1934 - 1967 (32 years)
Has 4 ancestors but no descendants in this family tree.
||Brian Epstein |
||19 Sep 1934
||Liverpool, Lancaster, England
||27 Aug 1967
||London, Middlesex, England
||10 Apr 2007 |
||Alma Cogan, b. 19 May 1932, Stepney, London, Middlesex, England , d. 26 Oct 1966 (Age 34 years) |
||10 Apr 2007 |
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
- an English impresario , who is best known as the manager of the Beatles .
Epstein took over management of the Beatles when they were just one of over 300 "beat" groups in Liverpool striving for success. Though he had no previous experience in artist management, Epstein persuaded George Martin to sign the Beatles to EMI 's small Parlophone label after the group had been rejected by every major British record company. Under Epstein's guidance and management, the Beatles went on to have massive international success.
Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose at his home in London in August 1967 . The importance of Epstein to the success of the Beatles is underscored by the opinions of two of its members. In 1970, John Lennon attributed the eventual dissolution of the group to Epstein's death. "I knew that we were in trouble then..." In 1997, Paul McCartney said of Epstein: "If anyone was the Fifth Beatle , it was Brian."
Epstein was born into a Jewish family in Liverpool, England.
During WWII, the Epsteins moved to Southport to escape The Blitz\emdash where two schools expelled Epstein for laziness and poor performance\emdash but returned to Liverpool in 1945. After his parents had moved him from one boarding school to another, the 14-year-old Epstein spent two years at Wrekin College, in Shropshire. Shortly before his sixteenth birthday in 1950, he sent a long letter to his father, explaining that he wanted to become a dress designer. Harry Epstein was adamantly opposed to this idea, and his son finally had to "report for duty" at the family's furniture shop.
In December 1951, Epstein was drafted\emdash as a clerk\emdash into the Royal Army Service Corps, and was posted to the Albany Street Barracks near Regent's Park, in London. He was often reprimanded for not picking up his army pay, and had a tailor make an officer's uniform for him that he wore when cruising the bars of London. Epstein was arrested one night (for impersonating an officer) at the Army and Navy Club on Piccadilly by the Military Police, but managed to avoid a court martial by agreeing to see an army psychiatrist, who uncovered Epstein's homosexuality. He was discharged from the army after ten months on the medical grounds of being "emotionally and mentally unfit".
In 1955, at the age of twenty-one, Epstein was made a director of NEMS. In September of 1956, he took a trip to London to meet a friend, but after being there for only one day, he was robbed of his passport, birth certificate, chequebook, wristwatch, and all the money he had on him. As he did not want his parents to find out, he worked as department store clerk until he had earned enough money to buy a train ticket back to Liverpool. Back in Liverpool, he confessed "everything" to a psychiatrist - a friend of the Epstein family - who suggested to Harry Epstein that his son should leave Liverpool as soon as possible. During the sessions Epstein had revealed his ambition of becoming an actor, so his parents allowed him go to London to study.
Epstein attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. His RADA classmates included actors Susannah York, Albert Finney and Peter O'Toole, but Epstein dropped out after the third term. Back in Liverpool, Harry Epstein put his son in charge of the record department of the newly-opened NEMS music store on Great Charlotte Street. Epstein worked "day and night" at the store to make it a success, and it became one of the biggest musical retail outlets in the North of England.
The Epsteins opened a second store at 12-14 Whitechapel, and Epstein was put in charge of the entire operation. Epstein often walked across the road to the Lewis department store\emdash which had a music section\emdash where Peter Brown was employed. He watched Brown's sales technique and was impressed enough to lure Brown to work for NEMS with the offer of a higher salary and a commission on sales. On 3 August 1961, Epstein started a regular music column in the Mersey Beat magazine, called, 'Record Releases, by Brian Epstein of NEMS'.
