Steve O’Rourke, Pink Floyd manager and keen racing driver, sadly passed away in Miami, Florida, USA, in October 2003.
His funeral service was held on 14th November at Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England, where as a tribute to Steve, it is believed that David, Richard and Nick performed together again. They were said to have played at the private service “Fat Old Sun” and “Great Gig In The Sky”, with Dick Parry playing the saxophone as he followed the coffin… a fitting tribute to the man who took a big part in shaping the band’s career.
What follows are some obituaries that have been published in memory of Steve:
Mark Brown, November 2003
Steve O’Rourke managed Pink Floyd since 1968 when he was still with the Bryan Morrison Agency. He founded his own companies, EMKA Productions Limited and EMKA Racing; EMKA is from the first letters of Emma and Katherine, his daughters’ names.
In March 2003, we heard that a “slight heart problem” ended his successful auto racing career, and on October 30 we sadly received the news that he had suffered a fatal stroke. Tim Sugden, his racing partner since 1996, said upon O’Rourke’s early retirement that “Steve epitomised the spirit of the gentleman racer: he ran a superb team, he treated everyone extremely well, and he loved his racing — perhaps more the historics than anything else. We were going to have a very good year together…”
O’Rourke was on the Pink Floyd soccer team in the 1970s and was pictured with the team on the album “A Nice Pair”. His phone call to Gilmour at the end of “The Division Bell” ended with a hangup by Gilmour’s stepson Charlie. In 1991, O’Rourke participated in the Mexican sports car road race La Carrera Panamericana, co-driving with David Gilmour, who was at the wheel when their car went off the road and over a drop-off near San Luis Potpoli, breaking both of Steve’s legs. In 1998, his GTC Motorsport EMI/EMKA team finished first in class and fourth overall in the 66th running of the 24-hour Le Mans (France) sports car race. It was his seventh appearance at the race, this time with Tim Sugden (GB) and Bill Auberlen (US).
In the mid-1990s O’Rourke talked to fan Sean Heisler regarding the Publius Enigma, and I transcribed the interview for Brain Damage. While categorically denying it was from Pink Floyd, O’Rourke said his own son was a member of the Usenet newsgroup where it was revealed, and he encouraged fans to persist in attempting to solve it. He thought something was likely to come of our efforts…
Manager of Pink Floyd with an enthusiasm for motor racing
From The Independent newspaper, UK, 3rd November 2003
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, © The Independent 2003.
Obituary: Steve O’Rourke
From The Telegraph newspaper, UK, 5th November 2003
Steve O’Rourke, who has died aged 63, managed the rock band Pink Floyd for 35 years and was one of the British music industry’s most respected backroom figures.
Tall, well-built and lantern-jawed, O’Rourke combined charm with an irrestible forcefulness as he negotiated with record company executives, publishers and promoters. He was described by one associate as a “streetfighter, a larger than life character who knew both his own strengths and weaknesses”.
But while he was regarded as a formidable operator, he was not without humility. “They wouldn’t let me into this building,” he once joked to a companion, as they walked into a New York record company, “if I wasn’t the manager of Pink Floyd.”
Steve O’Rourke was born at Willesden on October 1 1940. His father, Tommy, had come to London from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland in 1934, for the premiere of Robert T Flaherty’s drama documentary Man of Aran, in which he appeared as a shark hunter. He settled thereafter in north-west London, where his son would be educated.
On leaving school Steve O’Rourke trained in accounting and at one stage took a job selling pet food. (In later years, whenever O’Rourke became involved in arguments with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, the musician would dismiss O’Rourke’s contribution with, “What do you know? You’re only a pet-food salesman!”)
But O’Rourke had been drawn to the music business in his teens, joining the London City Agency before being recruited by Tony Howard of the Bryan Morrison Agency as a junior agent and book-keeper. Morrison managed The Pretty Things, The Incredible String Band, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Fairport Convention. The agency also handled Pink Floyd, booking gigs at such leading London venues as Blaises, The Cromwellian and The Speakeasy.
