We’d finished the first album; ‘I am Jem Cooke”.
Alan Branch, the excellent mix-meister, had done a great job of the final mixes and we were keen to exploit whatever market there was so that budding fans of Jem could hear it. We sent it out to Germany by request. The reply came back almost by return: “When can you come out here? We love it!!
We were greeted at the hotel in Mannheim a few months later by our appointed manager, Michael Bundt, or as he became known, Herr Schrug.
We had never met and he’d only ever heard a few songs that we’d sent out but on the back of this, he’d arranged six gigs for us in and around Mannheim over what was possibly the hottest heatwave ever created.
But we had decided that we would still remain in a ‘Back to Basics’ state of mind and play each gig with just acoustic guitar, ukulele and keyboards as and when provided.
When we did gigs back home, we would usually do thirty minutes and if pushed thirty-five. Arriving in Germany we discovered that the usual form was to take the entire evening. We were expected to play two sets of forty-five minutes. That’s two and a half times round the album! And still no one had heard of Jem and what she did. So, we ventured forth and counted more empty seats than full ones as we sweated our way through new and old tunes to make up the full ninety minutes. We would drive by venues where Herr Schrug would say:” One day you will probably play here.” and shrug indifferently when we asked him when. And so, this first tour finished and we came home wondering what we’d done and why we’d done it.
We returned only a few months later for more gigs, reappointed another manager as Herr Schrug simply shrugged one too many times, and secured a tour with the legendary Bob Geldof. It was a great tour for us and his band, mainly formally from Ian Dury’s Blockheads, were really supportive. Closely followed by another tour with Naturally 7 who had been with Michael Bublé, we were asked to be their ‘guest artists’.
One gig in Hamburg where, after the Naturally 7 management offered us more playing time at each concert, we told them that we needed the interval to sell our merchandising. So, we’d rather stay with our allotted twenty-five minutes. We were on song number three of roughly seven songs. Jem was still relatively unknown, but as she started singing the entire sell out audience rose to its feet for a midway standing ovation. It was magnificent and quite emotional. I said to Jem that rather than go back to the dressing room after we’d finished, jump off stage and walk down the centre aisle to the merchandising table and people will follow you. They had to delay the start of the second half due to the queues wanting the ‘I am Jem Cooke’ Album.
It continued in a similar fashion until we came home.
From small beginnings Jem had scored serious brownie points and we’d achieved so much in a very short space of time. It appeared that our Back to Basic strategy had worked and grown in a very natural and organic way.
Be bold and believe in whatever you’re doing. Back to basics can so often return some extraordinary, happy and surprising results. And the album still sounds rather good.