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Nile Rodgers steals the show at ILMC 34

Nile Rodgers brought the house down at ILMC 34, regaling the (Late) Breakfast Meeting with tales of his work with legends such as David Bowie, Prince and Diana Ross.

The Chic co-founder even squeezed in a shout out to his promoter, Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery, during yesterday’s 90-minute chat with former Dire Straits manager and raconteur Ed Bicknell.

The multi-award winning, genre-defying musician, whose career stretches over five decades, has written, produced and performed on albums that have sold over 500 million units worldwide, and 75 million singles. In 2018, he co-founded Hipgnosis Songs with manager Merck Mercuriadis.

“No one in the club was talking to him, because he didn’t look like David Bowie”

Here is a selection of some of his best anecdotes from yesterday’s interview…

David Bowie & Billy Idol

“David had just been dropped from his record label. I was about to get dropped from mine. The day that we met, we met early in the morning. I thought that I had driven up to this brand new after hours club in New York, called The Continental, with Billy Idol. But, in fact, what happened is I had driven there with someone else, but Billy was right there at the front door. Billy and I loved each other, we partied all the time. We walk in the club and Billy goes, ‘Bloody hell, that’s David fucking Bowie!’ And as he says ‘Bowie’, he barfs, because he had been putting down the sauce all night.”

David Bowie

“At that point, I had seen David. It was so strange because no one in the club was talking to him, because he didn’t look like David Bowie. It was the beginning of the metrosexual look, and he was dressed in a suit while everybody else was all club kitted out. He was the only one that looked like he ran Exxon or something. It was so weird, he was completely by himself. We start talking, and right away, it flipped from us talking about pop music to jazz. I now find out that David Bowie is a complete jazz freak, as a matter of fact, an aficionado. So now we’re trying to out-jazz each other. We’re going for the most underground avant-garde shit ever, it’s like we were playing poker. We’re just going on and on and on and on and on. And it was like no one else in the world existed. We found our thing, and we talked for hours and hours. At some point, he must have asked me for my phone number. A couple of weeks had gone by and my house was being rebuilt, and one of the workers said to me, ‘Hey, Mr Rodgers, some fucking guy keeps calling up every day saying he’s David Bowie.’ I said, ‘Well what did you do?’ He said, ‘I hung up on the cocksucker!’ I said, ‘The next time that cocksucker calls, could you give me the phone? That is David Bowie!’ Anyway, I finally take the call. He and I laugh and we joke. And it was magic, it was so magical because he got dropped. I was getting dropped. By the time we decide that decide we’re going to make this record [Let’s Dance] together, it was just the two of us against the world.”

“There’s no Prince. We finish the song and I see him running away”


“The first time I played with him was here in London, at some little joint in Camden. I walk in and all I hear is Prince go something like, ‘Oh my God, Nile Rodgers.’ He was playing guitar, he and [Ronnie] Wood. I walk up on stage, he gives me the guitar and he sits down on the keyboards and starts calling out R&B tunes. Poor Woody, who is a sweetheart, didn’t know any of these songs. So Prince and I are all into it, but Woody’s looking for the key and looking for the groove. We finished the first song and I said, ‘I think you should sit down now,’ and it was all cool. It was all love, because we were having the time of our lives. So Ron sits down and then Prince and I… I don’t even know how long we played. The next day I bought every rose in London, and [Prince] told me that when he got back to his room, it was filled with thousands of purple roses. I guess I went overboard, I was so happy with that jam.”

