Award-winning songwriter and producer John Schroeder has worked with some of the UK’s biggest artists during an incredible 60-year career, ranging from Cliff Richard and Helen Shapiro to Status Quo.
He is also credited with introducing Motown to the UK and championing a new wave of easy listening orchestral pop that has enjoyed international appeal and appeared on Hollywood film soundtracks including the Ocean’s Eleven franchise.
All for the Love of Music is his personal account of a life dedicated to music, packed with fascinating and frank insights into the evolution and inner workings of the British pop industry before, during and after its 1960s heyday.
Written with a genuine passion and engagingly self-deprecating humour, the autobiography begins in 1957, when, fresh from National Service, the music-loving Schroeder can scarcely believe his luck at scoring a ‘rung on the ladder’ job with music giant EMI’s sales department.
Impressing his bosses with his dedication and innovative ideas, Schroeder quickly manages to move up the ranks, and soon finds himself working as assistant to Norrie Paramor, one of the biggest music producers of the time.
His big break has arrived and soon he was looking after stars in the making at EMI’s Columbia Records label, including a fresh-faced Cliff Richard and his band The Drifters, who would later make a name for themselves as The Shadows.
He also recounts how he discovered Helen Shapiro, who at 13 was still at school. Schroder was blown over by her soulful voice and worked tirelessly to develop her career – something that was far from easy as the UK pop scene had never handled a performer so young before.
In the end, finding that the songs available from publishers just didn’t fit, he was tasked with writing Helen’s first few hits himself. John was a classically-trained pianist but the pressure to deliver the goods was immense. In the cut-throat world of the music business one wrong step could spell the end for an artist’s career before it had even begun.
It was during this time that he first teamed up with lyricist Mike Hawker, a journalist by profession who was John’s lodger. Together they would pen Helen’s most popular hits, including her top five debut ‘Don’t Treat Me Like a Child’ and two chart-toppers, You Don’t Know and Walkin’ Back to Happiness – the latter which scooped John and Mike a coveted Ivor Novello Award in 1961.
After Columbia Records, John moved to Oriole, where he effectively established the fledgling label as a major player through sheer daring and vision. It was John who enticed Tamla Motown boss Berry Gordy to strike a licensing deal in the UK which would include “Fingertips” by a certain Little Stevie Wonder.
The book covers a good proportion of the staggering 170 artists John has produced during his career, from one-hit wonders to global stadium fillers Status Quo, while working at Pye Records.
It also takes an honest look at the lows – including music industry pressure to ‘make money, or else’, the suicide of his ex-wife and a painfully expensive divorce from his second wife.
At a time when chart placings were everything; with artists thrown out on their ears if they could not score a major hit within three releases, Schroeder was a key player in the industry, and his first-hand account of the challenges, joys and frustrations of writing hit records are both illuminating and occasionally shocking.
Despite the tales of fast cars and beautiful women – his other loves – Schroeder never comes across as arrogant. He has been described as ‘the Quiet Man of Pop’ and this lack of bravura is refreshing in an industry dominated by ego.
He openly admits his own mistakes and shortcomings but rightfully takes pride in his achievements, which also include founding his own record label, Alaska Records, and forming the acclaimed instrumental pop group Sounds Orchestral. You come away from the book with the impression that here is a man who, despite the obvious exceptional talent, still can’t quite believe he managed to achieve so many of his dreams.
The book will fascinate anybody with an interest in music history or the mechanics of the music business, with some rare ‘behind the scenes’ pictures and press clippings adding to the book’s appeal.
Crammed with detailed and vivid descriptions of nerve-wracking meetings and tense studio sessions that would go on to shape some of pop’s most iconic figures, All For the Love of Music is a treasure-trove that brings one of the most important times in musical history to life.