Today of course the entire world knows that Brian Epstein — the man who introduced The Beatles to the world by getting them a recording contract — was gay but what’s lesser known is that Epstein had plenty of company among his peers — the managers of other classic rock groups. None of them was publicly out because being homosexual was illegal at the time in England and there were anti-sodomy laws throughout the United States.
A documentary is being released this week titled “Lambert & Stamp” about Kit Lambert, the legendary manager of The Who, who guided them to the top of the charts after he discovered them while shooting his documentary. He quickly gave that up and became the group’s manager.
Other groups that had gay managers were The Bee Gees with Robert Stigwood, The Yardbirds and T-Rex (and eventually Wham!) with Simon Napier-Bell (who wrote one of the best books about the crazy management scene of the ’60s: “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”).
The influence of the gay managers on the groups was unmistakable. Brian Epstein may have preferred The Beatles’ leather outfits but his posh fashion sense made him realize they’d be bigger and more acceptable to a mainstream audience if they dressed in matching suits. It drove John Lennon crazy but he went along.
Aside from style, the gay managers melded perfectly the group’s sense that they were outsiders and rebels and going against the accepted norms of the day. I’ve read in a related article in The Guardian newspaper that Andrew Loog Oldham, manager of The Rolling Stones, encouraged Mick Jagger’s androgynous nature as did Ken Pitt who managed David Bowie.
Sometimes, the manager’s input was very direct. Townsend has acknowledged that it was Lambert who suggested the lead songwriter of The Who combine rock and roll with opera and the result was one of the greatest LPs of the era — Tommy.