The greatest managers in rock history

4 May 2020, 18:58 | Updated: 4 May 2020, 19:01

Radio X looks at some of the most memorable movers and shakers in music.

  1. Rob Gretton - Joy Division and New Order

    Rob Gretton at Manchester's Dry Bar in th 1990s
    Rob Gretton at Manchester's Dry Bar in th 1990s. Picture: Peter J Walsh/PYMCA/Avalon/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

    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 keepin them based in the North West of England. He nursed the band through the death of lead singer Ian Curtis and their metamorphosis into New Order, and was one of the key movers behind the founding of the Hacienda club. He died in May 1999.

  2. Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch - Metallica, Muse and more

    Peter Mensch with the Chili Peppers' Chad Smith at an awards ceremony in London, 2018
    Peter Mensch with the Chili Peppers' Chad Smith at an awards ceremony in London, 2018. Picture: JM Enternational/Shutterstock

    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. Mensch's third wife Louse is a former Conservative MP.

  3. Brian Epstein - The Beatles

    Brian Epstein and The Beatles arrive back in London in July 1966 after their troublesome tour of the Philippines
    Brian Epstein and The Beatles arrive back in London in July 1966 after their troublesome tour of the Philippines. Picture: Cummings Archives/Redferns/Getty Images

    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, but the Fabs were his main triumph When Epstein died on 27 August 1967 from an accidental overdose, the band lost their way.

  4. Peter Grant - Led Zeppelin

    Led Zeppelin at the UK premiere of their film The Song Remains The Same with manager Peter Grant in November 1976
    Led Zeppelin at the UK premiere of their film The Song Remains The Same with manager Peter Grant in November 1976. Picture: G Morris/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

    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.

  5. Malcolm McLaren - Sex Pistols

    Sex Pistols brandish their £25,000 pay off cheque from A&M Records, while manager Malcolm McLaren looks on. March 1977
    Sex Pistols brandish their £25,000 pay off cheque from A&M Records, while manager Malcolm McLaren looks on. March 1977. Picture: Bill Rowntree/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

    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 who were way past their prime. Inspired, McLaren came back to London and put together the Sex Pistols. Controversy surrounded the band and made them a huge inflluence 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. He died on 8 April 2010, aged 64.

  6. Robert Stigwood - The Bee Gees and more

    Robert Stigwood and John Travolta at the Grease party at Paramount Studios ,1978
    Robert Stigwood and John Travolta at the Grease party at Paramount Studios ,1978. Picture: Brad Elterman/FilmMagic/Getty Images

    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 eccentric 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.

  7. Allen Klein - The Beatles, The Rolling Stones

    Allen Klein with John and Yoko, negotiates over the purchase of The Beatles' song publishing. This does not end well.
    Allen Klein with John and Yoko, negotiates over the purchase of The Beatles' song publishing. This does not end well. Picture: C. Maher/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

    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.

  8. Paul McGuinness - U2

    Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., longtime U2 manager Paul McGuinness, Bono and The Edge sign their book in 2006
    Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., longtime U2 manager Paul McGuinness, Bono and The Edge sign their book in 2006. Picture: Alan Weller/FilmMagic/Getty Images

    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 he 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.

  9. John Reid - Queen and Elton John

    John Reid has a big night out with Freddie Mercury in March 1977
    John Reid has a big night out with Freddie Mercury in March 1977. Picture: Richard Creamer/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

    Originally a label manager for Tamla Motown in the UK, Scotsman Reid met singer-songwriter Elton John in 1970 and introduced him to lyricist Bernie Taupin. The duo went on to huge success, but when Reid started managing another massive rock act - Queen - the was some friction. In the 80s, Reid also managed artists such as Billy Connolly, Lionel Richie, Riverdance star Michael Flatley, Andrew Lloyd Webber and more. But his working and personal relationship with Elton John was to break down and they split acrimoniously in 1998.

  10. Andrew Loog Oldham - The Rolling Stones

    Andrew Oldham, Manager of The Rolling Stones. September 1964
    Andrew Oldham, Manager of The Rolling Stones. September 1964. Picture: Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

    Starting his career in the music business as a publicist for acts like Bob Dylan and The Beatles, Oldham took control of The Rolling Stones from their previous manager Eric Easton and proceded to turn them into the bad boys of rock and roll. He encouraged Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to write songs, pushing founding member Brian Jones to the side and discovered Marianne Faithfull. However, he employed the services of Allen Kelin to manage the band's business and when the Stones were busted for drug possession, Oldham left for the US and had to resign his post. He then set up the influential Immediate Records label, and later went into production.