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SIMON NAPIER-BELL
Creator of WHAM!
and 
other pretty boys........ 

 

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Born 1939. 
British pop group manager, writer, and journalist. 
He took an A level in music and played the trumpet at school but was
turned down by the Royal
College of Music. 
  
In 1956 at the age of 17 he got a job as a roadie with the Johnny
Dankworth Orchestra. He intended to eventually earn his living as a 
jazz musician. 
  
In 1957 he travelled to Canada with the ambition of becoming a jazz
trumpeter. When he arrived he discovered that the American Federation 
of Musicians required him to be a resident for a year before
he could join the union. He got a job in a dockside pub in Montreal
where he played pop songs. He left Canada and hitch-hiked across the 
USA. He then spent some time in Spain. 
  
He returned to London in 1959 and he had realised that he was gay,
although he would continue to have sex with women occasionally. 
He joined his father's film business and worked as an assistant
film editor. 

He met, Billy, a young man his own age, and they moved in together. He
became part of the gay subculture in London and often in the clubs 
he saw such famous people as NoŽl Coward, Johnnie  Ray, Dan Farson, 
John Gielgud, Bob Boothby, Ronnie Kray, Jeremy Thorpe, and Johnny Mathis. 
He got to know the important gay people in the music industry including
Larry Parnes, Lionel Bart, and Joe Lockwood. He went to the gay clubs 
around London, including the Calabash in Fulham run by the photographer 
Leon Maybank, the Festival Club off St Martin's Lane, the Rockingham Club, 
and the A&B in Soho. 
  
In the early 1960s he had his own film company called Nomis (Simon
spelled backwards), hiring out film editing equipment and producing television 
commercials and documentaries. He was the assistant editor for the film 
'The Caretaker', (1964). He took the job of editing and synchronising Burt
Bacharach's music for the film 'What's New Pussycat?', (1965), directed
by Clive Donner. 
  
Around 1965 he met Vicki Wickham who booked the acts for the television
pop programme "Ready Steady Go". She suggested that he get into the 
music business as a manager. His first venture was with three actors who 
were in the musical "Flower Drum Song". They got together to form the group
'Room Ten' but he soon dropped them when he realised that they would not
be successful. Vicki Wickham then told him that some lyrics were 
needed for an Italian song that Dusty Springfield had found at the San
Remo Music Festival. They devised the title "You don't have to say you
love me" over a half hour after dinner and then completed the rest of 
the words during a ten-minute taxi ride on the way to the 'Ad Lib' club. 
Dusty Springfield had a great success with the song in the 1960s, and 
when Elvis Presley also performed the song in the 1970's a good 
income for the songwriters was secured. 
  
The songwriting business seemed like hard work so he decided to get
another group to manage. At the time a West Indian girl called Diane Ferraz 
was working on a television commercial for him and a small, pale, 
seventeen-year-old man, Nicky Scott, a boyfriend who was also causing 
him grief, so he got them to record a romantic song and pressurised radio 
and television producers to book them. The record was a flop but after two 
months Nicky and Diane were well known. 
  
As a result of this successful promotion 'The Yardbirds' contacted him
and asked him to manage them and he produced the groups last major hit 
"Over Under Sideways Down" in 1966. He also got them a role in 
Michelangelo Antonioni's film, "Blow Up", (1966). 
  
In 1967 he was on holiday in St Tropez when the two English musicians, 
John Hewlett and Chris Townson, asked him to bail them out of prison there. 
(They had been arrested for vagrancy). The two musicians persuaded 
Simon Napier-Bell that they were part of a pop group who were destined for
great success. He signed them up, but when he saw their group, 'The
Silence', back in Britain he thought that they were the worst group he had seen. 
He renamed them 'John's Children' after the bass player, and they were later 
signed up with Track Records run by Kit Lambert. They were put on
tour with 'The Who'. 

Marc Bolan asked Simon Napier-Bell to manage him and he was persuaded to
be the lead singer of 'John's Children'. It was not long before Marc Bolan formed
'Tyrannosaurus Rex' (later called 'T. Rex') and Simon Napier-Bell ceased 
to manage him. 
  
Simon Napier-Bell was the musical director for the film "Here We Go
Round the Mulberry Bush", (1968). 
  
