Journalist, author and PR maverick Geoff Baker has had a rollercoaster of a career, working his way to the top before falling from grace all too publically and having to start building his career again from scratch.
First hired to do some PR for the Rolling Stones 1989 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle tour, Geoff was recommended to work his magic on Paul McCartney’s world tour. He remained friends with Paul and wife Linda McCartney from that point onwards.
Unfortunately in 2003 Geoff was fired by an irate McCartney when he tipped off a photographer about a private function Macca was attending. After cooling down Paul retracted the dismissal, however Geoff left his employment a year later. McCartney issued a statement saying ‘I find it very sad that after years of friendship, my publicist Geoff Baker and I are parting.’
When the press heard Geoff was leaving, they laid the blame at the feet of Macca’s then-wife Heather Mills, whom was the subject of their latest witch hunt. They claimed that she never liked Geoff and that she pressured McCartney to fire him.
Geoff was reduced to doing voluntary work for the long-term unemployed, which included sweeping the streets. While out of work he kept himself busy buy writing Rock Bottom, a novel about the music business which has recently been released.
Geoff was happy to answer my questions:
How did you get into the music industry in the first place?
I’m a journalist by training. I’d worked my way up to Fleet Street but then I quit that to form my own showbiz news agency with some other guys from The Sun and The Daily Express, and in that capacity I’d been hired to do some PR work for the start of the Rolling Stones tour in 1989. Some weeks after, the Rolling Stones bloke called me up and asked if I was up for doing six weeks as tour publicist for Macca, who was going on the road for the first time in more than a decade.
We met at Elstree Studios, where he was rehearsing the tour in a giant barn. I watched the whole set and thought this was cool. Working for him was demanding – the world was demanding of him and therefore via me – but we got on. He’s quite a gas on the quiet.
What did your average day-to-day life include as Pauls publicist?
Off tour it tended to involve taking about 50 calls a day from journos who absolutely had to interview him and trying to work the best of them into his schedule. On tour it was the same but the calls would rise to the hundreds.
How did you feel about been fired by Paul?
I thought announcing it in a global press release was a bit strong, especially as I’d already quit a week before he told the planet I had become crap.
What was your relationship like with Heather Mills and did you being fired have anything to do with her as was reported?
I liked her, still do – I like ballsy people. No, it had nothing to do with her. The pressure of 15 years of been on call to the globe got to me and I cracked. She wasn’t the cause of it.
What is your novel Rock Bottom about?
A PR who goes mad working for a rock star as his marriage collapses.
Although it’s a novel, how much is based on your real-life experiences in the music industry?
None of it is based on Macca but the rest of the bollocks is pretty spot on.
What made you want to write your novel?
I didn’t want to but a top literary agent approached me and convinced me it would sell very well and I could have a less stressful career!
What have been the highlights of your career?
Band Aid, Live Aid, interviewing Keith Richards and, clearly, getting to know Paul and Linda. Gig wise, Pauls 1990 show in Liverpool is probably unstoppable.
Are there any parts of your career that you regret?
Loads! Most of it. I especially regret the too many times that it took me away from my children and putting my marriages second to the mistress of my job.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into the music industry?
If you have any sensitivity at all, don’t do it. Join the SAS instead as it’d be an easier ride. The music business now is the equivalent of silent movies after the invention of talkies, as a business model it is on its way out. Live music is what is going to matter; the record side of it is dying of its own disease: greed.
Thanks very much