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1.8 Don Arden (The Osbournes) part3




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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) part3

Arden has always been strongly protective of his family, so it is not
suprising to learn that
he acted quickly. Three bodyguards were employed for a three-figure
sum to provide
round-the-clock protection for Arden's wife and children while a
counter-plot was being hatched. Don then hired a further six
bodyguards and briefed them of his plans for
frightening off the consortium. Their focus of attention was a patsy
whom Don suspected
had some connections with the consortium and seemed the single
weakest pawn in their richly-funded Mafia-style vendetta. In broad
daylight, Arden's henchmen set out to his
mews flat armed with sawn-off shotguns and revolvers. When the
potential victim saw these thugs from his upper window, he screamed
his lungs out. Having terrified this
character out of his wits, the heavies casually returned to their car
and drove away.
Arden had presented his visiting card and effectively persuaded the
consortium that it would be folly to risk taking this dispute to
it's logical extreme.

Of course, Arden's intimidatory retaliation was itself a dangerous
ploy which might
have backfired on him in various ways. Indeed, during the aftermath
of this incident,
he was contacted by a senior police officer investigating complaints
concerning guns.
It took all of Arden's rhetoric and cunning to persuade the police
that their informant was a crank. In spite of flexing his muscles,
Arden could not retain the confidence of Amen Corner who left him for
another manager shortly afterwards. There was much talk in the press
about Don taking legal action to retain his interests in the group,
though
nothing came of it. Arden later claimed that he had sold Amen
Corner's contract for a
profit of 50,000.

The employment of minders and persuaders and the frequent disputes
with managers and
artistes soon earned Don Arden the title 'The Al Capone Of Pop'. An
absurd rumour
spread that he had been appointed by the Mafia to supervise their
activities in London.
Amused by the anxiety this caused in some quarters, Don actively
perpetuated the
myth by refusing to comment on the matter. The notorious reputation
he acquired in the
late sixties may have alarmed some of his acts, but many others were
flattered by their association with such a powerful
entrepreneur. Such was evidently the case with
Skip Bifferty, another of Arden's rare failures. During the early
stages of their career,
the group harboured ambitions of achieving overnight
success. However, the grinding toll of endless one-nighters that
Arden so favoured frustrated and disillusioned them.
Arden was less than impressed by their seeming lack of commitment and
endurance:

They weren't tough enough to make it.... They wanted to become stars,
but just when we got
them from 10 to 100 a night, they went to pieces. They seemed to
forget that nothing comes easy, you've got to work for what you
get. They had no staying power, no patience
and they wouldn't accept guidance. And artistes have to co-operate
with me.

Skip Bifferty not only refused to co-operate with Arden, but actively
sought to terminate their management contract, a course of action
guaranteed to inflame their mentor's wrath. Following a
disagreement, they spent most of their time outside London, unsure of
what to do next. Frightened and emotionally intimidated, they
confessed their worst fears to Beckenham
police and were advised by Detective Inspector John MacNamara to
report any threats,
unexpected visits or disturbances. Shortly afterwards, two cars
pulled up outside their
house and they were confronted by several thugs brandishing firearms
and threatening
dire consequences. Wisely, they telephoned MacNamara and after a
lengthy chase one of the
cars was stopped in London's Tottenham Court Road. Several offensive
weapons were
discovered in the vehicle and the heavies were duly charged. It was
another astonishing episode in the career of an Arden group who found
themselves hopelessly out of depth in their dealings with the
all-powerful Al Capone of Pop.

The grandly-named Electric Light Orchestra was finally launched in
Early 1972 and Arden
booked an impressive tour, spending lavishly on billboard and trade
announcements. After
18 months of preparation, however, the group was still not ready and
the tour was postponed.
When they eventually made an uneasy debut at the Fox and Greyhound,
Croyden, the audience
merely registered perplexity and Arden expressed concern about the
over-ambitious nature of the project.

By the late seventies, Arden has established himself as one of the
most successful entrepreneurs in the music business with an
international record label, Jet. His son, David,
helped run the affairs of the UK company while daughter Sharon served
an equally tough
apprenticeship on the road looking after ELO and others. Flamboyant,
outspoken, garrulous
and high-living, Sharon shared many of her father's personality
traits and was no stranger
to the excesses of road life, which included loud parties, food
fights and hotel room
demolishing. Her 'rock 'n' roll' lifestyle was welcomed by ELO
and applauded by her
greatest admirer, Ozzy Osbourne.

Since leaving Don Arden, Ozzy has seen many lawsuits. The most bizarre
of these was served
backstage a Live Aid after Ozzy had appeared briefly onstage with his
old friends from Black Sabbath. The writ alleged that Osbourne was
attempting to reform the original group as
a performing unit and actively discouraging them from associating
with their former manager.
Ozzy was astonished by the implications of the legal document and
could be heard fulminating:
'If Don thinks I'm going back to Black Sabbath, he must be crazy!'
Clearly, with a solo career in bloom, the last thing he envisaged was
a Sabbath revival. Osbourne still seems unsure whether Arden is
genuinely aggrieved or merely playing some clever game. Who can
fathom this entrepreneur who never forgets or forgives past
transgressions and appears to regard
management contracts as eternally binding?

Of course, such a controversial character is always likely to invite
unwanted scrutiny and in 1979 Arden found himself under investigation
by the BBC's watchdog programme 'Checkpoint'. Roger Cook's team
made some damning comments on Arden's business methods which greatly
upset
the man. Faced by Cook's relentless questioning, Arden became
increasingly evasive and
frequently appeared bamboozled by the sheer weight of the accusations
levelled against him. He swore at Cook, conjured up spurious rumours
of homosexuality, and even threatened on air, to break the neck of
any person found tailing him! It was a remarkable and chilling
confrontation.

 

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