Gay History, Gay Celebrities, Gay Icons
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Life Span: Born
Star Sign: Unknown
Famous As: 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.
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 1970s 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, was 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
h 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
Simon Napier-Bell was the musical director for
the film Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, (1968).
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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."
Black Vinyl White Powder, page 344.
You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, 1998, published
by Ebury Press, 195 pages, ISBN 0 09 186453 4
Black Vinyl White Powder, 2001, published by Ebury
Press, 390 pages, ISBN 0 09 186992 7 (hardback).
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 Noël 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.
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.
Discovering Wham! and not discovering Julios Inglesias.
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