Bill Newman: a quiet force in the classical recording business dies

I was very saddened to hear of Bill’s death (some time in June, apparently). I fondly recall meeting him for the first times at EMI’s headquarters in Manchester Square when, as a 21-year-old, I excitedly negotiated issuing a Bronislaw Huberman LP on my own Melos label (which ran to just that single release – 99 copies to avoid purchase tax!). He took me to see David Bicknell and listened attentively to the home-made transfer that I had prepared on my Ferrograph tape recorder. I seem to remember he was rather impressed, quite an accolade coming from one of the best transfer technicians around at the time. While at EMI Bill had dealt with my beloved Mercury label (this was before Philips got involved) and later on at Boosey & Hawkes, where he was Sales Manager while I looked after advertisements, he would kindly bring in rare LPs on a daily basis so that I could hear them, an act of generosity that I shall never be able to repay. Well, not quite true … when Bill fell ill and his then-partner Gill was holding the fort I joined forces with a group of mates to move his collection from a basement flat to his home in Edgware. I recall, with some amusement, loading armfuls of discs from the flat to the lorry and someone stopping me to ask if this was ‘Candid Camera’! Halfway up Highgate Hill the vehicle started to labour under the weight of its sizeable cargo and when we finally opened the door to check everything was OK it was as if someone had randomly thrown a thousand packs of cards into a limited space and they had toppled uncontrollably. Fortunately only two 78s were broken … but the real eye-opener was when I borrowed a couple of LPs (by the cellist Piatigorsky) and he knew exactly what I’d taken. Now that’s what I call knowing your collection. A real character and a critic with a view was Bill, which is what we need. May he rest in peace.

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