Prince (Part II)

“Years later, we’re playing down in Turks and Caicos where I have a home. Prince has one there too because when he found out that I was building a recording studio, he said, ‘Really? Okay, I’m going to move to Turks and Caicos!’ I never built the recording studio, I’ve got a little writers’ room, but Prince moves down there. We’re doing a concert and Prince happens to be on the island. He comes over and he says, ‘Yo, can I play Let’s Dance with you guys?’ ‘Hell, yes, of course, bro!’ We get to the middle of the show where we do Let’s Dance and I say, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, a really great friend of mine and a really great artist – Prince!’ And we go into the song, but there’s no Prince. We finish the song and I see him running away. I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ A year later, we were playing in New Orleans at the Essence Festival to 70,000 people. He says to me, ‘Hey Nile, can I come out and play Let’s Dance with you?’ ‘Of course Prince, but I’m not falling for it this time.’ So we set up his gear, we play Let’s Dance and we get to the part where we have the whole audience jumping up and down. In the middle of the jump sequence, we heard this roar. And I look to my left, and there’s Prince with one hand in the air jumping up and down with his guitar strapped on. He’s soloing his ass off and he’s killing it. We’re jamming together and it was amazing, it was like my heart was flying. I happened to post a picture of Prince jumping up and down with me and I’m waiting for how long it’s going to take for him to pull it down. [But] Prince reposts the picture. And this is exactly what it says. No words. And I feel like a gazillion dollars. I never had another encounter with him. I never called him and thanked him. I never did anything because he wound up passing away fairly soon after that event. But it was amazing. When you’re a live musician, everything is about playing, giving back and sharing. That’s the shit I live for.”

“We had to fight every step of the way to give her the biggest album of her life”

Diana Ross

“Every song I’ve ever written is based on a non-fiction event, and then we use fictional elements to help complete the story. One night, I’m club hopping and I go to this transvestite club because they have the best music, they don’t have to worry about the Top 40 records, they can play all the records that they think that the crowd is going to be down with. I go to the bathroom. I’m standing there at this trough and on either side of me are at least five Diane Ross impersonators, and a light bulb goes off in my head – I’ve got to write a song about the queer community’s love of Diana Ross. So I call [Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards] and I say, ‘Bro, write down, “I’m coming out,” because I’m gonna stay up, I’m gonna get drunk and I’m gonna forget this. Imagine that she walks out on stage and the first words out of her mouth are, “I’m coming out.” We’re gonna sell a million records just to the queer community alone!’ The next day, he comes in the studio and we put together I’m Coming Out. Today, to you guys that probably just sounds like a pop record. But when we wrote that, [Motown founder] Berry Gordy was furious. He was like, ‘Whoa, this is not a Diana Ross record.’ After months of lawsuits and this and that, they decided to put it out. The biggest record of Diana Ross’s life is the album Diana. We had to fight, fight, fight, fight, every step of the way, to give her the biggest album of her life, and I’m so proud that we had that fight. I’m Coming Out has historically meant something to the LGBTQ+ community, which is exactly how I got the idea that first place.”

Phil Bowdery

“He works his butt off. He’s the sweetest, sweetest guy, and we work in a business where I’m fortunate to have worked with some wonderful, charming people. I’d like to say a few things about him because he’s just so awesome. He’s been a part of my life for a number of years now. He’s celebrating his 50th year in the business, which is amazing to me. And I just want to give thanks to him for being one of the loveliest guys I know. Happy 50th Phil, I love you. David [Bowie] always called me ‘Darling’? Well, Phil always calls you ‘love’. I just want to say, ‘Thank you, love,’ to Phil Bowdery.”


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60 years of SSE Arena, Wembley celebrated in pictures

Heroes – the Exhibition, a photographic exploration of the sixty-year history of the SSE Arena, Wembley, is opening to the public on Thursday 28 November at Getty Images Gallery, Wembley Park.

The exhibition will feature over 100 photographs of artists at the London music venue, which celebrated its busiest year yet in 2018.

From 1960s snaps of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to more recent images of Kendrick Lamar, Queens of the Stone Age and the Prodigy, the exhibition will cover the arena’s rich musical history. Other artists to feature in the collection include David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Whitney Houston, Queen, Prince, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Rihanna.

Words by the arena’s vice president and general manager John Drury accompany the photos, which are taken by renowned music photographer Michael Putland and former and current Getty photographers Dave Hogan and Brian Risac, among others.

“Over the past 60 years The SSE Arena, Wembley has earned its place as one of the most iconic live music venues in the world,” comments Drury. “There is a chemistry that keeps bringing artists and fans back, that feeling of connection, passion, and shared experience.

