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Simon Napier-Bell

Rock manager and author

Simon Napier-Bell has been a music manager since the 60s. Amongst the many acts he has managed are The Yardbirds, Tyranosaurus Rex, Marc Bolan, Japan, Sinitta, Wham!, Candi Staton, Asia, Boney M, and Ultravox.

In the 1960s he was also a songwriter and wrote the lyrics for the Elvis Presley and Dusty Springfield hit 'You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me'. He also worked in films, editing Burt Bacharach’s score for 'What’s New Pussy Cat' and writing the score for Here 'We Go Round the Mulberry Bush'.

In the 1970s, he produced records for many artists including The Scaffold, Peter Sarstedt, Francoise Hardy, Forever More (an early version of The Average White Band), and John Paul Young. He also became the manager of British rock group Japan.

In the 1980s he became the manager of Wham! (comprising Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael) and spent two years negotiating with the Chinese government for Wham! to become the first Western pop or rock group to play in China.

These days Simon writes, broadcasts and lectures throughout the world on the music business. He does consultancy on entertainment business issues and marketing in Asian markets. He has written three successful books...

“Black Vinyl White Powder” - said by the Sunday Telegraph to be “One of the most authoritative, intelligent, diligently researched, conscientiously indexed, and thoroughly unpretentious disquisitions on the history of the British pop scene yet written”. And by the Times Educational Supplement, to be “compelling and authoritative”.

“I’m Coming To Take You To Lunch” - about taking Wham! to China, voted ‘Book of the Year’ by Rainbow Network.

“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” - about his experiences in the British music business in the Sixties, Voted No 11 in The Observer’s ‘Top 50 Music Books of All Time’.

Gays Can Thank the Music Industry

From the beginning, the backstage area of pop was a haven for gays - TV producers, set designers, clothes designers, stylists and especially managers. Mostly the artists themselves were not gay, which gave their introduction to gay culture all the more impact.
08/08/2013 19:27 BST

Travel Payola

When dealing with state officials, there's always a downside - they have a record of it. But for millions of Thais these things are a normal part of every day life. A little money placed in the correct hand will get your car delivered quicker, your operation done sooner, your package passed through customs unchecked or your fine for any number of driving offences waived.
31/07/2013 15:01 BST

One In Every Group

Bit by bit, each time you talk with them, you notice one more sullen face among the smiling ones, until eventually there's a complete set of them. Why hasn't our record sold more? Why is it only double platinum? Why do we have to be successful? Why have you screwed up our lives? We're leaving. To be honest, the day that happens will be the happiest day you can remember during the whole damned time you managed them.
16/07/2013 17:05 BST

Pledge and Be Damned

Crowdfunding, I thought, "what better than to try it myself?" In reality, there were few other options. I could throw away the book and get on with being a businessman; pay to publish it myself or put it on Amazon where it would get a digital sale and no one would really know if it was a success or not - in other words I could avoid losing face. But all three sounded cowardly.
02/07/2013 17:17 BST

Fat and Fulfilled

At 18 I had a waist you could put your arm round, just 26 inches. But in the mirror this morning I found myself looking at something the circumference of a bicycle wheel. It's restaurants that did it. All my life I've been a restaurant freak; they're where I function best.
15/02/2012 12:05 GMT

Drugs - Legal and Illegal but All Rather Stimulating

Last week Sir Richard Branson and Alan McGee were amongst people who wrote pieces in favour of decriminalising illegal drugs. They both say they once used them but don't now. My position is different; I'm an addict. At least, I think I am, though not of anything illegal.
31/01/2012 22:25 GMT

Save the World! Oh Dear, Do We Really Have To?

