Born in Syria, where his father was stationed as a U.S intelligence agent or "diplomatic liason", mom did her own bit undercover for British Intelligence. Ian, the middle son was somewhat of a trouble maker, as the family moved around the mid-east, he soon found trouble hanging with Lebanese bikers & smoking hashish. Eventually running away as a lad to serve in Vietnam, he returned as a decorated US infantryman. Upon return to civilian life, he helped discover Scotland's own The Average White Band while working at the John Sherry Agency, and his older brother Miles got him his a gig as a road manager for UK based prog-rockers Wishbone Ash.
Before long Ian was commuting from the UK to US for tours, and eventually moved to Macon GA in the mid 70's where he started under tutelage with Alex Hodges' Paragon Agency. Hodges, now a honcho with House of Blues, had helped break chitlin' circuit acts like Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Bobby Womack and Sam & Dave & was now a redneck rock maven helping promote Phil Walden's Capricorn Records acts, as well as southern stalwarts like the Charlie Daniel's Band, Allman Bros, Marshall Tucker Band & Lynyrd Skynyrd. At Paragon, they hired a local kid named Bill Berry to be a "gofer", and Ian started a cover band with him and his friend Mike Mills called The Frustrations.
In 1980, at uring of Miles, and sensing opportunity, he took fellow Paragon employees John Huie & Buck Williams with him to start F.B.I ( Frontier Booking International ), an agency that was responsible for arranging tours for numerous groups on his brother Miles' label I.R.S. These were many of the same groups featured by Miles & Ian in Urgh! a Music War, like Oingo Boingo, the Go-Go's etc. Ian's strategy to build audiences for unknown UK acts involved bypassing the humiliating process of begging for record company tour support and just creating a low budget DIY aesthetic. They found a circuit on college campuses & in lowly clubs like CBGB's in NY, 9:30 in DC & the Rat in Boston that involved picking acts up at the airport using the same van & gear over and over as each subsequent act came to the states starting with Squeeze, The Police, Gang of Four , Ultravox and on and on...
In fact , along with booking the Police and Sing for years, it was Ian Copeland who indirectly led to creation of one of rock's biggest acts to this day, that being getting former Frustration's bassist & future R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills back into playing music. Mills had been indeed, a frustrated musician, and threw in the towel selling all his gear to Ian at one point in the midst of Macon's boogie rock saturated late 70's era. But after hearing the new acts coming over from the U.K on Ian's stereo , he abruptly changed his mind and moved to Athens, a nearby college town. Here's an excerpt from a 1984 Musician Magazine interview recounting the tale of he and Bill Berry hanging with Ian.
"Bill and I got to be friends with him," Mills explains. "We'd go over to his house and he'd start playing us the Damned, Chelsea, the Ramones, the Dead Boys, the Sex Pistols and I would put on the headphones and play his bass along with the records, going, 'Wow, this is fun.' That got me interested again. So I bought all my gear back."
Mills repurchased it from...Ian Copeland, who had bought it in the first place. ("I bought it back for less than I sold it," he laughs.)
As F.B.I booking got going, they of course helped establish Athen's own R.E.M and B-52s, as well as hot club acts like Squeeze, and later Ian played a key role in fostering the careers of Simple Minds, The Smiths, Ultravox, UB40, Peter Tosh, Siouxsie & the Banshees , nine inch nails, Joan Jett, the Dead Kennedys, The Ramones,Sting, Snoop Dogg, Modern English, Jane's Addiction and the Cure. There's nary a band on Ian's F.B.I era roster that wasn't brought to concert circuit prominence.
In 1995, he left the biz, and published an autobiography "Wild Thing" that detailed some of his exploits and how three sons of a C.I.A agent conquered the eighties rock scene. His Alabama-born father has also written three books about his experiences with the C.I.A.: The Game of Nations, The Real Spy World, and The Game Player.
Said Joan Jett in the forward of Ian's book :
"Ian Copeland was a larger than life figure when I met him. The whispers about his "spy" family only heightened the aura of romance and intrigue about him. His ear for music was legendary and he worked in an independent , cowboy like way that made him as cool as his acts.
Ian helped define rock for a generation. His belief in The Police, R.E.M.
and a hundred other acts helped spawn the alternative music revolution that
we're experiencing today.
He was one of the coolest and smartest guys in rock and roll.
said Joan's longtme manager Kenny Laguna said on Ian's passing:
I always thought Ian Copeland was invincible. He was one of my heroes from the time I first heard about his pioneering during the New Wave explosion of the late 70's and early 80's. His three years on Highway 13 in dangerous combat only made my view of him as a super human more indelible. He was as brave in business as he was in war... We are so sad. We will always love Ian Copeland, and we will never forget that without him, our success would not have been possible.
