Phil Solomon

One of the most controversial and well-known managers of mid-1960s British pop.
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Artist Biography

b. 1924, Northern Ireland. One of the most controversial and well-known managers of mid-60s British pop, Solomon’s speciality was overseeing the careers of aspiring Irish artists. The son of Morris Solomon, who owned the record distributors Solomon/Peres and was an important shareholder at Decca Records, Philip initially seemed an unlikely candidate for the family business. After a very inauspicious period in Australia he returned to Northern Ireland, traversed to England, and became a promoter during the 50s. Among the acts associated with him were Nina And Frederick and Ruby Murray, but it was the Bachelors who proved to be his first important discovery. Solomon introduced the group to Decca’s A&R head Dick Rowe and watched as they became celebrated hitmakers and cabaret stars during the 60s. Their career development was a testament to the industry of Solomon’s wife Dorothy, who emerged as one of the most respected agents in the music business. By contrast, Philip was the big time entrepreneur, always in the news with his latest scheme - whether it be a new record label, the latest Irish sensation, a new comedy star, a pirate radio station or a publicized feud with a managerial rival. In terms of rock history, Solomon may be best remembered for nurturing the early career of Van Morrison. After visiting the group Them at Belfast’s Maritime Hotel, he duly signed the troublesome ensemble and even secured the services of Bert Berns as their producer. After a disastrous USA tour, Them disbanded and Morrison fell out with Solomon, a dispute that prompted legal redress. Of all Morrison’s managers, however, Solomon was the most influential and the only true match for the temperamental singer-songwriter. One of Solomon’s strengths was his ability to find important backroom talent to bolster his organization. Tommy Scott was employed as producer for many of Solomon’s acts, while arranger Phil Coulter gained his first experiences in the music industry as part of the Solomon stable. The abilities of both these men can be discovered on the recordings of several Solomon acts, not least Twinkle, who enjoyed a couple of UK hits for Decca in 1965.

In 1966 Solomon became a director at Radio Caroline, a base that enabled him to publicize his artists with fresh aplomb. The following year he launched the independent label Major Minor which enjoyed a number of hits, mainly with Irish artists like Frankie McBride, but also with some imported hits including Crazy Elephant’s ‘Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’’ and Jane Birkin And Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus’. A known gambler, Solomon found himself in the bankruptcy court when he overreached himself in business. Yet, he returned as strong as ever. During the Major Minor period, he signed the Dubliners who recorded a number of albums for his label as well as enjoying unexpected chart success with such songs as ‘Seven Drunken Nights’ and ‘Black Velvet Band’. The singer that Solomon had greatest faith in, however, was to prove a disappointment. David McWilliams was regarded by his mentor as superior to Van Morrison and Solomon duly launched the biggest publicity campaign in the history of British pop music to launch the Northern Ireland singer’s career. For all the hype, which included pages of advertisements in the music press and ceaseless plugging on Radio Caroline, McWilliams’ ‘The Days Of Pearly Spencer’ failed to dent the charts, although Solomon recouped much of his investment on the Continent.

By the end of the 60s, Solomon’s once great power in the British music business declined and he moved into other entrepreneurial areas. At his peak, however, he was the match of any manager of his era and remains the most historically neglected of the 60s pop power brokers.