“Heroes brilliantly captures the magic on stage and in the audience that could happen nowhere else”

“Playing Wembley for the first time is a special milestone in any artist’s career and each show builds on its legendary status. That is what Heroes brilliantly captures, the magic on stage and in the audience that could happen nowhere else.”

Built in 1934, the arena in Wembley – originally known as the Empire Pool – has been a live music venue for over six decades. Following a £26 million refurbishment, the arena reopened in 2006, taking the name of the SSE Arena, Wembley in 2014.

“Wembley Park has always been about people coming together to share experiences, and The SSE Arena, Wembley is central to this,” says Josh McNorton, cultural director of Wembley Park.

“Over the past 60 years, it has played an enormous part in the cultural history of the area and in global music history, and Heroes is a great way to celebrate this through the performances of some of the world’s most famous performers.”

The exhibition is open every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Getty Images Gallery, Wembley Park. Admission is free for the first three days. All photographs are available for purchase, priced from £70 to £648.


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The O2 celebrates 25 million ticket sales

Twenty five million tickets have been sold for shows at London’s O2 Arena since 2007, the venue team announced today (22 October), following a busy summer with concerts by Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, Muse and more.

The 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, which was crowned the world’s busiest venue for the 11th consecutive year in 2018, has this year seen performances from the likes of Daddy Yankee, George Ezra, Post Malone, Cher and Khalid.

Bjork, the Chemical Brothers, Liam Gallagher, Krept and Konan, Little Mix and the Lumineers are all set to perform at the arena before the end of the year.

Since opening in 2007, the O2 has hosted over 2,000 individual performances and now holds an average of 200 events per year, covering music, sport, comedy, family entertainment and esports.

“To reach the 25 million ticket milestone is a huge achievement and we’re so grateful to have hosted so many artists for the first time this year”

“To reach the 25 million ticket milestone is a huge achievement and we’re so grateful to have hosted so many artists for the first time this year,” comments Emma Bownes, vice president of programming.

“London has the best fans in the world, and we’d like to thank promoters, agents, managers and our partners for continuing to work with us to help bring the very best performers from the worlds of music, comedy, sport and entertainment to the O2”.

Canadian rapper Drake was this year inducted into the venue’s ‘21 Club’, joining acts including Prince, One Direction and Take That to have performed at the London arena 21 times.

Take That hold the record for the most number of shows played at the O2, whereas the attendance record belongs to Metallica, who played to a 22,211-strong crowd in 2017.

Tickets are not the only thing being sold in large quantities at the O2. In 2018, the venue sold over 172,000 portions of chips, 72,500 hot dogs and more than 993,000 pints of beer.


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The Power House: Creative Artists Agency at 35

“We walked into work on January 3, 1984, just three agents with three clients and a bit of a dream.”

35 years later, Rob Light, now managing director of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) can rightly look back on the growth of the music department and say that dream came true.

With headquarters in Los Angeles, London and Beijing, the agency works across film, television, music, sports, digital media, marketing and much more.

The music department alone is made up of over 100 agents around the globe and generates over US$3 billion in worldwide touring revenue, according to Billboard. It claims to have more women agents than any other agency, more women in power than any other agency, and a more diverse agent breakdown.

Yet, insists Light, it still runs like a boutique business. “We’re a big agency, but we still care. For us it’s not about being cool – if you want to break and have a career this is how we do it. We’re never cookie cutter.”

New kids on the block
CAA was founded in a whirlwind of drama in 1975 when five hungry William Morris Agency staff quit the biggest film and TV agency in Hollywood to start their own business. It was a major shake-up – the story is worthy of a movie in itself, and is described in great detail in James Andrew Miller’s book, Powerhouse.

Nine years later, in 1984, the company created another stir. It launched a music department and poached one of the biggest names in the music agency business at the time to head it: Tom Ross, head of International Creative Management (ICM)’s music division.

“We’re a big agency, but we still care”

Ross’s assistant at the time was Light. He’d started in ICM’s mail-room six years earlier, aged 21, where he lasted for seven days before being spotted by Terry Rhodes (now running his own agency, Patriot Artists).

