Flanagan’s empire

By MICHAEL ATCHISON  |  February 5, 2010

THE NARRATOR IS JACK FLYNN, A YOUNG ENGLISH SOLICITOR WHO FALLS INTO A CAREER AS A MANAGER, FIRST FOR THE RAVONS, AND THEN FOR THE BAND'S MEMBERS. WHAT HIS CLIENTS SEEM MOST TO NEED FROM JACK IS PERSPECTIVE ON THEIR PROFESSIONAL AND PERSONAL LIMITATIONS. IS THAT THE JOB, FILLING THE VOID WHERE SELF-AWARENESS OUGHT TO BE? That's a really good way to put it. I suppose that every manager's job is different. There are clients who are very self-aware and self-sufficient, and they just need the manager to field phone calls and make sure the taxes are paid. The thing about the Ravons is that none of them get into it with any notion that this is going to be a lifetime career. There's an element of making it up as they go along. They meet Flynn, who seems like an honest guy, and ask him to look at their contracts. Pretty soon they're all tied together on a 40-year journey. But it's completely improvised, by everyone, including Flynn. And to some degree they're dependant on things completely beyond their control — the arrival of FM radio just when the teenybopper thing is ending, the arrival of MTV just when it looks like their star has faded, the arrival of the compact disc which caused people to go back and buy their records again. There are these sorts of technological interventions in their careers for which they can claim no credit, and over which they have no control. You're right, in this case, because of the egos and limitations of the musicians, Flynn does have to do a lot of therapy, a lot of hand-holding. But, of course, we see the story through Flynn's eyes. If I'd written the book from the perspective of Charlie or Emerson or Simon, they might have had a different take.

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THAT ILLUSTRATES SOMETHING JACK SAYSNEAR THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK: "OUR LIVES TURN ON TINY HINGES." JACK DOES AN UNUSUAL ERRAND FOR HIS LAW FIRM AND FALLS INTO A NEW LIFE. EMERSON GRUDGINGLY TAKES A MEETING WITH A START-UP CABLE CHANNEL CALLED MTV AND REAPS SURPRISING BENEFITS. HOW MUCH OF SUCCESS IN THE BUSINESS IS BEING IN POSITION TO SAY YES TO UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITY? If you don't say yes to unexpected opportunity, no matter how talented you are, you're probably not going to have a lot of commercial success. Look at someone like Van Morrison, who has had a fantastic career artistically, as great as anyone who has ever come along, but he says no to everything. He opted not to get a personal trainer and a toupee and make music videos. I'm sure he's very content with his decision. There are also a lot of people who did get the trainer and the toupee and made music videos, and ended up looking pretty silly. There are so many moments over the last 40 years when people took themselves out of contention — "I hate this disco crap" or "these videos are stupid." 

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