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The Greatest Managers in Rock ‘n’ Roll

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When it comes to Rock managers the stereotypical image would be of a man or woman typically remaining out of the spotlight, making sure their celebrity client hogged the limelight, all while they handled business from behind the scenes. Well, occasionally a manager’s larger than life persona elevates his or her visibility. Check out our list of the top 10 managers who took not only their artists to the top of the rock n roll tree, they also made a huge name for themselves along the way. So, who did we miss?

Peter Grant: (Led Zeppelin)

Possibly one of the biggest and well-known managers of all time, as Led Zeppelin’s main man, Peter Grant broke the mold. As loyal as you could ever wish for, the former wrestler and all around tough guy is the blueprint for the no-nonsense manager. Known for his business sense, Grant also had the ability to trade blows when it came to the well-being of his client. As well as Zeppelin Grant managed the Yardbirds and Bad Company. Peter Grant died after suffering a heart attack at age 60.

Don Arden: (Black Sabbath)

This man brought the fear of god to both artists, promoters and record companies. Don Arden was such a tough guy that he was known in the music business as “The English Godfather” or “The Al Capone of Pop,” and according to most people you’d ask, those nicknames were well-earned. Arden kick-started his managerial career with American rock and roller Gene Vincent, and then went on to handle the Small Faces, Electric Light Orchestra and, his most infamous, Black Sabbath. For years Arden and his equally infamous daughter/manager, Sharon Osbourne, were famously at odds, but with the help of Sharon’s husband Ozzy Osbourne, the two managed to reconcile. Arden passed away in 2007 from Alzheimer’s disease.

Colonel Tom Parker: (Elvis Presley)

Was he a villain or a hero? Either way, the way that Colonel Tom Parker handled Elvis Presley’s career certainly defined the concept of the controlling rock star manager. Always behind the scenes, Colonel Tom managed Presley’s career with what some called a ‘ruthless devotion.’ Parker was instrumental when it came to overseeing every aspect and decision of Elvis’ life, and at the same time taking a huge percentage of Presley’s earnings. Parkers split with was 49% to Elvis and 51% to himself. Whether you loved or hated him, at Parker’s funeral, Priscilla Presley said the following whilst giving his eulogy: “Elvis and the Colonel made history together, and the world is richer, better and far more interesting because of their collaboration.”

Malcolm McLaren: (The Sex Pistols)

There is still the debate as to just how much Malcolm McLaren masterminded the Sex Pistols’ career? One thing is for certain, he helped the band and the brand to become a household name by manipulating the press and in doing so gave the band worldwide notoriety. McLaren gave the Sex Pistols the band their punk rock fashion sense, and more importantly, their name. Following the split and collapse of the Sex Pistols in 1978, McLaren went on to manage Adam and the Ants and guided the career of UK act Bow Wow Wow.McLaren died of peritoneal mesothelioma in 2010.

Kit Lambert: (The Who)

When it comes to the Who, Kit Lambert is far more influential to the band than people realize. Pete Townshend benefited immensely from Lambert’s direction. He suggested Pete Townshend’s trademark “windmill” strumming style, and Townshend might never have conceived his groundbreaking rock opera’s Tommy and Quadrophenia.  As The Who’s flamboyant manager and producer, Lambert convinced Townshend to move away from simple pop themes and tackle more complex fare. The music and legacy that Lambert left behind is testament itself. Lambert died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 45 after falling down the stairs of his mother’s house in 1981.

Sharon Osbourne: (Ozzy Osbourne)

Born into the music business, Sharon Osbourne is the daughter of legendary manager and all around tough guy, Don Arden. Starting at the very bottom, Sharon began as a receptionist for her father as a teenager, she eventually worked her way up to a gig in promotions. As fate would have it, in 1976, her father Don became Black Sabbath’s manager. Years later Sabbath’s lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne, was shown the door by the band and Arden because of his drug abuse, Sharon seized the day and became Ozzy’s personal manager. After marrying Ozzy she created a franchise surrounding their family with their popular reality show, The Osbournes. As well as Ozzy, Sharon guided the careers of the Smashing Pumpkins, Lita Ford, and also managed the hugely successful Ozzfest heavy metal festival.

Andrew Loog Oldham: (The Rolling Stones)

This guy was a manager’s manager. The role Andrew Loog Oldham played in developing the Rolling Stones career during the band’s early years was invaluable. Oldham was the brains behind the longstanding perception that The Rolling Stones were the “bad boy” alternatives to The Beatles. He was also the one who pushed and encouraged Jagger and Richards to write their own songs. In those early days of the Stones,1963 to 1967, Oldham’s role was integral. Both musically and stylistically, he brought the band on leaps and bounds.

Tony Defries: (David Bowie)

Sure David Bowie had star written all over him from the start, but, the publicity that was created and largely manufactured by his manager, Tony Defries during his Ziggy Stardust period was immeasurable. Defries spent a small fortune to create the illusion that Bowie was already a super-star before his time. DeFries took an artist that was considered by many at the time to be nothing more than “an English act with homosexual undertones” and turned him into an international and flamboyant superstar. As well as Bowie, DeFries has worked with include Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Mick Jagger, John Mellencamp, Andy Warhol, and Mott the Hoople.

Brian Epstein (The Beatles)

For someone who had no previous experience in management, Epstein used nothing more than common sense, his business acumen and gut, when starting out as the manager of The Beatles. From structuring and securing a recording contract, to choreographing their matching suits, haircuts, and synchronized bows, his contributions are written all over the bands early days. Such was Epstein’s mark on the band, early in 1970, John Lennon stated that Epstein’s death, in 1967, marked the beginning of the end for the Beatles, saying: “I knew that we were in trouble then.” Paul McCartney echoed the impact of Epstein on the band’s career, saying: “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.” High praise indeed.

Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan)

If you talk about the music industry in the 1960’s you have to realize that one name was synonymous with the huge folk and rock scene at the time, that name is Albert Grossman. As manager of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Peter Paul and Mary and more, Grossman wrote the book when it came to the music industry in the ’60s. While managing Joplin Grossman he told her he would not tolerate any intravenous drug use when he discovered that Joplin was injecting drugs anyway, he did not confront her, instead, he took out a life insurance policy guaranteeing him $200,000 in the event she died in an accident. His yearly premium was $3,500. In his autobiography, Dylan wrote: “[Grossman] had an enormous presence, always dressed in a conventional suit and tie, and he sat at his corner table. Usually, when he talked, his voice was loud like the booming of war drums. He didn’t talk so much as growl.” Grossman died of a heart attack whilst flying on the Concord on route to London in 1986.

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