some artists I've managed

Wham! - John's Children - Rupert Everett Japan - London - Marc Bolan


As Japan's tour progressed northwards the audiences got rowdier and became more impatient with a support group they saw as a bunch of cissies. Glasgow was going to be murder, it was the toughest audience in Britain. The night before it, David completely lost control of a barracking audience and asked to pull out of the tour.

I came up with an idea. 'Play as much of the set as you can before the audience get totally out of hand. Then - just when you're on the edge of losing it - announce that you're going to sing the next song a cappella. For a heavy metal audience that will be the ultimate provocation. Whatever reaction you get, whatever noise they make, it will be you who've caused it, not them. That way it becomes you who's in charge.'

David took hold of my philosophy magnificently. In the middle of Japan's set, at the same point where he'd lost his nerve on the previous night, he walked to the front of the stage as 3,000 heavy metal thugs booed and catcalled and stood silently, waiting for a hint of a lull. Then he started singing, completely unaccompanied.

The audience was taken aback. They let him get surprisingly far before the catcalls started again, but when they began they were phenomenal. I'd never heard such an incredible volume of hatred from an audience - shrieks, whistles, boos, wails, handclaps and foot-stomping - even louder than the welcome they normally gave their own group.

As the cacophony reached its peak David stopped singing, stood calmly at the front of the stage and turned his head towards the vortex of the noise in the middle of the balcony. As he did so an enormous smile spread slowly across his face.

Within seconds the audience had quietened down. They'd been had and they knew it.

 From ‘Black Vinyl White Powder’ by Simon Napier-Bell
published by Ebury Press, London


Marc Bolan


There was never anyone more sure of himself or to the point than Marc Bolan. He got hold of my home number and called me early one evening. 'I'm a singer and I'm going to be the biggest British rock star ever, so I need a good manager to make all the arrangements.'

I told him to send a tape to the office, but he said he just happened to be near where I lived and could he drop it in? Ten minutes later he rang the bell and walked through the door with a guitar round his neck.

He said, 'To tell the truth I don't have a tape, but I could sing for you right now.'

I hate that approach. If it's bad, how much do you listen to before you say stop? And then, by cutting someone short, are you going to miss the best bit, which on tape you might have spooled on to?  

Nevertheless I had to let him do it because the instant he walked through the door he came across with the one thing that is most needed but is most lacking in all rock singers. It's what people call star quality, but in reality it's nothing more than the artist seeing himself as the essential material of his own art. He devises his own unique image and lifestyle and projects them to everyone around him. The fact that he has chosen singing, or acting or even being a politician, as the area to work in is irrelevant. He uses himself as a painter uses a canvas, or as a sculptor uses his lump of rock. He paints himself a little, does a bit of sculpting, decides on the right clothes, and out comes a new person. A creation. A work of art. A star.

 From ‘You Don't Have To Say You Love Me’ by Simon Napier-Bell
published by Ebury Press, London


The Yardbirds


There were four rock groups in the world that really counted for anything and The Yardbirds was one of them. When I took them over I knew nothing about managing a group and almost nothing about pop or rock music. But suddenly I was among the most important people in the music business

It seemed like quite an easy job. There was a booking agent who was called up by any promoter who wanted to present the group. The agent said yes or no according to group's schedule and then quoted a price. (In those days The Yardbirds got an average of £350 per per performance.) Then there’d be a road-manager who organised transporting the group to the gig and making sure their equipment was set up working. There wasn't much left for the manager to do but sign the contracts.

I took twenty per cent of three hundred and fifty pounds per gig - that was seventy pounds per signature. There seemed to be an average of six gigs a week, so that was around four hundred pounds. It took all of a minute a day, and suddenly there was so much money coming in that I had to take up eating lunch as well as dinner.

From ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ by Simon Napier-Bell
published by Ebury Press, London




On Top Of The Pops, George and Andrew had come across as lookalikes - two fun-loving teenagers - a matching pair. In person, they seemed complete opposites. Andrew chose the longest settee in my sitting-room and draped himself along it lengthways. “Nice pad,” he said, throwing his eyes around the room. “Great for pulling.”

George chose an armchair and sat on the edge of it, eager to get down to business. “Who’ve you managed before?” he asked brusquely.

Andrew remained stretched out. From the coffee-table he picked up a book - something I’d written about the music business in the sixties - and started browsing through it.

George remained suspicious. “We won’t want you looking after our money,” he said. “We’ll be appointing accountants.”

“Fantastic, man,” Andrew commented a couple of times from his reclined position, then turned to George, “Seems like Simon spent most of the sixties either drunk or having sex. He sounds just the right person for us.”

