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1.8 Don Arden (The Osbournes) part2




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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) part2

I had to stop these overtures - and quickly. I contacted two
well-muscled friends and hired two more equally hugh toughs. And we
went along to nail this impressario to his chair with fright. There
was a large ornate ashtray on his desk. I picked it up and smashed it
down with such force that the desk cracked - giving a good impression
of a man wild with
rage. My friends and I had carefully rehearsed our next move. I
pretended to go berserk, lifted the impressario bodily from his
chair, dragged him on to the balcony and held him so he was looking
down to the pavement four floors below. I asked my friends if I
should drop him or forgive him. In unison they shouted: 'Drop
him'. He went rigid
with shock and I thought he might have a heart attack. Immediately, I
dragged him back into the room and warned him never to interfere with
my groups again.

The shaken Stigwood, who had never personally contacted the Small
Faces, took heed of Arden's advice, as did many other figures in the
pop world.

Although Arden had sold the Faces' agency contract for a reputed
12,000, his company still owed the group royalty payments in respect
of record sales. Retrieving those sums was to prove extremely
difficult. An intriguing dispute ensued during which Arden
demonstrated his predilection for drawn-out court proceedings. During
the summer of 1967 an action was brought
against Arden's Contemporary Records for an amount of royalties due
to the Small Faces.

On receipt of the order, dated 9th June 1967, an account was filed
which revealed that 4,023. 7s. was owed to the group. Several months
later, on 11th October 1967, the Small
Faces obtained judgement in their favour and Counsel for Arden stated
in Court that his company had sufficient funds available to pay the
debt. Having battled for nearly a year,
it seemed as though the group had won a hard-earned victory against
their former manager. Unfortunately, the Small Faces had
underestimated Arden's tenacity and, within a week, their premature
celebrations came to an abrupt end. On 16th October, Arden's
solicitors,
M.A. Jacobs & Sons, wrote to the Small Faces' legal advisers stating
'... with regard to the judgement which you have obtained against
our Clients, our Clients
are not in a position to meet this fully and in one
payment. Therefore, they would suggest
that they should discharge the debt by instalments of 250 per
month...' Of course, this meant that the group would not receive
their full 4,023. 7s. until as late as January 1969.

Reluctantly, they accepted this instalment plan, but after proffering
500, Contemporary Records suddenly ceased payment. The Small Faces
were left with no option but to petition for the winding up of
Arden's company and an order was duly granted on 5th February 1977,
approximately 10 years after payment was due, that the group finally
recovered the full sum of 4,023. 7s. Arden's mastery of litigation
was to remain a constant throughout his future management career.

The loss of a major group such as the Small Faces might have proved a
severe blow to a
minor-league manager, but Arden always ensured he had acts in
reserve. His strength lay in the success of his agency, Galaxy
Entertainments, which booked over a hundred groups
in it's heyday including the Nashville Teens, the Applejacks, The
Action, Neil Christian, the Fairytale and the Skatellites. In his
role as starmaker, Arden carefully chose to manage those acts whom he
felt had the strongest change of achieving success.

While waiting the emergence of a new act to rival the chart feats of
the Small Faces, Arden temporarily revived his own singing career. He
was probably influenced by the dramatic rise in sales of ballad
material in the UK during the first half of 1967. With Tom Jones,
Engelbert Humperdinck, Vince Hill, Frank Sinatra and even Harry
Secombe all scoring massive hits Arden must have felt that he stood an
outside chance. He even hired a well-known 'promoter' to exploit
the sales of his single, investing 250 in the process. 'Sunrise
Sunset', released on Decca, failed to chart, though it is doubtful
whether many people expected to see Arden on 'Top Of The Pops'. Don
later boasted that the
single sold approximately 27,000 copies, though if such a figure is
accurate, it is suprising that he decided not to release further
material. Perhaps he was distracted by the formidable hit machine
which fell into his hands in 1967.

When Arden took over the management of Amen Corner from agent Ron
King, they had already achieved some chart success. Don was intent on
continuing their hit run and it was bizarre to witness how uncannily
their career paralleled that of the Small Faces. Lead singer, Andy
Fairweather-Low quickly emerged as a pin-up hero in the same manner as
his predecessor,
Steve Marriot; both singers hit the headlines by collapsing during
rehearsals for important television programmes; both groups failed to
crack the US market while managed by Arden;
both were involved in disputes with their mentor; both prompted Arden
to threaten a
potential poacher; both left him and signed to Andrew Oldham's
Immediate label.
For Amen Corner, 1967-8 was a tremendously exciting and frequently
frustrating period
which they will never forget. Signing to Arden appeared to guarantee
drama and intrigue
and under his tutelage they served the equivalent of a university
course in the politics of the pop world. By the summer of 1968 they
had notched up four hits, 'Gin House',
'World Of Broken Hearts', 'Bend Me Shape Me' and 'High In The
Sky' and were regarded by the media as a cut above the average pop
group. What the press did not reveal was the intense power struggle
that served as a backdrop to this group's short career. Guns,
threats of physical violence and even a proposed assassination were
just some of the happenings during Arden's term of management.

Events reached a head when Don learned the by now familiar tale that
his group were searching for new management and had been approached by
certain individuals. On this
occasion, however, Arden found himself up against a consortium of
wealthy and influential
figures backed by a powerful pop music entrepreneur. The aims of the
consortium have never been made clear, though Arden suggests that
they may have regarded themselves as
an independant trade union in search of better deals for pop
artistes. However, the
involvement of the mysterious pop mogul implies that their prime
motive may have been to pressurise Arden into surrendering his more
important assets. The first signs of trouble
occurred when an intermediary of the consortium phoned Arden and
suggested that he might release Amen Corner from their management
contract. Arden's reply was characteristically blunt and
intimidating;

I warned him that committing suicide might be better than causing
trouble for me... The story was that 3000 had been put up to get me
'fixed'. I know full well that it is
possible to hire someone to maim or kill for a few thousand
pounds. But this time I was
scared because there was talk of getting me through my one weakness -
my family.

 

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