Epstein supposedly first noticed the Beatles' name in issues of Mersey Beat, and on numerous posters around Liverpool, before asking Bill Harry who they were. Harry had previously convinced Epstein to sell the Mersey Beat magazine at NEMS, and The Beatles were featured on the front page of the second issue of Mersey Beat. Epstein later asked Alistair Taylor about the 'My Bonnie' single that the Beatles had recorded with Tony Sheridan, in Germany in NEMS some months after its release. Epstein's version of the story was that a customer\emdash Raymond Jones\emdash walked into the NEMS shop and asked Epstein for the "My Bonnie" single, which made Epstein curious about the Beatles.
On 9 November 1961, Epstein asked Bill Harry to arrange for Epstein and Taylor to watch the Beatles perform at a lunchtime concert in the crowded Cavern Club, which was not far from the NEMS store. Epstein and Taylor were allowed into the club without queuing, and a welcome was announced over the club's public-address system after the Beatles had performed by Bob Wooler, who was the resident DJ. Epstein later talked about the Beatles' performance:
" I was immediately struck by their music, their beat, and their sense of humour on stage\emdash and, even afterwards, when I met them, I was struck again by their personal charm. And it was there that, really, it all started. "
After their performance, Epstein and Taylor went into the dressing room\emdash which was "as big a broom cupboard"\emdash to talk to them. The Beatles immediately recognised Epstein\emdash as they were regular customers at NEMS\emdash but before Epstein could congratulate them on their performance, George Harrison said, "And what brings Mr. Epstein here?" Epstein went to the Cavern for the next three weeks whenever the Beatles played there, and in a meeting with the Beatles at NEMS on 10 December 1961, he proposed the idea of managing them. Epstein contacted their previous booking agent, Allan Williams, to confirm that Williams no longer had any ties to them, but Williams advised Epstein "not to touch them with a barge pole".
The four Beatles signed a five-year contract with Epstein on 24 January 1962. Although Epstein had had no prior experience of artist management, he had a strong influence on the Beatles' early dress-code and attitude on stage. When Epstein discovered the band, they wore blue jeans and leather jackets, performing at rowdy rock 'n' roll shows where they would stop and start songs when they felt like it, or when an audience member requested a certain song. Epstein encouraged them to wear suits and ties, and insisted that they stop swearing, smoking, drinking or eating onstage. He also suggested the famous synchronised bow at the end of their performances.McCartney was the first of the Beatles to agree with Epstein's ideas, believing it was\emdash in part\emdash due to Epstein's RADA training.
Epstein made numerous trips to London from Liverpool to visit record companies, in the hope of securing a record contract for the Beatles, but was rejected by every major record label in Britain, including Columbia, Pye, Philips, Oriole, and most famously, Decca (see The Decca audition). The Beatles later found out that Epstein had paid Decca producer Tony Meehan (ex-drummer of the Shadows) to produce the studio recordings. While Epstein was negotiating with Decca, he also approached EMI marketing executive Ron White. White later contacted EMI producers Norrie Paramor, Walter Ridley, and Norman Newell, but they all declined to record the Beatles. White could not contact EMI's fourth staff producer (Martin) as he was on holiday.
On 8 February 1962, Epstein visited a HMV store in Oxford Street, London, to have the Decca audition tape transferred to disc. A HMV technician named Jim Foy liked the recordings, and suggested that Epstein should contact Parlophone's George Martin. On 9 May 1962, Epstein was eventually able to persuade Martin to sign the Beatles to EMI's small Parlophone label, without Martin ever having seen them play live.
Martin scheduled an audition\emdash at Abbey Road Studios\emdash which they passed, but with one exception: Martin did not like drummer Pete Best's playing. When the news came that Martin wanted to replace Best on their recordings with a session drummer, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison asked Epstein to fire Best from the band. Epstein agonised about the decision, and asked Bob Wooler if it was a good idea, to which Wooler replied that Best was very popular with the fans and they wouldn't like it at all. Ringo Starr took his place, as Starr had previously played with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, and had previously stepped in to drum with the Beatles when Best was ill or unable to play.
