The Brag Media
News October 27, 2015

Novel excerpt: Take the Bull by the horns

Barry Bull, award-winning music retailer, ex-record company executive, author and compiler of the ARIA Gold-accredited Music for Cruizin’ CD series, has just released Part One of his two-part memoir.

Take the Bull by the horns shares his recollections of the evolution of the Australian music scene including encounters with Sir Cliff Richard, Michael Crawford, Neil Diamond, Slim Dusty, Willie Nelson, Billy Joel, Meatloaf and Boz Scaggs.

Read an excerpt below.

“How about a beer?” A familiar voice called, as the ‘outlaw’ himself wandered into the empty back stage marquee at the Sydney Sports Ground. It was late afternoon and he had just completed a sound check for the evening’s forthcoming concert and was in need of a drinking companion. I was happy to oblige, knowing I was in for a long night.

 No big deal really – just another day at the office.

As head of marketing for CBS Records (now Sony Music) it was my job then to be around performers night and day but I had no time to revel in the stardust of the moment. Looking back, it was one of those moments in time, because in 1980, Willie Nelson was an international superstar having just enjoyed huge chart success with his Stardust album.  

Twenty-five years before Rod Stewart reinvented himself and made the Great American Songbook safe for a new generation of fans, there was Willie Nelson’s Stardust, one of the greatest crossover albums in history. Recorded in 1978, the songs selected for the album consisted of entirely evergreen pop standards. This was an unusual turn of direction musically for Willie, because at the time he was a leader in the outlaw country music genre.

Stardust was a huge local hit becoming one of Australia’s all time best selling albums and went on to sell ten million copies worldwide. This change of direction reinvigorated Willie’s career and delivered him a new generation of fans.

On the back of this popularity, Willie was enjoying a highly successful Australian tour and it was a CBS Records tradition to host a ‘meet and greet’ pre-show party for the media, retailers and (at Willie’s request), the local Hells Angels. The biker fraternity were big Willie Nelson fans and his hit song On the Road Again was an anthem to them. So in keeping with a wild west outlaw theme, we hired a mechanical bucking bull to entertain the troops. Its value became clear a few hours later when the Angels attempted to prove their riding skills. They should have stuck to their Harley’s however, as they limped off to the bar to swallow their pride, lick their wounds and refuel their tanks. True to form, one of them was overheard asking for a scotch on the rocks and as the bartender reached to pour the right measure, the burly biker grabbed the whole bottle, stuffed a couple of ice cubes in his gob and presto, scotch on the rocks the Angels way!

I could tell we were in for an interesting night!

It was my job to be at the venue early to ensure everything was ready before our invited guests arrived and to my surprise, alone and unannounced, in walked the man himself. Over a cold beer I thanked him for his support for our exclusive Willie Nelson local compilation album Always, which followed in the evergreen song tradition of Stardust. We (CBS) needed a new album to follow its success and with Willie’s approval, Denis Handlin and I compiled an album to coincide with his Down Under tour.

Willie Nelson’s 1980 Australian tour was a typical example of how to make the ‘big ones bigger’ which was our marketing battle cry back in the halcyon days when visiting mega stars meant mega sales (and mega parties). Artists would tour off their current chart success and the record company’s job was to market new product to capitalise on this media exposure. The Always album was released early 1980 and was a huge success peaking at number four on the national charts.

It’s ironical that thirty years later, I’m again compiling albums for CBS (now Sony Music) and if by design, two of the tracks on my Cruizin’ albums (On the Road Again and One for my Baby and One More for the Road ), were on our original Always album.

While I’ll admit I’m a sentimentalist at heart, I don’t remember much more about that night back in 1980 because after the gig, Willie and the whole CBS sales team were ensconced in the bar at the Sebel Townhouse ….having one more for the road!   

Take the Bull by the horns is available in print and digital E-Book formats from

barry book front cover ebook[1]

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