A Rockapaedia Obituary
Mickie Most died aged sixty-four on 30th May 2003, of peritoneal mesothelioma and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, North London, United Kingdom. He was survived by his wife Christina and their three children; Calvin, Nathalie, and Cristalle. A blue plaque, to commemorate his life, donated by the Heritage Foundation/Musical Heritage, was unveiled at RAK Studios on 16th May 2004.
Mickie Most was born as Michael Peter Hayes in Aldershot, Hampshire, United Kingdom, the son of a regimental sergeant-major. Mickie moved with his parents to Harrow, Middlesex, U.K. in 1951 and was influenced by skiffle and early rock and roll in his youth. After leaving school at fifteen, he worked as a singing waiter at London's The 2i's Coffee Bar where he made friends with future business partner Peter Grant, and formed a singing duo. Billing themselves as the 'Most Brothers' ; they recorded the single "Takes A Whole Lotta Loving to Keep My Baby Happy" with Decca Records before parting ways. Mickie Most later went on to produce the Moody Blues U.K. number one single "Go Now" and later he travelled to South Africa with his wife Christina, and formed a pop group; Mickie Most and the Playboys. This band scored eleven consecutive number one singles there, mostly being cover versions of known rock and roll songs.
Returning to London in 1962, Mickie Most appeared on package tours as well as recording "Mister Porter", a number 45 hit in the UK Singles Chart in July 1963 and had moderate success with 'The Feminine Look' in 1963, this latter featuring a lesser known Jimmy Page on lead guitar.
Becoming tired of touring clubs, Mickie Most decided to concentrate on other aspects of the music industry. His first job was selling records in stores and displaying them on racks, which was a later inspiration for his record label, RAK, before finding a niche with production for Columbia Records. After spotting The Animals at Club A-Go-Go in Newcastle, U.K. he offered to produce their first single, "Baby Let Me Take You Home", which reached number 21 in the UK Singles Chart and their follow-up 1964 single, "The House of the Rising Sun", becoming an international hit.
Mickie Most had success with Herman's Hermits after being approached by their management. Their first Most production, "I'm into Something Good", went to number 1 in September 1964, beginning a run of single and album sales, becoming ten million over 12 months, the group for a time challenged even the Beatles in popularity in the United States. His down-to-earth handling of the band, his business acumen and knack for selecting hit singles, established Mickie Most as one of the most successful pop producers in Britain and kept him in demand throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
In July 1964, Mickie Most had scored a top 10 hit with the Nashville Teens' cover of the John D. Loudermilk song "Tobacco Road". In September 1964, with Mickie Most at the control board, Brenda Lee recorded "Is It True" and "What'd I Say". "Is It True" was released in England and later in the US, and it became a hit and a gold record. Mickie Most had equal success with other artists for whom he produced chart-topping albums and singles between 1964 and 1969, notably Donovan with "Sunshine Superman", "Mellow Yellow", "Jennifer Juniper", and "Hurdy Gurdy Man", and Lulu's hits "To Sir, with Love", "The Boat That I Row", "Boom Bang-a-Bang", "Me the Peaceful Heart", and "I'm a Tiger". Mickie Most also produced the final studio single of the 1960s by The Seekers, "Days of My Life", in 1968, and Nancy Sinatra's "The Highway Song" in 1969. Additionally in the 1960s, Mickie Most signed and produced artists such as singer-guitarist Terry Reid, and all-girl rock band The She Trinity.
Mickie Most's productions were backed by London-based session musicians including Big Jim Sullivan and Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass guitar and arrangements, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and Bobby Graham on drums. He produced Jeff Beck's hits "Love is Blue" and "Hi Ho Silver Lining" and the Jeff Beck Group albums 'Truth' and 'Beck-Ola'. He teamed the Beck group with Donovan for the single "Barabajagal". By 1967, after commercial and critical failure of The Yardbirds album 'Little Games', he decided to steer clear of rock groups. The Yardbirds objected to his insistence that every song be cut to three minutes and that albums were an afterthought following the singles. His focused approach also led to a split with Donovan in late 1969. Mickie Most and Donovan reunited in 1973 for the album 'Cosmic Wheels' on which Mickie Most was credited under his real name, Michael Peter Hayes.
Despite these setbacks, Mickie Most set up his own production office in London's Oxford Street, sharing it with his business partner Peter Grant. It was through Mickie Most's association that Peter Grant was asked to manage The Yardbirds.
In 1968, Mickie Most and Peter Grant set up RAK Management, but Grant's involvement with The Yardbirds, which soon evolved into Led Zeppelin, meant Mickie Most had control in late 1969. RAK Records and RAK Music Publishing were launched in 1969. RAK Music Publishing has the copyright of such classic popular songs as "You Sexy Thing" composed by Hot Chocolate singer Errol Brown and a half interest in the song "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" written by Alan Merrill and Jake Hooker of the band Arrows. Both acts were produced by Mickie Most.
With RAK Records, Mickie Most's success continued with folk singer Julie Felix's hit "El Condor Pasa". She was the first artist signed to the label. Mickie Most then produced Mary Hopkin’s 1970 hit "Temma Harbour" for Apple Records, followed by her Eurovision Song Contest entry, "Knock, Knock Who's There?". In 1970, Mickie Most approached Suzi Quatro with a recording contract after seeing her on stage at a Detroit dance hall with the band Cradle, while on a production assignment in Chicago. Quatro was among a growing roster of artists signed to RAK Records which included Alexis Korner's CCS, Arrows, Smokie, Hot Chocolate, Angie Miller, Chris Spedding, and Heavy Metal Kids. Hiring the songwriting production team of Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, RAK scored several British number 1 singles with Suzi Quatro ("Can the Can" and "Devil Gate Drive") and Mud ("Tiger Feet", "Lonely This Christmas" and "Oh Boy").
For RAK in the 1970s, Mickie Most also produced hits for New World, Duncan Browne, Cozy Powell, Tam White, Kandidate, and Racey, as well as Chris Spedding's self-titled 1976 album, which was Spedding's fifth solo record. He also produced "We Vibrate", the first 45 rpm by punk band The Vibrators. In 1980, Mickie Most discovered Kim Wilde, who was doing backing vocals for her father Marty Wilde at a Luton recording session. After hearing her, Mickie Most signed Kim who immediately scored a hit with the single "Kids in America" which reached number two in the UK, and number 25 on the US Billboard chart.
Mickie Most was a panellist on the UK television talent show New Faces',' where his tough assessments of contestants foreshadowed the style of Simon Cowell. He was producer of Revolver, a TV programme devoted to punk rock which was at odds with his 'studio factory' approach to pop music. Mickie Most asked Kate Bush to appear as guest on the pilot episode. In the 1980s, the band Johnny Hates Jazz, which featured Mickie Most's son Calvin Hayes, was also signed to RAK Records. RAK sold out to EMI in 1983 but was revived in 1988. Mickie Most was one of the first producers to own the rights to his own records and RAK Studios, which opened in 1976 in St John's Wood and still remains active.
In 1995, Mickie Most's fortune was estimated at £50 million and he appeared in The Sunday Times annual Rich List among the Top 500 in England. His house, Montebello, in Totteridge Lane, London, was claimed to be the largest private home in the UK, worth then an estimated £4 million.