If drummers and bass players get lost in the media's frenzy to focus on singers and guitarists, then have a little sympathy for the rock manager. Sometimes a svengali figure, sometimes a glorified accountant, sometimes a crook in rock and roll clothing, one thing is certain every band needs a manager. Managers play an indispensable role in any band's career, good and bad. Here are 10 of the most successful, colorful and, for the most part, musician-friendly managers in rock and roll history.
10. Irving Azoff (The Eagles, Van Halen)
One of the most powerful figures in the contemporary music and entertainment industry, Azoff
gained his reputation of a bulldog negotiator with the Eagles
in the early 1970s. Initially, he worked for another tough cookie, David Geffen
, before taking on the Eagles management by himself. Azoff's tactics were to create a siege mentality, them against us
, for his band, and protect them, cater to them and be a solid steel buffer against the world. When it came to the world he was one of the toughest negotiators the business had ever seen. And he won most of his fights.
Back in 1976, Azoff negotiated a record-setting royalty, amounting to $1.50 a copy, for Hotel California, one of the top-selling albums of all time. Never one to get stuck in the past, Azoff recognized that the industry had changed and in 2007 he made a ground-breaking decision to deal directly with Wal-Mart to sell the Eagles' new album Long Road Out Of Eden
exclusively. He's now the chairman of Live Nation Entertainment.
09. Simon Fuller (Spice Girls, Annie Lennox, Amy Winehouse)
A brave new world of entertainment demanded a new kind of manager and Fuller
was one of the first to realize the rules had changed. The creator of the American Idol
franchise (that has generated over $1 billion in advertising, music and merchandising sales since 2001) is also one of the most creative artist managers in the business. He started with Paul Hardcastle
and his hit song 19
(hence 19 management) and moved on to manage acts such as Annie Lennox
and The Spice Girls
In 2003, Fuller became the first manager to have his artists hold the top three positions on the U.S. singles chart and the #1 album slot, beating the record set by Beatles
manager Brian Epstein
in the 1960s.
08. Kit Lambert (The Who)
Less the tough-guy businessman, more a clued-in advisor and collaborator (especially in the early days), Lambert
played a huge part in developing the image and sound of The Who
. It was Lambert who came up with Townshend's trademark windmill strumming and encouraged Townshend in his rock opera endeavors, writing an early script for Tommy himself.
Very hands on, Lambert persuaded Townshend to move on as a writer, as the Beatles had done, to more mature, sophisticated topics after the first burst of teen angst songs had done their thing for the band. The Who replaced Lambert with Bill Curbishley in 1975, but Lambert goes down in pop history as one of the most tuned-in, creative managers to ever to guide a band top the top.
07. Allen Klein (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones)
Probably the most notorious manager of the '60s, Klein
was a tough negotiator who never failed to negotiate himself a nice piece of the pie, as he increased sales and revenues for his bands. Klein's particular skill set was with business, practically inventing the position of business manager. He took on the record companies at a time when artists and managers were typically afraid to rock the corporate boat.
He was brought in to the Stones camp by Andrew Loog Oldham
to manage their finances, which he did in typical Klein fashion. When re-negotiating the band's deal with Decca, he won them a massive advance that oddly wound up in his U.S. bank account rather than the group's U.K. account. The shenanigans would continue until the band finally ended ties with him in 1972.
Aside from his Stones work, Klein did help calm the Beatles
waters in the wake of Brian Epstein
's death and took control of the financial disaster that was Apple. Unfortunately, he also alienated most of the people he worked with, and after an initial honeymoon period with John Lennon
, George Harrison
and Ringo Starr
(McCartney was never convinced) the band saw through his bullish bluster and severed their connections to him. After ending all The Beatles dealings in 1971, Klein wondered how he could possibly follow his work with the band. Ringo suggested that maybe I ought to manage America,
06. Andrew Loog Oldham (The Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithful, Humble Pie)
Producer and manager, Oldham
is definitely one of the more creative management figures in rock history. If Brian Epstein
was the missing ingredient that The Beatles
needed to get to the toppermost of the poppermost then eccentric Oldham provided the same service for '60s rivals The Rolling Stones
. Initially a publicist, he worked for Epstein on some Beatles projects before seeing The Stones and taking on their management in 1963.
Creative, innovative and always hip and cool, Oldham instigated the Stones' bad boy image that helped identify them at a time when the U.K. was awash with new, young, blues-based bands. He encouraged the band to move away from blues covers, write their own songs and had them cut the contemporary Lennon and McCartney track I Wanna Be Your Man for their second single. He later discovered Marianne Faithful, worked with the Small Faces and put together Humble Pie. He also became increasingly image-conscious, always seen in shades and accompanied by his minder
05. Don Arden: (Black Sabbath, Gene Vincent, The Animals, Small Faces)
Nicknamed the Al Capone of the pop world
typified the old-school music manager. He started out as a performer, but quickly discovered that promoters make more money and in 1959 brought rock and roll original Gene Vincent
to the U.K., managing him until 1965. He promoted some Rolling Stones singles before getting involved with Newcastle band The Animals
, brought them to London and worked on their first #1, House Of The Rising Sun
But Arden's reputation for toughness was beginning to make itself felt in the pop world. He ended relations with The Animals after a falling out with their manager and the same thing happened with his next band, the Nashville Teens. When their piano player disagreed with an Arden decision, he was grabbed by Arden and pushed towards the second floor window with Arden yelling, You're going over!
