10 Craziest Rock Managers
Whether you’re a geek packed to the brim with musical trivia or someone who simply loves the music, many rock fans love to exchange bits of folklore about their favorite musicians’ craziest antics. From Keith Moon driving a convertible into a hotel pool to Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a dove, these stories provide mountains of entertainment for both the rock nerd and novice alike.
But behind all these wild men and those unbelievable stories stands a person just as demented and eccentric as the players themselves; their managers. Call them wolves in rock ‘n’ roll clothing. Call them money hungry power trippers. You can call them whatever you like, but you have to admit stories such as Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant dousing bootleggers’ recording equipment with buckets of water or Kim Fowley hurling dog waste at his clients’ The Runaways are just as outrageous as any sex and drugs tale you can pull out about your favorite guitarist.
Below is a list of the most dangerous, damaged and hard-nosed managerial masterminds who made rock more interesting by both their involvement and their lunacy.
Don Arden (Black Sabbath, Small Faces)
The legend of Arden’s career revolves around windows. When a member of the Nashville Teens – a band Don managed in the mid-sixties – had the nerve to ask for moneys owed to him, he threatened to hurl him from his office window. Later on when Arden heard Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood was looking to poach his clients the Small Faces; he and some friends went over to Stigwood’s office and hung him over his balcony until he reconsidered. Later on, Arden’s daughter Sharon Osbourne would take a just as uncompromising position in managing her hubby Ozzy Osbourne, just not with such an emphasis on windows.
Sharon Osbourne (Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead)
Sharon famously had a strained relationship with her late father, but she still learned a lot from the guy. During a performance at 2005’s Ozzfest, she had Iron Maiden’s power cut during several moments in their set. She explained that Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson was “a prick and had disrespected Ozzfest since they began their stint with the tour.
“I know you would love to keep talking about this, because this is the most press that Iron Maiden has had in the U.S. in 20 years, but let’s move on, shall we?” Osbourne wrote to Maiden manager Rod Smallwood in an open letter which she signed, “The ‘Real’ Iron Maiden.”
John Sinclair (The MC5)
In 1966, John Sinclair was as radical a rock manager as you could get. And for Detroit’s proto-punkers The MC5 he was almost too radical. When Sinclair wanted to bog down the music with too much political revolutionary rhetoric, they opted to be taken under the spell of future Bruce Springsteen manager Jon Landau. When Sinclair found out about the betrayal, he told the band: “You guys wanted to be bigger than the Beatles, and I wanted you to be bigger than Chairman Mao.”
Colonel Tom Parker (Elvis)
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to tell you Colonel Tom Parker is the archetype for all rock managers both past and present. The way Parker took a simple country boy and made boat loads of cash off him gave many backroom brokers the hope that they might be able to make a buck or two off this newfangled ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ thing.
Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin, Bad Company)
Peter Grant was a protégé of Don Arden and his take-no-prisoners style to managing showed it. From strong arming concert promoters into handing over 90% of the concert returns to personally wrecking any record store that dared sell a bootleg product of any band in his stable, this literal giant of a man single-handedly turned rock from music into a business.
Dee Anthony (Humble Pie, Montrose, Peter Frampton)
In his excellent book about the genesis of commerce in rock music entitled ‘Mansion on the Hill,’ Fred Goodman quotes Dee Anthony three simple rules of success:
1) Get the money
2) Remember to get the money
3) Don’t forget to always remember to get the money
Anthony was a Bronx native used to managing the likes of Tony Bennett before the ringing of Rock’s cash registers started to catch his ear in the late sixties. He convinced Humble Pie’s good-looking guitarist Peter Frampton to come under his wing and try going solo. Dee led him into the victory that was the seminal, and cash cow, live album, Frampton Comes Alive! but it wasn’t without consequences that led to drug abuse and crippling debt for Frampton, while Anthony held toga parties in his Beverly Hills home.
Malcolm McLaren (Sex Pistols)
When punk broke in the mid-’70s, the stance was that it was taking rock back from bread heads like Peter Grant and Dee Anthony. But at the end of the day, it was business as usual. Much like the dreaded long hairs that came before him, McLaren’s agenda was simply to hype the hell out of the Pistols while pocketing as much dosh as possible from both artist and label alike. Just substitute safety pins for kaftans and it’s all the same.
Kit Lambert (The Who)
Lambert was originally in the world of film, but that career was soon squashed when he saw The Who play an early gig in London in 1964 and decided to become their manager. Sometime in the late ’60s, Lambert dove feet first into the world of sex and drugs while forgetting his professional duties to his clients. When he was fired by the band in 1971 for missing royalties, he went on a decade long bender that ended in 1981 when he drunkenly fell down the stairs at his mothers’ house where he was living under court order.
Kim Fowley (The Runaways)
Despite Kim Fowley’s many accomplishments as a producer and songwriter, people only seem to know him as the manager of The Runaways, the world’s first all-female teenage rock band. Over the years, many tales have arisen over Fowley’s treatment of Lita Ford, Joan Jett and the others in the group. Everything from accusations of sexual improprieties to mental abuse has been bandied about with Fowley being coyly vague about these implications.
Terry Knight (Grand Funk Railroad)
Terry Knight was a taste making radio DJ in Detroit when he formed Terry Knight and the Pack in 1965 with Mark Farner and Don Brewer. A few years after the band broke up; Knight got a job as a producer at Capitol Records. He convinced his old buddies Farner and Brewer that if they formed a new band and let him manage them, he could secure them a deal with the label. The band was Grand Funk Railroad and yes … the rest is history. That is until the band discovered Knight was skimming money. A two-year court battle ensued that left Knight in dire straits. He dropped in and out of drug use and jobs until he was stabbed to death by his daughters’ boyfriend in their shared apartment in Texas in 2004.