O’Dell started off in music in the 1970s as a lighting technician then Lighting Designer. In his early years, he worked with Curved Air & Deep Purple amongst others. He also worked at the Rainbow Theatre on David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust tour & Pink Floyd’s Eclipse (soon to become Dark Side Of The Moon) productions as well as all the shows there.
In the mid 70s, he started working with the Sensational Alex Harvey Band as Lighting & Production Designer & was responsible, along with Alex, for many theatrical touches to their show including a polystyrene brick wallpapered wall which Alex would break thru for the song “Framed” (“I never did nothing!”), a papier mache street lamp for the private detective song “Man In The Jar” & stockings over the heads of a string section for SAHB’s tango rendition of Jacques Brel’s “Next” on OGWT.
O’Dell went on to Tour Manage the Stranglers on their “Peaches”/“Rattus Norvegicus” heyday tour in summer 1977. One of the supports on that tour was the ironically named The Pop Group. O’Dell decided to manage them & signed them to Andrew Lauder’s Radar Records. Their seminal album Y, including the extraordinary single “She’s Beyond Good & Evil”, was released in 1978. Reggae maestro Dennis Bovell produced that album & was producing another seminal album, the Slits’ Cut & introduced them to O’Dell who became their manager too.After both groups had left their respective labels, O’Dell started indie label Y Records in the early 80s which started as vehicle for further records by both bands but became known for its eclectic output. As well as conventional albums, Y released a Sun Ra album & several experimental albums the most notorious being Diamanda Galas’ “The Litanies Of Satan”.O’Dell had a massive hit in 1981 with Pigbag’s “Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag” which he also produced & was only kept off the No 1 chart slot by the appalling “Ebony & Ivory” MCartney/Wonder collab.
Y had further success with Shriekback formed by Dave Allen (Gang Of Four who O’Dell had advised in their early days) & Barry Andrews (XTC). The group had several chart successes including “My Spine is the Bassline” & “All Lined Up”. Their music was licensed to the Michael Mann pre Anthony Hopkins Hannibal Lecter film Manhunter which starred William Peterson who went on to star in hit TV series CSI.
O’Dell then went on to manage the IRS group Torch Song & in particular William Orbit. He developed Orbit as a remixer culminating in stunning mixes of Prince’s “Batdance” & “The Future” & Madonna’s “Justify My Love” amongst many others. Madonna was so taken with the Justify mix that she had Orbit co- produce her “Ray of Light” album which is still her most successful record. O’Dell also managed Orbit’s Bassomatic outfit who had a No 4 chart hit with “Fascinating Rhythm” in 1991. The pair, inspired by the burgeoning acid house scene in the early 90s, formed indie dance label Guerrilla Records. They won Mixmag’s Album Of The Year award in 1992 for their compilation Dub House Disco & sent DJ packages out all over the world.
After Guerrilla finished O’Dell travelled for a few years before re-entering music by managing Ed Harcourt who he signed to Heavenly Recordings/EMI & who’s 1st album Here Be Monsters was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2001.
O”Dell then discovered Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan) & nurtured her thru 2 Mercury nominated albums “Fur & Gold” in 2007 & “Two Suns” (which included hit single “Daniel”) in 2009, an Ivor Novello award in 2010 & several Brit Award Nominations in 2008 & 2010.. She also toured the world with Radiohead & Coldplay.
In 2014 Daniel Miller approached O”Dell to head up the newly formed Mute Management. O’Dell saw Liars thru their well received album Mess & signed US agit rock band Algiers who released their eponymous debut on Matador Records in 2015 to great acclaim.
O’Dell retired from the music business in 2017 & has since turned his hand to broadcasting, having already done 2 shows for NTS, & writing a book about his adventures in music from the late 1950s to 2010. He is also developing a “live” show with visuals which will expand several sections from the book with Q&As built in.