He joined up with the songwriter Ray Singer in founding a production
company called 'Rocking Horse' and they touted schemes around gullible record 
producers to persuade them to give advances for records from groups they 
claimed to manage but which often did not yet exist. Holding
talent contests to create groups they produced records at minimum cost
so that they could keep the remainder of the advances. Some of the records 
were intentionally unsuccessful. However, the group 'Fresh' had a success 
with 'Fresh out of  Borstal', and the group 'Forevermore' also had success with 
their record 'Forevermore'. Members of Fresh went on to become part of the 
group 'Glencoe', and members of 'Forevermore' went on to
become part of the group the 'Average White Band'. 
  
In 1970 Simon Napier-Bell retired from the British music business to
travel around the world. However he continued to have some connections 
with pop music and after six years he plunged back into the business. 
  
In 1972 he decided that with so many British people going to Spain for
their holidays it was time to launch a Spanish singer. He went to Madrid 
and auditioned Julio Iglesias but judged that his style of singing would 
not be popular. He took on a singer called Junior from the 1960s group 
Los Brincos. He had a number 1 hit in Spain and South America but did 
not make it in Britain. 
  
Simon Napier-Bell also managed the punk group 'London' which included
Jon Moss who was later to join 'Culture Club' with Boy George. 'London' 
were very short-lived. 
  
In 1977 he took on the management of the group 'Japan' and they had some
success in the early 1980s, particularly with their album "Tin Drum". 
  
He and Jazz Summers teamed and founded Nomis Management. Simon
Napier-Bell then saw 'Wham!',  which consisted of George Michael and 
Andrew Ridgely, performing "Young Guns (Go For It)", (November, 1982), 
on the BBC show 'Top of the Pops'. After many months of pursuit 
he signed them up. 

'Wham!' also had the hit singles , "Wham! Rap", (February, 1983), and
"Bad Boys", (May, 1983), and he took charge as "Club Tropicana", 
(August, 1983), was coming out. Their album "Fantastic" went
straight to number 1 in the Autumn of 1983. However, at the same time
that legal moves were being made to release them from their contract 
with 'Innervision' George Michael said that he wanted to go solo. 
This was put off and they produced the single "Wake Me Up Before
You Go Go", (May, 1984), which went straight to number 1 in the UK 
and USA. The single "Careless Whisper", (August, 1984),
was then released in the UK as being by George Michael. 
  
Simon Napier-Bell fulfilled a promise that he had made  when signing up 
'Wham!' and organised a stadium concert in China. It took place on 7th. 
April 1985 at the Worker's Stadium in Beijing and was financed using a £1 million
advance from CBS. At the end of 1985 'Wham!' ended its relationship with 
Simon Napier-Bell and Jazz Summers somewhat acrimoniously, and 
George Michael then left 'Wham!' for his solo career. 
  
The Daily Mail printed excerpts of Albert Goldman's book on John Lennon
and mentioned that Brian Epstein was gay. They also printed a photograph of 
Simon Napier-Bell with a caption saying that he was not a homosexual. 
He consulted a lawyer about suing for libel but they decided not to pursue
the case because it would be possible to show that he had had sex with girls. 
  
He managed the duo 'Blue Mercedes' which had one straight man and one
gay man. The duo formed in London in 1984 with singer David Titlow and 
keyboard player Duncan Millar. They had one worldwide hit 
"I Want To Be Your Property", in 1987, as it went straight to number 1 
in the US dance charts and stayed there for 14 weeks. They toured 
widely and they had a series of singles: "See Want Must Have", 
"Love is the Gun", "Treehouse/Crunchy Love Affair", and "That Beauty is
You/Love Peace Hate & War", but they were not successful. Their album
"Rich and Famous" was in the US charts briefly in 1988. 
  
Simon Napier-Bell took on the management of 'Asia', a progressive rock
band from the 1970s. 
  
He appeared as himself in the film The Brian Epstein Story, (1998).  He
became the manager of the most famous pop star in Russia, 'Alsou'. 
His book "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" was first
published in 1983 and caused a stir even though he had taken the 
advice of his publisher and left out a chapter on sex. The 1998 
edition re-instated this chapter. 
  