George ignored him. “What guarantees can you give us? We won’t want to give you a contract unless we have guarantees.”

Their different personalities complimented each other well; more important, though, was the quality of the three records they’d released – ‘Wham Rap’, ‘Young Guns’ and ‘Bad Boys’ – all with extraordinary vitality and super-sharp lyrics. If I was going to go back to managing a pop group, at least these two guys were talented and well-spoken. And they had a wonderful image - pure Hollywood - ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ – two regular guys, closer than lovers.

From ‘I’m Coming To Take You To Lunch’ by Simon Napier-Bell
published by Ebury Press, London


John's Children


We were at Ludwigshafen and the auditorium was the biggest yet, and so were the bouncers. Chris smashed into the drums as John and Marc launched into a driving riff and Andy leapt out of the wings carrying two pillowcases of feathers.

He shot across the stage, vaulted right over the heads of the assembled bouncers, landed in the front aisle and started running, dispensing fistfuls of ducks' fluff in all directions.

The audience went berserk. They grabbed at him but he dodged, Some people tried to help him get through, others were trying to stop him and the end result was all-out civil war amongst the audience. Everyone was fighting, chairs being smashed and the feathers hung over the auditorium like a pallof smoke.

When Andy made it back to the stage and launched into the first song the audience let out a cheer the power of which hadn’t been heard since the Hitler youth rallies of the thirties. The place was wildly dangerous with thug bouncers hitting anyone they could grab. Two of them got Andy by the leg but Marc slashed them with his guitar which screeched manic feedback, echoing through the auditorium like death screams.

Then the riot police arrived. I rushed on stage and yelled at the group to get off. John and Andy headed for the dressing-room but I grabbed them and pulled them through a side door. As we leapt into my Bentley, the fire brigade arrived and turned the hoses on us. I screeched through the town, found an autobahn and set the speed at a steady hundred, pointing us towards the nearest border. Andy had dislocated his neck, Chris's face had been smashed with a bottle. Marc and John both had nose bleeds.

After a while I told them, 'I think the stage act’s coming along nicely.’


From ‘You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me’ by Simon Napier-Bell
published by Ebury Press, London


Rupert Everett


“Don't you just hate it when your dick falls out the front of your boxer shorts. It's so irritating. It just sort of hangs there. Normally I wear briefs – they're SO much more comfortable.”

Rupert Everett was trying to explain why I'd opened my front door to find him poking around in his crotch.

No, this wasn't last week here in Thailand, it was twenty-five years ago in London. But earlier this week I bought a dozen or so of those ridiculously cheap CDVs that are available here and amongst them was ‘My Best Friend's Wedding', which reminded me of him. And after I'd watched it again and had a good laugh, I also re-read his memoirs which have sat on the bookshelf of my guest room for th last five years.

Rupert had come to see me because he wanted to become a singer. He was just back from Hollywood where he'd been making a film with Bob Dylan in which he'd played the part of a British rock star.

After he'd finished filming it, Rupert decided he wanted to play the part for real. “I want to sing,” he told me. “And I want you to be my manager. I'm a bit of a renaissance man, you see, able to turn my hand to anything I choose.”

I asked him if he wanted to be a singer instead of an actor, or as well . The problem being, the two simply don't go together. It's sometimes possible for rock stars to act, but when actors try to become rock stars they usually look false, and fail, a good example some years ago being Keanu Reeves.

I tried hard to put Rupert off. “There'll be no problem getting you a record deal, but I'm not convinced you'll grab the market. I'm not sure your name is right. I mean, ‘Rupert' isn't a great name for a rock star.”

"I sometimes call myself Roopie-Poopie," he said, completely straight-faced. “Is that any better?”

I laughed and asked him to give me a day to think about it.

He pouted. “Can't you make your mind up straight away? I mean, we seem to be getting on very well, don't you think?”

Indeed we were. Rupert was a real charmer. Meeting and chatting with him was the sort of pleasure life should you give you more often. But even though he was so charming, so bright, so entertaining, turning Rupert Everett into a rock star would be near impossible. In fact, I was convinced I couldn't do it. The answer had to be ‘No'.

But when I opened my mouth to tell him, my voice had a mind of its own. “OK,” I heard it say. “I'll do it.”

It wasn't a success. He made a great single. He got all the TV shows. He was fantastic on chat shows. But he was still an actor playing the part of a rock star and it didn't ring true. After six months we called it a day and he went back to films.

Last night, laughing again at ‘My Best Friend's Wedding', I could only feel glad that he did so.

From ‘Sour Mouth, Sweet Bottom by Simon Napier-Bell
published by Unbound, London