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IQ delves into the life and achievements of Live Nation Spain's chairman Pino Sagliocco, who this year celebrates his 60th birthday and four decades in the business
By Anna Grace on 10 Apr 2019
Just how do you organise a surprise feature for the shrewdest, most organised man in the music business?
It began when Pino Sagliocco took part in the Think Tank at ILMC 30 and a number of “accidental” meetings and conversations since: lunch, drinks and enough scribbled notes to fill a book. But as we go to press, Pino is still blissfully unaware of our birthday/work anniversary surprise, so thank you to each and every one of you who managed to keep this secret.
It’s somewhat ironic that Spain’s most popular promoter is an Italian. Born in the village of Carinaro on the outskirts of Naples, in 1959, Pino contends that he never really fitted in.
“I was an alien in my own village,” is how he describes his childhood. “I was pretty good at school but I had no passion for it and I became used to just sitting in class and reading by myself. I was tall and looked a lot older than I was and I simply didn’t belong in my village any more,” is his explanation of why he left home at just 12 years old.
Setting off on his adventures, Pino simply walked to the village railway station with no clothes other than the jeans and t-shirt he was wearing and boarded the first train. When the train stopped, he found a hotel next to the station, asked for a job and began his working life carrying luggage for guests. Next, he found himself selling fruit in the local market, building the foundations of what would become a highly successful entrepreneurial career.
Making Friends with Folk
“At the age of about 15 or 16 I joined a hippy community and entered an alternative cultural world,” he says. It was in this environment that he started to become involved in music, organising concerts and events for the likes of The Chieftains and other folk acts.
“Franco had recently died and the city of Barcelona was just full of energy, so it was an exciting time and place to be”
Then, as is the case in so many epic tales, along came a girl. “She was from Barcelona, so at the age of 18, I moved to Spain,” he recalls. “Franco had recently died and the city of Barcelona was just full of energy, so it was an exciting time and place to be.”
Now, with a growing appetite for promoting, Pino set about building his business, starting out with a show by Celtic harp legend Alan Stivell using a local Barcelona church as a venue. “I wanted to do things that nobody had done before, so everything had to be a bit different to make the experience special – I remember doing shows with Greek singer Georges Moustaki, who was the boyfriend of Edith Piaf.”
Interested in anything avant garde, Pino found himself falling in love with Studio 54 in Barcelona and, exercising his legendary powers of persuasion, cajoled the club’s owners into allowing him to put on similarly branded events in Ibiza and Madrid.
“At the time, all the bands that were coming to Spain were big and established acts – Guy Mercader had the likes of The Stones etc, sewn up. But I got bands like ABC, Spandau Ballet, Talk Talk, Imagination, Simple Minds and Sade to start coming to Spain when they were still relatively unknown,” says Pino.
Having established Ibiza as his second home, one evening Pino bumped into Queen drummer Roger Taylor in one of the island’s nightclubs. “It was 1985 and Roger was kind enough to introduce me to the band’s manager, Jim Beach, and on the back of that, I got to work on the Magic Tour.”
Pino’s association with Queen and iconic frontman Freddie Mercury started there. The Queen tour broke the mould in Spain, as it visited the country in August, a month when everything traditionally closes down for holidays. Anxious that the three dates in Barcelona, Madrid and Marbella would flop, Pino convinced Mercury to do a press interview ahead of the first show – something that the singer rarely did – and the result was three massively successful nights.
“I wanted to do things that nobody had done before, so everything had to be a bit different to make the experience special”
“Around the same time, I was getting an idea to do something big for television in Ibiza and one night I was hanging out with a Spanish band at my house when an interview with Queen was shown on TV that I had never seen before. During the programme, Freddie was asked if there were any Spanish artists he would like to work with and he mentioned the opera star, Monserrat Caballé.”
Following much collaboration with Jim Beach, Pino managed to arrange a meeting between the two singers on 24 March 1987 at a hotel in Barcelona, where Mercury brought along a demo of a song he had co-written in the hope Cabellé would agree to record a duet with him.
“On 29 May they opened my Ibiza 92 show with the premiere of the song ‘Barcelona’ – it was magical,” says Pino, adding that acts also on the bill for that TV extravaganza from the White Isle included Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Chris Rea, Poison, Nona Hendryx, Marillion and Spanish acts Hombres G and E Último de la Fila.
“The TV show was seen in 31 countries worldwide and the collaboration between Monserrat Caballé and Freddie Mercury was a huge hit. They performed together for the last time in 1988 when they sang the song to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic Flag in Barcelona from Seoul.
“I had been asked to organise something for the occasion, so they performed to 100,000 people in front of the Fountains of Montjuïc and shared a stage with Spandau Ballet, Eddie Grant, Jerry Lee Lewis and Suzanne Vega, as well as Rudolf Nureyev and flamenco dancers, with Freddie and Monserrat closing the show. It was amazing – I won a gold medal for the show, which I like to joke was the first gold given for the Barcelona Olympics.”
Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 82, or subscribe to the magazine here