In addition to his 'day job' as an acoustic architect working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (the B.B.C.), and until he set up his own practice in 1969, Sandy was a prolific writer and correspondent. For many years he wrote jazz articles for 'The Listener', lectured on acoustics, and harangued those who did not give a fair hearing to jazz, particularly on the radio.
In 1973, the publishers Faber and Faber commissioned him to write his autobiography and when he died, it remained incomplete. His business partner and fellow architect, David Binns, edited it together with jazz articles and letters. He persuaded Faber and Faber to publish it and 'The McJazz Manuscripts' appeared on the bookshelves in 1979. It is part autobiographical and part jazz criticism. It includes letters to the press and is often very funny.
In Chapter 2, 'Straightening Jazzers Out', Sandy adopts another persona, 'Alastair Babb', to write about himself and his life. Some parts are 'creative writing' - Sandy's mother was not Hindu! - nevertheless, his reflections give us a better understanding of a jazz musician's life in Britain in the 1950's and 1960's, and the book is packed with references to other musicians.
David Binns first met Sandy in 1967 in Bath at a symposium on concert hall design. From that time they collaborated in designing and implementing studios. In 1968, they founded Sandy Brown Associates with a major contract to provide architectural services for an American consortium that wanted to set up a massive four-studio film and recording centre in Hendon, London. Sandy Brown Associates went on to take a leading position in the field of international acoustics.
The McJazz Manuscripts had been out of print for some years, but on 2nd June 2008, Faber and Faber launched a new imprint called 'Faber Finds' which made available a large number of titles using 'print-on-demand' technology. This allows them to print runs of between one and fifty books at a time. The McJazz Manuscripts is included in the programme at a special price of £13.50 (November 2008). The Faber Finds titles will not be stocked in large quantities by booksellers, but will be available to order through most major booksellers or internet-based booksellers. Faber and Faber aims to publish about 20 new titles every month after the launch list of 100 available in June. For more information, click here: Faber Finds.
Second-hand copies of the original print may still be obtained. Try the Book section of www.amazon.co.uk, or you could ask your local library to find a copy that you might borrow. www.worldcatlibraries.org gives a guide to where copies are to be found in libraries.
The following extracts from the McJazz Manuscripts appears here with the kind permission of David Binns:
"Getting back to Sidcup or Cheam at four o'clock in the morning after a gig in Birminham was something only to be undertaken until a bed, any bed, could be found in West Hampstead. At any time during the fifties and sixties, 100 jazz musicians would be living in West Hampstead, at least fifty of them seemingly at 4 Fawley Road, or Bleak House as it came to be known... Inside the house - the distinction between in and out was blurred by the door panels having been kicked in as inhabitants, lodgers, wayfarers forgot/lost/never had keys - conditions had achieved squalor of a surrealism it would have been hard to invent...
"Some of the great musicians who lived at one time or another at Fawley Road were the pianists Brian Lemon, Colin Purbrook; sax player Tony Coe; trumpet player Jimmy Deuchar. The astonishing leaven of non-musician jazz lovers included Legal Pete, Oxford George, Ray Bolden and Al Babb. Sandy Brown and pianist Keith Ingham lived round the corner in Greencroft Gardens, and Phil Seamen, the best drummer in the U.K., in Goldhurst Terrace.
"Throughout the crunch and snap of breaking glass, the splintering door panels and the endless regurgitation of overindulged stomachs (singing a rainbow), Tony Coe would flit faultlessly through Bartok or Jimmy Deuchar would write down musical figures to show what brass arranging was about. The musicians would help, correct, encourage."
"Bandleaders are right bastards... They insist on playing repetitions and boring numbers. They hire transport you wouldn't put coal in. But their worst feature is the evil and humiliating use of lies in giving personnel the sack. The classic procedure is as follows. Imagine a cheery Christmassy scene, snow on the ground, all sounds hushed ... Noiselessly a Ford Thames van rounds a nearby corner and stops, windscreen wipers re-arranging the snow on the glass. A door opens and a figure staggers out blinking ... He is holding an instrument case. 'See you Dave', a voice calls from inside the wagon, 'half five at Finchley Road: it's Barnet tomorrow.' Dave weaves unsteadily off. 'See you.' In the morning it seems that things could be worse. At eleven, when Dave wakes, most of the snow has gone and the sun is shining. Good time to get into the Two Brewers: have a few pints with Johnny Kendall, Ray Bolden and the Dobells lot ... Hello: a few letters ...
'Dear Dave, Thank you for playing in the band for two years. As a result of a change in musical policy - nothing personal - it has been decided to dispense with your services as from last night. In recognition of your services in the past it has been decided to give you a bonus of £5. As you know you had a sub of £5 on Tuesday, so that makes us even up to date. Thanks again and good luck, Dave.'
"Almost like a ritual Mafia killing. The victim should be replete with wine and good food before having his brains blown out. 'See you, Dave: 5.30 at Finchley Road.' That method of firing was used a lot, but bandleaders had a lot to put up with ..."
From The McJazz Manuscripts © David Binns 1979 Published by Faber and Faber.
Sandy Brown and David Binns in 1969 (Sandy Brown Associates)