Music Business

The 10 Most Horrible Music-Biz Bosses

The movie Horrible Bosses comes out today, and while the heinous supervisors in question all work in areas unrelated to entertainment, this shouldn't be taken to mean the music industry is free of bad managers and executives. Rocks Off knows if anything, the music biz has had more than its fair share of psychos, toolbags and shitheads, many of whom become almost as famous as the artists in their care.

The following is a small, and by no means comprehensive, sampling of some of the more notorious (in no particular order). As a side note, while putting this together, we pictured an alternative universe Breakfast Club in which Brian Wilson turns to Michael Jackson and says, "I think your old man and my old man should go bowling."

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10. Col. Tom Parker

The former Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk engineered Elvis Presley's breakout success, it's true, but also severed the King's lucrative ties to writers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, locked him in to a succession of shitty movies, and took advantage of Presley's non-confrontational nature in order to isolate him from "outside influences" who might point out most artists don't sign over 50 percent of their earnings to their manager. Parker died of a stroke in 1997, outliving the man he siphoned millions of dollars from by 20 years.

9. Suge Knight

Rocks Off is sure all the allegations against Knight - that he dangled Vanilla Ice off a balcony, that he was somehow involved in the murder of Tupac Shakur, that he "disappeared" his girlfriend - are all misunderstandings or cowardly lies told by East Coast wannabes. Now, we're just going to back away slowly and see ourselves out.

8. Murry Wilson

Ugh. You can't even joke about this prick. Few people knew how much darkness lay behind the sunshiny pop of the Beach Boys, but tales of the elder Wilson's abuse of his sons ended up eclipsing the good he did for the band in pushing them to early success. We're not sure "Surfin' USA" is an adequate trade-off for a 2x4 to the head or being made to rub your face in feces.

7. Joe Jackson

Michael Jackson was more a subject for comedy routines during the last years of his career than for his musical contributions. How much of the bizarre behavior of his later life is attributable to years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father/manager will never be known, but anybody who claims a belt whipping isn't a "beating" because it doesn't involve a hard object probably isn't going to win any Father of the Year awards.

6. Tommy Mottola

Speaking of MJ, he once referred to former Sony Entertainment head Mottola as a racist devil, which seems counterproductive for a Prince of Darkness interested in expansion. What's not in dispute is Mottola's cultivated Mafioso image, his penchant for dating/marrying the talent (Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez (rumored), Thalia), and his tabloid lifestyle. All of this irked his Japanese bosses, putting his head on the chopping block when record sales started plummeting in 2001.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar