31 Aug There is suddenly a respectful silence in the pop, music world
the 5th Beatie is dead
Ritchie Yorke. a former Australian journalist now living in Toronto, spent the past 18 months in London. He worked with the Spencer Davis Group there on promotion, and also took time out to write a forthcoming Horwitz book, “Lowdown on the English Pop Scene.” He has met the late Brian Epstein several times, and formed a very high opinion of the young British millionaire, as a social and business acquaintance. BRIAN EPSTEIN is gone, and it seems impossible that the world can go on without him. For Epstein, who was found dead in his London flat last Sunday, influenced the world we know to a very large degree.
It was Epstein, a 32-year-old former record shop salesman, who led the comeback of the young in a predominantly adult-oriented world. If there had been no Brian Epstein, chances are there would never have been a Mary Quant, a Twiggy, or a Mick Jagger. There would most certainly have been no Beatles. Epstein tore down the barriers which prevented young people from achieving great success. He opened the door for many people and many fortunes.
On the several occasions when I met and spoke with Brian, he was a mild-mannered, quietly-spoken, pleasant and likeable young man. Yet behind that shy smile and warm blue eyes there existed one of the sharpest, most astute business minds that the entertainment industry has ever produced. Brian was described progressively, by an incredulous press, as a genius, a flash-in-the-pan, a fluke, and a mastermind. And all of these descriptions were wrong for a man who literally lay the foundation for the build-up of Swinging London.
Brian was not really much of a swinger. He-was not a hippie in the accepted North American sense of the word, but he was certainly hip to what’s happening. He has been accused by some of being a little aloof from the swingers and the hippies. He did not join the endless trail of wild parties and organized orgies. A party that Brian Epstein attended was a slightly dignified, perhaps almost formal occasion. This was the place to be if you wanted to find out more about the real Brian Epstein, even though his attention was likely to momentarily wander.
He was one hundred percent businessman in his office—but he took off some of the armor at social gatherings even if he did seem slightly preoccupied. Brian was not known to boast or brag of his unprecedented accomplishments. He would much rather know what you were doing than discuss his own affairs. He was modest, in the way that shy and reserved people usually are. Countless numbers of un-informed disc jockeys, columnists, and observers in every corner of the globe, have been inclined to dismiss Epstein as “just a lucky guy.” And while Brian would be the first to admit that the good Lady played a vital role, it was Epstein’s own enterprise and initiative that put the Beatles where they are today.
When the mop tops first came to the attention of Epstein, they were just another of many hundreds of groups playing the north of England. They were no better, and no worse, than all their other yet-to-be-discovered competitors. This was where Epstein proved his worth as a promoter and creator.
At that time, there was absolutely no reason why the Beatles would, or should, become the hottest act in the history of show business. There was no reason why they should break down the eternal barricade which prevented British popsters from gaining a foothold in North America. The only possible reason was that Brian wanted them to. Who is to say that the Beatles would still have succeeded without their first Epstein trademark—long, shaggy hair?
Every decision or creation the Beatles ever made was influenced in some way by their manager and mentor, die was truly their guiding light. He took them first to the top of the English charts, and then he took the axe to the barrier separating the English and American pop scenes. He tore down that previously insurmountable barrier overnight, and the Beatles rocketed into the U.S. charts and have stayed there ever since. Who would be foolish enough to say that all this was pure luck?
At every new stage of the Beatles career (and there were many), Brian picked the right road to take. He pulled the Beatles out of more trouble than most groups ever think of getting into. Remember the mighty rumpus about John Lennon’s remarks concerning the popularity of Jesus Christ versus the Beatles? It was Epstein who urged a reluctant Lennon to go to the angry United States, in the wake of mass criticism, and face his critics. Brian had the highly enviable ability of being able to think like a teenager, and to evaluate the many trends of popular music.
Eventually the Beatles reached the institutional stage, where nothing they said or did could seriously harm their career. It was as solid as the Great Pyramid. And Epstein, not content with the creation and presentation of a fantastic show business legend, set about climbing other heights. He played a vital role in the launching of the Tamla-Motown sound in England, by bringing the Four Tops across the Atlantic for personal appearances. He outbid and out-manoeuvred every promoter in England and America to lure the Tops into a new market. Needless to say, the Four Tops were a huge success.
I ran into Brian at the television studios where the now-defunct pop show, Ready Steady Go, was being recorded. He was personally escorting the Tops everywhere, for the simple reasons that he loved their music and he liked the guys. He was in the heights of ecstasy, not about the financial gain, but because he was so gratified to see this hitherto-unknown Detroit group score such an overwhelming victory for the Motown sound. And he was more than a little pleased about his own good judgment.
Epstein’s activities became so sure of success that insiders took to calling him Goldfingers. Everything he touched turned to gold. Almost every act he handled soon met with success. The latest evidence of this uncanny ability to pick the winners was the Bee Gees, an unknown Australian group, who became an overnight international pop sensation.
It was no secret among London’s pop people that Brian was a sick man. I had heard from a reliable source just a few weeks back that he had suffered a major nervous breakdown. It is difficult to say just why Brian’s health suffered. He could so easily have sat back and enjoyed the fortune he earned with the Beatles. But that was not Brian’s way. He cannot be called greedy, but he was as tenacious as a fox terrier. He was never content with his present achievements—he could always find another hurdle in another field that represented the proverbial obstacle.
He took them all on, one at a time, and rarely, if ever, faltered. Estimates of just how much Epstein made out of the Beatles are as numerous as the group’s hit records. Although it was reported that he did not sign a contract with the Beatles, he was undoubtedly drawing between 10 and 25 percent of their total earnings. The Beatles have so far made more than $50,000,000, so you do not need to be a mathematician,to figure that he was a millionaire many times over.
Brian has left a sagging gap in the pop music industry, and in the world. The undisputed leader of the aspiring young has gone, and his place can never be filled. Fortunately, his talent has rubbed off on some of his associates, who will be able to carry on the work. The man most likely to take over his giant company is Robert Stigwood, manager of the Who, the Cream, and the Bee Gees, who recently formed a partnership with Epstein. The Beatles have all but given up the pop music business. I would not be surprised if their manager’s death is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Brian Epstein cannot help but be remembered by everyone who is young, everyone who enjoys the new freedom that he opened up to them, and everyone who appreciates modern-day pop music. Anyone who knew Brian will miss him sorely, because his life influenced and brightened their lives.