1939 - 2005
A Pioneer Of Britain's Independent Record Industry
Between 1961 and 1977 he was a pioneer in the British record industry - starting and developing Transatlantic Records - that for several years was Britain's most successful fully-independent record company. It was the prototype for Virgin, Island, Chrysalis Charisma, Immediate and the myriad other record labels that followed in its wake. Joseph is credited with discovering and recording many of Britain's most critically-acclaimed artists of the '60s and '70s and his company was the leading importer of the American roots music that influenced a generation of British musicians. Just 16 years after he started the company - at the peak of its success - he left to pursue another of his great passions in life - The Theatre.
In 1978 Joseph embarked on his new career. Over the next 25 years he became one of Britain's most respected theatre producers and agents - presenting challenging new plays in Britain and on Broadway - and representing the cream of the new wave of British directors, stage designers and lighting designers - as well as eminent playwrights such as Arnold Wesker.
The common thread to Joseph's work in the record industry and the theatre world was his intuitive ability to identify, nurture and promote creative talent. Over a 40-year span Joseph was credited with discovering numerous influential musicians (in multiple musical genres), songwriters, comedians, stage designers and directors - and then promoting them to worldwide attention.
CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF NAT JOSEPH'S SKILLS
The story behind two of his most famous discoveries is emblematic of the gifts he deployed throughout his professional life. In 1968 Joseph personally signed a Scottish folk-rock duo called The Humblebums to his record company. After supervising two critically-acclaimed album releases by the group, Joseph finally deduced that the two members would develop greater creative strengths as soloists - and in fields other than folk-rock.
Joseph encouraged the band's primary songwriter to develop into a solo rock artist - and he launched the career and debut album by one of the most iconic rock artists of the 1970s - Gerry Rafferty.
The other member of the band was an aspiring folk singer and banjo-player who used humorous patter to introduce the band's songs onstage. It was Joseph who told the individual that his skills as a musician were greatly surpassed by his comedic abilities. He encouraged the would-be folksinger to jettison his music career and make a career in comedy. Joseph had identified the latent comedic talents of someone who would grow to become one of the world's leading comedians and actors - Billy Connolly.
Not only did Joseph identify Connolly's hidden talent - he took the lead in nurturing and promoting it. Joseph became directly involved in Connolly's work - becoming the hands-on producer of Connolly's breakthrough comedy albums, then supervising the publicity and marketing campaign that launched a local Scottish comedian to worldwide success.
The remarkable combination of intuition, skills in nurturing, producing and promoting talent - and an ability to blend artistic vision with business acumen were the hallmarks of Nathan Joseph's professional life.
Nat Joseph created one of Britain's first (and most successful) fully-independent record companies in the contemporary music era. His company - Transatlantic Records - was launched in 1961. Joseph was just 21 years old - and had recently graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in English.
THE INSPIRATION FOR STARTING TRANSATLANTIC
During a year-long post-graduation trip to the United States in 1960, Joseph had become enamoured with the American roots music that he heard in folk and blues clubs and in coffee houses. He also observed the burgeoning interest in this under-sung musical heritage among other young people. He realized that most of the albums he purchased to take home were unavailable in Britain. The idea occurred to him that there might be others in the UK who would enjoy this music - if only someone would import it. That was the notion that gave birth to Transatlantic Records...
PROTOTYPE FOR BRITISH INDIES
Joseph's Transatlantic Records - with its adventurous tastes in music, its innovative marketing and its philosophy of supportive commitment to cutting-edge artists who had been missed or passed-over by the major labels - became the prototype for the many independent UK record companies that followed in its footsteps later in the 1960s and 1970s - companies such as Island, Virgin, Chysalis, Charisma, Immediate, Track, Blue Horizon, Radar, Demon, Stiff, Mute, Beggars Banquet and Rough Trade.
Transatlantic grew from small beginnings in 1961 as the primary UK importer of the otherwise unobtainable American folk, blues, ragtime, zydeco and jazz recordings that would influence a generation of future British rock musicians - to become the largest independently owned and distributed record company in the UK.
Having started primarily as an importer of hard-to-find American music, Joseph's Transatlantic rapidly became a fully-fledged record label in its own right. The company discovered and recorded many seminal British artists in a broad range of genres - including rock, pop, folk, blues, jazz, ragtime, country, classical, comedy, spoken-word and more. The company grew to be Britain's first and leading "mini-major" with a turnover that eventually rivaled some of the majors.
ADMIRATION AND FRIENDHIP OF INDUSTRY PEERS
Joseph's eclectic taste and pioneering style of running an indie record company won him many friends and admirers among his contemporaries in both the British and American record industries. Joseph was noted for providing his artists with the freedom to follow their muse - a radical concept in the early 1960s. Though he was a similar young age to them - several of his industry peers regarded him as a mentor.
