During his near-40 year involvement in the music industry, Greg Shaw, who has died of a heart attack aged 55, was a writer, editor, publisher, manager, publicist, producer and independent record label owner. It was an involvement characterised by a passion for music - not profit.
Born in San Francisco, Shaw began collecting rock'n'roll 45s as a child. By his early teens he was cranking out mimeographed fanzines dedicated to his favourite music and authors, including JRR Tolkien, and he befriended writers Philip K Dick and Robert Silverberg. As San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury scene took off in 1966, Shaw, discarding thoughts of college, started publishing a two-page gossip sheet, Mojo-Navigator Rock & Roll News. By summer's end it was a 32-page colour production. A young Jann Wenner got to know Shaw, studied how to produce a serious rock magazine - and went on to launch Rolling Stone.
Shaw was a co-founder of the Underground Press Syndicate, hung out with Jimi Hendrix, tripped with Timothy Leary and corresponded with the people running the London-based Oz magazine. As Mojo-Navigator demanded more attention, Shaw decided to close it. In 1970, having shifted to Los Angeles, he launched the fanzine called Duke Of Earl for its first issue, but stuck as Who Put The Bomp from number two. Bomp catalogued Shaw's enthusiasm for elemental rock'n'roll - and employed writers such as Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs. Hired by United Artists as assistant head of creative services, Shaw did everything from writing press releases to editing the legendary Phonograph Music Magazine. Bomp expanded considerably, and began to feature lengthy discographies and rock history pieces, exhaustive reviews of obscure 1960s records and new things of interest, and began The Encyclopedia Of British Rock, an A-Z history of everything recorded in England from 1960 to 1970.
In 1974, Shaw met up with the San Franciscan cult band The Flamin' Groovies who had been recording for UA's British label. The band was out of a deal. Shaw loved the Groovies and released a single through Bomp Magazine which launched Bomp Records and convinced Seymour Stein at Sire Records to sign the band, provided Shaw came on board as manager. Shaw toured Europe with the Groovies in 1975 and 1976, met pretty much everybody on the emerging punk scene and considered this time the most exciting two years of his life. He befriended the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren and Chrissy Hynde while serving on the editorial board of the first International Encyclopedia Of Rock, and he wrote about one third of the first edition. Shaw and the Groovies parted company in late 1976. He poured his energy into chronicling the punk movement in Bomp and releasing hugely influential records on the Bomp label, including Iggy Pop's first solo LP.
By 1979 Shaw was souring on the increasingly corporate punk scene, so he closed the magazine and focused his energy on promoting the glories of what he called "garage" music of the 1960s. He issued the Pebbles series of compilation albums, gathering rare 1960s 45s from his personal collection - eventually numbering more than 1m records. Bands such as the Undertones and the Cramps covered songs they discovered via Pebbles.
Shaw spent much of the 1980s producing young garage bands and running Hollywood's Cavern Club, which specialised in retro-rock bands. Discouraged by the LA scene, Shaw moved to Britain and set up the Ubik label. He released a number of records that he hoped would create a niche for him, but just as Ubik was getting off the ground in the early 1990s, Rough Trade distribution went bankrupt and took down the fledgling label. Back in California, Shaw began issuing Bomp's entire catalogue on CD. He also championed the contemporary rock that he favoured, including the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and he appears in the 2004 rockumentary, Dig!.
Garage rock is now a hugely popular and influential genre and Shaw was its mentor. "It's a satisfying life that I'd never trade for, say, David Geffen's," said Shaw. "A small business can be the means to 'find yourself' more surely than any mystical path I know. If nothing else, maybe we've set an example that might offer an alternative (and I don't mean musical) to this increasingly corporate, impersonal society. Or maybe not. At least, we've had a good time trying."
Shaw's first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife Phoebe
and their son.
Garth Cartwright - The Guardian
Greg Shaw, writer and music entrepreneur: born January 31st, 1949 - died October 19th, 2004.