Barbara Charone is a legend in the music world. As a journalist in the Seventies and a PR from the Eighties onwards, she’s crossed swords with a series of rock’s biggest names. She’s now written her much-anticipated memoirs, Access All Areas, which tells her remarkable story and, as expected, contains a star-studded list of characters.
Charone worked for a host of publications including Rolling Stone, Sounds and NME, crossing the pond from her native USA in 1974 to settle permanently in her beloved London, where she wrote features on the likes of Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones – and she became close friends with Keith Richards despite his initial annoyance over elements of a piece she had written about the band. He forgave her, to the point that not only did he co-operate on a book she later wrote about him, Charone even stayed at his infamous Redlands estate in West Sussex. This rock’n’roll devotee was properly living the dream.
“It was really exciting because it was all new,” she says of those halcyon days. “The whole music business was just taking shape. Just getting paid to listen to music was great. It was an exciting period – an age of discovery for everyone.”
Shortly after moving into PR, Charone was given what would end up being a career-defining job of generating headlines for a promising young American singer called Madonna. She ended up playing a crucial part in a rise to fame so rapid that after making her London debut at the relatively pokey Camden Palace in 1983, Madonna’s next shows in the city less than four years later were a three-date stint in front of 72,000 people a night at Wembley Stadium.
“Just that fact is insane,” says Charone. “I say that to a lot of people and I don’t think they understand the words. It will never ever happen again. It was incredibly exciting. I’ve seen it happen on a lesser scale to people like James Blunt and Duffy but I was lucky, it’s a great learning curve.”
So what’s Madonna like? Are you friends with her?