In the USA - his friends and admirers included: Mo Ostin (Chairman of Warner Bros/Reprise Records), Jac Holzman (Founder/Chairman of Elektra Records), Seymour Stein (Founder/Chairman of Sire Records), Dick Asher (Vice-President of CBS Records) and Artie Mogull (Chairman of United Artists Records).
In the UK - those who followed his template for indie record company success included: Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin Records), Chris Blackwell (Founder of Island Records), Tony Stratton-Smith (Founder of Charisma Records) and Chris Wright & Terry Ellis (Founders of Chrysalis Records).
Other admirers among the following generation of UK record industry leaders included Paul Conroy (Stiff Records, Warner Music Group and Virgin Records) Rob Dickins (former Chairman of Warner Music Group-UK, former Chairman of the BPI) and Bob Mercer (Managing Director EMI Records UK.)
Joseph's Transatlantic Records company distributed its own "Transatlantic" and "Xtra" labels - which presented an eclectic range of music ranging from rock and folk to jazz and blues - and also marketed and distributed many smaller labels (British and American) presenting folk, blues, jazz, rock, pop, ragtime, country, classical, avant garde, comedy, spoken word and many other genres that were either ignored or short-changed by the major UK labels of the era.
Joseph strongly believed that the new generation of musicians emerging in the 1960s should be given more artistic freedom rather than the patronizing puppet-master approach of the major labels. One of his most-respected artists - acclaimed guitarist John Renbourn summarized the company's approach in 1997:
"I must admit to feeling a certain fondness for the old Transatlantic company. The good musicians who passed through the ranks, at one stage or another, are legion and though many have gone on to possibly better and higher things, in most cases their fledgling recordings have remained as some of their best work. In my case, when my contract ran out and it seemed like I was free to fly the coop, I felt a bit sorry to go. In what was getting on for ten years my musical horizons had broadened somewhat and Nat had always been supportive of any changes in direction. In fact I was virtually free to record whatever I wanted, with very little outside pressure, which is an almost ideal situation for any musician…"
The contributions of Nat Joseph and Transatlantic Records to the British record industry were manifold.
THE FOLK BOOM
The company had a pivotal role in the massive boom in British folk music (contemporary & traditional) in the 1960s and 1970s. Discovering, recording, marketing and/or distributing major folk artists - including soloists such as: Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Dave Swarbrick, Harvey Andrews, Stefan Grossman, Alex Campbell, Hamish Imlach, Sidney Carter and Gordon Giltrap. Bands and duos such as: The Dubliners, Pentangle, The Ian Campbell Group, The Boys of the Lough, Decameron, Mr. Fox, The Johnstons, The Watersons, The Sallyangie, The Humblebums, The McCalmans, Young Tradition, Robin & Barry Dransfield, Finbar & Eddie Furey, Royston & Heather Wood.
ECLECTIC ARTIST ROSTER
Transatlantic discovered, recorded, marketed and distributed idiosyncratic and critically-acclaimed British artists in other musical genres including: progressive-rock, metal, R&B, blues and jazz. Including: Alexis Korner, Duffy Power, Duncan Browne, Annie Ross, Jean Hart, Pete Bardens, Gerry Rafferty, Unicorn, Gryphon, Skin Alley, The Purple Gang, Stray, Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias, Mick Farren.
Transatlantic provided a natural home for avant-garde and experimental recording projects featuring artists, musicians, composers and producers as diverse as: Brian Eno, David Bedford, Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars, Ron Geesin, Mike Westbrook and Tim Souster.
Artists who made their first-ever recordings for Nat Joseph include: Mike Oldfield, Gerry Rafferty, Billy Connolly, Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch, Alan Hull (Lindisfarne), Paul Brady, Mick Farren (The Deviants), Pete Gavin (Vinegar Joe), Pete Bardens (Camel)
Joseph also gave producer Gus Dudgeon (later to work with Elton John, Joan Armatrading, and The Beach Boys among many) and producer/arranger Tony Visconti (later to work with David Bowie, Marc Bolan and The Moody Blues among many) their first engagements as sole producer and arranger respectively when he hired them to produce and arrange Ralph McTell's first albums.
AN OASIS FOR CONTROVERSIAL RECORDINGS
Transatlantic provided UK distribution for controversial American albums turned down by UK majors - including albums by Lenny Bruce, Frank Zappa, The Mothers Of Invention, The Fugs, Allen Ginsberg and Malcolm X.
The company's very first releases had been a trio of sex education albums! Milquetoast in content by present-day standards - but scandalous in 1961 Britain. The resulting controversy helped generate sales of over 100,000 units - and bank-rolled Joseph's desire to invest in adventurous artists and new music.
DISTRIBUTING AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC
Under Joseph's direction, Transatlantic contributed to a major broadening of UK consumer interest in American roots music (folk, blues, ragtime, jazz, bluegrass) and contemporary classical music during the 1960s and 1970s. Importing and distributing premier American specialist record labels including: Arhoolie, Blue Goose, Yazoo, Milestone, Prestige, Blue Note, Folkways, Nonesuch, Audio-Fidelity, Douglas and Tony Bennett's jazz label Improv.
Transatlantic's distribution of US jazz record labels resulted in a broader UK exposure for jazz artists such as: Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Roland Kirk, Louis Armstrong, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Johnny Griffin, Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz, McCoy Tyner, Alphonse Mouzon, Barney Kessell and Flora Purim.
Major American blues, folk, ragtime and bluegrass artists licensed, marketed and distributed by the company included: Leadbelly, Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Little Walter, T-Bone Walker, Son House, Jimmy Reed, Blind Willie McTell, Lightnin' Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Furry Lewis, John Fahey, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Gary Davis, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Jesse Fuller, Richie Havens and Country Gazette.
DISCOVERING AND PROMOTING NEW BRITISH COMEDY
Joseph was responsible for discovering and recording several major British comedic talents - including Billy Connolly, Mike Harding and Richard Digance. These artists - who had all started out on the folk club circuit - subsequently became successful comedic performers on stage, radio and television.
Transatlantic also made major contributions to British comedy by distributing landmark 'one-off' comedy albums including:
• Private Eye's first comedy album in 1964 ("Private Eye's Blue Record" starring Peter Cook & Dudley Moore)
• John Bird's satirical album "The Broadcasts of Idi Amin" written by Alan Coren
• "A Poke In The Eye" (the 1976 forerunner to the "Secret Policeman's Ball" albums) - a pioneering fund-raiser for Amnesty International starring Monty Python, Beyond The Fringe, Peter Cook, John Bird & John Fortune, Eleanor Bron, The Goodies
Transatlantic also released comedic albums featuring: The Two Ronnies. Billy Connolly, Mike Harding, Barry Humphries, Sheila Hancock, TW3's Cy Grant, Wild Willy Barrett, Bernard Wrigley, Blaster Bates and the self-proclaimed "World's Worst Orchestra" - The Portsmouth Sinfonia!
NATHAN JOSEPH - RECORD PRODUCER
In addition to evolving the company's philosophy, and directing its creative path and operations - Joseph was also a hands-on record producer - especially in the company's first decade. The artists he personally produced include:
Alexis Korner, Billy Connolly, The Ian Campbell Group, Alex Campbell, The Johnstons, Hamish Imlach, Robin Williamson & Clive Palmer (later to become The Incredible String Band), Jean Hart, Matt McGinn.
Joseph personally produced Billy Connolly's breakthrough live double-album "Solo Concert" in 1973. Releasing a live double-album was a considerable leap of faith by Joseph as Connolly only had a limited Scottish following at the time. The gambit paid off and the album achieved 'double gold' status - unusual enough for a 2-disc album - and even rarer for a comedy record. British TV talk-show host Michael Parkinson took notice of the phenomenon and booked Connolly for his show. Connolly leapt to instant national stardom and his subsequent international career.
DISTRIBUTING NICHE RECORD LABELS
Transatlantic was responsible for distributing many smaller independent British and American record labels in the folk, jazz, blues and classical genres. Labels distributed include:
FOLK: Folkways, Leader, Trailer, Rubber, Village Thing, Tangent, Big Ben
European jazz artists marketed and distributed include: Chris Barber, Humphrey Lyttelton, Monty Sunshine and Stephane Grappelli.
THE REVIVAL OF RAGTIME & 1930s DANCEBAND MUSIC
Transatlantic spearheaded the ragtime revival in the UK in the 1970s - presenting American Scott Joplin pianist Joshua Rifkin and noted ragtime pianist William Bolcom. It also recorded many of the leading ragtime guitarists of the era including Stefan Grossman, Marcel Dadi and John James.
Transatlantic was responsible for initiating and promoting the revival in 1930s dance band music in the UK in the 1970s - discovering and presenting The Pasadena Roof Orchestra on record and in seasons at London's Biba Room.
PIONEER IN PROMOTING 'WORLD MUSIC'
Transatlantic led the way in promoting a boundless array of music from around the world - a genre later described collectively as "world music." It enthusiastically and effectively promoted musicians from varied cultures such as Ravi Shankar - and Chilean musical icons Victor Jara and Inti-Illimani. Its distribution of the Nonesuch Explorer label's releases of music from all four corners of the earth brought ethnic recordings to the broader British public for the first time.
DIVERSITY OF PROJECTS
The eclectic nature of the company was exemplified the diversity of its projects. The company arranged the first-ever release of the full-length Bernard Hermann score to Alfred Hitchcock's film "Psycho" - at the same time as it was securing an improbable Top Five pop chart success for a traditional brass band recording of "The Floral Dance" (by The Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band.)
WORLDWIDE DISTRIBUTION FOR NEW UK ARTISTS
British artists discovered and recorded by Nat Joseph achieved popularity throughout the world through distribution by local Transatlantic licensees. In the USA, Joseph's British signings were highly sought-after by record companies and his artists were signed individually to a variety of major labels including Warner Bros., Reprise, Elektra, Columbia, United Artists, Stax, Sire, Island, Blue Thumb, Arista, Mercury etc
SPOKEN-WORD & THEATRE CAST ALBUMS
Joseph's personal love of theatre, literature and poetry led to Transatlantic recording and releasing many spoken-word albums and cast albums of pioneering stage shows. Poets such as Adrian Mitchell, Christopher Logue and Dominic Behan made recordings for the company. Cast albums ranged from West End productions such as "The Black Mikado" and the Old Vic stage adaptation of the children's TV series "Playaway" to the cutting-edge satirical feminist troupe - The Sadista Sisters.
Joseph became closely involved in the theatre staging of "The Black Mikado" - at that time the first major production in the West End to feature a primarily black cast. Among the cast members Joseph championed were Derek Griffiths, Norman Beaton Patti Boulaye and Floella Benjamin OBE.
Transatlantic's music publishing company - Heathside Music - signed many major writers in addition to the writer-artists on Transatlantic. Composers such as Stan Kelly who wrote the classic "Liverpool Lullaby" (covered by Judy Collins and Cilla Black.) Other Heathside Music discoveries such as Gryphon's Richard Harvey, Skin Alley's Nick Graham and Simon Boswell went on to become successful film & TV composers. Among the many significant and valuable copyrights in the Heathside catalogue was Bert Jansch's 1966 "Blackwaterside" which formed the basis of Jimmy Page's "Blackmountainside" on the first Led Zeppelin album in 1969. Heathside was also the European publisher for new-wave artist Patti Smith.
Transatlantic gained a reputation for raising the standard of album packaging with fine-art graphics and photography and definitive sleeve notes. Artists who created sleeve designs for Transatlantic include artist and playwright John Byrne (known as "Patrick")
NURTURING EXECUTIVE TALENT
In addition to Joseph's prescience in signing artists - he gained a reputation for discovering and nurturing young executive talent at Transatlantic Records - many of whom went on to high profile roles in the entertainment industry. All of them cite Joseph's unique blend of artistic creativity and business acumen as an influence - and his generous mentoring as a key element in their own subsequent successes in the industry.
Ray Cooper (Sales Manager) - subsequently a senior sales & marketing executive at Anchor Records, Jet Records, Island Records, - latterly Managing Director of Virgin Records (UK) and Co-President of Virgin Records (USA)
Martin Lewis (Publicity & Marketing Manager) - subsequently producer of concerts-films-TV-DVD-records (eg the "Secret Policeman's Ball" series and Beatles/Who DVDs); marketing strategist (multiple Beatles-related projects); and humorist/columnist/TV & radio host in USA
Mike Watts (International Manager) - subsequently a key executive at Sonet Records, Charisma Records, Chrysalis Records, Head of Programme Production at Central Television, Managing Director of Virgin Vision, Senior Vice President of Programming for Walt Disney Television (UK) and presently Managing Director of Novel Entertainment.
Keith Harris OBE (Promotion Manager) - later Label Manager Motown (UK) and then personal manager to Stevie Wonder. Subsequently Director of Performer Affairs for PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd.)
Laurence Aston (Research & Development) - subsequently Executive Producer of albums such as "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" and The HeeBeeGeeBees. Compiler of Transatlantic reissues for Sanctuary. Managing Director of Essential Records.
John Whitehead (A&R Manager) - subsequently General Manager for Saga Records - and then independent businessman
Tessa Watts (Press Officer) - subsequently Head of Publicity then Director of Music Video - Virgin Records; Director of Programmes, MTV Europe; Managing Director, Propaganda Films (UK) - and Director of Production for Sanctuary Visual Entertainment.
Bob Johnson (Sales Rep) - subsequently talent manager for artists including Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Van Morrison and Aztec Camera
John Cooper (Sales) - subsequently senior executive at Motown International
Ricky Hopper (Promotion) - credited by Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Kate Bush for discovering and bringing Kate Bush to industry attention.