After Candlestick Park
The Beatles' hectic schedule of touring, television, and film work between 1963-65 kept Epstein and the Beatles very busy. After the Beatles' last live concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California on 29 August 1966, Epstein's management duties changed to reflect the changing nature of the Beatles' career. He wanted them to continue touring, however, but the Beatles adamantly refused. By 1967, the Beatles were paying less attention to Epstein's advice on many issues, such as the legally risky cover art of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Epstein later brought Robert Stigwood into the NEMS organisation, and wanted to sell the control of NEMS to him, but didn't tell the Beatles about his decision.
Before Epstein's death, McCartney had been taking a much more active interest in the Beatles' finances, and the group was becoming aware that some artists with more ruthless managers\emdash such as the Rolling Stones under Allen Klein\emdash claimed to be receiving more commercially advantageous terms. After Epstein's death, Stigwood wanted to take over the management of the Beatles\emdash believing that he was the "natural successor"\emdash but the Beatles vehemently opposed him, with Lennon saying, "We don't know you. Why would we do this?"
McCartney admitted that they signed all the contracts Epstein presented to them without reading them first, but when Lennon was asked for a comment about the Beatles' business dealings after Epstein's death, he said, "Well, he [Epstein] was alright. I've found out since, of course, that he wasn't quite as honest to us as he made out".
Although the Beatles signed Epstein's first management contract, Epstein did not sign it himself, thereby giving himself the option of withdrawing at any time. The contract could not have been legally binding on McCartney and Harrison in any case, as they were both still minors (at the time the age of majority in England was 21) and thus lacked the legal capacity to sign a binding contract. The first contract stated that Epstein would receive a management commission of 25 per cent of the Beatles' gross income after a certain threshold had been reached. The Beatles argued for a smaller percentage, but Epstein pointed out that he had been paying their expenses for months, without receiving anything in return.
Epstein once offered to pay the Beatles a fixed wage of £50-a-week for life, instead of receiving money from record sales. Harrison commented that he was earning £25 a week at the time, which was more than the £10 a week his father was earning, but the Beatles declined Epstein's offer, as they thought that they were worth much more than £50-a-week. After the release of Love Me Do in 1962, Epstein signed a second (and legally binding) contract with the Beatles.
The recording contract that EMI offered Epstein for the Beatles gave them one penny for each single sold, which was split amongst the four Beatles, meaning one farthing per group member. The royalty rate was further reduced for singles sold outside the UK, on which the Beatles received half of one penny (again split between the whole band) per single. Martin said later that EMI had "nothing to lose" by signing a contract with the Beatles.
Epstein booked the Beatles' concerts himself, and also presented groups managed by NEMS as an opening act for the Beatles, thereby making money for NEMS as the promoter, booking agent, and Manager for all their concerts. As promoters were desperate to book the Beatles, Epstein avoided paying some tax by accepting "hidden" fees on the night of a performance, which he always kept in a brown paper bag. In addition to managing the Beatles, Epstein also successfully managed Gerry & the Pacemakers, who were the second group to sign with Epstein, and recorded for Columbia Records, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (who had three hits with Lennon-McCartney songs) the Fourmost (their first two singles were written by Lennon) the Cyrkle (Epstein's first American group) Cilla Black (who was Epstein's only female artist) as well as other artists.
On the Beatles' first flight to America Epstein was constantly offered numerous samples of products by merchandisers\emdash who required a licence from Epstein to sell them\emdash including clocks, pens, plastic wigs, bracelets, and games, but Epstein and the Beatles rejected all of them. David Jacobs, the lawyer for NEMS, had already given away some exclusive merchandising rights to Nicky Byrne in England, which later turned out to be a financial mistake as Epstein had asked for a percentage that was far below the norm at the time. Once the Beatles were ensconced in the Plaza hotel in New York, Epstein was further besieged by calls and visits from merchandisers, promoters, television commentators, and hustlers\emdash all demanding to talk to him. Capitol records\emdash mindful of the number of records the Beatles were selling in America\emdash sent a posh, well-spoken Yorkshire girl, Wendy Hanson, to the Plaza hotel to act as Epstein's secretary, and to filter his calls. Hanson later worked solely with Epstein in his Albemarle Street office, which was separate from the NEMS office.
