Few characters in the Rock canon are more controversial than the manager. They are always accused of robbing bands, paying them less than they deserve, doing shady deals behind their backs and even influencing their members to leave and pursue solo careers.
They are demonized by everybody, but for every Don Arden, Allen Klein or Norman Sheffield, there are some guys that are instrumental in some bands’ career and really love their clients.
The first example that comes to mind is obviously Brian Epstein, who is obviously out of the list because he was The Beatles’ manager. Whether he was a visionary (he indeed said that The Beatles were going to be bigger than Elvis) or a lucky guy who decided to manage them out of pure sexual attraction for those four lads (especially John), it really doesn’t matter. His work as manager was brilliant (to say the least) and kept their finances and their egos in check. We all know what happened after he died…
Anyway, let’s see who made the list of those who really worked in favor of their clients.
#5 – Peter Mensch: After managing AC/DC, Peter got together with Cliff Burnstein and formed Q Prime Management. Their first signing was Def Leppard, but it was with his next that he proved his value. Peter signed Metallica just before the release of Ride The Lightning and went on to transform them in one of the biggest Rock (not only Metal) bands of all time. Of course, in the beginning things were easy because the albums were wonderful, but in the mid-nineties things got ugly. Peter not only managed to keep them together, but Metallica resurrected as the biggest band in the world with its own label, festival and the Big Four tour.
#4 – Bill Aucoin: Very few people would have the balls to sign a band made of weirdos that could barely play, wearing S&M cheap clothes, paint on their faces and led by two Jewish boys. Bill Aucoin had. If you haven’t guessed yet, the band was Kiss and their path to world domination in the seventies had a lot to do with Bill’s work. Even the band admits that had their egos not spiraled out of control in the late seventies, they might have stayed together until this day.
#3 – Doc McGhee: How many people would have the patience to put up with Mötley Crüe in the eighties? Not too many, I can assure you. Doc McGhee had. Maybe it was because he had a drug and alcohol habit almost as incontrollable as them (nobody had one like them, that’s for sure), but even so he endured a lot things to keep Mötley in track until the end of the decade when he and the band decide to go to rehab together. And when they emerged from that, they released a number one album with Dr.Feelgood. But Doc was also the manager for Bon Jovi and one of the main figures behind the hugely successful Kiss reunion tour in 96. Incidentally, he remained Kiss manager ever since.
#2 – Rod Smallwood: Would you believe in a stubborn guy from East London, with a fierce determination, a blind believe in himself, leading a band that plays a kind of music that nobody is listening to at the time? Rod Smallwood would. The guy in question is Steve Harris and the band is Iron Maiden. Together they created an unstoppable machine that NEVER compromised. Rod’s passion for Maiden’s music and refusal to bend over to record companies demands were instrumental for the British band lasting success. In the process he formed Sanctuary Music who at one point was also a label for Kiss, Queensryche, Judas Priest, Wasp and others. He made the mistake of making the company go public (I don’t know exactly the economic details, I just know he lost a lot of money) but recovered shutting the company down and re-emerging with Phantom Music, who as far as I know, deal only with Maiden now.
#1 – Peter Grant: All the managers listed above had a role model, and that model is no other than Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant. Peter would go above and beyond the call of duty for his boys. He was even hated by a lot of promoters due to his tendency for physical threat. He was a huge, strong man, raised in the streets of London and no stranger to a good fight. Worst, he still had some scary connections in the underground and he was not ashamed to use them when needed. Led Zeppelin never took the stage at a time they didn’t want to. If they wanted to start playing only when the sun was down, that’s when they would. If you refuse to let them, go have a talk with Pete, see if you can convince him. And he was just like that for their only other clients, the mighty Bad Company. Peter died of a heart attack in 1995, after retiring from the music business in 1983.
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