Rest in Peace, Brian Epstein

Brian Epstein, photographed by David Bailey, 1964

Chris Carter’s ever-excellent “Breakfast With the Beatles” reminded me that today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Brian Epstein, the original Beatles obsessive. I’ve written a lot about Brian on this here site, as my own journey through showbiz has proven how important support people are to any showbiz success story.

Brian was uncommonly intelligent, honest and decent in a business not known for these traits; what’s more, he genuinely loved the Beatles, as a group and as individuals, and would do anything to protect them. He was an essential man. So many of rock’s tragedies — the neutering of Elvis, the death of Jimi Hendrix, the Badfinger story — features a lousy manager at their heart. Because of Brian, the Beatles avoided that… for a while. Then, even they succumbed.

I feel a lot of gratitude towards Brian, and no little kinship. He, more than the others in the band’s inner circle — more than Liverpool cronies like Neil and Mal, or paid-professional types like Peter Brown or Derek Taylor — was a fan, just like you and I. He felt the magic. He was Patient Zero for Beatlemania, and anybody crazy enough to read a website like Hey Dullblog should lift a glass to a kindred spirit.

Here are a few noteworthy posts about Brian:

The Brian Epstein Story — 1998 BBC documentary
What If Brian Epstein Lived? — MG’s admittedly rosy reading of an alternate future
1967 Brian Epstein Interview with Murray the K — an interesting glimpse into Brian’s mindset during the  last months of his life
The Dizz Gillespie Story — probably my favorite Hey Dullblog post, written by Devin. Just go read it.



No Comments

  1. Rob Geurtsen wrote:

    Very kind and loving words of appreciation about Brian Epstein. Good to see this. Thx.

  2. evilpants wrote:

    Hi Mike – not been around for a long time cos of astonishingly bad health stuff. Not sure where to put this, but I think there’s an issue with the blog software: twice now I’ve posted a comment under an old old post (called something like “too much time on my hands”, about “Good day sunshine”), and both times the comments have completely disappeared – it hasn’t acknowledged receipt or even sent me confirmation of subscribing for updates – the page simply reloads. That’s unusual – normally if a comment gets eaten, you still see some kind of sign that it was submitted. Maybe the spam system is immediately eating it; let’s see if this comment succeeds in posting.

    I wanna add my comment to your post 🙂

  3. Though he also helped himself to 25% of the Beatles’ earnings, even after they were no longer touring and, by his own admission, he had nothing left to do. The bilking of musicians didn’t start with him, of course, and certainly didn’t stop with him. The music business might be the dirtiest business I know of. Although Epstein truly loved those guys and believed they were the greatest when nobody else did, his hands weren’t really much cleaner than his purely mercenary counterparts.

    • I neglected to add: “and the Beatles themselves were no more generous.” Mal Evans in particular got a raw deal at their hands, and I for one would have been hard pressed not to give poor (untalented) Pete Best an equal share of their first album. It might have kept his head out of the oven, at least. It can’t buy you love, but that’s what you’ll trade for it, apparently.

    • @Sir, I think I have to withhold judgment a bit on that final EMI contract; if Brian really felt that he had nothing to do, it’s unlikely that either party would’ve been able to sit with that agreement for long, and there would’ve been either a renegotiation between himself and the four, or there would’ve been a lawsuit, and I don’t think it ever would’ve come to that. Brian was many things, not all of them praiseworthy, but he wasn’t the kind of man who could live with the permanent enmity of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

      And on a slightly different tack, Brian’s death cost the group millions (billions?), whether he took 25% or 10%. How much more would the MMT movie have earned if it had been done properly? How much more would White have made if he’d convinced them to break it into two? How much more would even one more Beatles LP made? It’s easy to see what Brian did wrong, because he did so much right.

      But you’re right, the 25% thing was sharky– uncharacteristically so. I don’t think it would’ve lasted one meeting, if/when “the boys” discovered it and voiced their displeasure. In fact it’s so uncharacteristic, it makes me wonder if Brian was under some financial pressures we don’t know about — i.e., blackmail. I will say that I think his life and associations were much darker than the public knew: that Dizz was the tip of a very big iceberg. Partly by necessity and partly by choice, Brian associated with a lot of villains, and sooner or later that was going to impact the group. They were very unlucky that he died; but not wholly unlucky, either.

  4. Hologram Sam wrote:

    What I love most about Brian is this: He was first and foremost a Beatle fan. He wasn’t some supercilious trad jazz fan doing a cynical calculation about “the kids” buying the latest fad. He loved the music and he loved the group.
    .
    Brian being paid for doing nothing after the touring stopped reminds me of Yoko getting a credit on a solo John record. When a reporter asked about her contribution, John explained she didn’t play an instrument or help with the composition, but simply sat in the studio. Her presence was comforting.
    .
    Brian doing nothing is worth a thousand Colonel Parkers doing too much. I’m grateful to him for the Hard Day’s Night film. I mean, he could have rushed and signed a lucrative deal with the producers of “Clambake” or “Viva Las Vegas” but he respected his artists and left us a gem.
    .
    Speaking of movies, digging through some archives, I saw this a few days ago:
    .
    from the archive: Francis Ford Coppola and John Lennon correspond about music for “Apocalypse Now.”
    .
    https://twitter.com/CameronCrowe/status/893983788199419904

    • Agree with this 1000% @Sam.

    • Nancy Carr wrote:

      I also second this heartily, Sam. As Michael puts it, Brian was “Patient Zero for Beatlemania,” and the worth of his faith in them was beyond measure. Brian, along with George Martin, deserves our profound gratitude. Neither was perfect, but for both of them love — of the group, in Brian’s case, and of the music, in Martin’s — came first. Few other bands have ever had that kind of rock-solid support.