Epstein asked James Trevor Isherwood (a Chartered Accountant) to set up a company to collect Lennon and McCartney's PRS payments\emdash called Lenmac\emdash which he did on 12 May 1964. When he first visited Epstein's office, Isherwood was surprised to learn that Epstein took 25% of the Beatles' gross income, and not what he imagined was the usual 10% that other managers received at that time. All of Epstein's expenses were also deducted from the Beatles' income, which meant office rental, staff wages, travel, telephone costs, and entertaining expenses. Before his death, Epstein knew that the renegotiation of his contract with the Beatles (on 30 September 1967) would reduce his management fee from 25 per cent to 10 per cent, as The Beatles were no longer touring.
Epstein arranged for the Beatles to enter into a publishing agreement with Dick James Music (DJM) and set up a company called Northern Songs. James received 25 per cent of the shares, and Charles Silver\emdash his financial partner and accountant\emdash also received 25 per cent. Lennon and McCartney received 20 per cent each, and Epstein held the remaining 10 per cent. After the PRS income from the Beatles increased rapidly, Epstein asked Isherwood to work out a way of avoiding the tax that Lennon and McCartney would have to pay. Isherwood suggested a Stock-market flotation for Northern Songs, and further advised Epstein that the Beatles should move to houses near his [Isherwood's] in Esher during the flotation, which Lennon, Harrison, and Starr did\emdash with only Epstein and McCartney remaining in London.
In July 1966, when the Beatles were touring the Philippines, Epstein unintentionally snubbed the nation's first lady, Imelda Marcos. When presented with an invitation to a breakfast party, Epstein politely declined on behalf of the group, as it had never been the Beatles' policy to accept such official invitations. After the group boarded the plane to fly home, Epstein and Mal Evans were ordered off, with both believing they would not be allowed back on the plane. Epstein was forced to give back most of the money that the Beatles had earned in the Philippines before being allowed back on the plane.
After moving to London Epstein rented an office in Monmouth Street\emdash close to Seven Dials\emdash in 1965, and later leased the Saville Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. He promoted new works by writers such as Arnold Wesker in productions that occasionally fell afoul of the Lord Chamberlain by including "obscene" content or nudity. Epstein changed the programme to that of a music venue in 1966, presenting various U.S. acts.
Brian Epstein smiles between George Harrison and John Lennon in a 1966 photo from the cover of Debbie Geller's 2000 book of transcribed interviews about Epstein.Throughout Epstein's life he was known to be kind and caring to his family, friends of his family, business colleagues, and the Beatles. When Lennon married Cynthia Powell, on 23 August 1962, at the Mount Pleasant Register office in Liverpool, he attended the wedding as the "best man", and paid for their lunch afterwards, which cost him 15 shillings per person. He later paid for a private room in a hospital (at twenty-seven shillings a day) during Cynthia's pregnancy, ensuring that she was registered under her maiden name of Powell. Epstein also offered the Lennons the sole use of his flat on Faulkner Street, Liverpool, when they needed somewhere to live, and agreed to be Julian Lennon's godfather (Lennon and Cynthia's son).
Epstein was homosexual, which was not publicly known until a long time after his death, although it was an open secret among his friends and business associates\emdash including the Beatles.
Whilst Epstein was studying acting at RADA, he was arrested for "persistent importuning", and was later blackmailed by an ex-Guardsman\emdash Billy Connolly\emdash which led to him dropping out after his third term. Throughout the later court case against Connolly, Epstein was referred to as "Mr. X", as the law allowed anonymity at that time. McCartney said that the Beatles knew Epstein was a homosexual, but didn't care, because Epstein greatly encouraged them when record companies turned them down, and used to take them to late-night drinking clubs they had previously never had access to. Although Lennon often made sarcastic comments about Epstein's homosexuality to the Beatles and to Epstein personally, nobody outside their closed circle was allowed to comment on it. Ian Sharp\emdash one of Lennon's art school friends\emdash once made a sarcastic remark about Epstein but was sent a letter by Epstein's office within forty-eight hours that demanded a complete apology. Sharp apologised, but was completely ostracised by the Beatles, and was told by McCartney in a letter to have no contact at all with any of them in the future.