In the mid-1960s, bands made their living from gigs. Groups who were successful might perform eight or nine times a week and two or three times a day at weekends. O’Rourke, with Tony Howard, masterminded the Floyd’s progress as they became popular beyond the confines of London. They were not an easy band to book, having no string of single hits and no covers; moreover, they had a light show (unheard of at the time), and they performed long, improvised versions of songs, unlike most other bands on the circuit.
O’Rourke assumed the day-to-day running of Pink Floyd in mid-1968, taking over, after the departure of Syd Barrett, from their original managers Peter Jenner and Andrew King, and continued when the Bryan Morrison Agency’s management arm was bought by the Beatles’ company, NEMS. At that time, music management for contemporary bands was new territory; O’Rourke redefined the role of manager as he relentlessly built Pink Floyd’s career. He was also exceptionally protective of the band’s image, providing an environment in which its creativity and artistic integrity was the priority.
Leaving NEMS in the early 1970s, O’Rourke founded EMKA Productions, named after his daughter Emma Kate. As well as handling Pink Floyd’s activities, he also managed the solo careers of individual Floyd members David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright. While the band was recording its landmark album Dark Side of the Moon, O’Rourke negotiated a lucrative move from the Capitol to Columbia labels, while in Britain the group remained with Harvest EMI.
O’Rourke also built a highly successful parallel career as an enthusiastic gentleman racing driver – a lifelong passion which he shared with the Floyd’s drummer Nick Mason and, to a lesser extent, with David Gilmour. He adored Historic racing with cars of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
His ambition to compete in the greatest sports car race of all – the Le Mans 24-Hours classic – was realised in 1979 when he finished a creditable 12th, driving a 190mph Ferrari 512 BB. Having bought the car, he returned to Le Mans in 1980; but after a tyre exploded at nearly 200mph on the Mulsanne Straight, O’Rourke bought the spare tail of a retired sister Ferrari in the pit lane in order to finish. His car completed the race wearing green forward bodywork and a red tail.
In 1981 his EMKA racing team ran a BMW M1 Coupe at Le Mans, with O’Rourke co-driving with David Hobbs and Eddie Jordan – today the head of Jordan F1. O’Rourke left the circuit on the night of the race to oversee a Pink Floyd concert in London, flew back the next morning and jumped straight into the car for another two-hour driving stint.
After coming second in the Silverstone 6-Hours and winning his class in the Brands Hatch 6-Hours, O’Rourke had his own EMKA-Aston Martin built specially for Le Mans in 1983; the next year this exceptionally attractive car briefly led the 24-Hours in the hands of co-driver Tiff Needell, and finished ahead of the works-backed Jaguars, to O’Rourke’s great amusement. In 1991 he and David Gilmour co-drove a C-Type Jaguar in the PanAmerican retro race through Mexico, surviving a dramatic crash.
In 1997 O’Rourke had his greatest racing success, co-driving a second-hand McLaren F1 GTR at Le Mans with Tim Sugden and Bill Auberlen to finish fourth overall. Having saved money by refusing the costly update pack for the McLaren, O’Rourke typically spent as much again on a huge party for all concerned in the EMKA team’s success.
From 2000 O’Rourke campaigned Porsche cars in the FIA and British GT Championships until he was forced to retire from driving for health reasons; he had presided over the drivers Tim Sugden and Emmanuel Collard as they won this year in Sicily and Sweden. Porsche responded by offering racing assistance to the EMKA factory for 2004 – a decision which delighted O’Rourke.
Equally highly-regarded in both the music and motor racing worlds, O’Rourke was an active supporter of charities; he was a trustee of The Music Sound Foundation and of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy.
After suffering a fatal stroke, he died in Miami, Florida, on October 30. Steve O’Rourke was twice married, and leaves two daughters and three sons.
© The Telegraph, 2003