia played.
“It was knowing what they drank. The Clash always had Red Stripe and Johnny Mathis always had a classy bottle of red wine. For Michael Jackson I would send boy toys and he loved them.”
Although surrounded by industry icons who would normally be clawed at by screaming girls and harassed for autographs, Julia admitted that she was never fazed by their presence.
“To me they were such ordinary people.”
One of the most famous celebrities Julia became well acquainted with was the centre of much controversy leading up to his premature death in 2009. Michael Jackson is still fondly known as the ‘King of Pop’ by many, but to Julia he was Michael, the man who ‘wouldn’t hurt anybody’.
“He was a gentle, misunderstood soul in my opinion.
“There were some very unexplained, strange things about Michael, but I think that came from his upbringing. You can’t explain a 40-year-old man who’s trapped inside a child’s head.
“One party I did with him, he got presented with a sword, I called it Excaliber and Michael actually thought it was Excaliber. A couple of days later, I had to go up to his hotel room to drop something off and he was bouncing around on the bed playing with the sword.”
Julia became good friends with Michael’s manager at the time, Frank DiLeo.
“I knew him really well, but unfortunately he had a heart attack and died a few years ago.
“These were amazing men. They lived, worked and played hard and they didn’t last very long, and isn’t it a shame that they’re not here to tell their stories.”
Organising the CBS Sony reunion every couple of years, Julia brings all the people behind the scenes back together for a chance to mingle, reacquaint and enjoy a few drinks. It is here that Julia is able to listen to all their fascinating ‘untold’ stories.
“I’m just one tiny dot on the scale of storytelling potential out there. There are some extraordinary people out there. Some of the CEOs of the record companies are still here today, it’s just a matter of getting them to tell their stories.”
Radio 1 legend and BBC Sport cricket commentator Andy Peebles, who conducted the last interview with John Lennon, is launching the ‘Music Majors’ tour, and will be sharing his revealing stories for the first time.
Julia is also hoping to bring on board the founder of Wham and the man behind Stiff Records (just to name a few).
To see Andy Peebles and keep an eye on the exciting line-up that Julia is currently preparing, visit www.musicmajors.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org