When CAA co-founder Mike Ovitz approached Ross, Light was invited to join his boss at the fledgling department. At the time, ICM was a powerhouse. And although it had a reputation for its film and TV work, CAA had just 27 agents, so the move was something of a gamble.

“I believed in Tom, plus Mike Ovitz was an incredibly seductive guy,” remembers Light. “So at 26 I thought I’d take a shot.”

The next five years saw explosive growth. Ovitz had assured Ross that CAA’s music and film departments would work together, and came good on his promise. “When I started at CAA all the film agents were excited we were there,” says Light.

Until then, film, TV and music departments at agencies were like separate kingdoms. But there was increasing demand from musicians to fulfil their other creative ambitions, and CAA’s close working relationship across the teams was ready to help realise them. This cross-departmental ethos has been integral to the company’s success ever since.

“It felt like the agency business had never seen that type of approach, attitude, energy or level of teamwork”

One of the first signings the new music department made was in summer 1984. Prince had long held a desire to make the movie Purple Rain and CAA got him on the books by promising to make it a reality. Light went on to work with the artist for the next 13 years, outlasting many managers and lawyers.

It was the teamwork mentality that was so unique. As agent Rob Prinz told James Andrew Miller: “It felt like the agency business had never seen that type of approach, attitude, energy or level of teamwork and co-ordination.”

CAA was the first agency to have a crossover agent, which saw dedicated TV and acting agent Brian Loucks installed in the music department. Loucks was a massive film and TV geek with an encyclopaedic knowledge of avant-garde film as well as the mainstream.

Loucks’ embracing of the cross-departmental approach can be typified in his Living Room Sessions, which started out as an informal gathering and have turned into an industry networking tour-de-force. They see about 200 carefully selected people invited to his home in LA’s Studio City to see performances by artists such as Annie Lennox, Christine and The Queens, Keith Urban, Two Door Cinema Club and Tim McGraw. These carefully selected invitees are A-list Hollywood, music business and brand names, including renowned manager Simon Fuller, Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson and actor Chris Pine.

“What we’re doing is trying to serve the artists’ needs. If they say they want to try acting, we can give them the tools”

“What we’re doing is trying to serve the artists’ needs,” explains Light. “If they say they want to try acting, or like Billie Joe from Green Day, wanting to do a Broadway play [American Idiot]. If they really want to do it, we can give them the tools.

“It’s easy when you have a company that’s built that way. Everybody here wants to work in this way. You have to have somebody in place to help the artist fulfil what they want to do.”

A reputation for innovation
Light’s rise to the top came when CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz left in 1995 for an infamously short-lived stint as Michael Eisner’s deputy at Disney. His departure was a big deal for the company, which was by now one of the biggest agencies in the world.

It meant a shake-up at the top of the company’s administration. Ross stayed a few years longer, but left in 1998, fed up of the way the live industry was going. It was the time of Live Nation precursor SFX, when media mogul Robert Sillerman was buying up promoters around the world. Ross was one of the most vocal opponents of the new behemoth and after three decades at the top, wanted out of the agency business.

What happened next set the roadmap for CAA’s success and confirmed its reputation for innovation.


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 81, or subscribe to the magazine here

IQ remembers the musical talent lost in 2016

The deaths in December of George Michael and Status Quo founder Rick Parfitt have brought 2016 to a sad end. Quite simply, none of us can remember a year that claimed so many celebrities, with barely a week going by without the news of some musician who had helped to shape the lives of at least some of us.

While the likes of David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen might steal most of the headlines, we thought it would be an idea to remind everyone of the breadth of artistry to which the world has said goodbye, from the young members of Viola Beach, who perished along with their manager in a car accident in February, and the murder of Christina Grimmie in June, to conductor and composer Harry Rabinowitz, who celebrated his 100th birthday just three months before his death. 

