Beatles press officer Tony Barrow dies

Tony Barrow, The Beatles’ first press officer and the man who coined the phrase ‘The Fab Four’, has died at the age of 80.

Barrow represented The Beatles between 1962 and 1968. He wrote sleeve notes for the group’s early albums and EPs, as well as the comic strip in the Magical Mystery Tour booklet.

He also managed many of their press conferences and public relations, including orchestrating John Lennon’s apology for his “We’re more popular than Jesus” comments.

Anthony Frederick James Barrow was born on 11 May 1936 in the Liverpool suburb of Crosby, and attended the nearby Merchant Taylors school.

While still at school he contacted the Liverpool Echo to suggest a record review column, sending them a sample of his writing which resulted in him being given a regular column, Off The Record, which he penned under the pseudonym Disker. The column also included a chart of the best-selling singles in the Merseyside area.

After graduating from Durham University he underwent National Service in the RAF, and in 1960 he became Decca’s only full-time writer of sleeve notes. In December 1961, The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein contacted Barrow, asking him to feature The Beatles in his Echo column, but Barrow was unwilling to do so before the group released a record.

When The Beatles signed to EMI, Epstein sought Barrow’s advice on promoting the group’s first single ‘Love Me Do’. For a £20 fee he assembled an impressive press kit which led to Epstein offering him a job as The Beatles’ press officer, for double his weekly Decca wage of £16.

Barrow became an essential part of the group’s entourage, arranging interviews and personal appearances as well as press conferences during their touring years. He also masterminded their fan club Christmas releases and ghost-wrote a number of magazine articles attributed to the musicians.

Barrow was one of the few people in the eye of the storm during the Beatlemania years. He worked in the NEMS office in London, but often accompanied the group on tour.

It was he who helped organise The Beatles’ swift exit from the Philippines after their failure to attend lunch at the presidential palace was perceived as a snub. He was also present at the group’s 1965 meeting with Elvis Presley.

As well as representing The Beatles, Barrow also helped promote other NEMS artists including Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black.

Here he is in the background (top) with Paul McCartney on a 1966 tour of Germany, on a train between Munich and Hamburg during The Beatles’ 1966 tour of Germany.

Embed from Getty Images

A year after Epstein’s death in 1967, Barrow left The Beatles’ employ to set up his own PR company. He represented a range of acts including Wings, The Kinks, The Monkees, Tony Bennett, The Bay City Rollers and The Jackson Five.

In 2005 he published a memoir – John, Paul, George, Ringo and Me – which recounted his six years working alongside the Fab Four. His clear and accurate recollections of those tumultuous years make it an indispensable volume.

In 2015 he shared his memories of working with The Beatles in a selection of comments he left on this site.

Tony Barrow died at his home in Morecambe, England on 14 May 2016. He is survived by his wife Corinne and two sons.

Last updated: 23 March 2018
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