Arts

Book Review: Mr Showbiz: The Biography of Robert Stigwood, by Stephen Dando-Collins

A biography of SA-born Robert Stigwood, the man behind the success of numerous bands, films & muscial stage plays, from the Bee Gees to Jesus Christ Superstar.

If there is one thing that Australia is known for, it’s our visionaries – and Robert Stigwood is no exception. Though, as Dando-Collins has no hesitation in pointing out to the reader, Stigwood’s vision of himself was sometimes like that of a Funhouse Mirror. Nevertheless, he is the motivator who gave us some of the best music, musicals and movies of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

An Adelaide boy – though, much to his chagrin, Port Pirie born and bred, Stigwood was schooled at Sacred Heart College, caught the tram every day and would return to South Australia frequently throughout his life – and even in death.

He moved to the UK in the hope of making it and living in a lifestyle to which he would not only become accustomed, but with whom he would share, devotedly, with those who were devoted to him. After a rocky start in the entertainment business – a road which is notoriously perilous – Stigwood would face the ups-and-downs, highs-and-lows and all the legal battles that went with it. Most of all, he would do it while shaping the faces and voices of generationally sustainable output.

The key to Stigwood’s success – and, indeed, that of his artistes – was his passion for success, not only his own, but that of his stable – a stable which housed the likes of Clapton, The Gibb Brothers (including Andy), Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Tim Rice, The Who and (almost) The Beatles. There was also his vision. Not someone to focus on a singular approach, Stigwood would have fingers in the pies of the plethora of entertainment options – music, television and movies.

Not everything was blessed with a Midas touch – but one has to wonder, if ‘Stiggy’ (as he was known) had had singular vision, would he still have delivered what he did. Stephen Dando-Collins’ book is about a somewhat overlooked State & International Treasure – filled with honesty and without judgement – about a man whose contribution to entertainment is still ‘Stayin’ Alive’ today.

Stigwood passed mere days before David Bowiein 2016 – his passing more than overshadowed, his funeral lacklustre in attendance – a mere shadow of his former self, with a financial empire that would be sorely tarnished. The one thing that will always remain is the music – from Cream to Clapton, ‘Oscar’ to The Bee Gees, Jesus Christ Superstar to Evita, Saturday Night Fever and Grease (one from screen to stage, the other vice versa) – the Stigwood legacy will not be forgotten…and let’s hope ‘Stiggy’ won’t be either.

Reviewed by Glen Christie

Released by: Penguin Australia
Release Date:  October 2017
RRP: $34.99 trade paperback, $14.99 eBook

Rating out of 10:  9

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