On Air Now
The Radio X Podcast Residency 10pm - 12am
25 May 2019, 19:00 | Updated: 10 September 2019, 13:06
One of the key characters in the Rocketman film, Reid had a stellar career in the music industry - but who was he and where is he now?
Not many people have themselves played by a world famous actor in a Hollywood movie… and not many people get that honour in two films released within six months of each other.
John Reid, who managed Elton John and Queen in the 1970s, is played by Bodyguard star Richard Madden in the new film Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton in the lead role.
Reid was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland on 9 September 1949. He became a promoter for the music company EMI aged 18 and later managed the world-famous Tamla Motown label in the UK, looking after releases by The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations.
Reid met Elton John at a Christmas party in 1970, and the two started a relationship soon after. Reid became John’s manager and introduced the musician to lyricist Bernie Taupin, a collaboration which has lasted to this day. Reid told The Daily Record in 1998: “When I met Elton, I didn't even realise his potential. I've never claimed to have discovered him. In fact, when he suggested I should manage him, I wasn't enthusiastic."
Elton became a huge success and the manager established John Reid Enterprises, who came across another act looking for business advice. In 1975, Queen were struggling with a lack of money from their old management company and enlisted Reid to sort out their affairs. Reid told them to “go away and make the best record you’ve ever made and I’ll sort out the money side”. Luckily Queen were about to make the album A Night At The Opera.
However, Reid didn’t think that a six-minute song by Freddie Mercury was commercial enough - the band ignored his advice and Bohemian Rhapsody went to No 1 in the UK charts for nine weeks. Reid and Queen parted company in 1978 entirely amicably, but drummer Roger Taylor later claimed that Elton John felt “a bit threatened” by the band’s success.
Reid and John’s relationship ended in the mid-1970s and when Elton decided to marry Renate Blauel in 1984, Reid was best man at the ceremony in Sydney. Soon after, Reid signed a new contract with the musician that saw him receive 20 per cent of the singer’s earnings. In the 80s, John Reid also managed artists such as Billy Connolly, Lionel Richie, Andrew Lloyd Webber and more. But his working and personal relationship with Elton John was to soon break down.
In 1998, a year after the huge sales of the Princess Diana tribute Candle In The Wind, Elton split from Reid’s management company after nearly two decades, claiming there was a “£20 million hole” in his accounts. A leaked document detailing the star’s excessive spending didn’t help matters, either.
The court case was ugly, with John accusing Reid of “having his fingers in the till”. Reid settled out of court, but as Elton said in his court statement: "Money does strange things to people. I led a lavish lifestyle and there was a competitive edge to Mr Reid's relationship with me. The more I bought something, the more he bought something."
Reid paid Elton £3.4 million to settle the case, but the singer had incurred an £8 million legal bill and declared he’d never speak to the manager again.
For the 2019 Elton John biopic Rocketman, Richard Madden takes on the role of John Reid. Madden is famous for his role as Robb Stark in Game Of Thrones and as the lead in the BBC series Bodyguard, playing the titular character David Budd, for which he won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Series Drama.
In the 2018 Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, the part of John Reid is played by Aidan Gillen, also known for his turn as Littlefinger in Game Of Thrones. The film played fast and loose with facts, however - in the movie, Mercury loses his temper when Reid approaches him about the possibility of ditching Queen and going solo. In truth, Reid left Queen in 1978, over six years before Freddie’s solo career happened and said that it was “the gentlest parting of the ways of anyone I have ever worked with”.
Reid later managed performer Michael Flatley, who had just quit as the lead in Riverdance on the eve of its London opening. Flatley earned millions with the follow-up, Lord Of The Dance, but his relationship with Reid ended in another lawsuit. Reid retired in 1999 and was a judge in the Australian X-Factor for one season in 2005.
Of his work with Elton John, Reid told the Scottish Daily Mail: “I’m fond of Elton and proud of the work I did with him. One day I’ll bump into him and there may be hugs and kisses. Or maybe not.”