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Silent Night - Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim was an extraordinary collector and performer of all kinds of songs from folk ballads through pop, rock, rock and roll to jazz and songs from musicals, well basically anything if it interested him. He was probably the world's most famous ukulele player. He was a constant paradox: simultaneously humble and outré, respectful and mocking, ironic and genuine. He's most famous for his hit 1968 "Tiptoe Through the Tulips", known to younger generation because it was memorably featured in the 2010 horror movie "Insidious".

My mates and I at Polar Promotions (Hot Music in a Cold Climate) put him on at the Union Chapel in London for what proved to be his last ever gig in Europe in December 1995. The original bill we'd planned was with The Mike Flowers Pops who were to play the first half, and then be Tiny Tim's support band for the second. We'd put on Mike Flowers Pops before, but, unfortunately for us, they had meanwhile hit number two in the charts with their cover of Oases' "Wonderwall" and so they reneged on the booking, leaving us high and dry. The combination of the niche Mike Flowers Pops and the eccentric and very alternative Tiny Tim was a sure-fire seller, whereas Tiny Tim on his own with just a pick-up band, was so cult that we were always struggling to break even.

To compound things, Tim himself asked us if he could do a DAT recording of the concert so that his English mate, singer and poet David Tibet, supposedly could use it to try and get him future gigs in the UK and, ever helpful, we agreed. We foolishly did this without getting him to sign a contract to say that he would not use it for any other marketable purposes. The recording was later released as an album, shortly after Tiny Tim's death a year later, for which the three of us promoters who had paid all the costs of the concert, received nothing. Our costs included venue hire, support band hire, sound and lighting tech hire and Tiny Tim's fee, flight from America and back plus hotel accommodation. As a music promoter, you win some and you lose some. That's the name of the game. What still rankles is the Youtube posts saying things like (I quote) "Tiny performs "I got You, Babe" and "A Precious Souvenir" - in his last ever European concert appearance which was made possible by David Tibet of Current 93, an unforgettable evening if ever there was one.....".

We needed a break-even audience of around 250 and, in the event, only got 120. Tiny Tim was brilliant, which, even in my jaundiced position, having lost the shirt from my back, I was able to appreciate and enjoy. The sparse audience were total devotees, and he came back for several encores, before announcing that he would sign cd's in his dressing room directly after the show. Before we could stop them, almost the entire audience had piled into his dressing room where he then proceeded to sing for another hour, accompanied by only his ukulele, until we had to angrily interrupt him. The Union Chapel is a large and complicated venue, originally designed as a congregationalist church, so every moment that the audience stayed on cost us in overtime excess charges in venue and staff hire - no small amount as fifteen stewards were required for every gig for starters.

His name, Tiny Tim, like so much about him, was ironic, as he was six foot one, although he seemed much taller, as he somehow crammed himself into the passenger seat of our hire 4 x 4, and I drove him back to his hotel afterwards. He smiled at me commiseratingly - he must have known we'd lost a lot of money on the gig - and said that, since the success of MTV, live music was a thing of the past. He suggested we should go in for more spectacular gigs instead, "circus acts or freakshows, that sort of thing, like a troupe of acrobatic dwarves". Then he put his seat into a reclining position, stretched his legs out and was quickly asleep, snoring loudly as we sped along the London streets, with me considering pushing him out onto the wet pavement.

As it was Christmas, he gave each of the three promoters a copy of his 1994 album "Tiny Tim's Christmas Album". One of the tracks on it is "Silent Night" which is Tim at his sincere best. Tiny Tim was a devoted Christian who despaired of the pomposity and hypocrisy of Christmas. Hence his fiery sermon, which I wish he had delivered from the pulpit of the Union Chapel. But he didn't. The message is good though, condemning us all for our unchristianly behaviour for "363 days of the year" and remembering the teachings of Christ on only "one silent night of the year" (he missed a day out - maybe that's Easter).

I didn't like him when I met him - he cost me a pretty penny and was pretty insensitive about it - you don't have to like the people you promote, but his music is often ethereal and definitely like no-one else before or since . So as this is the time of year for forgiving, I'm saying "God bless us everyone!" and, genuinely (and ironically) remembering him. I'm glad we put him on, he was great.

One of the faithful few who came especially to see him that evening travelled all the way from Lossiemouth. Another, with reverence, thanked me for putting him on. He said, "I saw him at the Isle Wight Festival in 1970. He was awesome. He blew Jimi Hendrix off the stage!"


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