There were rumours of a brief sexual encounter between Lennon and Epstein when they both went on a four-day holiday together to Barcelona, Spain in April 1963. Lennon (known for his unflinching candour) always denied this, telling Playboy in 1980: "It was never consummated, but we had a pretty intense relationship." Lennon's first wife Cynthia also maintains that Lennon's relationship with Epstein was platonic. A fictionalised account of the Spanish holiday was portrayed in the film "The Hours and Times". One source, longtime Lennon friend and confidant Peter Shotton, claimed in his book, The Beatles, Lennon and Me, that under provocation from Epstein, Lennon did partly give in: "I let him toss me off, and that was it." Biographer Hunter Davies also recalled Lennon telling him he had consented to an encounter "to see what it was like." Writer Albert Goldman expanded on both claims in his The Lives of John Lennon, alleging a longtime affair between the two men. Despite his soft-spoken manner and dapper appearance, Epstein was strongly attracted to "rough trade", often seeking illicit encounters with abusive partners. He was the object of blackmail, battery, and threats by a number of these partners.
Epstein's strongest relationship with a woman was with Alma Cogan, who was also Jewish and was a part of the glitzy world of old-fashioned show business. Epstein always bought her presents when he was abroad with the Beatles, and even took her to Liverpool to meet his parents. Despite Epstein's preference for male company, some of his friends believed they would eventually get married.
In October 1964, Epstein's autobiography, A Cellarful of Noise, was published in the UK and later in the U.S. It was co-written by journalist Derek Taylor, who had served as Epstein's assistant that year, then later as publicist for The Beatles from 1968-1970. (Lennon reportedly once quipped that the memoir should have been titled A Cellarful of Boys).
Male homosexual relations were illegal throughout UK until late 1967 (only one month after Epstein's death) when gay male sexuality was legalised in England and Wales (remaining illegal in Scotland and Northern Ireland until 1980 and 1982, respectively).
After the start of his management of the Beatles, Epstein started taking amphetamines\emdash usually Preludin, which was legal at that time\emdash which the Beatles also took and had previously taken in Hamburg. He explained his use of the drug as the only way of staying awake at night during the Beatles' numerous concert tours. In 1964, Brown started to notice that Epstein was taking too many pills, because Epstein often had a cough at parties, which Brown knew was Epstein's way of secretly putting pills into his mouth without anyone noticing. McCartney often met Epstein at late-night clubs in London, and remembered that Epstein would often "grind his jaws", and once said, "Ugghhh, the pills..." to McCartney.
In 1964, after having been introduced to cannabis by Bob Dylan in New York, McCartney remembered Epstein standing in front of a mirror, pointing at himself and repeatedly saying "Jew!", and laughing loudly, which McCartney found hilarious and "very liberating". Epstein later became heavily involved in the 1960s drug scene, and during the four months when the Beatles were recording the Sgt. Pepper album Epstein spent his time on holiday, or at the Priory Clinic, in Putney, London, where he tried unsuccessfully to curb his drug use. He left the Priory for the party to launch "Sgt. Pepper" to selected journalists at his house at 24 Chapel Street, but went back to the Priory afterwards. After McCartney's admission on 19 June 1967, of his use of LSD, Epstein defended McCartney to the Media\emdash admitting that he had also taken it himself.
When the Beatles were visiting Elvis Presley in America, Colonel Tom Parker showed Epstein a gambling table, and several packs of playing cards. Epstein straightened his bow tie and immediately wanted to play, as he was known for his love of gambling for high-stakes. McCartney frequently visited gambling clubs in London, such as the 'Curzon House' (which was Epstein's favourite club) and often saw Brian Epstein gambling there. McCartney once saw Epstein put a Dunhill lighter on the table that was worth £100, and then lose it during a game of cards. Epstein would often lose thousands of pounds by playing baccarat or chemin de fer, but would stay at the Curzon House the whole evening\emdash eating an expensive meal and drinking fine wines. The club never presented Epstein with a bill, as they knew that he lost so much in their casino.
