With a name as unpretentious as Les Hodge, it’s hard to imagine the impact he’s had on the music industry. From marketing huge acts like Kate Bush, The Rolling Stones and Queen, to coming up with the name Ticketek, Les has left fingerprints everywhere. Now he is responsible for bringing some of the world’s most beautiful classical music into Australia, and the Southern Highlands is its first port.
We’re meeting at the EOS Music office and warehouse at the back of five acres in Fitzroy Falls. It’s an expansive shed outfitted with shelves of CDs, colourful point-of-sale stands, boxes and a playground of bubble-wrap.
“I’ve loved music since I was a kid,” says Les. “But I didn’t like school. I used to get on the train in my full school uniform and wag so I could read my book, The History of Music.”
“My first job was at Grace Brothers at Bondi Junction in the record department,” says Les. “Reps from major companies like EMI and Festival would come and talk to us about new releases. I was desperate to work in the industry so I used to talk to them and finally managed to get a job in a warehouse at EMI.”
EMI was the biggest music company in the world at the time. The job was to run around the facility, pulling orders from the shelves and packing the boxes for delivery.
After a year and a half, Les was promoted to the Artists & Repertoire division. Soon, he was producing music, including major recordings of Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, Albert Landa, Carl Pini, Donald Smith, operas of Margaret Sutherland, and performer Jeannie Lewis.
“Jeannie Lewis was an artist that I loved,” says Les. With classic psychedelic cover by renowned pop artist, Martin Sharp, Lewis’ first album went on to win the Best Female Vocal Album award at what would now be the ARIAs. “We did three albums together. She filled the State Theatre with her shows.”
It’s not hard to work out how the young Les went from factory floor to music producer. His manner is soft-spoken and warm. He radiates a gentle but irrepressible energy. Whether it is for the soaring euphoria of a Mozart symphony or the delight of being served his favourite mineral water (Badoit), Les is always seeking and indeed finding things of which to be appreciative.