Pete Fulwell – Music manager
Born December 30, 1944; died February 20, 2020
Pete Fulwell, who has died aged 75, was a major force for music in Liverpool for almost half a century. Fulwell was at the centre of his adopted home’s underground scenes from the 1970s, joining Roger Eagle and Ken Testi as managing director of legendary club Eric’s, which became a playground for the city’s punk and post-punk waifs and strays in search of a place to call their own. Fulwell later helped set up the Inevitable record label, before moving into management and steering artists including Pete Wylie, Pete Burns, Holly Johnson, It’s Immaterial, Black and The Christians to mainstream success.
Pete Fulwell was born in Shrewsbury, and moved to Liverpool in 1967 to study psychology. After finishing his degree, he began a PhD based on research into mapping cognitive architecture for automated teaching systems. Frustrated by primitive technology, he dropped out. With ambitions to start a club, Fulwell set up the Modula design company, and, with permission from Led Zeppelin’s hard-nosed manager Peter Grant, provided posters designed by Steve Hardstaff for the band’s two Wembley Empire Pool shows in 1971. Modular also ended up doing publicity material for the likes of Fleetwood Mac and The Strawbs.
With Eagle, who promoted gigs by the likes of Captain Beefheart and Love at Liverpool’s vast boxing stadium, and Deaf School’s road manager Testi, the three talked about their idea of opening “a club for people that didn’t normally go to clubs,” as Fulwell explained in Bill Sykes’ biography of Eagle, Sit Down! Listen to This. Eric’s opened in 1976 on Mathew Street, opposite where The Cavern had stood, with Fulwell drafted in as managing director.
Speaking with the Liverpool Echo, Testi described how, by using a project management technique developed by NASA to manage moon landings, Fulwell was “able to predict, correctly, that the enterprise would crash and burn in four years.” As Fulwell explained to Sykes, “The game is to keep it flying as long as possible, but you know it’s going to crash.”
Fulwell and co never intended Eric’s to be a punk club, but its opening chimed with the seismic musical revolution that was happening nationwide, and it became the breeding ground for a fertile Liverpool scene spearheaded by Big in Japan, and spawning Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. An offshoot Eric’s record label released solo singles by a pre Frankie Goes to Hollywood Holly Johnson and Mick Hucknall’s first band, the Frantic Elevators. Eric’s closed in March 1980 following a police raid.
Fulwell co-founded Inevitable, releasing debut singles by Wah! Heat and Pete Burns’ bands, Nightmares in Wax and Dead or Alive. Now managing Wylie, Fulwell founded Eternal Records, taking Wylie and Wah! into the charts with The Story of the Blues (1982). Fulwell also looked after It’s Immaterial, Colin Vearncombe’s Black project and The Christians.
Fulwell headed up a consultancy to help former Beatle Paul McCartney and Liverpool City Council convert McCartney’s former school into Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. For the last twenty years, Fulwell was CEO of Merseyside Music Development Agency, which operated the Merseyside Youth Music Action Zone, advising on music business start-ups for young people, and promoting participation by children and young people in the music industry. In a city wheremusic is its lifeblood, Fulwell’s role in taking it out into the world was crucial.
He is survived by his wife Christine and their daughter Sophie.
Originally commissioned by The Herald in February 2020, though it never appeared as no-one could find a photograph to go with it.