Thank you Ian, for everything you have done for me. The love you give lasts forever.
Said Sting via his website
"Ian Copeland was both my friend and my booking agent for most of my career. He lived his life with the easy going, relaxed philosophy of a man who'd been under fire and survived, as if the violence that he'd witnessed and taken part in during his service in Viet Nam had given him a broader perspective on the important things of life. He was not driven by any grandiose ambitions, or the impossible demands of an overblown ego. He was self possessed and confident enough to take genuine pleasure in the worldly success of those close to him without taking any of it too seriously.Very little seemed to phase him, his agreeable humor became a constant that could be relied on as a counter to the often hysterical absurdities of a music business in constant flux and turmoil.
I would seek out the pleasure of his company, marvel at his dry wit, and listen raptly to his self deprecating, humorous and often terrifying stories. He was a brave man to the end, a great father and mentor, an inspiration to all of those who worked with him, 'Leroy' was the life and soul of any party. The world is a darker place now that he's gone. We shall miss him terribly."
Stewart Copeland said of his brother's passing:
My brother Ian has died. His last weeks were peaceful and serene,surrounded by his family. He met his fate with courage, grace and even alittle humor. After Miles update on this site, I was able to relay to him your flood of prayers and good wishes. He liked that. He was very weak but was able to say 'Cheers and regards'. I am devastated beyond words.
Later a successful restauranteur, here's a half hour audio interview with Ian Copeland from 2005 via the Electric Sky podcast done from his Beverly Hill's restauraunt The Backstage Cafe
The location : Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park
1218 Glendon Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90024
If anyone wishes to make a donation to a melanoma research foundation in Ian's honor, his daughter barbarasuggests that they may send it to:
Attn: Melissa B. Sohn
300 East 59th Street ( Suite 502)
New York, N.Y. 10022
A link for info about the charity is: http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=local&id=4166821
Urgh! A Music War, featured here previously, is one of the great documents of the New Wave era, and features over 120 minutes of live music.
- "Driven To Tears" The Police
- "Back In Flesh" Wall Of Voodoo
- "Danced" Toyah Wilcox
- "Enola Gay" Orchestral Manoeuvres
- "I'm On Fire" Chelsea
- "Ain't This The Life" Oingo Boingo
- "Puppet" Echo and the Bunnymen
- "Foolish I Know" Jools Holland
- "Respectable Street" XTC
- "Where's Captain Kirk?" Athletico Spizz 80
- "We Got The Beat" Go-Go's
- "Bleed For Me" Dead Kennedys
- "Klu Klux Klan" Steel Pulse
- "Down In The Park" Gary Numan
- "Bad Reputation" Joan Jett
- "Model Worker" Magazine
- "My Beach" Surf Punks
- Offshore Banking" Members
- "Come Again" Au Pairs
- "Tear It Up" Cramps
- "Valium" Invisible Sex
- "Birdies" Pere Ubu
- "Uncontrolablle Urge" Devo
- "Nothing Means Nothing Anymore" Alley Cats
- "Cheryl's Going Home" John Otway
- "He'd Send In The Army" Gang Of Four
- "Homicide" 999
- "Shadow Line" Fleshtones
- "Beyond and Back" X
- "Sign Of The Cross" Skafish
- "Two Little Boys" Splodgeness Abounds
- "Madame Medusa" UB 40
- "Roxanne / So Lonely" The Police
- "Aria From Samson & Delilah Klaus Nomi
If you'd like to order a copy of this seminal film, and sadly out of print classic Urgh! A Music War, I'll send you a homemade region free NTSC DVD version for $20 if you use this PayPal link...
Buy Urgh ! on DVD
Here's some music associated with the storied career of Ian Copeland and his long list of former clients
Police - Walking On The Moon
UB40 - Red Red Wine
Go-Go's - Head Over Heels
R.E.M - 1000000 ( live 1984)
R.E.M - So You Wanna Be A Rock N Roll Star ( live 1984 WLIR)
Gang of Four - It Doesn't Matter(live 1983)
Gang oF Four - He'd Send In The Army ( live 1980 from Urgh!)
Oingo Boingo - Ain't This The Life (also from Urgh! soundtrack 1980 )
Oingo Boingo - Only A Lad
Dave Wakeling - Never Die(acoustic version)
English Beat - Mirror In The Bathroom
English Beat - Sorry
Smiths - How Soon Is Now
Ultravox - Vienna(live on BBC)
Ultravox - Dancing With Tears In My Eyes