All that Jazz: the soldier who took on Wham! and Snow Patrol
Jazz Summers, band manager extraordinaire, is a good example of a behind-the-scenes guy who has a better backstory than his charges
The only way is up? Jazz Summers with his wife Yazz
George Michael at the Great Wall of China during the Wham! years
Jazz Summers in the British army
Sometimes the people behind the pop scenes are far more interesting than those in the limelight. This especially holds true when you look at music managers who’ve ruled the roost. The lives, times and views of people such as Led Zeppelin handler Peter Grant or Rolling Stones and Beatles manager Allen Klein (who took over the Stones from the equally fascinating Andrew Loog Oldham) can be even more colourful than their charges.
You can add Jazz Summers to this gallery. The man who has managed such acts as Wham!, Snow Patrol, The Verve, Scissor Sisters, The Charlatans, London Grammar and dozens more has long been regarded as a formidable character within the business, willing to fight to the bitter end for this clients.
As Gary Lightbody from former clients Snow Patrol notes, “If you’re part of his pride he will fight to the death for you. He can make grown men cry and shit themselves. He is, though, essentially a kind man with a big heart and a deep capacity for love. Just don’t piss him off.”
You’ll find Lightbody’s words as a blurb accompanying Big Life, Summers’s no-holds-barred book on his life’s journey from soldier to pop manager. It’s a remarkably honest account.
“A lot of music books are just full of rock’n’roll cliches about getting drunk and doing drugs and being outrageous,” says Summers. “I wanted to write a book to inspire people rather than just tell a load of stories about getting pissed for breakfast or falling over at a gig. I know I’ve achieved that because I get an email or text every day from someone who has read the book saying it has inspired them.”
The army years
Summers was 17 years old when he enlisted in the British army. He was trained as a radiographer, but music had caught his ear and it didn’t take him long to realise he wanted out. The army had other ideas and kept him for more than nine years.
“When I sat down with Joe Stretch [the book’s ghostwriter], he asked me, ‘Where will we start?’ and I said, ‘Well, I suppose with the army’, and he went, ‘You were in the army?’ I said, ‘Yeah, my dad kind of pushed me and I had no choice.’ He had no idea the stories were so entertaining.”
The stories are certainly that. Unable to leave the army (even trying to fake his own death didn’t work), Summers dabbled with music and mischief. He played gigs in Malaysian cities such as Penang and Malacca with Shades of Blue, bootlegged Tiger beer, planned unauthorised incursions into Vietnam and was a hand model for cigarettes in Singapore.