Cementing The Relationships
One artist who falls into this category is Rod Stewart. Avram first met him when Stewart was still a member of the Faces, back in the early 1970s, and today the rock and soul singer can lay just claim to being one of the most popular and successful artists in the world. It was in 1972 that, together with the Faces, Rod first performed for MAMA Concerts at an open-air festival in Germany. Just over two decades later, as a solo act, he can fill huge arenas as well as entire stadiums.
Avram also collaborates directly with managers and record labels. Says Avram, "Agents are immensely important, particularly in the matter of helping up-and-coming artists take their first steps in the business. But it is also important not to forget the promoters who provide the financial backing to actually get these artists started."
At one time, Stiefel Phillips, the company managing Rod Stewart, was also looking after the affairs of Prince, and it was therefore not long before Avram established a line of communication with the man from Paisley Park and promoted his 1990 European tour. "Fritz Rau used to do his tours," points out Avram. "Therefore, even if I weren't doing it, Fritz would be— so it stays within the family. Fritz said to me, 'Marcel, thank God you got Prince, so I haven't lost him!' And I said, 'If I hadn't got him, you would have him anyhow!'
"I have to say, though, that Prince and I have what I describe as a telepathic relationship. I mean, if you communicate with him on the same wavelength its okay. To communicate with him means just being around. We have done several European tours together, and the last one was the most successful. He is very professional. He comes to the show hours before time, and even if he doesn't look at me I can tell he is watching everything."
In the case of Michael Jackson, it has evidently been somewhat easier to forge a much more formal working relationship. Indeed, Avram has become one of the superstar's closest advisers, a ready confidante and at his disposal nearly all of the time. The two men first established contact in the '70s, during a European tour by the Jackson Five, the German leg of which was promoted by MAMA Concerts. Once the Jacksons had gone their separate ways, the working relationship between Jackson and Avram really began to develop, and in 1988 the European section of the former's debut solo world tour was directed by Avram in conjunction with the London-based BCC.
"Michael Jackson is, on one hand, a very sensible businessman and, on the other, an extremely creative and sensitive musician with feeling," says Avram. "He helps so many children in so many different countries, and as one of the founders of the Heal The World Foundation, he has donated an incredible amount of his earnings."
Avram loves his native Romania and regularly donates money to help the country's economic development. In 1992 he was endowed with diplomat status by the Romanian government and was made the Romanian Ambassador at Large for Special Projects.
Avram, for his part, loves his native Romania, and he regularly donates money to help the country's economic development. As a result, having already been awarded Germany's highest order of merit by President von Weizsäcker, in 1992 he was endowed with diplomat status by the Romanian government and was made the Romanian Ambassador at Large for Special Projects.
During a 1992 trip on the Orient Express with Michael Jackson, in the midst of his "Dangerous" tour, Avram took the opportunity to talk to him about the plight of the Romanian orphans. Jackson was familiar with the subject, having seen the distressing pictures of starving children broadcast on American television, and he duly agreed to lend his help to the charitable cause by performing a concert in Bucharest. He simply found it hard to believe that many of the kids there had never even been to a concert.
For Avram, this was a factor that required careful consideration, and throughout the tour he used every available chance to jet to Bucharest. There he would give television interviews and have Jackson's promo videos broadcast—not to help sell tickets, but rather to familiarize the Romanian children with Michael Jackson and therefore prepare the way for the artist's first-ever concert in Bucharest.
His efforts did not go unrewarded. On the evening of the concert, October 1, 1992, Jackson surpassed himself and turned in a performance that the audience would never forget. His newfound fans in Bucharest reacted more enthusiastically than at any other date on the tour, and for both performer and promoter this was a landmark occasion.
Yet Bucharest was just a start. There are still more territories awaiting their first exposure to major Western popular music concerts, and Avram are keen to explore such possibilities. The countries themselves, on the other hand, stand to benefit not only from the public standpoint, but also in terms of the local show promoters having the opportunity to experience first-hand how a large-scale production is properly structured and accomplished. "The Chinese government, in fact, has already invited Michael and I to go there," reveals Avram, "and we will do so as soon as possible."
"The first show MAMA Concerts promoted were by The Who, the second by Pink Floyd, the third by Deep Purple," says Avram. "And I can still remember every detail of those concerts."
MAMA Concerts' initial involvement with Rod Stewart and Michael Jackson came about at a time when their respective solo careers were about to take off, but it was quite a different situation with Prince, Chris de Burgh, Simple Minds, Dire Straits and Tina Turner. In Turner's case, a successful career during the '60s had faded somewhat during the first half of the next decade. But when Marcel saw her perform in 1972, he thought she was a knockout and has been a fan ever since. Record sales were limited, live-appearance attendances had diminished, but then the genius of her manager, Roger Davies, came into play. He saw to it that her raunchy image was revamped and updated, and arranged for her to record a new album—which would establish Turner as the vanguard exponent of a new pop-soul sound.
"I listened to the 'Private Dancer' album and was absolutely knocked out at what I heard," recalls Avram. "Tina sounded better than ever. Clearly, Roger had helped her to once again realize her tremendous potential."
Avram subsequently met with the two of them, and the result was a cautiously booked tour and a series of carefully considered television appearances in Germany. At the time, in addition to numerous local networks, there were only two nationwide channels in existence. Avram's involvement and experience in this field go back a number of years. There was "Rock Pop In Concert," which featured three to four bands performing on separate stages. Recorded live for later transmission, the show attracted the likes of Dire Straits, Simple Minds and U2, as well as numerous other acts that preferred to play live on TV rather than mime to a playback. In the early '80s, Avram started producing "Peter's Pop Show" for the ZDF network (currently known as "The ZDF Pop Show" and presented by MTV's Kristiane Backer). During the ensuing years, numerous other productions followed. In 1991 a Rod Stewart concert special was broadcast nationally in both Germany and Austria, and in 1993 a similar presentation, featuring Michael Jackson, was transmitted on RTL. This year, SAT 1 supported MAMA's Frank Sinatra European dates as well as the four-city "Rock Over Germany" extravaganza, attended by more than 850,000 people over the course of two weekends and featuring Stewart, Prince, Chris de Burgh, Joe Cocker, Duran Duran, OMD, Jon Secada, Foreigner, Peter Maffay and, yes, Tina Turner.
So it has been as a result of this type of experience and connections that, together with precise timing and promotional know-how, numerous artists' careers have benefited. Turner, for instance, within a year of her relaunch, was playing major venues instead of small clubs. In many cities throughout Europe—and especially in Germany— she was required to give multiple performances, and it was her rediscovered success there that partly served as the basis for a worldwide comeback that few would have predicted just a short time earlier. It was an incredible return to form for one of the greatest stars of the decade.
"Throughout my career, I have always needed a challenge," says Avram. "Everybody can do the usual, but when you have reached a certain level you have to offer something extraordinary, something unique."