Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

It is pretty weird sitting here, looking out - the setting sun lighting the clouds in the distance as if contained within a medieval biblical painting.

Somehow apocalyptic. Somehow appropriate.

This morning's news - unhappily - didn't come as too much of a shock. All that I absolutely didn't want to read was contained in a one-line e-note. It simply asked that I call Coalition immediately.

And so, today marks the end of an era.

Rob - in some ways my mentor and in all ways my friend, died peacefully in his sleep in a West London Hospital this morning.

Tina was with him at the last; Rob's final taxi, the ending of his long, utterly ghastly, battle with cancer which he'd endured with more stoicism than anyone I've ever met fueled by the darkest sense of humour that could only emanate from... Rob.

During one of his recent - and he endured over twenty-eight of them - courses of Chemotherapy, he sent me an e-mail detailing it as follows: tomorrow i start another course and shall become a human light-bulb.

A couple of months ago - when last I saw him - he was, as ever, holed up in his West Landon office working when really he probably shouldn't have been, never failing to take a call and surrounded by many of the things he treasured most: his cup-final ticket when his beloved Queens Park Rangers only got beaten in a replay; framed magazine front covers and posters that related to some of the work he'd undertaken over a multitude of years; a plastic statue of James Brown; a grainy black and white of a gnarled Miles Davis and a scrap of paper signed by Gil Evans - a treasure among treasures.

There's an array of ancient dinky cars; a fading picture of him dressed in drag as Carmen Miranda from one of the legendary Island Christmas parties (the year I went as a Nun); pin-button badges from US elections as well as a myriad of other bits and pieces, everything lovingly looked after as the head groundsman would tend the greensward at Loftus Road.

The external humour - dark as bible-black - reigned supreme, Rob was ever the dancing-master of dry-wit. But, sadly... oh so sadly, the eyes told their own and very different tale... He knew, he knew I knew and yet... you never knew.

Until today.

Over the past couple of months of being far from home, everyone bar none that I've come across who've had some kind of relationship with Island... has asked... how's Rob..?

And, the genuine sadness that I've heard in voices today - people far and wide that I've talked to - has been heartfelt and, in a strange way, heart-warming...

'cos... Rob was loved so much...

Billboard already has a tribute up... its their main headline... and it says: British Music PR Giant Rob Partridge Dies

U.K. music industry veteran Rob Partridge has died following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 60.

In a statement, singer/actress Marianne Faithfull, who had worked with Partridge since 1979, described him as "one of the greatest men I have known and a great man to work with." She added: "I don't know what I will do without him, we have been friends for so long."

Faithfull had initially worked with Partridge in 1979, when he was head of press at London-based Island Records, and remains a Coaltion PR client. Another of Partridge's current clients, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, said in a statement: "Rob was a lovely guy, gentle and polite, but not above good devilish humor. He loved soulful music and working with soulful artists, because he was soulful himself."

A hugely popular and respected figure within the U.K. music business, Partridge began his industry career as a journalist for British trade publication Music Week before joining the now-defunct weekly music magazine Melody Maker in the mid-1970s.

He became head of press at Island in 1977, joining the board of the company as media director four years later. In that role, Partridge was directly responsible for a roster that included Bob Marley & The Wailers, with whom he worked until Marley's death in 1981. Partridge subsequently handled press for the Bob Marley Estate until 1997.

Other acts with whom he worked closely at Island included U2, Grace Jones, Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Run-DMC, NWA, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Robert Palmer, Steve Winwood, the B-52's and Tom Waits.

Partridge exited Island in 1990 to launch PR agency Partridge & Storey with his business partner Neil Storey in early 1991. The company became Coalition PR when Storey departed in 1996. Current acts on its roster include Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull, Amadou and Miriam, Manu Chao, Billy Bragg, the Charlatans and Daniel Lanois. The company has also enjoyed lengthy relationships with retailer HMV and the Mercury Music Prize.

In 1999, Partridge launched Coalition Management, which has a current client list that includes the Music, the Streets, the Zutons, the View, Bloc Party, Embrace and Fionn Regan.

Coalition issued a statement which reads: "From Tina and all of us at the Coalition Family and to all in our extended family of ex-staffers, clients, colleagues, artists, journalists and friends, we send our heartfelt thanks for all your love and support during Rob's fight and the knowledge that his spirit will live on through all of us that he's taught and nurtured in the way that only Rob ever could."

A little later, another luminary adds his voice: Bono saying that Rob was the first person in the British Music Industry to sing our praises. He not only had an eye for upcoming talent, he was a nurturer... a person who would educate you about the kind of obstacles you were going to meet and how to get over them... a rare human being.

Yes, Rob was all of that, probably pretty much everything everyone will say in obituaries far and wide that'll be published in the next few days. All of that and a whole heap more... he was, to use a too-often utilised word... unique... and, this mad business of music will never see his like again.

But - and here's the good bit - we were all blessed in some way or other by having the privilege of either knowing or working with him.

I'd imagine that everyone will raid thesauruses, looking for apt adjectives to describe him... the best I can come up with isn't an adjective... because none properly sum him up... because... Rob... was just... Rob.

And, now he's sleeping peacefully.


robert elms said...

Dear Neil

What a wonderful tribute, what a dreadful day. Tried to do my tribute to Rob on radio yesterday and cracked up on air. Hadn't seen Rob for maybe 18 months and now miss him like I saw him ever day.

Whay do they always take the best.

Robert Elms

Drew said...

Dear Neil.

Sadly, I never knew or met Rob, but I have a sense of his impact on the industry and on you personally through both this eulogy and occasional mentions you have made during time we have shared.
A friend of your is a friend of mine. I shall miss Rob accordingly.


tony michaelides said...

Lovely words Neil, Rob was indeed Rob.It's hard to imagine the long hours you worked with him and all you achieved and all the laughs in between.You could laugh at Rob as he was looking at you and before he even said a word and that's because.... Rob was Rob.If it wasn't worth saying he would never say it ...and when he did you'd piss youself laughing. But beyond all that he had too many qualities for one human being. I loved the evenings I spent with him and Tina when I stayed over and I'll always cherish those memories.

I remember when I read all the heart felt tributes pouring in about Paul Newman I felt sad I never knew him and I can see the same thing coming from people about Rob when they read all that is being fact Drew said just that.

I'm sure your blog after funeral will prompt further response but til then I've said it before and I'll say it again.......I'm so proud to say I knew him...the likes of him won't ever come round again.

Nice you've given others that rare insight in to the man