Brian Epstein, 1934-1967

by | Aug 29, 2007 | Stress Blog | 13 comments

I’ve been reading Philip Norman’s book “Shout”, a history of the Beatles. A substantial portion of the book is about their manager Brian Epstein. “Eppy” died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills 40 years ago on August 27, 1967. The Beatles, as we think of them, is the work of Brian Epstein — it’s a simple as that. Yes, the music was written by John and Paul, for the most part, but consider this:

* Brian fought for the group to get their first recording contract, and introduced them to George Martin, himself having a major influence, although only on the music.
* Brian fired Pete Best and replaced him with Ringo Starr. Best was a terrible drummer who Martin refused to record with the others.
* Brian changed their image from leather jackets tough (which they weren’t good at – they weren’t tough), to business suits and short hair. He stopped their smoking on stage, made them smile and have fun and play to the audience. Lennon would have preferred leather and bar-fights every night.
* Brian’s attention to detail meant the group never had to worry about where they were playing, what songs they would play, how much money they would make, what hotel they were staying in etc. Brian kept people on hand at all times well funded to take care of whatever the boys might want. Epstein’s ability to take care of small details was astonishing. After his death, the absence of this stabilizing influence helped lead to the group’s breakup.
* Brian diffused two major scandals. The first was Lennon’s infamous “We’re more popular than Jesus now” interview. Brian arranged for Lennon’s apology after releasing statements clarifying what John was trying to say. This helped the burning of Beatles merchandise, which was going on in the American South, come to a swift end. The other scandal was when McCartney admitted he’d taken LSD. Brian immediately arranged for the entire group, including himself, to admit the same. The tone of the admission not only diffused the scandal, but soon after, a drug legalization campaign started which changed the discussion entirely.
* Brian arranged for the Beatles to begin making movies, and, under his watch, 2 great films were made; A Hard Day’s Night, and Help! There was even talk that The Beatles might be the next Marx Bros!

More testament to his positive influence is what happened after he died. The group only survived 2 years, until September 1969, without Brian. McCartney released his disastrous “Magical Mystery Tour” film, to ruinous reviews. Brian Epstein Photo This film tarnished the Beatles’ reputation for perfection and infallibility – a reputation Brian created and protected zealously. Shout suggests Brian wouldn’t have allowed McCartney to release Mystery Tour. Lennon’s inexplicable belief in the artistic talents of Yoko Ono was allowed to sneak onto the White Album in the form of the hideous “Revolution 9” which it seems to me features Ono screeching in an attempted bowel movement which lasts an excruciating 8 minutes. The group, with McCartney as their new leader (“Leading us in circles” as John put it) all of a sudden manifested personal tensions that had not been apparent before (when Brian was taking care of the little things).

Brian was not perfect. He was a kind, generous man, but he was a terrible negotiator. Brian and The Beatles were robbed by terrible deals Brian negotiated throughout his career. Although the group became rich, they failed to earn even 10% of their full potential, and most of the blame can be placed on Brian. His generosity meant that fans never had to pay much, that is to say, what they might have paid, to see The Beatles in concert. Brian’s personal life involved homosexuality and drug abuse. Eventually, his entire life was about blackmail and drugs. This was his undoing. However, to his credit, he tried on at least 2 occasions to dry out.

There is a petition to have Brian Epstein inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It is a no-brainer for anyone who loves The Beatles. Please sign here.

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