Wednesday, January 27, 2010


DON ARDEN "The Al Capone of Pop".

In January 1976 Ken East and I attended the annual record industry market in Cannes, France. We met current and potential Motown licensees and completed some excellent business deals. However the standout of the convention for me was an incident which forever remains etched in my memory bank.

On my final evening in Cannes I was sitting with a colleague in the lobby bar of the Cannes Casino sharing a quiet drink. Suddenly the door of the Casino gaming room burst open and a thick set guy came sprinting out of the gaming room moving fast towards the Casino main entrance, which was just beyond our table: he was chased by another chap, sprinting even faster.

Just as the lead runner reached abreast of our table, he was caught by the chaser and pounced upon in a classic rugby style tackle. Both men landed on our glass table and it shattered into thousands of pieces.

The chaser then grabbed the runner by the shoulders and commenced to pound the runner’s head, over and over, into the floor. It was so quick and so violent.

I thought the runner was going to be killed and without thinking dived on the chaser and started to pull him off. All three of us were now on our feet, me hugging the chaser and the chaser still wrestling the runner.

Suddenly, a fourth combatant, a young woman joins us. The woman starts to tear and scratch the face of the chaser as I still endeavour to pull him off and away from the runner.

We are then all pounced upon by several French Gendarmes, separated and held. After a discussion by the police with other onlookers I am released and thanked for intervening and the other three are taken away.

Next morning I’m on a flight back to London travelling in “the back of the bus”. From business class the “The Runner” from the previous evening emerges and walks down the isle to me. “Hello” he says and shakes my hand. “I’m Don Arden and I just wanted to thank you for intervening last night. If you hadn’t I could have been seriously hurt. I found out who you were and if ever you need anything, give me a call, here's my card”.

Apparently the “The Chaser” was from a rival artist management company and the dispute was over rights to the group BLACK SABBATH. The young woman who joined the affray and started to attack “The Chaser” was Don’s daughter Sharon (now Sharon Osbourne).

In later years I meet Don several times, mainly through contact with his group ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, which we then distributed. Don was always welcoming to me and ever grateful to me for intervening at our first “meeting”. I was invited and attended a party at his Beverly Hills home on one occasion, though I didn’t stay long, as it was just too wild and over the top for me.

From Wikipedia. Don Arden (4 January 1926 – 21 July 2007), born Harry Levy, was an Englishmusic manager, agent and businessman, best known for overseeing the careers of rock groupsSmall Faces, Electric Light Orchestra and Black Sabbath.

He achieved notoriety in England for his aggressive, sometimes illegal business tactics which led to him being called "Mr. Big", "The English Godfather" and "The Al Capone of Pop".[1]

He was the father of Sharon Osbourne (father-in-law of Ozzy Osbourne) and David Levy, by his wife, Hope Shaw, a former ballet dancer/teacher, who predeceased him, dying in 1999.[2]

Arden's success story turned sour when his violent 'negotiating' methods and questionable accounting caught up with him, and he became estranged from members of his own family.

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