Brian Epstein

Brian Samuel Epstein was born on 19 September 1934 on Rodney Street, Liverpool. His parents were Harry and Malka Epstein. Before his death in 1967 he would make his fortune as manager of The Beatles, as well as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas.

Brian Epstein

Harry and Malka (known to all as Queenie, as Malka is the Hebrew word for 'queen') owned a furniture store in Liverpool. Later the family business expanded and they bought the North End Road Music Store (known as NEMS) next door.

In 1950, at the age of 16, Brian began working at the family's Walton Road store, although he wanted to become a dress designer - a move opposed by his father. He was conscripted to the army at 18, but was discharged after 10 months for being emotionally and mentally unfit.

In his autobiography A Cellarful Of Noise, published in October 1964, Epstein claimed he was caught impersonating an officer. The hidden truth was that he had asked a tailor to make an officer's uniform, which he wore while cruising the bars of London. He was arrested by the military police, but avoided a court martial by agreeing to see an army psychiatrist who uncovered Epstein's homosexuality.

Upon his return to Liverpool in 1954 he was put in charge of Clarendon Furnishing, a branch of the Epstein family business in the Hoylake district. He proved a successful salesman, but persuaded his parents to let him train as an actor at the Royal Academy for Dramatic Arts.Brian passed the RADA audition, and became a classmate of Susannah York, Albert Finney and Peter O'Toole. However, he dropped out after the third term.

He returned once more to work for his parents, and in 1955, at the age of 21, he was made a director of NEMS.

When Harry Epstein opened a new NEMS store on Liverpool's Great Charlotte Street, Brian was put in charge of managing the ground floor. He expanded from selling pianos and wireless radios to gramophone records, and the shop became one of the biggest music outlets in the north of England.

The record department was such a success that he was put in charge of a new NEMS branch which opened at 12-14 Whitechapel. Around this time he asked Bill Harry - the editor of Mersey Beat magazine, which Brian had sold since its first issue in July 1961 - if he could write a music column. His first article, under the heading 'Record Releases, by Brian Epstein of NEMS', appeared in the third issue on 3 August 1961.

With The Beatles

Mersey Beat was where Epstein first noticed the name The Beatles, who were featured on the cover of issue two. His curiosity is said to have been was piqued when a customer, Raymond Jones, entered NEMS and asked Epstein for a copy of My Bonnie, the single recorded by the band with singer Tony Sheridan in Hamburg.

At about three o'clock on Saturday, October 28th, 1961, an eighteen-year-old boy called Raymond Jones, wearing jeans and black leather jacket, walked into a record-store in Whitechapel, Liverpool, and said: 'There's a record I want. It's "My Bonnie" and it was made in Germany. Have you got it?'

Behind the counter was Brian Epstein, twenty-seven, director of the store. He shook his head. 'Who is the record by?' he asked. 'You won't have heard of them,' said Jones. 'It's by a group called The Beatles....'

Brian Epstein
Prologue to A Cellarful Of Noise

The Whitechapel store was a short walk from the Cavern Club in Mathew Street. On 9 November 1961 he watched The Beatles play a lunchtime concert, after which he entered the dressing room and met the group.

Despite his lack of experience, Epstein became their manager in January 1962, and quickly asserted his influence over their dress and onstage performance.

After hawking the band around a number of London labels, Epstein eventually secured an audition at EMI's Abbey Road studios, where George Martin decided to sign them.

Brian Epstein with NEMS artists

Epstein was key to the success of The Beatles - Paul McCartney later said: "If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian". He also managed a number of other Liverpool acts, including Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black and Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas.

As The Beatles retired from live performance in 1966, Epstein found his influence on the group waning. He had used amphetamines from the earliest days with the band, but his use of pills became an increasing problem as he became more involved in the London drug scene of the 1960s.

During the recording of Sgt Pepper, Epstein spent time trying to kick his drug habit, including spells in the Priory in Putney, London.

Brian Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose on 27 August 1967. His death was most likely due to a build-up of the sedative Carbitral, mixed with alcohol.

At the time The Beatles were in Bangor, north Wales, for a meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They did not attend the funeral, in order to not attract the media and fans, but were present at a memorial service at the New London Synagogue.

Epstein is buried at the Kirkdale Jewish Cemetery in Liverpool.

16 responses on “Brian Epstein

      1. T stout

        Actually it was John….as the rumour goes. In April of 63′, John and Brian went on holiday to Barcelona Spain….together ….just the two of them. After they returned, the story started getting around that they had a homosexual encounter with each other.

    1. ForgetScowl

      There was a movie made about the early 60’s music revolution within the U.S.A. & it’s called “That Thing You Do!”

      It was a comedy drama film written, directed by, and co-starring Tom Hanks.

      I speculate that this is the closest Tom Hanks could put himself (within his star-power) to the Beatles
      and so he chose to himself to become Brian Epstein.

  1. hannahl_5768

    If you read “The Beatles Anthology” by The Beatles, John and Brian’s holiday to Spain is explained thoroughly… Somewhere. And yeah, John talks about how Brian came on to him some.

    1. Clare Kuehn

      According to Pete Shotton, John’s childhood friend, John told him he had had an experience with Epstein. But according to Pete, who swears he doesn’t care whether people put him down for saying so, John’s first, confused (and more loving) encounter was with the obvioiusly “metrosexual” Stu Sutcliffe, where Stu came on to him as they talked and they just kept going. It makes sense because John was embarrassed, confused and afraid of being a gay from one encounter. Epstein had power and affection but was not into being the dominant sexually; John had to fend him off for a while, then one way or another gave in and became in a way a dominant. In the long run, once the “Satyricon” of girls and boys and trans-gendered in Hamburg and later parties was in full swing, John would very likely, while preferring women, also seek out other males if need be or if available. In Goldman’s book (too-often shunned as if everyone were merely making things up to get publicity), where about a thousand people were interviewed, some very detailed content about Brian and John surfaces, rather plausible in context. One way or another, John knew different types of people sexually.

  2. castironshore

    Like lennon epstein was a tortured soul, which brought them close but i believe that brian was primarily always going to look out for lennon first and foremost. By all accounts brian was hopelessly infatuated with him.

    In terms of the band as a whole, epstein had a great knack of massaging all the individual members ego’s and smoothing over arguments that helped projects get done. Because of the unity he promoted paul tolerated brian’s management a bit longer than maybe he would have normally. Both he and john had started to smell a rat with some of the groups commercial deals,royalty rates and business matters where epstein had been not only incompetent but also more than a a bit naughty with the groups earnings. When klein exposed the full details of what brian had been doing after his death the band were deeply shocked.

    So while “eppy” was integral to making the beatles a more professional act, and vital to projecting the bands influence to a wider audience he also had lost them an inestimable amount of money. Brians strengths were working with people but in matters of negotiation and planning he was woefully neglectful. I guess in his defence it was very early days in terms of pop music but the likes of elvis had long shown the way – colonel tom always made sure his act got the best deal. Brian could have done with someone like him to help him out instead of the hangers on and his buddies at NEMS.

  3. Clare Kuehn

    His death was “most likely” barbiturate with alcohol? With all the sleeping pills and drugs he took, that did him in? He was found with all the pill bottles full, caps on, and only 1/2 bottle of wine drunk, curled up. You really want me to believe that just happened to get him, ten days after he seems to have gotten a letter from a “Bethel” about the stolen Sgt Pepper albums, right when his contract was coming due, his big embezzling debts were hounding him, the Krays were being arrested and the Homo-and-Pedophile MPs were under pressure? Really? Okay. Sure, circumstances are not exact proof, but I want to see the autopsy report and I want to vet that there was no cover-up on what that contained, either. I want witnesses and I want lots of paperwork. And photos. Don’t you?

    It was in 1967 that the pressure came back onto the Krays, the arrest being later (May 1968) on the strength of that evidence, even without a specific charge, in the hopes that more information to do a specific charge would come forward because pressure on people would be less. 1967 was not easy on the insiders in the government, afraid of the homosexual, pedophilic, money racketeering and murderous implications. They would have known there was pressure on them all, and Epstein would have been a sitting duck not only for the general climate of crime he was roped into by his penchant for rough trade homosexual activities, his debts and what he knew of the pedophilic and other crime activities of London through his protectors and their parties, but for his specific position with his contract coming up due with the Beatles.

    1. Joe Post author

      Listen, I had to close the comments on my Paul Is Dead feature solely because you wouldn’t stop plastering the comments section with fruitcake conspiracy theories. Please don’t do the same here, or elsewhere on this site. You’ve made your point, but please do not submit any follow-up comments, as they won’t be published.

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