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Brian Epstein commissions Derek Taylor to ghostwrite A Cellarful Of Noise

One morning in March 1964, Beatles manager Brian Epstein asked Derek Taylor to meet him at the NEMS offices in Liverpool.

Taylor was a Daily Express journalist based in Manchester, though originally from Merseyside. He had become a fervent Beatles supporter after first seeing them live on 30 May 1963, and quickly became a trusted interviewer.

Epstein wished to have his memoirs – published later in 1964 as A Cellarful Of Noise – ghostwritten, and wished to know if Taylor knew of a suitable author.

At the NEMS office, Brian spoke briefly about The Boys’ ‘general plans’ and then asked if I knew of an author who might write a book fir him: ‘my autobiography’. Autobiography, yet, and he not even thirty! I said the only author I knew personally was Raymond Foxall, who was allowed every Tuesday off by the Sunday Express in Manchester to write romantic, action-packed historical novels at home. ‘Not at all the type,’ said Brian. ‘I need someone modern I can get on with right away and trust. Preferably someone who knows something about The Boys.’ I saw before me an opening you could get an elephant through. ‘I’ll write it, if you like,’ I said, my voice dying away.

‘You? Can you spare the time?’ Oh, yes. Why ever not? I already had no spare time so why not add an extra commitment that would make life really unmanageable? The Dr Pangloss in me ignored the inherent dangers and cheerfully accepted on behalf of all of me. I went now to London and there met Ernest Hecht, a bustling entrepreneurial Czech-about-the-publishing-world with a very sharp brain and an open, amused smile. He gave me a copy of My Story by Matt Busby (as featured in John’s funny song ‘Dig It’ in Let It Be), which he had already published, and said he thought we would all get along very well together. Matt Busby…? ‘No, Brian, you and me. Matt Busby is just a guide as to length and style, etc.’ So, I was signed as Brian’s ghost-writer. I didn’t have the first idea of how to write a book, but then I didn’t really have to write a book. It would be journalism in hard covers; critics would have to look elsewhere for great writing.

Derek Taylor
Fifty Years Adrift

On 30 March 1964 Epstein wrote to Taylor with a first payment for his work:

Dear Derek,

In connection with your work on my autobiography I enclose cheque to value £250 as agreed. I will have a “letter agreement” for you covering our arrangement on Friday. Looking forward to seeing you then.

Brian Epstein

A formal contract was drawn up on 31 March, which was signed by Taylor on 4 April.

Dear Derek,

This will confirm our agreement by which you should write on my behalf a book provisionally entitled, “Brian Epstein Autobiography”, and also that you will grant to my designated publishers the sole and exclusive right to publish such a work throughout the world. Furthermore, it is agreed that you will deliver a completed manuscript, including all photographs necessary for its illustration, of the said work by 31st May, 1964. (The cost of procuring and preparing the photographs referred to shall be borne by myself).

In consideration of the foregoing, I have agreed to pay you a fee of nine hundred pounds, and also two percent of the total earnings received by myself in connection with the publication of the said work. It is agreed that two hundred and fifty pounds shall be paid by myself no later than 31st March, 1964; that a further two hundred pounds will be paid to you no later than Friday, 10th April, and that the balance payment of four hundred and fifty pounds will be paid on receipt of the completed manuscript to the publishers.

Accounts for the sales of the said work shall be made up at the 30th June, and the 31st December, although accounts for syndication rights etc. may be received outside these dates.

Your payments from such receipts will be paid to yourself on receipt by myself, and documentation in connection with such receipts is open to inspection by yourself.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Epstein

Although Taylor was happy with the fee, he later expressed bemusement at the low percentage he was entitled to.

Here anyway is this confirmation of our deal and I was very glad to have the cash in pocket. The percentage is a humdinger… two per cent of his earnings. I think that was probably a little piece of ‘stitching up’ but I have no complaints. The corollary to my two per cent is that he got 98% and had he put it that way I might not have signed it so promptly. On the other hand… as I was/am always short of ready cash, I was glad of the fee, which was pretty generous for those days. Until I found the letter recently I had always thought I had two per cent of retail. It shows that one should always read a contract though even Brian himself was sometimes hasty. (See text!)

So… when the money really rolled in, he made up for his tight control of my percentage by paying me $1,000 to which I was not entitled.

Derek Taylor
Fifty Years Adrift

Taylor was given leave from the Express to work on the book, and plans were made for him and Epstein to spend five days in April 1964 at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay, where Taylor taped record Epstein’s recollections. While there, Epstein offered Taylor the opportunity to become his personal assistant at NEMS in London, for a salary of £70 a week, which Taylor accepted.

Taylor left the Daily Express on Friday 17 April 1964, and started work for NEMS two days later.

Last updated: 9 March 2023
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