Ten Percenters: Radio X's great rock managers

With the news that Robert Stigwood, the man behind the Bee Gees' rise to success has died aged 81, Radio X looks at some of the most memorable movers and shakers in music.

Bee Gees Robert Stigwood

Robert Stigwood

The man who masterminded the Bee Gees through their hugely-successful career in the 1960s and 70s died on 4 January 2016. Australian by birth, he made a splash in the UK with the singer John Leyton and mad genius producer Joe Meek, before moving on to work with The Who, Cream and signing the Bee Gees in 1967 to his own Robert Stigwood Organisation. He famously tried to tempt The Small Faces over to his side, but their manager, the notorious Don Arden, dangled Stigwood out of a fourth-storey window, telling him to back off! When the Gibb brothers briefly split in the early 70s, Stigwood moved on to producing film adaptations of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Who’s Tommy. He brought the Bee Gees into the Saturday Night Fever movie project, with the soundtrack album becoming one of the biggest sellers of all time. He followed that up with the movie Grease, but subsequent ventures didn’t replicate the success, particularly an unlikely film adaptation of The Beatles’ album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1978.

 

Rob Gretton - Joy Division and New Order

Rob Gretton decided to manage Joy Division after seeing them at a "battle of the bands" night in 1978. Gretton steered the young band into critical success, hooking them up with Tony Wilson's fledgling Factory Records label and giving them a visual identity that was severely lacking. His other master strokes included stopping band from "ruining" the music by giving interviews and by determinedly remaining based in the North of England. He nursed the band through the death of lead singer Ian Curtis and their metamorphosis into New Order, being one of the key movers behind the founding of the Hacienda club. He died in May 1999.

Here's a 1988 documentary about Factory Records, with a rare interview with Rob Gretton at 7.20 in.

Joe Moss - The Smiths

One of Manchester's most influential figures, Moss ran the clothes store Crazy Face in the early 1980s, and soon came across 17-year-old Johnny Marr. Moss encouraged the young musician with his work and offered his band The Smiths a place to rehearse, bought them a van and helped get them a record contract with Rough Trade. The turbulent world of the group meant that Moss bailed in late 1983, just as The Smiths began to break, but he went on to manage Marr's solo career and also looked after the Britpop era band Marion, while continuing to promote shows in the city. He died of cancer in October 2015 - Johnny Marr said in tribute: "Without him there wouldn’t have been any Smiths. Everyone who met him loved him; he can never be replaced."
 

Peter Grant - Led Zeppelin

Peter Grant was one of the most feared rock managers of all time. His charges, Led Zeppelin, became one of the most successful bands in the world thanks to his no-nonsense manner, designed to protect his clients interests at all costs. It worked - the band became very rich and Grant's protection was afforded to other bands like Stone The Crows and Bad Company. He died from a heart attack in 1995.

Here's a video of Peter Grant getting very, very angry indeed about some bootleg posters being sold at a Led Zep concert, from the 1976 movie The Song Remains The Same. WARNING: LOTS of swearing.

Malcolm McLaren - Sex Pistols

One of the most infamous managers of all time, Malcolm McLaren was a former art student and fashion shop owner, who first dipped a toe into the murky world of rock band management by heading over to the US and looking after The New York Dolls way past their prime. Inspired, McLaren came back to London and put together the Sex Pistols. Controversy followed the band and made them a huge influential on music around the world, despite moving between three different record labels in less than a year. When the Pistols imploded, McLaren was involved with Adam And The Ants, Boy George, Bow Wow Wow and forged his own musical career.

Here's a bizarre moment from McLaren's finest hour: The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle movie from 1980. 

Brian Epstein - The Beatles

One of the most famous rock managers of all time, Epsten was a former furniture salesman who took over the record department of his family store, NEMS, in Liverpool. He chanced upon the local band The Beatles and was instantly captivated by their music and their charisma. When nobody else would manage the Fab Four, Epstein got involved, smartened them up, made them acceptable to the mainstream and propelled them into being the biggest band in the world, ever. His empire also included the likes of Gerry And The Pacemakers and Cilla Black, bit the Fabs were his main triumph and when Epstein died in 1967 from an accidental overdose, the band lost their way.

Here's Brian being interviewed on British TV in '64.

Allen Klein - The Beatles, The Rolling Stones

Former bookkeeper Klein became a rock manager when he looked after soul singer Sam Cooke in the early 1960s. He established himself as a man who could get to the bottom of all the money that "went missing" due to various dodgy showbiz deals and attracted the eye of the enormously successful Rolling Stones. He took over their affairs in 1966 but only lasted until 1970 when business nut Mick Jagger began to doubt Klein's methods. Klein's company still owns a stake in all the Stones' pre-1970 albums, however, and he went on to manager three-quarters of The Beatles. Only Paul McCartney refused to have Klein manage him, which was one of the ultimate reasons the band split. Klein died in 2009. Here's the late John Belushi parodying Klein perfectly in the Beatles spoof, The Rutles, in 1978:
 

Paul McGuinness - U2

Paul McGuinness first saw U2 at a gig in Dublin in May 1978 and became their manager. He formed Principle Management in 1984, which saw the band through their huge success from the mid 1980s onwards, keeping a steady eye on such HUGE albums as The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby and the highest grossing show ever, U2's 360 tour. In November 2013, he stepped down from the post, handing over to Madonna's manager Guy Oseary.

Here's the '2 singing happy birthday to the great man on his 60th.

Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch - Metallica, Muse and more

This duo formed Q Prime in 1982 with a view to managing a number of hugely successful rock bands. Their roster soon included at various points Metallica, Def Leppard, AC/DC, Smashing Pumpkins, Hile, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foals, Muse, Snow Patrol and Cage The Elephant. They are listed at No 60 in the Billboard Power 100 fpr 2014. Mensch's third wife Louse is a former Conservative MP. 

Here's a talk Mensch gave at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013, detailing his thoughts on rock management.

 

Ian Faith - Spinal Tap

Of course, we can't sum up any survey of rock managers without a look at the man with the most difficult job in the world. The man who has to locate mandolin strings in the middle of Austin, Texas. The man whose job it is to do what he's asked to do by the creative element of the band. Such as building an important piece of stage scenery. Enjoy this extended, rather murky, clip of a key moment in rock history.

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