The avant-garde world of 1960’s psychedelia heralded a new age of cultural and psychic consciousness, a world stratified by the rich hierarchies of stars across the spectrum of media. These apparently simultaneous developments in music, film and the stage were born of one dream, a series of visions eclipsed together by the rationality of a single mind. For this man his only fear was to lose the chase, exhausting and exploring all natural opportunities within the creative realm, an approach cautioned by the cynics as practically impossible due to the bureaucratic status quo of the industry.
This irrepressible impresario was manager and producer extraordinaire, Robert Stigwood, his vision comprised of building an empire crossing the boundaries between management, recording, publishing and producing. Robert’s lifecycle of success saw him emerge from concrete origins having emigrated from Adelaide in 1955, hitching to Europe, seemingly pre-empting and exploding the hippie movement in his wake. There were some characteristically humble beginnings, with Stigwood’s early ventures ending in bankruptcy, prior to his becoming established as co-manager of NEMS Enterprises with Svengali Brian Epstein. Following Epstein’s unfortunate death, Robert decided to form his own company, the seminal ‘Robert Stigwood Organisation’. Initially working as a promoter for the crème de la crème, including Mick Jagger and David Bowie, he moved forward with assured authority into management, nurturing the careers of primarily Cream and The Bee Gees. His next distinguished manoeuvre was into the discipline of theatrical production, a venture destined to set a precedent and standard for generations to come. By 1968 he was working on the American rock musical ‘Hair’, a five- year success followed by productions of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘Evita’. Perhaps Stigwood’s greatest success was to become a silent witness to the realised ambitions of so many talented young hearts and minds by giving opportunities to young artists in stage and music.
The final corner stone in Stigwood’s achievements saw his shrewd marketing instincts enter the sphere of film production, with a list of familiar epic titles including credits for a reproduction of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ as a motion picture and ‘Tommy’, starring Roger Daltrey. The newly formed RSO films went on to launch the career of John Travolta with blockbusters ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Grease’. The slightly ill fated ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ followed, with ‘Grease 2’ and ‘Evita’ close behind, winning the accolade of best film at the 1997 Golden Globe awards. Stigwood’s dignified and private persona has undoubtedly been underrated, often content to actualise his animated internal world through the projections of the celluloid screen. By exercising his instincts wisely, Robert Stigwood he has recognised some of the single greatest recording artists in history to date. When I interviewed ex-President of RSO records David English, he simply recalled Robert as ‘prolific, twenty-four hours a day’..
In presenting the facts of Stigwood’s biography it is hard not to consider his career as a fictional ‘treatment’, or outline synopsis used as a selling document for a classic movie script. Plot, energy, excitement, vivid adjectives and event driven, yes this is the real life of a definitive mogul impresario. The irony of his career is found in between the lines of the facts, there is sadly little to teach us the rich details of his life experiences, simply scattered press library copy, with internet searches leading to information portals on theatrical websites. Yet, this is a man who is responsible for building the framework for many existing taken for granted landmarks in our quality consumption of music, stage and film. To date, Robert although semi-retired still invests time working in the theatre. Having explored a potential Pandora’s box of surprises amongst the British entertainment industry, this guru of latent talent must care to rest at times, content to dream as a release from the drama he has explored and projected through the terra firma of his everyday life.
Recommended Links: –
‘Milesago People’: biography of Robert Stigwood.
Saturday Night Fever- The Musical Website:
Evita Website biography: