Brian Epstein: The man who made The Beatles
Monday, August 27, 2007
It was 40 years ago this week that Brian Epstein died. Peter Grant reports
ON the daily Magical Mystery Tour bus around Liverpool, one stop always receives a gasp of recognition when it pulls up outside a swish house on Queen’s Drive the one-time family home of Brian Samuel Epstein.
The man who was instrumental in making The Beatles household names.
Eppy, as he was affectionately called, was just 32 when he died at his London home on August 27, 1967.
Yet this charming man – their second manager after Allan Williams – had achieved so much in his short life.
He was once asked whether he thought it was important that The Beatles came from Liverpool.
Brian, dapper, sophisticated and focused said, with his trademark calm and cool stance: “I would have thought it was imperative.”
His loyalty to ‘his boys’ was unstinting.
Brian’s great achievement was making the music moguls in London stand up and take notice of the band by changing their post- Hamburg image.
Initially running the NEMS music store in Whitechapel, he was intrigued by the emerging Merseybeat music scene even though his own preference was classical music.
Gerry Marsden, who along with a string of Merseybeat bands will pay tribute to Epstein tonight at the Empire, says: “He was a true gentleman and loyal friend.
“A lot of bands still playing in 2007 owe Brian a lot.”
Billy Butler, one time Cavern DJ, says Brian was the best record shop boss ever.
“He was meticulous in cataloguing records and knowing where to get them. He had an amazing talent for finding requested records.”
Billy’s testament is illustrated by Eppy in his own words from his best-selling autobiography A Cellarful Of Noise.
“On Saturday, October 28, 1961, I was asked by a young boy for a record by The Beatles.
“I wrote on a pad ‘My Bonnie’ ... check on Monday.
“I had never given a thought to any of the Liverpool Beat groups then up- and-coming in cellar clubs; they were not part of my life because I was out of the age group and also because I had been too busy.
“The name ‘Beatles’ meant nothing to me though I vaguely recall seeing it on a poster advertising a dance at New Brighton Tower.
“Before I had time to check, two girls came in and asked for the disc. This, contrary to legend, was the sum total of the demand of The Beatles disc this time in Liverpool.
“Then a girl I know said ’The Beatles, they’re the greatest, and they are at The Cavern this week’.”
Eppy was a visionary who knew that The Beatles would be as popular as Elvis. He also guided Cavern cloakroom girl Cilla Black in her early days and predicted that she would be a major TV star. Mike McCartney, whose band The Scaffold was managed by Brian, says: “He was very much a theatrical.”
“He came around to our house in Forthlin Road. Dad was impressed by Brian. He liked his impeccable manners and his flash car, too.”
John later summed up the respect they all had for Brian from the first time they met him in The Cavern on November 9, 1961.
“We were in a daydream till he came along. We had complete faith in him when he was running us. To us he was the expert. He went round smarmin’ and a charmin’ everyone. We’d never have made it without him and vice versa.”
Even though he would later despair at endless rejection letters, Brian never gave up.
Although Decca turned them down he finally secured the attention of George Martin at Parlophone – a label specialising in comedy work.
History was made.
From The Cavern to Abbey Road to the Hollywood Bowl, Brian was there for them every step of the way – a guiding light.
He was happy at the party he gave at his Belgrave home celebrating the launch of Sgt Pepper – their masterpiece.
Weeks later he was dead. The coroner’s verdict was that he died of an accidental overdose.
Billy Kinsley, of the Merseybeats, says today: “I know that when we left Brian’s management it proved to be the biggest mistake we ever made.
“We later found out he really was the only one we could trust.”
The Beatles were away on a meditation weekend in Bangor, North Wales, when news of Brian’s death reached them.
Marianne Faithfull, who was with them, recalls: “It was simply terrible how heartbroken The Beatles were. They went into close family mode from all the sorrow and pain.”
They had lost their leader, their mentor ... and their best friend.
Soon they would encounter criticism for their first project without him – The Magical Mystery Tour which flopped.
The Beatles were in turmoil and alone.
Brian Epstein had left the stage.
Gerry Marsden and Merseybeat bands perform at the Empire tonight in a show called Dedicated To The Memory of Brian
How I sorted out plans for Brian's Liverpool funeral
Liverpool lawyer Rex Makin recalls the death of Brian Epstein
On August Bank Holiday Monday, 40 years ago, as I was preparing to take my son on an outing, the telephone rang. It was Clive Epstein, brother of Brian.
He was anguished, naturally, because Brian had been found dead the day before in his elegant Belgravia town house.
He asked me to come down which I did immediately, flying from Speke to be met by a Beatles limousine and swished to the house.
Brian's body had been removed. I went to the bedroom to see the various personal items around and I made arrangements for his funeral in Liverpool, having spoken to the coroner and also to the Rabbi, whose previous ministry was at Greenbank Drive Synagogue where the Epsteins were members.
I have recounted on previous occasions that the Epsteins lived next door to me in Queens Drive when I got married. I had known Brian before, seeing him at the Philharmonic and other places.
Working in the family business he regularly called on me as a neighbour to flog me various items and told me of his progress in the record business.
He told me he had discovered a group who would be earth- shattering and unique and would conquer the world. I took all this with a pinch of salt but he was right and I was wrong.
I could have, if I had wished, hitched my own star to the Beatles wagon but I chose not to. Who knows what might have been – perhaps I chose the safer life.
Now is the time when the Mathew Street Festival is upon us and visitors pour into Liverpool to commemorate The Beatles memory. But perhaps not enough recognition is given to Brian's part in being the midwife of this world-wide phenomenon.
There has been agitation for a memorial to Brian in Liverpool. I don't think that is necessary. His memorial is in the universal success of The Beatles.
Brian was only 32 when he died. He accomplished so much in such a short time.
When I had done what had to be done on that Bank Holiday Monday, I was left in the house on my own.
I wanted to get back to Liverpool on the train. The press mob had disappeared and I stood on the step of the house hoping to flag down a taxi when a sports car arrived.
There was a young girl with red hair and she asked if I wanted to go to Euston. I got in and we chatted. She told me she was a journalist. As a result of that journey to Euston, she got a story which the other journalists had missed.
She established herself on a daily paper as a result. Her name was Annie Robinson.
That started a friendship which lasts to this day.