Steve O'Rourke

Manager of Pink Floyd with an enthusiasm for motor racing

Stephen O'Rourke, rock-group manager: born London 1 October 1940; twice married (one son, two daughters); died Miami, Florida 30 October 2003.

Steve O'Rourke was one of the most important and powerful figures in British rock group management. He was charged with the responsibility of looking after the often complex and tumultuous affairs of Pink Floyd. He guided their career during three decades of achievement that followed in the wake of their enormously successful 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon.

O'Rourke also had to deal with the departure of the songwriter Roger Waters from the group in 1983 and the problems this caused. He oversaw the band's return to active touring and recording during the Nineties under the leadership of Dave Gilmour and helped to ensure that Pink Floyd remained a major musical force that enjoyed undiminished worldwide popularity.

While not such a flamboyant character as other managers of his generation, such as Peter Grant with Led Zeppelin, nevertheless O'Rourke had a reputation as a tough negotiator, who was not afraid to take on the record-industry giants. The huge success of Pink Floyd meant that he could indulge in his other passion for motor sport and he was as well known in the world of motor racing as he was in the rock business.

Steve O'Rourke became the manager of Pink Floyd in 1968. He had been working as an accountant for the Bryan Morrison Agency that handled such acts as Tyrannosaurus Rex. Andrew King and Peter Jenner of Blackhill Enterprises, who were part of the burgeoning London "underground" movement in the later Sixties, had previously managed the Floyd. When the band's brilliant but wayward singer and composer Syd Barrett was asked to leave the group in April 1968, due to his increasingly erratic behaviour, the two managers decided to look after Barrett and develop his solo career, rather than continue to handle Pink Floyd. Roger Waters recalled:

We had been managed by Blackhill Enterprises. When Syd flipped the band wanted to keep him but he wanted to add to two saxophone players and a girl singer. We said, "No!" Peter and Andrew thought it couldn't happen without Syd so they stuck with him and that's how Pink Floyd came to be managed by Steve O'Rourke.

The Bryan Morrison Agency, which handled the Floyd's bookings, was subsequently sold to Brian Epstein's NEMS company and O'Rourke went to work for them in their management department. When the band left NEMS they took O'Rourke with them and he remained their manager for the next 35 years. He set up his own London based Emka Productions and also handled the solo careers of the individual Floyd members Dave Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright. Roger Waters once described him as the strong man they needed in a tough industry:

Steve is an effective hustler, a man in a man's world. And to give him his due he never gave up his job of trying to get me to fill stadiums.

While the band were recording The Dark Side of the Moon he began intense negotiations with American record companies which resulted in their leaving Capitol and moving to Columbia, with whom he struck a lucrative deal in 1973. In the UK they remained with Harvest EMI.

Those who knew O'Rourke during the Seventies remember him as a hard worker and stickler for efficiency. Glen Colson, a former promotions man, remembers:

He was a terrific business manager for the Floyd. I remember I was late in the office one morning and he bought me a watch. It was a kind of message to get in on time but I noticed the watch had cost him £400.

However the mounting pressure on O'Rourke meant that he sometimes needed to escape to a Greek island for holidays, where there were no telephones and he could ignore the desperate pleas of rival record companies, desperate to sign the Floyd.

As well as his involvement in rock management O'Rourke was also a film producer and was executive producer for their successful 1982 film The Wall which starred Bob Geldof. He loved to keep fit and was a member of the Pink Floyd soccer team during the Seventies.

A keen racing enthusiast, he owned his own vintage 1957 BRM racing car, which he displayed at Goodwood, Silverstone and at other events. His racing career began in 1979; he entered several times in the 24 hour Le Mans race in France and in 1985 finished 11th. It proved a dangerous sport however and he broke both legs in a crash in 1991. He had his own Team Emka racing team and owned an especially designed Aston Martin. Heart problems meant that he had recently had to give up motor racing.

In the mid-Eighties O'Rourke had to cope with the crisis caused by Roger Waters's departure from Floyd and the band's subsequent decision to continue touring and recording against Waters's wishes. Eventually Waters would continue his own solo career without O'Rourke while Floyd remained under his management.

Steve O'Rourke had recently attended an exhibition in Paris, "Pink Floyd Interstellar", inaugurated by the French Culture Minister. The exhibition would "pay tribute to the important contribution of Pink Floyd to the musical history of the 20th century".

Chris Welch

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