Simon Napier-Bell

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Simon Napier-Bell
Born Simon Robert Napier-Bell
(1939-04-22) 22 April 1939 (age 75)
Ealing, England
Occupation Pop manager, author, journalist
Spouse(s) Yotin Chaijanla (1972–)

Simon Napier-Bell (born 22 April 1939, Ealing Common, West London, England) has undertaken many jobs in the music industry, including bandboy, manager, producer, songwriter, journalist, author, and gourmet. But he is best known as manager, and at different times has managed artists as diverse as The Yardbirds, John's Children, Marc Bolan, Japan, London, Asia, Ultravox, Boney M, Sinitta, Wham!, Blue Mercedes, Alsou and Candi Staton.

Early years[edit]

He went to both an independent prep school, Durston House in Ealing, and to a state primary school at Perivale. Then to both a grammar school (Harrow County, later attended by Michael Portillo) and to an independent secondary school (Bryanston in Dorset). At Bryanston he formed the school's first jazz band, much frowned on by the authorities. When he left school at the age of seventeen it was with the idea of becoming a professional musician, preferably in America. A year later, unable to get a visa for the States, he emigrated to Canada but after working as a musician for two years he decided he wanted to do something different. He spent a year hitch-hiking across America.

Music business[edit]

Songwriter[edit]

When he returned to England he worked as an assistant film editor. With a thorough knowledge of music, he soon progressed to being a music editor and landed the job of working with Burt Bacharach on What's New Pussycat, re-editing the score Bacharach had written for it. Later, he also scored, wrote and edited music for Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (1967), a film directed by Clive Donner.

In 1966, Dusty Springfield approached Napier-Bell and Vicki Wickham to write an English lyric to an Italian song she’d heard at the Sanremo Festival. The result was "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" which became Dusty's first number one.

Manager[edit]

His friend Vicki Wickham, who booked all the acts for the TV show Ready Steady Go!, persuaded him to move into music management. He began by putting together an act himself; Nicky Scott & Diane Ferraz; a boy from London and a girl from the West Indies. The inter-racial mix was a first for the British music business.

On the back of the publicity Napier-Bell generated for Scott and Ferraz, The Yardbirds asked him if he would manage them. They were looking for a replacement for their original manager, the eccentric Russian, Giorgio Gomelsky. With the group's bassist, Paul Samwell-Smith, Napier-Bell then co-produced the Yardbirds’ first studio album—Roger the Engineer. He oversaw the entry of Jimmy Page into the group and produced the group's next single, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago", considered one of the most avant garde rock records of the time.

Napier-Bell managed John's Children, who were better known for their ability to shock rather than for their music and who were thrown off a major tour of Germany for upstaging The Who with an act that included running round the audience throwing feathers in the air and whipping each other with chains.

Napier-Bell teamed up with Ray Singer to produce records for various artists including the Scaffold (a group which included Paul McCartney's brother, Mike McGear), Peter Sarstedt, Forever More (which went on to change itself into The Average White Band) and lesser known acts, Plus and Brut. He also spent a year in Australia where he worked for Albert Productions and produced acts such as Alison McCallum, Bobbi Marchini and John Paul Young (who later credited Napier-Bell with having discovered him).

Following this, Napier-Bell worked in Spain and South America for two years, managing one of Spain's biggest stars, Júnior, with whom he co-wrote several Spanish hits, in particular the biggest selling Spanish language single of the seventies, "Perdóname".

In 1976, Napier-Bell came back to London and returned to management with two new groups, London, a group in the then current punk vein, and Japan, an art-rock group. London was a short-lived project (two national tours, two singles, a 4-track EP and an album for MCA Records) but Japan involved him for the next seven years. Napier-Bell persevered with them through five lean years to eventually help make them one of the most influential groups of the early eighties, both musically and fashion-wise.

He then established an association with manager Jazz Summers and together they took on the management of Wham!. The group had previously had three hit singles in the UK but wanted to terminate their contract with the record company, Innervision. Napier-Bell and Summers led them through four months of legal complications (during which they were unable to record), and finally settled the case by signing a new contract with CBS.

Napier-Bell spent eighteen months travelling backwards and forwards to China negotiating for Wham! to become the first ever Western pop artist to play in communist China. They eventually played a concert there in April 1985 at the Worker's Stadium in Beijing.

At the end of 1985, Wham! ended its relationship with Napier-Bell and Summers when George Michael left Wham! for a solo career. Napier-Bell went on to manage the duo Blue Mercedes, who had one worldwide hit, "I Want To Be Your Property" (1987), which stayed at No. 1 in the US dance charts for 14 weeks. Napier-Bell also arranged for the defunct pop group Boney M. to reform and had all their old tracks remixed by Stock Aitken Waterman. The result was an album that stayed at number one in the French charts for four months but sold little elsewhere.

Following this, Napier-Bell collaborated with another manager, 'Sir' Harry Cowell, and they took on the management of two once major groups looking to revive their careers – Asia and Ultravox. Asia fared better than Ultravox, but eventually Napier-Bell gave up on both of them and spent three years writing a book, Black Vinyl White Powder'.'

Napier-Bell then returned to artist management, this time working in Russia, first managing Alsou, a girl singer, then Smash!!, a boy duo with Wham! similarities. In both cases, big success in Russia was not followed up with success in the rest of the world.

In 2013 it was announced Napier-Bell joined forces with Dutch music entrepreneur Björn de Water by setting up Snap-B Music Ltd,[1] a music consultancy company offering advise to artist managers. Next to Snap-B Music Ltd they also set up a London-based TV production company named Snap-B TV Ltd.[2] with two TV executives.

Author[edit]

When Japan broke up, Napier-Bell wrote his first book, You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me, about his experiences in the music business in the 1960s. When he ceased managing Asia and Ultravox he wrote another book, Black Vinyl White Powder, about the British music business which was received with favourable reviews. In March 2005, he published another book, I’m Coming To Take You To Lunch, the story of how he took Wham! to China.

Napier-Bell lives mainly in Thailand from where he travels the world doing consultancy and giving talks on the music business. Napier-Bell has co-written a book with journalist Jon Lindsay about his friend, the late rock manager Kit Lambert who discovered The Who and Jimi Hendrix. A bio-pic about Lambert's life is being developed based on that unpublished book with a script by Pat Gilbert. The film is being produced by Orian Williams ( Control) and is to be directed by actor Cary Elwes ( Liar Liar, The Princess Bride, Saw).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jones, Rhian. "Simon Napier-Bell forms new entertainment company". Music Week. Retrieved 2014-06-30. 
  2. ^ White, Peter (2013-05-16). "TV execs set up indie with music mogul | News | Broadcast". Broadcastnow.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-06-30. 

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