Brian Samuel Epstein (19 September 1934 – 27 August 1967) was an English music entrepreneur, best known for managing the Beatles. Epstein first discovered the Beatles in November 1961 during a lunchtime Cavern Club performance.
He was instantly impressed and saw great potential in the group. Epstein was rejected by nearly all major recording companies in London, until he secured a meeting with George Martin, head of EMI‘s Parlophone label. In May 1962, Martin agreed to sign the Beatles, partly because of Epstein’s conviction that the group would become internationally famous.
The Beatles’ early success has been attributed to Epstein’s management style, and the band trusted him without hesitation. In addition to handling the Beatles’ business affairs, Epstein often stepped in to mediate personal disputes within the group. The Beatles’ unquestioning loyalty to Epstein later proved detrimental, as the band rarely read contracts before signing them. Shortly after the song “Please Please Me” rose to the top of the charts in 1963, Epstein advised the creation of Northern Songs, a publishing company that would control the copyrights of all Lennon–McCartney compositions recorded between 1963 and 1973. Music publisher Dick James and his partner Charles Silver owned 51-percent of the company, Lennon and McCartney each owned 20%, and Epstein owned 9%. By 1969, Lennon and McCartney had lost control of all publishing rights to ATV Music Publishing. Still, Epstein’s death in 1967 marked the beginning of the group’s dissolution and had a profound effect on each Beatle. In 1997, Paul McCartney said, “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.”
Epstein’s influence on the Beatles and his complicated personal life continue to provoke controversy. In 2013, author Vivek Tiwary released the graphic novel The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story. A film of the same name was scheduled for release in 2014, originally to be produced by Bruce Cohen and directed by Peyton Reed. Tiwary said about that project that the film would “be less a music bio and more of an inspirational human-interest story about an outsider”. Tiwary and named co-producers Stuart Ford and Simon Cowell originally set the film for release in 2016, but in March 2016 it was announced that the project would be a television series.
In a meeting with the group at NEMS on 3 December 1961, Epstein proposed the idea of managing the Beatles. John Lennon, Harrison, and Pete Best arrived late for the meeting, as they had been drinking at the Grapes pub in Mathew Street. McCartney also did not arrive on time because he had just got up and was “taking a bath”, as Harrison explained. Epstein was upset, but Harrison placated him by saying, “He may be late, but he’ll be very clean.” Lennon had invited Wooler to be at the meeting so that he could give his opinion of Epstein, but he introduced Wooler by saying, “This is me dad”. Epstein was reticent throughout the short meeting, only asking if they had a manager. After learning that they had not, he said, “It seems to me that with everything going on, someone ought to be looking after you”. He had further meetings with the group on 6 and 10 December 1961.
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