While The Beatles became accustomed to being embroiled in controversy, there was a key player behind the scenes of the band’s success and image that created a drama of its own.
Brian Epstein, born September 19, 1934, is best known for his role as The Beatles’ manager and is largely credited with their discovery, as well as a key player in their rise to fame.
His management of the band was undoubtedly important to their success, but his business dealings drew much criticism, and the man’s personal life was a whirlwind of gambling and drug abuse that would ultimately become the catalyst for his demise.
When Epstein first heard of The Beatles, he was working at his family’s record and musical instrument shop. Then, on the fateful day of November 9, 1961, he saw the group perform onstage at The Cavern Club in Liverpool, England.
The group he saw on stage that night, though, was in direct need of an “Epsteinification.” They just didn’t know it yet. At the time, according to History.com, they would eat and drink onstage between songs, dress in all-black leather, and play only cover songs.
Epstein and The Beatles’ Rise to Fame
But nonetheless, The Beatles had made a powerful first impression. He said he was enthralled by “their music, their beat and their sense of humor onstage,” reports the New York Times. He quickly decided The Beatles would become the biggest band in the world. He said, “My own sense of inferiority and frustration evaporated with The Beatles because I knew I could help them.”
In early December of 1961, Epstein and the band began discussing the possibility and terms of his management role. By the end of January, he was officially their manager. Although he didn’t have experience managing an artistic group, he was very influential in determining the band’s signature appearance and their trademark end-of-show bow to the crowd.
During his time with the group, he managed the band’s business affairs, but he also helped to settle interpersonal conflicts. Epstein worked tirelessly for The Beatles, and as a result, its members trusted him with an ardent loyalty. Author Johnny Rogan writes in Starmakers and Svengalis: The History of British Pop Management, “Even on the brink of a nervous breakdown, his devotion to the Fab Four was all-consuming.”
Tragically, on August 27, 1967, at the age of 32, Epstein died of an accidental drug overdose after taking too many sleeping pills. Epstein had been with them for the entire trek up to the summit. But with his sudden death, anticipation of climbing down from the peak crept in suddenly, as did the truth behind some of Epstein’s business dealings.
Brian Epstein Remembered
In the biography Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney said that the band had always signed the contracts presented to them by Epstein without reading them. Following Epstein’s death, John Lennon bemoaned, “Well, he was alright. I’ve found out since, of course, that he wasn’t quite as honest to us as he made out.” However, in his biography For the Record, Lennon attested to the band’s loyalty to Epstein by saying, “We had complete faith in him when he was running us. To us, he was the expert.”
Despite the controversy, Epstein was without any doubt instrumental in The Beatles’ rise to fame. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, when asked about the time following Epstein’s death, Lennon said, “I knew that we were in trouble then. I didn’t really have any misconceptions about our ability to do anything other than play music, and I was scared. I thought, ‘We’ve had it.’”
Although The Beatles were beginning their descent from the top, the view was still clear and bright as each member carried on with their respective, similarly best-selling solo projects. But, also in the background of The Beatles’ success was their U.S. Tour Manager, Bob Bonis.
Bonis served as U.S. Tour Manager for all three of the band’s American tours between 1964 and 1966 (as well as for The Rolling Stones’ first five trips across the pond). As he worked with the Fab Four, he also satisfied his passion for photography, capturing rare and never before seen moments in rock-n-roll history.
These iconic and intimate photographs are available now for the first time as strictly limited edition, custom-printed fine art prints from the Bob Bonis Archive. Each photograph is hand numbered, estate embossed, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity from the GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE!