Mike Rimmer interviewed CHARLES NORMAN back in 2010 about the controversial Fallen Angel documentary
Charles Norman is a hugely experienced rock guitarist who down the years has played with his fair share of luminaries and once ran the band Guards Of Metropolis. But in Charles' work down the decades with his brother, the late Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman, which has generated the most interest among Cross Rhythms readers. Since Larry's death on 24th February 2008 a controversy has raged on the internet about Larry, much of it initiated with the release in 2008 of the documentary film Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman made by David Di Sabatino. The film included many interviews with figures close to Larry Norman including his first wife Pamela Newman, Randy Stonehill, Terry Scott Taylor (of Daniel Amos) and Philip Mangano, the business manager of Solid Rock, the record label initiated by Larry and which Charles now runs. One reviewer said Fallen Angel depicted Norman as Machiavellian, particularly in his dealings with artists while the interview with Jennifer Wallace (nee Robinson) asserted that Norman had fathered a child with Wallace duirng a tour of Australia she had organised in 1988. Since Fallen Angel's DVD release a website countering many of Fallen Angel's assetions has been set up (www.failedangle.com) to question the integrity and conclusions of the documentary.
On 1st June 2010 Charles Norman was interviewed by Mike Rimmer for Cross Rhythms radio about Fallen Angel and the Failed Angle website. Cross Rhythms held off publishing this interview awaiting the publication of at least one of the three books currently being written about Larry. However, with seemingly none appearing in the near future we've decided to put Mike's intriguing conversation with Larry's brother onto our site.
Mike: You published a website to refute claims made by the documentary Fallen Angel.
Charles: I didn't actually make it. It's a guy named Allen Flemming, who's writing a biography about Larry. He knew Larry for years, has known my family, and he was incensed that this film was telling untruthful things about Larry, so he said, 'Could I go through the archives and find evidence that combats this film?' We said, 'Sure'. So he came up from California, went through about a quarter of the archives, and found tons and tons of evidence which refute this movie. It's already up; it's failedangle.com, and there's a lot of documentation there - scans, letters, writings by the very people who are accusing Larry of certain things in the movies. So it's an interesting work in progress, and I enjoy reading it.
Mike: It seems Larry was like Richard Nixon, recording everything.
Charles: Well, he didn't record everything, but when he had staff meetings at Solid Rock he did record them. When you have 10 artists in a room, it's good to have everything recorded. He didn't record everyday telephone calls, but anything that was important that needed to have a paper-trail - or a tape-trail, if you will - he recorded. I think a lot of these people at Solid Rock have forgotten that Larry recorded these meetings, because they're claiming certain things I have on tape that prove what they're saying isn't true. That is all going to come out. Allen Fleming is going to putting those on the Failed Angle website soon.
Mike: The film is flattering about Larry's music, but interviews with people he worked with claim he treated them badly from a business perspective.
Charles: In the movie there's Randy Stonehill, and a couple of guys from the band Daniel Amos. There are other people from the band Daniel Amos, particularly Alex McDougal, who was the percussion player, who remained friends with Larry Norman up until his death - came to the funeral, came here to the house. He saw a different side of him than Terry Taylor from Daniel Amos, because Alex went on to be a bigwig in the Christian music industry, working at record labels. He realised that this is how record labels are, and every artist has a gripe. When their careers go south, or don't happen, who do you blame? Certainly not yourself. You blame the record company. They didn't sell enough records, or they're not paying me royalties that I'm sure must be out there somewhere.
Mike: There's an assertion in the film that Larry held back people's careers - particularly Daniel Amos.
Charles: How would you do that? I should have Allen put up that tape. What actually happened is 'Horrendous Disc' - the infamous album that didn't come out - was supposed to come out in August of 1980, but the Daniel Amos guys decided they wanted a secular career, try and sign to Warner Bros, so Larry let them out of their contract. He said, 'You're not confined to working with Solid Rock. You're free to go.' Daniel Amos said, 'We want our album back too', and Larry said, 'Word Records has already paid for that album. Word owns that album, and so do I. I'll give up, but I can't speak on Word Records' behalf. You're free to go: I'm letting you out of a contract that you're bound to me for seven years. But you can't just take the furniture when you exit the building. You can't take your record.' So Daniel Amos started hassling Larry with lawyers; I've got all the letters from lawyers. Larry never even got a lawyer. He would just respond to their lawyers, and say, 'When you're done messing around, I'll put out the album. But if you keep on harassing me legally, I'm just going to sit on the album - and Word is happy to do that.' As soon as they quit harassing Larry, made some agreement with Larry, then Larry put out the album. It was a couple years later, and that was largely Daniel Amos' own fault. It would've been nowhere near as late if Daniel Amos would've just gone ahead and honoured what their contract with Larry was.
Mike: There's a famous Solid Rock meeting in the film, where it looks like people in the offices or the artists confronted Larry about his morals. Do you have a tape of that?
Charles: Yes, I do. That's what they say, and that did happen. This was all down to a guy who appears in the movie named Brad Durham. The movie talks about Larry's strange sleeping habits. Larry would sleep until noon, and stay up all night. Yeah, he did. So do I! Every musician I know keeps strange hours. What's not mentioned in the film is that Sarah Stonehill - Randy Stonehill's wife - was Larry's secretary, and had been for years. They all know that: she was there working in the building. Especially when Solid Rock was breaking up, he would go over to Sarah's house. It could be like one o'clock in the morning, or two o'clock, and they could be composing letters. Before the internet, he had to work hard with correspondence. A guy named Brad Durham went over to Sarah's house, saw Larry's car at the front, went and banged on the door. Sarah opened it, Larry was there, and they said, 'What?' He said, 'You think it's right that you're over here at Randy's wife's house when he's out on tour?' They were puzzled, like, 'Yeah, what's the problem here?' So he went and told everyone that Larry was spending the night at Sarah's house, him and his buddy, based on just that incident. They had what they call an intervention in the movie. Larry became upset, and said, 'How dare you accuse me of this?' Is that shocking that you make a false accusation of someone who'd said, 'I didn't do that! What are you talking about?' There's a lot of stuff hinted at, but since there's no proof and no real story, the filmmaker has decided to pad it out with innuendo. There was a meeting where they accused Larry of this, but there was another meeting that led to the breakup of Solid Rock. There were two different meetings, and I think the people of this movie are either combining those two meetings in their minds, or David Di Sabatino, the filmmaker, is just meshing those two meetings together. But I've got it all on tape; and that'll be coming out soon.
Mike: To be at a woman's house at that time does open yourself up to criticism.
Charles: I suppose it opens yourself up to criticism, but Los Angeles is a 24-hour town. You go out to restaurant at three in the morning in Hollywood and it's packed. I don't think it's unusual to go over to your secretary's house. Bobby Emmons, another artist signed to Solid Rock, or else maybe it was Steve Scott, was living with Sarah at one point; Bobby Emmons, when he was living in LA, would go out with Sarah all the time, and Sarah's mother. They would go out to baseballs games, go see movies, and he said, 'No, during that time Randy's accusing Larry of infidelity or something, I was there. They weren't dating, they were friends.' You could say that impropriety was suggested, but suggested by who?