A few weeks before his death, Epstein attended a traditional shiva in Liverpool after his father's death, having just come out of the Priory clinic, where he had been trying to cure his acute insomnia and his addiction to amphetamines. Epstein's last visit to a Beatles' recording session was on 23 August 1967, at the Chappell Recording Studios on Maddox street, London.
On Thursday 24 August, Epstein asked Brown and Geoffrey Ellis down to Kingsly Hall, which was his country home in Uckfield, Sussex, for the Bank Holiday weekend. After they got there, Epstein decided to drive back to London by himself because an expected group of people he had invited failed to arrive. Epstein phoned Brown the next day at 5 o'clock in the afternoon from his Chapel Street house in London. Brown thought that Epstein sounded "very groggy", and suggested that Epstein take a train back down to Kingsley Hall instead of driving under the influence of Tuinals. Epstein replied that he would eat something, read his mail and watch Juke Box Jury before phoning Brown to tell him which train to meet. He never called again.
Epstein died of a drug overdose on 27 August 1967, the weekend the Beatles were in Bangor, Wales, meeting with the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Epstein had previously agreed to travel to Bangor and join the Beatles after the August Bank Holiday. A concert by Jimi Hendrix was cancelled on the same day that Epstein died at the Saville Theatre (which Epstein leased) out of respect. At the statutory inquest, his death was officially ruled accidental, and was probably caused by a gradual buildup of Carbitral in his system, mixed with alcohol. It was revealed that he had taken six Carbitral pills in order to sleep, which was probably usual for Epstein, but meant that his tolerance was very close to becoming lethal.
Brown claimed in his memoir, The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles, that he had once found a suicide note written by Epstein and spoke with him directly about it. According to Brown, the note read in part, "This is all too much and I can't take it anymore." A short will and testament followed, in which Epstein left his house and money to his mother and his brother (Brown himself was a small beneficiary). When confronted with the note, Epstein told Brown that he was grateful Brown had not told anyone about it, and told him that he was sorry he had made Brown worry. He explained that he had simply had taken one pill too many and that he didn't intend to overdose and promised to be more careful from then on. Brown later wrote that he should have given the note to Epstein's doctor, Norman Cowan, who would have stopped prescribing drugs for Epstein.
None of the Beatles were in attendance at Epstein's funeral\emdash wishing to give his family privacy by not attracting the media and the Beatles' fans. A few weeks later, all four Beatles attended a memorial service for Epstein at the New London Synagogue in St. John's Wood (near the Abbey Road studios) which was officiated by Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who eulogised Epstein, saying: "He encouraged young people to sing of love and peace rather than war and hatred."
While the Beatles were among the earliest entrants into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the man almost universally regarded as having been responsible for guiding them to their success has never been considered for membership in the Hall's "Non-Performer's Section". Epstein was overlooked when all four of the Beatles were honoured with the MBE in 1965 (even though Harrison once said that MBE stood for "Mister Brian Epstein"). Beatles scholar and producer Martin Lewis\emdash a protegé of Derek Taylor\emdash has become a vocal champion of Epstein's memory, creating "The Official Brian Epstein Website", which includes a petition that Epstein be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lewis also organized the 1998 re-publication\emdash in the U.S.\emdash of Epstein's 1964 autobiography A Cellarful Of Noise.
McCartney summarised the importance of Epstein to the Beatles when he was interviewed, in 1997, for a BBC documentary about Epstein. He stated: "If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian." In his 1970 Rolling Stone interview, John Lennon commented about Epstein's death: "I knew that we were in trouble then... I thought, we've fuckin' had it!" Alistair Taylor \endash personal assistant to Epstein (1960-1967) described the extent of Lennon's faith in the importance to the Beatles of Epstein in an on-camera interview shown in the TV documentary "The Beatles' Biggest Success" (2004). "When John heard about Brian's death he said to me: 'We're fucked now' \endash and he meant it..."