Fame: Derek Shulman


How did you deal with having a smash hit single with Kites in 1967 when you were with Simon Dupree And The Big Sound?

It changed everything. What we didn’t like was what went with pop stardom. That wasn’t what we started the band for.

Is that what led to the band splitting up?

Completely. We got paid big money to play clubs. But all people wanted were our hits.

Gentle Giant got a lot of respect for their music, but little commercial success. Were you happier with that than with pop fame?

We didn’t sell millions of records, but didn’t do badly. We were never a commercial flop. We were a cult band, which was fine.

When you became an A&R man did you look for talent or artists who’d sell millions?

I tried to strike a balance. I knew the business heads were after big success, but I also encouraged the artists I signed to be creative.

Were you able to use your experience of fame to guide bands like Bon Jovi?

Quite a lot. I tried to get across to them that fame is always fleeting, but if they do the right things, they could build a long career.

How do you react when people claim you helped to shape the ‘big hair’ music phenomenon of the eighties?

Delighted. That was a great era for music, and I’m proud I played a part. But I was more than a big-hair man; I also signed Dream Theater and Pantera.

Do you ever wish you’d had more fame as a musician?

To me, what mattered was making quality music that would last. And with Gentle Giant we did that.