Next it was the Small Faces
, who he took to chart success but kept them on $30 a week. When the band looked elsewhere for management, Arden quickly visited rival manager Robert Stigwood with a bunch of heavies. Using his favorite negotiating tactic, he held Stigwood over a fourth floor balcony and warned him off any of his bands.
In the '80s he brought his daughter Sharon into the business to look after his acts on the road. Ozzy Osbourne was signed to Arden, but in 1982 Sharon took Ozzy with her and formed her own management company leading to a 20-year feud. Arden ended his feud with Sharon in 2002, and in 2004 wrote his autobiography, Mr. Big Ozzy, Sharon and My Life as the Godfather of Rock
04. Malcolm McLaren (Sex Pistols)
A Svengali manipulator rather than a band protector, McLaren
was responsible for breaking down the rock and roll monster that managers like Peter Grant
had built in the '60s and early '70s. An art school rebel, the young McLaren made a college film whose message was, Be childish. Be irresponsible. Be disrespectful. Be everything this society hates.
After working in the alternative fashion scene in London with designer Vivienne Westwood
, McLaren moved into management via The Sex Pistols
who formed out of his King's Road boutique, Sex. Having tried out his Svengali tactics on the New York Dolls
, McLaren quickly understood that his particular management gift was for record company manipulation, shock and outrage.
His initial work with guiding John Lydon
's Rotten character was inspired and he became the master of publicity stunts when he got arrested on a boat on the River Thames while the band played God Save The Queen
for the Queen's Silver Jubilee. And while his later use of Sid Vicious appeared callous, he did create one of the great rock and roll outlaw images. Proving he was not a one-hit wonder, McLaren next helmed Adam Ant
and Bow Wow Wow
03. Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin)
Back in the late '60s, Grant
was very much the new breed of manager. Learning from the likes of Brian Epstein
and Colonel Tom Parker
, he made the band's needs, however insignificant, his number one priority. After a colorful early life, which included stints as a bouncer and actor, he learned the ropes from Don Arden
and toured with Gene Vincent
, Little Richard
and Jerry Lee Lewis
When it came to Led Zeppelin
, his experience with the U.S. market and the mystique of rock and roll proved invaluable. He protected his charges like no other manager, promoting their shows and prowling the auditoriums for bootleggers. It was Grant who instigated the less is more
philosophy with Zeppelin and the media by adopting a policy of no TV appearances and no singles.
02. Brian Epstein (The Beatles)
The young Brian Epstein
, the gay misfit son of a well-to-do family, was essentially a failure before stumbling across The Beatles
in Liverpool. After seeing the band play at The Cavern Club, he offered to be their manager and promised to score them a record contract. He smartened them up (They were not very tidy and they were not very clean, he said in his book A Cellarful of Noise),brought some order to their rock and roll dreams and did indeed get them a deal with EMI
and producer George Martin
He organized the removal of original drummer Pete Best
and the subsequent integration of Ringo Starr
and then watched the band take over the U.K. For somebody new to the record business, he merrily sailed uncharted waters as he superbly engineered their U.S. invasion with promoters, media and record companies prior to their grandstand launch on The Ed Sullivan Show
Not content with managing the biggest band in the world he signed a plethora of acts to his company. From 1962-67 he managed 13 acts that gave him 50 Top 40 singles and 16 Top 40 albums. But he'll always be linked to the Fab Four. As Paul McCartney
recently said, If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian.
01. Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis Presley)
The role model for most of rock and roll's subsequent managers, Parker
was a natural-born huckster. He took the greatest talent in pop history to the top of the entertainment game with tactics he learned as a carny. In the circus, he entertained the crowds with dancing chickens, and critics might say he treated Elvis Presley
much the same way through the '50s, '60s and '70s.
Parker was a cutthroat businessman, for himself first and his artist second. He was on a 50% commission with Elvis, at a time when 15-20% was the norm. He always demanded money up front, cultivated income from merchandising and totally controlled Elvis with the media. Directly after Elvis' funeral in Memphis, Parker was in meetings to negotiate merchandise deals. An illegal American immigrant, Parker never allowed Elvis to tour internationally for fear of letting Presley out of his hands or control. But for good or bad, he was a devoted manager, always there when Elvis toured, played Las Vegas or made movies. He oversaw every aspect of the worldwide network of Elvis fan clubs, merchandise and record company deals.
Thanks for the report to Andrew Vaughan