Mick McDonagh (Publicity) - subsequently Head Of Publicity at Decca Records and talent manager for many artists including Daniel O'Donnell
Alan Fitter (Sales) - subsequently General Manager of Motown Records and producer of award-winning radio commercials
Vivien Goldman (Press Officer) - subsequently Head of Publicity for Island Records and noted author and journalist (including several books about Bob Marley and reggae)
Roger Upright (Promotion Manager) - subsequently senior promotion manager at Motown Records and RCA Records.
Ellie Smith (Press Officer) - subsequently Head of Publicity for CBS Records - then Communications Manager for Virgin Records.
THE DECISION TO MOVE ON
Nat Joseph was the first person to create a fully-independent contemporary British record label (in 1961) - followed by Chris Blackwell (Island - 1962), Andrew Loog Oldham (Immediate - 1965), Chris Wright & Terry Ellis (Chrysalis - 1969), Tony Stratton-Smith (Charisma - 1969) and Richard Branson (Virgin - 1972). In 1975 Joseph also became the first to do what all of his successors would eventually do - sell his company to a major entertainment conglomerate. In 1975 Joseph sold a controlling interest in Transatlantic to the Granada Group for a substantial sum.
Two years later, Joseph decided to retire from the music industry and tackle fresh pastures. Granada had (perhaps inevitably) underestimated the significance and extent of Joseph's hands-on work at Transatlantic Records and within a year of Joseph's departure - the company was re-sold and the distribution structure that had been built over a 16-year span was abandoned. This created a massive gap for record distribution in the UK marketplace taken up by newcomers such as Beggars Banquet and Rough Trade. The Transatlantic label identity was folded and for several years the Transatlantic name and heritage was muted.
Though retirement from the music industry after just 16 years at the young age of 37 seemed premature to most - in hindsight, Joseph's instincts were wise. In 1977, most of the existing British music industry was in a tailspin with the arrival of punk - and much of the demand for intelligent, thinking, eclectic music was being thrown out with the bathwater. Rather than work in a milieu that was no longer pleasurable to him - Joseph simply elected to radically change his life, and move on to pursue another of his other passions - theatre. He became a successful theatrical agent and producer.
THE REVIVAL OF TRANSATLANTIC'S HERITAGE
The rich assets of the Transatlantic catalogue assembled by Nat Joseph between 1961-1977 were eventually re-discovered in the late 1990s by its new owners Castle Communications (part of the Sanctuary Entertainment Group) and a steady programme of CD releases have restored the label's reputation and underscored the astuteness of Joseph's artist signings and productions in the 1960s and 1970s.
THE DECISION TO ENTER THE THEATRE WORLD
Having created - from scratch - a record importing business that mushroomed into a recording and distribution entity and then ultimately into Britain's leading independent record company - all in the space of 16 years - by the age of 37, Nathan Joseph was ready for fresh challenges.
Having already accomplished so much in the record industry - he did not want to reprise his work in that sphere. He looked for another artistic milieu in which he could apply his skills and the lessons he had learned in creating and running Transatlantic Records. It would also have to be one that offered him an outlet for his creativity and for his entrepreneurial acumen.
Having presided over a company that had grown from a one-man operation to a staff of over 100 - he also liked the idea of working again in a more intimate, hands-on environment. One in which the majority of his time would be spent deploying his creative and business skills rather than the inevitable administrative needs of a successful large business.
Theatre had been one of his passions since childhood - and he had spent several of his Transatlantic years working on theatre-related projects such as "The Black Mikado," the Old Vic production of "Play Away" and the Edinburgh Festival and London seasons of The Sadista Sisters. He had even co-written a musical that had premiered at the Edinburgh Festival.
So Joseph decided to turn all his energy and commitment to the world of theatre. He became a producer of stage shows. And he also developed a respected boutique theatrical agency representing a few select writers, directors, performers and designers. He excelled in both fields of endeavour.
WORK AS A THEATRICAL PRODUCER
His stage productions were many and varied. They drew upon the leading writers, directors, actors and designers of the era. He specialized in newer and more challenging works. Among the many productions:
"Kipling" - Alec McCowen's critically-acclaimed portrayal of Rudyard Kipling - written by Brian Clark ("Whose Life Is It Anyway?") and directed by Patrick Garland. It opened at London's Mermaid Theatre in 1984 and later transferred to Broadway. Joseph produced two other one-man plays with McCowen - one inspired by St. Mark's Gospels and a theatrical anthology encompassing everything from Shakespeare to Cole Porter.
The anti-war play "The Petition" - also written by Brian Clark - and directed by Sir Peter Hall. Its 1986 West End production starred Rosemary Harris and Sir John Mills (making his first London stage appearance in over a decade). The play was produced by Joseph's new production company - Freeshooter - in association with Astramead Productions. When "The Petition" transferred to Broadway, the lead roles were played by Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn - who both received Tony Award nominations for their performances.
Joseph produced a ground-breaking musical celebration of French chanson - "The French Have A Song For It"- written by Peter Reeves, directed by Eleanor Fazan and starring Helen Shapiro and Amanda Barrie.
In 1987, Joseph staged the British production of the off-Broadway hit musical "The March of the Falsettos" by William Finn.
He was also responsible for a number of other productions during the 1980s including "Sassoon" - the one-man-play featuring Peter Barkworth as the Great War poet - that played successfully at the Apollo Theatre; a one-man show starring Freddie Jones as the poet John Clare;; Frank Barrie's celebrated one-man show on the life of the great tragic actor Macready; and "Altogether Now" for the Greenwich Theatre. He also produced the touring revival of "Godspell"
In 1993 - working with Abigail Morris of London's Soho Theatre - Joseph assisted in the transfer to Broadway of Diane Samuels' award-winning play "Kindertransport" - a play that told the harrowing story of one woman's experience of being evacuated as a child from Germany to England in 1939.
OPENING A THEATRICAL AGENCY
His experience in the record industry had taught Joseph the importance of creative people being ably represented. He decided to form a small talent agency - NJ Media Enterprises - to undertake personal representation of a small, select group of creative artists whose talents he personally admired.
In 1985, Joseph became the sole representative of Arnold Wesker - one of Britain's most eminent playwrights. In the ten years of their association, there were many successful productions of Wesker's work. Among the many Wesker projects that Joseph was intimately involved in negotiating was the Birmingham Repertory Company's presentation of "Annie Wobbler" - produced by Peter Wilson and starring Nicola McAuliffe. The play transferred to the New End Theatre, Hampstead and subsequently to the Fortune Theatre.
RADIO & TV PRESENTERS
In the early 1980s Joseph also took on theatrical representation of various radio and TV presenters/hosts. Among the talents he represented were TV host Henry Kelly and children's television personalities such as "Play School" presenters Brian Cant, Toni Arthur, Derek Griffiths, Lucie Skeaping and Jonathan Cohen.
REPRESENTING STAGE SHOWS FOR CHILDREN
Joseph first worked with Cant and Cohen in the late 1970s when he produced the cast album of the stage adaptation of the BBC TV "Play Away" at the Old Vic Theatre. They subsequently collaborated on "Hit The Note" - a series of music workshops that they turned into a touring stage show. Joseph also produced the highly successful children's entertainment "Brian Cant's Fun-Book" featuring Cant and Cohen - a production that toured the UK extensively from 1981 to 1984. The show, a forerunner of the hugely successful present-day touring shows for pre-schoolers - was written and directed by Cherry Britton. (Britton is the daughter of noted actor Tony Britton - who had been one of the first artists recorded by Joseph in the early 1960s.)
IDENTIFYING A NEED IN THE THEATRE WORLD
By the mid-1980s, Joseph had become aware that a key sector of the theatre community was woefully under-represented. While stage directors were well represented by agents - stage designers and lighting designers were mainly left to their own devices to secure work and to negotiate their terms. This was particularly the case for newer talent. Joseph decided to offer professional representation to the most creative talents he discovered in these fields. In doing so he created a new approach that is considered by many to be the crowning legacy of his quarter-century in the theatre world.
His first clients were the stage designer Robert Jones and the lighting designer Jason Taylor. Joseph represented both of them from the very beginning of their professional careers. He swiftly established a reputation for spotting raw designer talent - and for always seeking out the most innovative artists.
REPRESENTING YOUNG DESIGNERS
He frequently took on new designers straight out of art college - having spotted their work during his annual round of the Final Year student shows. A strong supporter of regional theatre, Joseph made a point of traveling throughout the country to see the work of his clients in regional performances. He worked tirelessly on behalf of his clients in order to bring their talents to the attention of producers, directors and theatre managements. Though technically an agent, Joseph essentially acted as a personal manager in terms of the comprehensive approach, strategic planning and paternal care he applied to developing and nurturing his clients' careers.
A typical example of this is Joseph's work with stage designer Robert Jones. Jones cites Joseph as being instrumental in bringing his work to the attention of Jenny Topper at the Hampstead Theatre and subsequently to Michael Attenborough at the Royal Shakespeare Company - for whom Jones has designed many highly-acclaimed productions over the past 12 years including the RSC's award-winning production of "Henry VIII" and the current "Gunpowder Season."
Similarly, stage designer Ruari Murchison credits Joseph with having secured the relationship with Bill Alexander at the Birmingham Repertory Company that has resulted in Murchison designing many of Alexander's productions over the past decade - including the celebrated productions of "Titus Andronicus" and "Henry IV" Parts 1 and 2.
