Peter Brown was one of Brian Epstein’s personal assistants during the 1960s, and continued to work for The Beatles’ Apple Corps after Epstein’s death.
Brown was the executive director of NEMS Enterprises, the management company owned by Epstein. He was one of the few members of The Beatles’ inner circle throughout the 1960s, and was mentioned in The Beatles’ 1969 single The Ballad Of John And Yoko.
Brown became friends with Epstein in the early 1960s. He initially ran the record department at Lewis’s department store in Liverpool, but was appointed to take over from Epstein as the manager of the Great Charlotte Street branch of NEMS. Brown had been rejected by his Catholic family due to his homosexuality, and was greatly influenced by Epstein’s success in business. His hair and clothes were also similar to Epstein’s, which helped mark him out as a young apprentice.
As The Beatles became more successful in Liverpool and beyond, Epstein’s attentions were increasingly occupied by their management. Brown was appointed manager of the Whitechapel branch of NEMS in the centre of Liverpool. He also became Epstein’s confidant and adviser during The Beatles’ rise to fame.
In 1965 Brown joined Epstein in London. Epstein required trusted people around him, and none were considered more dependable than Brown. As Epstein’s personal life became chaotic through depression, drink, drugs, blackmail and dangerous sexual liaisons, Brown was often there as a troubleshooter and friend.
Brown met the American photographer Linda Eastman in 1967, and invited her to the press launch for Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Shortly afterwards he met her again at the Bag O’Nails nightclub, and introduced her to Paul McCartney. The pair married in 1969.
Brown was to have joined Epstein at the latter’s Sussex country retreat at the end of August 1967. However, The Beatles were in north Wales with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and when Cynthia Lennon failed to catch the train there from London, Brown had to arrange her journey by car. He and Geoffrey Ellis from NEMS were to have been Epstein’s only house guests.
The three had dinner, but Epstein grew restless and decided to return to his home in Chapel Street, London. At around five o’clock the next afternoon, Epstein called Brown; he appeared drowsy, but said he would catch a train back to Sussex. Brown was to meet him at Lewes station.
The next day Epstein failed to surface, so his housekeepers tried to call Brown. He was, however, in a local pub with Ellis. Eventually Brown telephoned Epstein’s London number, at the precise time a doctor had arrived to check on the Epstein. Brown was holding the line as Epstein was discovered dead in his bedroom.
Brown and Ellis made their way swiftly back to London. Brown broke the news to The Beatles in Bangor, who made arrangements to return.
After Epstein’s death, a new company, Nemperor Holdings, was formed to administer NEMS. Brown, with the agreement of Epstein’s family, lived for a time at the Chapel Street house, worked at Epstein’s desk and became the central contact to each of The Beatles.
When Apple Corps was established Brown joined the board of directors, with an office at the company headquarters at 3 Savile Row, London. He made the arrangements for the wedding of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1969, which he attended as a witness.
Brown wrote the questions which were answered by McCartney in the press release which announced The Beatles’ split. He was eventually fired by Allen Klein during the American businessman’s purge of Apple staff. Getting rid of such a trusted and knowledgeable member of staff was an error on Klein’s part, and helped accelerate the demise of Apple.
We were just coming up to the annual general meeting. I told [Klein] that all the directors had to resign as a formality and then be re-elected. Neil [Aspinall] and I both resigned, but we weren’t re-elected. We thought The Beatles wouldn’t ditch us, but they did.
Shout!, Philip Norman
In 1971, after leaving Apple, Brown became president and chief executive of the Robert Stigwood Organisation. In 1977 he founded the Entertainment Development Company, and in 1983 set up the public relations firm Brown & Powers. The company later became Brown & Argus, Brown Lloyd James, and eventually BLJ Worldwide.
With Steven Gaines, Brown co-wrote a biography of The Beatles. The Love You Make: An Insider’s Story Of The Beatles was published in 1983.
I decided a definitive, honest book should be written by an ‘insider’ with help. So before I agreed to do it, I went to John and Paul and George and Ringo, and I discussed with them the merits of doing this book. And they agreed it was a good idea to do a definitive book once and for all and get it all over; then we could forget about it. If anyone ever asked us about it ever again, then we’d just say read The Love You Make. So, if there are things in there that you think needn’t be told, the reason they’re there is the fact that there have been whispers or stories in other books about which were inaccurate. So if you’re going to tell the definitive story, then you have to tell everything.
The book was disowned shortly after its publication by Paul and Linda McCartney.
He was a friend. He was the one who introduced Paul and me. A man I trusted. When I was going to the hospital to have Stella, I handed him my baby, Mary, to hold. I wouldn’t trust my baby to anyone but a friend. Now it’s like he doesn’t exist. And his book – well, it doesn’t matter what he wrote, because he betrayed a trust. We decided not to read it, but we heard things. We put the copy he sent us in the fire and I photographed it as it burned, page by page.