25 December: George Michael, aged 53

24 December: Rick Parfitt, 68

11 December: Valerie Gell, 71

7 December, Greg Lake, 69

24 November: Colonel Abrams, 67

21 November: Jean Shepard, 82

20 November: Craig Gill, 44

18 November: Sharon Jones, 60

13 November: Leon Russell, 74

7 November, Leonard Cohen, 82

25 October: Bobby Vee, 73

23 October: Pete Burns, 57

8 October: Phil Chess, 95

5 October: Joan Marie Johnson, 72

5 October: Rod Temperton, 66

2 October: Sir Neville Marriner, 92

24 September: Stanley Dural Jr., 68

21 September, John D. Loudermilk, 82

1 September: Fred Hellerman, 89

28 August: Juan Gabriel, 66

24 August: Billy Paul, 80

20 August: Matt Roberts, 38

9 August: Padraig Duggan, 67

6 August: Pete Fountain, 86

16 July: Alan Vega, 78

28 June: Scotty Moore, 84

24 June: Bernie Worrell, 72

22 June: Harry Rabinowitz, 100

17 June: Attrell Cordes, 46

10 June: Christina Grimmie, 22

3 June: Dave Swarbrick, 75

21 May: Nick Menza, 51

17 May: Guy Clark, 74

21 April: Prince, 57

12 April: David Gest, 62

11 April: Emile Ford, 78

6 April: Merle Haggard, 79

22 March: Phife Dawg, 45

20 March: Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman, 73

16 March: Frank Sinatra Jr., 72

14 March: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, 81

11 March: Keith Emerson, 71

10 March: Ernestine Anderson, 87

8 March: Sir George Martin, 90

5 March: Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 86

4 March: Joey Feek, 40

25 February: John Chilton, 83

15 February: Denise Matthews, 57

13 February: Kris Leonard, 20; River Reeves, 19; Thomas Lowe, 27; Jack Dakin, 19; Craig Tarry, 33

 4 February: Maurice White, 74

28 January: Paul Kantner, 74

26 January: Colin Vearncombe, 53

18 January, Glenn Frey, 67

17 January: Dale Griffin, 67

16 January: René Angélil, 73

10 January: David Bowie, 69

7 January: Kitty Kallen, 93

5 January: Pierre Boulez, 90

4 January: Robert Stigwood, 81

Celebration 2017 festival set for Paisley Park

Prince’s Paisley Park estate, which IQ last month revealed would be hosting concerts and live events following its reopening as a museum, has announced details of the first such event: Celebration 2017, which will “celebrate the life and legacy” of the late singer with panels, presentations and performances by his former backing musicians.

Performers at the event, which runs from 20 to 23 April, include The Revolution, Morris Day and The Time and members of The New Power Generation and 3rdeyegirl, with tickets starting at an eye-watering US$499 for general admission – $100 more than Desert Trip – or $999 for VIP passes.

Paisley Park – Prince’s 65,000sqft private estate and recording complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota, now operated by PPark Manamagent – recently opened permanently to public tours, just over six months after his death.

Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, died from an accidental fentanyl overdose at Paisley Park on 21 April. Read IQ’s tribute here.

Prince memorial concerts mooted for MSG, Staples Center

Prince’s friends in the music industry are reportedly planning “big memorial celebrations”, including tribute concerts at 18,000-capacity arenas Madison Square Garden in New York and the Staples Center in Los Angeles, in the wake of his death aged 57 last Thursday.

According to an anonymous source quoted by Radar, performers will include The Bangles, Chaka Kahn, Mavis Staples, Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham and “loads of big-name friends”.

An unrelated free memorial concert, hosted by Danish festival Golden Days and featuring music and spoken-word performances, will also be held at Vega’s Lounge in Copenhagen tonight.

Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Rihanna and David Gilmour (who performed a medley of ‘Comfortably Numb’ and Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’) are among the high-profile musicians who have incorporated a tribute to Prince in recent live shows.

Read IQ’s tribute to Prince (pictured), described as “a pioneering live performer who changed the face of the concert industry forever”, here.

