Bernard Rhodes

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Bernie Rhodes
Birth name Bernard Rhodes
Occupation(s) Record producer, manager, songwriter
Years active 1975–present
Associated acts The Clash
Subway Sect
The Specials

Bernard Rhodes is the former manager of English punk rock band The Clash. He previously collaborated with Malcolm McLaren managing the early Sex Pistols, and was responsible for introducing John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) to the band. He also managed Subway Sect, Dexys Midnight Runners, and The Specials during the early stages of their careers.

Biography and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Bernard Rhodes was raised in Stepney, east London during the latter part of World War II, and is of Russo-Jewish descent. He says he never knew his father (August "Cecil" Rhodes), and owing to his mother Millie (Rotman) unable to make ends he was placed into care at the Jewish Orphanage in Norwood in South London where he remained until he was 15.[citation needed]

He acquired a second-hand printing machine and began designing radical T-shirts such as the "You’re Gonna Wake Up One Morning And Know What Side Of The Bed You’ve Been Lying On". During this time he became re-acquainted with his previous friend Malcolm McLaren, and his business partner and girlfriend Vivienne Westwood, who were operating out of SEX at 430 King's Road. Finding they shared a similar philosophy, Rhodes and McLaren went into business together collaborating on T-shirts which were then sold in SEX.


Sex Pistols[edit]

By 1975, SEX had become a hangout for a bunch of teenagers from which the Sex Pistols would emerge. Rhodes took the group under his wing while McLaren was in New York looking after the New York Dolls. He approached the future Johnny Rotten, and recommended that he audition as singer for the Sex Pistols.[1]

The Clash[edit]

[Rhodes]'s had a load of influence — especially at the start. He put the group together. And he also put us on the right track — mainly about song content.

Joe Strummer[2]

[S]igning that contract did bother me a lot. I've been turning it over in my mind, but now I've come to terms with it. I've realised that all it boils down to is perhaps two year's security.... Before, all I could think about was my stomach.... Now I feel free to think—and free to write down what I'm thinking about.... And look—I've been fucked about for so long I'm not going to suddenly turn into Rod Stewart just because I get £25.00 a week. I'm much too far gone for that, I tell you.

—Joe Strummer, March 1977[2]

After his offer to co-manage the Sex Pistols was rejected, Rhodes was instrumental in The Clash's formation in 1976. On 25 January 1977, the Clash signed to CBS Records for £100,000.[3] As Clash historian Marcus Gray describes, the "band members found themselves having to justify [the deal] to both the music press and to fans who picked up on the critics' muttered asides about the Clash having 'sold out' to the establishment."[4] Rhodes was replaced in 1978 by the journalist and Release founder Caroline Coon, who in turn was replaced by management company Blackhill.

Rhodes also managed Subway Sect, Dexys Midnight Runners and The Specials in 1979, shortly after these bands formed.[citation needed] The intro to The Specials' version of "Gangsters" begins with the line: "Bernie Rhodes knows: don't argue!"[5]

In 1981, he was brought back in and managed The Clash until their break-up in 1986, having been instrumental in manipulating the departure of principal songwriter and musical overseer Mick Jones.[6][7][8][9]

According to guitarist Vince White, the working title of the Clash's last studio album, released in 1985, was Out of Control; the title was changed to Cut the Crap by Rhodes shortly before its release without consulting the band. Rhodes also produced the record, using the alias of Jose Unidos (presumably to suggest Joe Strummer was the producer). He is credited, together with Joe Strummer, for co-writing all the tracks of that album.[6][7][8]

Aside from managing The Clash during this period Rhodes also managed JoBoxers,[10] who enjoyed mainstream success on both sides of the Atlantic with their second single "Just Got Lucky" in 1983.

St Martin's incident[edit]

In May 2007 Rhodes caused controversy at London's St Martins College, when he was accused of saying "if you want to sort out crime in London, sort out the niggers in Peckham", causing the event to be terminated early. Rhodes claims he may have been "taken out of context", and that his words were misconstrued. Citing that the Press have created a "mythological, fictional, bastardized" account of what really happened at the St. Martin's incident.[11] Soon after, Rhodes defended himself, saying: "in America, everyone I worked with who was Afro-American, that's what they called themselves" Though actually only Referring to the Term "Afro American" in that interview as well. No video or recording of the St. Martin's incident is known to exist, or any reliable testimonies from any witnesses from the incident.[12]

In April 2010, Bernard also caused controversy by turning up at Malcolm McLaren’s funeral service uninvited where he proceeded to heckle Vivienne Westwood for "being part of the Establishment", before bounding up onto the platform beside Malcolm’s coffin to deliver his own eulogy: "If we’re not careful we're going to turn Malcolm into John Lennon, into a saint. Malcolm was no saint."[13]

Present day[edit]

To date, Bernard Rhodes remains active on social and political issues from his website and by taking part to a number of causes. Most recently he was part of Entertaining the Nation: Stars of Music, Stage & Screen, an exhibition at the London Jewish Museum which featured him and many of his contemporaries from the world of music.[14]




Films and documentaries
Web, journals and magazines

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]