The International Energy Agency says that global warming will be beyond the point of no return in five years, and since there's nothing in the pipeline to reverse it before that time, it means we're doomed. And on that basis, I say let's enjoy ourselves while we can.
24/01/2012 22:21 GMT

Popes And Vile Tongues

Last week, the odious piety of Pope Benedict was again on display as he canted about the evils of homosexuality. While addressing the diplomatic corps at the Vatican, he said gay marriage could undermine "the future of humanity itself".
17/01/2012 22:53 GMT

Eva Tanguay - A Rock Star Before Rock Existed

Tanguay was the biggest star of the time. She died 65 years ago this week, but her highpoint was one hundred years ago, during the first two decades of the 20th Century. There had never been anyone like her before. Nor was there afterwards. Not until Madonna and Lady Gaga dug up her soul and re-inhabited it.
10/01/2012 23:46 GMT

Ronaldo's New Boots

Ronaldo has some new boots. Have you seen them? They're cheat's boots.
04/01/2012 10:47 GMT

A Christmas Rape

"Have you ever been raped?" I was eating lunch with a gaggle of friends last week when the discussion got round to Julian Assange and someone asked the question round the table. I said, perhaps I had. Or perhaps not, depending how you looked at it.
28/12/2011 01:08 GMT

2011 - An Off-Beat Centennial

Cee Lo's <em>Forget You</em> was fun, <em>Born This Way</em> was gaily re-assuring, Adele's continued success was a wonderful two-fingers up at the majors, and Bruno Mars reminded us that a boyish voice and a catchy song is still the mainstay of good pop but he hardly broke artistic barriers. All in all, 2011 was pretty dull.
21/12/2011 12:29 GMT

As Natural As Life Itself

Homosexual behaviour has been observed in more than 500 species of animal, including nearly all common insects. If you're a bedbug or a club-tailed dragonfly or a flour beetle, then just like a human being you have a one in 10 chance of fancying a member of your own sex.
13/12/2011 22:18 GMT

Mouth Out Of Control

As far as the blues were concerned Jimmy Page had technique and angst but lacked heartfelt sadness. Eric Clapton too - despite his lengthy period on heroin, trying, he said, to find the true pain at the heart of the blues - never quite got there.
07/12/2011 06:51 GMT

James Murdoch - A Matter Of Appearance

Since James Murdoch's appearance before that parliamentary committee a couple of weeks ago, amongst all the talk about his evasive manner, his shortcomings as the head of a big corporation, and whether he might or might not have been telling the truth, there's been one thing noticeably missing.
30/11/2011 07:41 GMT

A Stiff Debate

Earlier this year, trawling round the net, I came across a new comic-book hero - Foreskin Man, an all-American, all-flying, all-powerful, muscle-man in tights. Blonde, square-jawed, and fully-foreskinned, he flies round the world with his companion Vulva Girl, rescuing infants from circumcision. The reason for all this was a referendum in San Francisco that proposed banning circumcision for under 18s except as a medical emergency. Some of the "for" people were behind the comic book, and it led to fierce discussion. "Stiff debate over circumcision rights" was how a Californian TV station put it.
23/11/2011 09:49 GMT

EMI. Not Quite As British As People Think

Last week EMI Records was sold to Universal Music. Many nostalgic pieces appeared about "the last truly British record company". In fact, EMI owed its existence to four Americans.
16/11/2011 08:21 GMT

A Bag-Carrying Bigmouth

Insults? Perhaps the best in the last 10 years time came from Christopher Hitchens:, "If they gave Jerry Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox." And amongst the worst, this week, from the New Zealand caddie Steve Williams when he called Tiger Woods a "black arsehole".
09/11/2011 07:46 GMT

One of Life's Little Success Stories

The first bit of this happened in the 60s when I managed the Yardbirds and lived in a posh flat behind Buckingham Palace. It started with a phone call. "Is that Simon Napier-Bell, the rock manager?" "That's me." It was 8.30 in the morning and I was eating my Shredded Wheat. "Who's that?" "I'm a freelancer. I've been paid to do a job on you. I've been trying to contact you for days."
02/11/2011 08:26 GMT