His book "Black Vinyl White Powder", (2001), is ostensibly about the
importance of drugs to the music industry in Britain but in the forward 
he says "... as I proceeded with the book, I began to see that of 
almost equal importance was the influence of gay culture". He
proceeds to describe the influence of gay figures such as the pop 
and rock managers Larry Parnes, (Tommy Steele, Billy Fury
and many others), Brian Epstein, (Beatles), Kit Lambert, (The Who), 
Tony Stratton-Smith, (The Nice), Ken Pitt, (Crispian  St Peters), 
Robert Stigwood, (Cream), Vic Billings, (Dusty Springfield),
Ken Howard and Allan Blaikely, (Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch), 
Andrew Oldham, (Rolling Stones), and Tom Watkins
(Bros, Pet Shop Boys, East 17). Also featured are the songwriter Lionel
Bart, the EMI chair Joseph Lockwood, the producers Norman Newell 
and Joe Meek, the marketing manager and BPI chair
Maurice Oberstein, and the performers Marc Almond, Andie Bell, 
Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Elton John, Tom
Robinson, Boy George, Holly Johnson, and Paul Rutherford. 
  
"It was fascinating, from the sixties onwards, to see how often gays and
their lifestyle had cropped up in the history of British music business. 
The number of gay people in major record companies has been negligible. 
Even the number of gay artists has been very small. Yet their importance 
seems to outweigh their numbers. In one form or another, the influence of 
gays on the British industry has been on a par with the influence of blacks and
black music on the American industry." 
  
"Scams, blags and pretty boys" by Jah Wobble in The Independent on
Sunday magazine, 1st. April, 2001: "The book is a testament to the 
radical changes in social attitudes that have occurred in Britain over the 
last 50 years. For example, the change in the way homosexuality is
now viewed by society is discussed. The author claims the advent of the
1960s dance craze the Twist made all the difference. At that time, states 
Napier-Bell, it  became acceptable for men to dance together. 
Hardly a chapter seems to go by without  mention of the strong links 
between the gay world and the music business. Napier-Bell records his
own unfussy and pragmatic coming out at the end of the 1950s." 
  
"Like so many people in the music game, Napier-Bell loves a scam and a
blag. He boasts about his greatest one to date, getting 'Wham!' into 
communist China in the 1980s. I couldn't help thinking of Chairman 
Mao's comments about Western rock music leading to promiscuity, 
homosexuality and drug addiction. Hmmm... perhaps he had a point." 
  
"Music - the key to getting rich, high and laid" by Charles Shaar Murray
in The Independent. The Thursday Review, 5th. April, 2001, "As a gay 
man exploring the music business, he joined a parade of posh gay managers 
who acquired stables of sulky-pretty working-class louts and sold them on 
to teenage girls. What keeps the book jumping is his acute sense of the
multiple dialectics (between idealism and commerce, bohemian ťlitism and
mass culture, art and entertainment) and complex power structures 
(producers, promoters, publicists, performers, publishers and publics) 
that drive pop's evolution." 
  
"The sound and the fury" by Ian Penman in The Guardian Saturday Review,
14th. April,  2001, "Simon Napier-Bell can probably look forward to an 
obituary - man who took 'Wham!' to China! - that marks the apotheosis of a 
life spent pulling: strings, strokes, the other one." 
  
"Pop's real scandals involve low-end financial and contractual
practices, but such is their small-print nature that they tend to fall all 
too conveniently between the business pages and the tabloid splash,
and are rarely aired. Thus, the real insider revelations here concern
the business of business. Napier-Bell is good on the inelegantly 
Byzantine clauses of early-1960s pop and how the major
labels have always used self-serving sharp practices (like chart
rigging) to 'police' themselves." 
  
"There is today, surprisingly given the business he's been working in, a
strong streak of steely integrity and self-control running through this man, 
born out of the fact that he has 'been completely faithful to all my 
serious boyfriends - and still am to my current one'. 
  
Simon thinks relationships are emotionally important but doesn't appear
to indulge in sentimentality. When relating his own pathway to sexual 
enlightenment, he is quite candid. 'I am bisexual, but not bi-emotional,
'In other words, he can get it up for women but lacks the emotionality 
he feels for men. 'I'm attracted to effeminate young men, and my 
current boyfriend of 11 years is Thai, and 30 years younger than me'."