Photo: Martyn Goodacre
Ed Bicknell was educated at Yorkshire's Tadcaster Grammar School. He attended Hull University graduating with a degree in Social Studies. At Hull University Ed became Chairman of the Entertainments Committee, a position he held for two years. He also became Chairman of the University Rag Committee, President of the University Jazz Club, and Vice-President of his University Hall of Residence over the same period. It was in fulfilling these roles that he was provided with his baptism into the field of popular music. During his time at university Ed booked a number of bands that have since become household names: bands such as John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Moody Blues and Led Zeppelin. "I had one rule," says Ed, "I only booked the bands I liked. I put my first act on for £100 - it was Pink Floyd." Among those who found themselves sleeping on the floor in Ed's flat were Ralph McTell and the late, great Alexis Korner.
After graduating Ed moved to London to pursue his career in the music business and established himself an agent representing and arranging gigs for a wide variety of artists including Elton John, Black Sabbath, Steely Dan, Josť Feliciano, The Ramones, Deep Purple, Yes, Ike and Tina Turner, War and Talking Heads. By the late-1970s he had entered the field of artist management. The first artist he represented as a manager was Gerry Rafferty. Rafferty enjoyed enormous commercial success from 1978 to1980, particularly in the U.S., with his albums City to City (which featured the worldwide number one hit Baker Street) and Night Owl. Among the list of artists Ed has managed at some time or other are Paul Brady, Scott Walker and Bryan Ferry. He is currently "helping out" The Blue Nile and Australian singer Sally Boyden. Ed says modestly, "I would estimate that the artists I have represented in a management capacity have sold a combined total of over 120 million albums."
Towards the end of 1977 Ed was working at the NEMS agency when he got a call from Phonogram A&R man John Stainze who had just signed a new band called Dire Straits to the Vertigo label. He wanted Ed to fix them up with some gigs. Ed was invited round to Phonogram's offices in December where he heard the now famous Charlie Gillett demo tape. After "the cheapest Greek meal I've ever had in my life" Ed was taken to Dingwalls Club in North London to check out and meet Dire Straits. The date was the 13th of December, 1977, and as he walked into the club they were playing Down To The Waterline. Ed recalls, "The first thing I noticed was that it wasn't necessary to stand at the back of the room; they were very quiet. I'd just done The Ramones, who were deafening......The second thing I noticed was that Mark was playing a red Stratocaster, which immediately made me think of Hank Marvin, who I had idolised in the sixties." After hearing two or three numbers Ed had made up his mind that he didn't just want to act as an agent for Dire Straits, he wanted to manage them. He just happened to be in the process of organising a tour for Talking Heads and was able to put his new band on the bill as the support act. Dire Straits were paid £50 per night for the Talking Heads tour; a ten-fold increase from their fee at Dingwalls. The rest - as is often said - is history. By the mid-1980s Dire Straits had released one of the best selling albums of all time and been tagged 'the biggest band in the world'. To date, Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits have sold millions of singles and have just passed the magical 100 million album sales!
Ed's reputation in the music industry is legendary. He is the Managing Director of Damage Management Limited and Musicworks Limited, both artist management companies in the field of popular music. In recent years he has become increasingly involved in the industry side of the music business and has frequently appeared on radio and TV to discuss music industry matters. He has conducted many interviews at music industry conferences. Among those interviewed have been Walter Yetnikoff of Sony/Velvel, Clive Davis of Arista, Freddy DeMann of Maverick - formally the long-term manager of Madonna, Gary Gersh of Capitol Records, Sir George Martin, Atlantic Records founder Jerry Wexler, music industry lawyer Allan Grubman, Jonathan King, Alice Cooper, Malcolm McLaren, Wolfman Jack, Miles Copeland, manager of The Police and Sting, Led Zeppelin manager, Peter Grant, and the Kinks' Ray Davies.
In 1992 Ed argued that CDs were too expensive when he appeared before the House of Commons Select Committee on National Heritage during hearings on the pricing of compact discs. He was also asked to appear before the Mergers and Monopolies Commission during it's enquiry into price-fixing in the record industry. Ed served on the Princes Trust Committee from 1983 until 1987 and in 1997 was a member of Sir George Martin's Music For Montserrat Committee. He is a founder-member and former Vice-Chairman of the International Managers Forum (IMF) which exists to deal with industry-wide matters where they affect artists and their management. The IMF currently has a membership of over 500 managers representing some 4000 musicians. In September 1998 Ed was presented with the prestigious Peter Grant Lifetime Achievement Award at the IMF's annual British Music Roll of Honour.
Not only does Ed work with his peers and fellow managers but he
|©TERRY KILBURN, REVISED 31/08/2000. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. APPROVED BY ED BICKNELL|