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John Preston Obituary from today's The Times
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TOPIC: John Preston Obituary from today's The Times
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dixie

John Preston Obituary from today's The Times 2 Weeks ago  
Hope this displays ok. An interesting read:

As one of the most senior executives in the British record industry, John Preston orchestrated the alliance between 1990s pop culture and Tony Blair’s New Labour, which came to be dubbed “Cool Britannia”.
Like most marriages, the union was launched amid fanfares and feasting when Preston, whose roster of artists included Annie Lennox, M People and Take That, invited Blair to make a high-profile presentation to David Bowie at the Brit awards in 1996.
Surrounded by pop stars and industry moguls, the leader of the opposition sat at Preston’s table and watched with wry bemusement as Jarvis Cocker, of Pulp, invaded the stage during a performance by Michael Jackson, and Oasis mocked and taunted Blur as they scooped the Best British Band award instead of their rivals.
The event was broadcast live and as the time approached for Blair to present Bowie with his award, Alastair Campbell, Blair’s press secretary, noted that he had never seen his boss appear so nervous. “TB kept looking round to share looks of ‘is this wise?’,” Campbell recorded in his diary. “This was not his usual audience and if something did go wrong, it would be high impact.”
Blair chatted uneasily with Bowie backstage and the pop star told him that he would be happy to endorse Labour, but was worried that doing so would backfire because he was a tax exile. Campbell became more agitated and fretted that the “very pissed, very druggy atmosphere” would result in the audience greeting Blair’s appearance with boos or worse.
In the end his concern was not warranted. Blair’s speech, which Preston had helped to prepare, was well received by the great and the good — not to mention the stoned and intoxicated — of the British music industry.
“It’s been a great year for British music,” the would-be prime minister told them. “A year of creativity, vitality, energy. British bands storming the charts. British music back once again in its right place, at the top of the world.”
With the audience won over, “Cool Britannia” was on its way. A year later Blair became prime minister and invited Noel Gallagher to Downing Street for a photo opportunity, a populist stunt marred only by the Oasis star’s subsequent revelation that he snorted cocaine in the No 10 lavatory.
As a marriage broker between the worlds of pop music and Labour politics Preston was in a unique position. He was not only chairman of BMG, part of the Bertelsmann group and one of the world’s richest record labels, but also president of BPI, the governing body of the British music industry.
His political connections were also impeccable. His wife, Roz, spent seven years as a special adviser to Blair in opposition.
In 1997 she moved to Downing Street to work as Cherie Blair’s aide, sharing the job with Fiona Millar, the wife of Alastair Campbell. It made the Prestons a formidable power couple at the heart of Cool Britannia. Jack Straw and his wife, Alice Perkins, who was at university with Preston, were also close friends.
In the run-up to the 1997 general election, Preston did Blair further service when he chaired the Rock the Vote campaign, which was designed to get people under the age of 25 to register and vote. Although the initiative was ostensibly non-party political, there was never any doubt about who would be the overwhelming beneficiary from an increased turnout in the youth vote.
Two years after Blair’s appearance at the Brit awards, New Labour’s partnership with the pop world was put under severe pressure when a bucket of iced water was thrown over John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, by a member of Chumbawamba, who had recently scored a hit with Tubthumping.
Had Preston been present, his safe pair of hands might have saved the day, but he had shocked his colleagues by abandoning the music industry at the age of 47 to move to Dorset, where he and his wife enrolled on a boatbuilding course.
At his retirement party, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart reformed Eurythmics for a surprise one-off performance in his honour. “We were hiding and as we came on stage, he started crying,” Stewart recalled. “He was a really sensitive person. That made it very easy to connect with him as an artist.”
After a year spent studying boatbuilding in Lyme Regis, the Prestons rented an old barn and spent the next seven years designing and constructing a 44ft ocean-going yacht, which they named Sweet Dreams after Eurythmics’ biggest hit.
“It was a dream we decided that we should fulfil,” Roz Preston said. “We had no children and building the boat probably cost no more than bringing up two children and sending them to university. It was our baby.”
She added that running a record label had not equipped her husband with much practical skill, but that the boat would never have been built without his “dogged determination”. The couple fitted out the boat with a generator, desalination equipment, a computer and a state-of-the-art sound system. After moving to Edinburgh, they spent the next decade sailing Sweet Dreams extensively around the coasts of Scotland and Scandinavia.
Preston’s other passion was golf. He was on the first green “cursing about missing a short putt” when he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage.

Preston in front of his boat, Sweet Dreams
John O’Driscoll Preston was born to Scottish parents in Nottingham in 1950. His father, Ian, was a major in the Royal Artillery and his mother, who was known as Michael, was a broadcaster and thespian. Among other postings, military service took the family to Egypt and America, and Preston reported that — by the time he turned 20 — he could count a different home for each year of his life. He nevertheless regarded Aberdeenshire as the family’s ancestral seat.
He was educated at a Scottish prep school and Shrewsbury before he read history at Oxford. He started his career in the music industry in the 1970s, working for Bruce’s, a hip chain of Scottish record shops whose slogan — “I found it at Bruce’s” — boasted of a commitment to rare and obscure gems rather than mainstream chart fodder.
By 1977 Preston had moved to London, where he took a job with EMI in artist development, working with Kate Bush among others. He rose rapidly and by 1984 was managing director of Polydor Records. Within a year he had been headhunted for the same post at RCA, which was a bigger label. When RCA was swallowed up by the Bertelsmann Music Group, he became chairman of BMG. His 14 years with RCA/BMG came during an era of unprecedented growth for the music industry as the CD took over from vinyl and cassette.
He received some criticism for his role in keeping the price of CDs high, which was the subject of a damning report by the Commons national heritage select committee in 1993. The report rejected Preston’s argument that talent would be lost and small independent record companies fold if the music industry was forced to cut the price of CDs.
In turn, Preston attacked the committee’s findings and accused Gerald Kaufman, the Labour MP who was chairing the committee, of suppressing “any evidence that did not support his own polemic”. British record companies, he claimed, had given consumers “the best value in the world in terms of the range of repertoire available in new talent”.
An inquiry by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission eventually accepted Preston’s argument and concluded that “the major record companies are not making excessive profits”. It was a significant victory for Preston, but consumer groups dismissed the outcome as a whitewash.
It was a rare controversy in what otherwise appeared to be an effortless career. In an industry famous for its sharp practice, Preston maintained a “Mr Nice Guy” image and was unusual in promoting women in the business. He achieved the rare distinction of being popular with his executive colleagues, appreciated by his shareholders and respected by his artists, which was a constituency that traditionally harbours a deep suspicion of industry “suits”.
John Preston, music industry executive, was born on August 29, 1950. He died on November 19, 2017, aged 67, after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage
 
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Re:John Preston Obituary from today's The Times 2 Weeks ago Karma: 50
A really nice Obit; thanks for posting it Dixie. John was, by the way, a huge Tipsheet fan.
 
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