Prince: A lust for live

Prince, who died yesterday, was many things to many people: A sex symbol who defied social, racial and gender norms; a self-taught musicians’ musician who mastered “thousands” of instruments, including bass, piano, drums, various synthesisers and percussion and – of course – guitar; an early advocate for artists’ rights who fought his major label, Warner Bros, for ownership and artistic control of his own music.

To many in the concert business, however, Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson on 7 June 1958) will be remembered for the joy he took from simply playing live. Standing only 5’2″ tall, Nelson was nevertheless a giant on stage, a combination of his charisma, sex appeal, dazzling musical chops (an apocryphal tale has Eric Clapton, when asked what’s it like to be the best guitar player alive, responding: “I don’t know; ask Prince”) and four-inch high heels lending the diminutive singer, songwriter and producer a towering stage presence that transcended mere inches.

And after no less than 28 concert tours – including the unplugged Piano & A Microphone tour, ongoing at the time of his death – the 57-year-old showed no signs of a desire to stop touring. Nor did audiences show any signs of a desire to stop listening: the dates comprising his final completed tour, the spontaneously plotted Hit and Run trek of 2014–15, were consistently sold out and generated huge critical acclaim for the artist and his touring band, 3rdeyegirl.

One of Prince’s most memorable highlights in the world of live performance remains his landmark 21-night residency at The O2 in 2007, which paved the way for similar residencies by Bon Jovi, the Spice Girls, One Direction, Beyoncé and Michael Jackson

One of Prince’s most memorable highlights in the world of live performance remains his landmark 21-night Earth Tour residency at London’s O2 Arena in 2007, which changed the touring landscape irreversibly, paving the way for similar arena residencies by Bon Jovi, the Spice Girls, One Direction, Beyoncé and Michael Jackson with the ill-fated This is It.

“Everything’s changed this summer,” he told the cheering crowd, without a hint of hyperbole, at the time. “It doesn’t matter who came before or who comes after. From now on, The O2 is Prince’s house.”

The O2’s general manager, Rebecca Kane Burton, said this morning: “We are all shocked and deeply saddened to hear the news that Prince has died. […] [He was a] true artist and musical genius. RIP.”

Cameron Strange, CEO of Warner Bros Records, with which Prince repaired his relationship in recent years, said in a statement last night: “He leapt onto the scene in 1978 and it didn’t take the world long to realise that pop music had changed forever. He played the studio like an instrument and shattered the definition of live performance. He defined a new kind of superstardom, with a transformative impact not just on music, but on video, film, and style.

“Prince was the epitome of cool and mystery – an inspirational soul who created his own universe by bringing together different genres, races and cultures with a purity of sound and spirit unlike any other. His visionary gifts as a songwriter, vocalist, musician, performer and producer placed him in a league all his own.”

“He played the studio like an instrument and shattered the definition of live performance”

A statement from the 4,678-capacity Fox Theatre in Atlanta, where Prince played his last live show on 14 April, said: “Prince was a music pioneer, innovator and cultural icon. His music moved and inspired many, including the fans that were able to join him as he took the stage for his final performances last week…

“We, along with the world, mourn the loss of a music legend.”

Watch Prince performing one of his signature songs, ‘Purple Rain’, at the Fox, courtesy of gig-goer Jake Reuse, below:

Prince dies aged 57

Acclaimed singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Prince has died at his home in Minnesota aged 57.

Following an early report by TMZ, a spokesman for the artist, full name Prince Rogers Nelson, confirmed the news to the Associated Press. The cause of death is still unknown, but he was admitted to hospital last week with a severe case of the flu and forced to postpone two shows at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.

As the creator of the ‘Minneapolis sound’, Prince’s pioneering blend of funk, rock, pop, synthpop and new wave saw him sell over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time, and score number ones with 1984’s Purple Rain, 1985’s Around the World in a Day and 1989’s Batman film soundtrack. He released his 39th studio album, Hit n Run Phase Two, exclusively through Tidal in late 2015.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, performing George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ alongside Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Harrison’s son, Dhani:

IQ will bring you a more in-depth tribute to Prince, including a retrospective look at his remarkable live career, shortly.