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1.8 Don Arden (The Osbournes) part1




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This article is from the The Osbourne FAQ, by Mike L. with numerous contributions by others.

1.8 Don Arden (The Osbournes) part1

If Jim Simpson sounds like a manager from hell, you should be
introduced to Don Arden. This is Sharon Osbournes father in case
you're wondering the relevance.

Don Arden was born Harry Levy In 1926 In Cheetham Hill, Manchester,
England.

Don spent most of the fifties working the boards as a singer comedian.
Arden had ambition and drive in abundance but lacked the necessary
diplomacy to ingratiate himself with influential show business
moguls. His uncompromising aggression and short temper alienated so
many important contacts that eventually he decided to branch out from
performing into promotion. He began modestly, organising Hebrew folk
song contests before putting together his own shows.

By the late fifties, Arden had found his niche. As a master of
ceremonies, he could still sing, crack jokes and keep audiences happy
while his star attractions lay waiting in the wings.

By the mid-sixties, Arden has reached a crucial stage in his
career. He had promoted many successful package tours involving a
number of American acts such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and
Sam Cooke, but his progress in this area was thwarted by the dramatic
emergence of the Beatles and their ilk. Suddenly, American stars were
passİ and as the beat boom reached it's peak, attendance figures at
Arden's concerts revealed a noticeable slump. After losing
approximately £100,000 in a disastrous 10-week run, Arden abandoned
his fifties rock 'n' roll stars and set out in search of young pop
groups, his first involvement in the beat group scene came through
Mike Jeffrey, manager of the Newcastle-based Animals. Jeffrey, a
notorious hustler and shady operator, was looking for an influential
agent to get his group work in the South. Arden brought them to London
and secured a residency at the fashionable Scene club. The Animals
went down a storm and Arden immediately became their full-time agent,
ensuring that he had sole rights to promote them worldwide.

He also claims responsibility for recruiting producer Mickie Most, who
proved instrumental in setting in motion the Animals rise to
international fame. Following the transatlantic chart-topper 'House
Of The Rising Sun', Arden made substantial profits from promoting the
Animals, but with their association was relatively short lived. A
dispute arose with Jeffrey and rather than involve himself in
protracted legal action, Arden sold his rights to other
parties. Jeffrey's own managerial career was relatively short
lived. Several years later, he died in mysterious circumstances
following a plane explosion. The body was never recovered.

By this stage, Arden realised that pop group management could prove
extremely lucrative, and he wasted no time in signing the Nashville
Teens. The Weybridge sextet had already undergone a gruelling
apprenticeship at Hamburg's all-night Star Club and emerged as one of
the most exciting groups of their day. Soon they were snapped up by
Decca.

Arden's main contribution to the Nashville Teens was keeping them in
work constantly throughout their career. In spite of the Teens'
intense gigging schedule, Arden occasionally found difficulty
releasing sufficient funds to cover their various expenses. Ray
Phillips recalls how Arden's severe budgeting frequently frustrated
the group:

We had to go up and barter for the money. If we were owed a grand
he'd say, 'Would you settle for £600?' We'd be sitting in the
office waiting for some money to get to a gig. He'd keep us waiting
till the banks closed. 'Oh, I've got no money now. I've got some
here - would you settle for that?' Little did you know, that's it -
you were paid off.

Although the group grudgingly accepted the 'bartering system' as a
method of payment, pianist John Hawken insisted on challenging
Arden's absolute authority. Prior to a performance in Manchester, he
arranged to collect £120 from his manager's Carnaby Street office,
but, upon arrival, he was handed a cheque for £20. Overcome by
reckless indignation, Hawken raised his voice in complaint and
demanded the full sum in no uncertain terms. Arden was evidently
astounded by his impudent outburst, incensed, he leapt from his chair,
seized Hawken by the throat and pinned him against the wall. Staring
directly into his eyes, Arden screamed: 'I have the strength of 10
men in these hands'. Feeling the pressure of Arden's fingers on his
neck, young Hawken realised that this was no idle boast. Within
seconds, the agitated Arden had dragged the musician towards his
office window, two floors above ground level, and exclaimed wickedly:
'You're going over, John, you're going over'. Fortunately, Hawken
managed to free himself from his manager's grip and fled from his
office in a distraught state. Suffice to say, Hawken learned the hard
way that a manager of Arden's stature always demands respect.

In the aftermath of their brief success, the Nashville Teens continued
working with Arden, always hoping to re-establish their old
reputation.

The fact that Arden kept the group on his books long after they were a
lucrative proposition was some consolation and he would no doubt argue
that without his involvement their life span would have been
considerably shorter. Under the terms of their management contract he
received one third of their gross receipts from live performances, so
there was every incentive to sustain their flagging career. Although
their business relationship was never ideal, there was no animosity
forthcoming from the group when they finally left their long-time
manager. In retrospect, Phillips portrays Arden as a highly successful
business manager whose main deficiency was a lack of creative input:
'I got on well with Don Arden. I liked Don. But he couldn't manage a
band. He couldn't inject ideas... He was into buying and selling
rather than making. The Teens needed guidance and direction.'

Arden went on to manage The Small Faces around 1965.

As 1966 wore on it became blatantly obvious that there was a growing
rift between Arden and his number one act. Prompted by their concerned
parents, the group began to take a closer look at their financial
state. With no accounts forthcoming from Arden and a history of
extravagant spending behind them, the Small Faces were unsure whether
they were millionaires or paupers. Eventually, the parents decided to
pay Arden a visit and demand an explanation. For some reason, they
never quite got round to talking about money. Arden fended off such
questions by expressing his deep concern about the boys' drug-taking
habits.

Not suprisingly, the parents were up in arms and left Arden's Carnaby
Street office convinced that their children were hardened
addicts. According to Ronnie Lane it took a great deal of persuasion
to convince them otherwise. On another occasion, Lane himself visited
Arden to discuss money matters but his confidence was shattered upon
being introduced to one of Don's assistants, a certain 'Mad
Tom'. Arden alone was an imposing figure, but the selected heavies
that hung around his office suggested that any criticisms of the man
would best be left un-uttered. Following a group meeting, the boys
decided to employ an independant lawyer and accountant to sort out
their financial affairs. Battlelines were being drawn.

The Small Faces would probably have remained under Arden's aegis but
for their concern over unaccounted revenue. News of their
disenchantment spread through the back lanes of Tin Pan Alley, but Don
convinced himself that all would be well. His countenance grimly
altered when
he heard a rumour that one of Robert Stigwood's associates had
expressed an interest in the group. Inflamed by proprietorial zeal
and a sense that some unwritten code of
entrepreneurial etiquette had been transgressed, Arden decided to
teach the unfortunate Stigwood a lesson that he would never
forget. Marshalling his forces, Arden enacted a remarkable scene
which will live forever in the folk-lore of sixties pop management:

 

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