Designer Michael Holt - most noted for his many stage designs for Alan Ayckbourn plays - became one of Joseph's clients after having represented himself for many years. Holt states that Joseph made an immediate impact on his career and was particularly influential in helping him to secure work with leading theatre companies in the U.S.
A NEW APPROACH IN REPRESENTATION OF DESIGNERS & DIRECTORS
With the success of his representation of stage designers and lighting designers - Joseph was prevailed upon to broaden his agency to include directors. Joseph was very selective - and eventually undertook representation of a handful of leading directors.
Between 1985-2003 he steadily built up a stable of top theatrical artists - eventually representing over twenty of Britain's leading stage designers, lighting designers and directors. His clients became in-demand for international productions and between them won multiple prestigious awards for their work.
Applying the perspectives and negotiating skills that he had acquired in the record industry, Joseph continually lobbied for better terms for his clients. He was a pioneer in insisting that any work undertaken by stage or lighting designers that he represented had to be the subject of properly negotiated contracts. In doing so he is widely credited with single-handedly changing long-entrenched behaviour patterns within the industry as well as significantly improving the overall status of designers.
In pioneering the representation of stage and lighting designers in this way and earning enormous respect from the industry - Joseph also opened up the way for many younger agents who came after him.
While steadily building up a stable of creative talent Joseph always maintained a strict policy of never taking on any designer or director who he felt might compete with one of his existing clients. His clients included:
STAGE DESIGNERS REPRESENTED
ROBERT JONES - "Noises Off" at the National Theatre, West End & Broadway • "Jolson" in the West End and USA • "The Elixir Of Love" at the English National Opera • "Ragtime" at the Piccadilly Theatre • "Julius Caesar" at Glyndebourne
RUARI MURCHISON - "West Side Story" at Stratford Ontario • "The Snowman" at Sadler's Wells • "Mappa Mundi" for the Royal National Theatre
PAMELA HOWARD - "Concierto Barroco" for the London International Theatre • "Victory" for Theatre Wspolzecny in Wroclaw
CHRIS DYER - "Rigoletto" for The Bonn Opera • "The Cherry Orchard" for The Gate, Dublin • "Lord of the Flies" for the RSC
MICHAEL HOLT - "The Woman in Black" at The Fortune • "Time Of My Life" for Scarborough Playhouse • "The Dresser" for the Alley Theatre, Houston
NIKI TURNER - "The Glass Menagerie" at Derby Playhouse • "Things Fall Apart" for West Yorkshire Playhouse • "Orinoco" for the RSC
EMMA DONOVAN - "Smilin'" Through" for Birmingham Rep • "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Theatre Royal York • "The Lion,The Witch and The Wardrobe" for Haymarket Leicester
GEMMA FRIPP - "Hard Times" at Theatre Royal Haymarket • "Abigail's Party" for Nuffield Theatre - "Toreador" for Batignano Opera Festival
MATTHEW WRIGHT - "Hamlet" for Royal National Theatre at Brixton Prison" • "Habeus Corpus" at Salisbury Playhouse • "The Imposter" at Theatre Royal Plymouth
FRED MELLER - "David Copperfield" for Eastern Angles Theatre • "The Body of a Woman is a Battlefield in the Bosnian War" for The Young Vic • "Death and the Maiden" at Watermill Theatre
KEVIN KNIGHT - "Tannhauser" at La Scala, Milan • "Daphne" at La Fenice, Venice
WILL HARGREAVES - "Burn This" at The Theatre Royal - Plymouth • "Office Suite" at The West Yorkshire Playhouse • "Present Laughter" at The Birmingham Rep
LIGHTING DESIGNERS REPRESENTED
TIM MITCHELL - "A Doll's House" for Birmingham Rep • "Henry IV" for the RSC • "Benefactors" at The Albery Theatre
JASON TAYLOR - "Kindertransport" for The Soho Theatre • "Hedda Gabler" at The Royal Exchange, Manchester • "The Dead Eye Boy" for The Hampstead Theatre
NICK BEADLE - "Full Moon" at Theatr Clwyd • "Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead" for Theatre Royal Bury St. Edmunds • "Double Indemnity" for Nottingham Playhouse
JON LINSTRUM - "Shockheaded Peter" for The Lyric Hammersmith • "A Clockwork Orange" for Northern Stage • "Dr Faustus" for Improbable Theatre
STAGE DIRECTORS REPRESENTED
JOHN RETALLACK - "Junk" for The Belgrade • "King Lear" for Oxford Stage Company • "Hannah and Hanna" for Company of Angels
MARK CLEMENTS - "Speaking in Tongues" at Derby Playhouse • "Lady Day At Emerson's Bar & Grill" for the New Players' Theatre • "Great Expectations" for Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia
JONATHAN CHURCH - Artistic Director at Birmingham Rep
RUPERT GOOLD - "Dancing at Lughnasa" for Salisbury Playhouse • "Speed The Plow" at Duke of York's • "The Colonel Bird" at The Gate
IAN WOOLDRIDGE - "Beauty and the Beast" for Citizens Theatre Glasgow • "The Homecoming" for Royal Lyceum Edinburgh • "Any Minute Now" for Theatre Royal Stratford East
KEVIN KNIGHT - "Birdy" at The Comedy Theatre
JENNIE DARNELL - "Life x 3" at The Savoy Theatre • "U.S. and Them" for Hampstead Theatre • "All My Sons'" at The Theatre Royal - Plymouth
BEN HARRISON - "Hare and Burke" at Edinburgh Castle • "Caledonian Road" for The Almeida • "Those Eyes, That Mouth" for Grid Iron
JOHN HARRISON - Formerly Artistic Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse o As Director: "Wild Honey" o "Arms and the Man" • "And Was Jerusalem Builded Here"
CHUCK MIKE - "Things Fall Apart" for West Yorkshire Playhouse
PRODUCING ACCLAIMED RSC CAST ALBUM
In 1991, Joseph was asked to draw upon his considerable experience in record production when he was invited to produce the official cast album of the hugely successful revival of "Carmen Jones" - directed by Simon Callow at the Old Vic. The album was also critically acclaimed.
OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE THEATRE COMMUNITY
Joseph was a Council Member of the Theatrical Management Association from 1991-1993, and a member of The Society of London Theatres (SOLT) for 20 years.
In 1987, Joseph was appointed Chairman of the Theatre Design Trust - the registered charity affiliated with St. Martin's College of Art and Design in London. The Trust was responsible for restoring abandoned venues such as Holborn's Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre for community benefit. Under Joseph's leadership, the Cochrane Theatre was renovated by the London Institute and the Arts Council. It became the home for The Talawa Theatre Company - the first dedicated space for a 'black' theatre Company in Central London.
EARLIER FORAYS AS A PRODUCER AND WRITER
One of Joseph's earliest forays into the theatre world took place in the late 1960s, when he co-wrote and produced "Agincourt" - a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's "Henry V." The show - which was co-written by noted composer/arranger David Palmer - premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 1971. Based on its Edinburgh success, plans were made for it to be adapted for the West End stage two years later. The quality of the play attracted commitments from Peter McEnery for the title role and a young Ian McKellen as director. Despite the commitment from members of the creative community - the finances for the West End production did not materialize and that production had to be abandoned. However the musical was recently revived and presented at the Brighton Festival in 2005.
Earlier in his career he also wrote songs with composer/musical director Barry Booth that were covered by various artists including Roy Orbison.
Running parallel to his prominent role in the worlds of arts and entertainment Joseph was also chairman and owner of a family business founded by his late father (Maurice Joseph). Drawing on his business acumen and spirit for innovation he transformed what had become a loss-making scrap metal business into a state-of-the-art waste disposal plant. The company was later sold for a substantial amount - and Joseph regarded the sale as a way of underwriting his passion to develop new emerging talent in the theatre world.
Joseph was born in Birmingham on July 23rd 1939. He was an only child. He won a scholarship to Cambridge University where he studied English. He was a noted comedic performer in college cabarets and revues.
He was married to his wife Sarah for 40 years. They lived in Hampstead, North West London. The couple had two children - Toronto-based Joshua who is a music promoter and producer (he curated the opening theme for the "Sopranos" TV series), and London-based Gideon who, following a career as a TV executive and producer, now runs his own marketing and communications agency - named after his father's music company - Transatlantic.
Joseph's passions included music, theatre, literature, reading and writing poetry, tennis (both as a player and spectator) cricket, table-tennis, walking. He was a supporter of Birmingham F.C. and Warwickshire County Cricket Club. In later years his love of cricket led him to travel to the West Indies to support England in test matches.
Joseph died peacefully in his sleep on Tuesday August 30th 2005 of complications from pneumonia. Joseph had been fighting a courageous battle with Parkinson's disease for five years. Joseph was 66.
Nathan’s brain and spinal chord were donated to the Queen Square 'brain bank' at The National Hospital in London. He was cared for by a consultant, Dr Paul Jarman at Queen Square and Nathan loved his visits to see him. Paul Jarman treated Nathan with respect and gentle warmth. The Institute of Neurology where Dr. Jarman works has a research fund and if anyone wants to donate to it, in Nathan’s memory, it would be wonderful. We need to find a cure for Parkinson's - a truly terrible illness.
MAKING A DONATION TO THE NATIONAL HOSPITAL'S INSTITUTE OF NEUROLOGY FUND