An ode to remarkable Beatles manager Brian Epstein

“It’s Not Personal, It’s Strictly Business”

by Jude Southerland Kessler,

author of The John Lennon Series


With the unveiling of the beautiful tribute statue to Brian Epstein in Liverpool just a few days ago, The Fest for Beatles Fans pauses to commemorate the remarkable man who brought our lads into the bright lights. We love you, Brian. You were “a class act” in every way.


Frequently these days, I hear people espousing the maxim, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business” as if it were a yardstick of excellent business practice…the benchmark of what is equitable in one’s professional relationships. And I wince, knowing that this quote originated not in Shakespeare or Ben Franklin or The Bible, but came straight from the lips of Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Here’s the movie clip.


If one examines outstanding leaders throughout history, one will rarely find this “It’s just business” rule-of-thumb to be his/her guideline. Brian Epstein, The Beatles legendary manager, is one of those who prized his personal reputation more than money. He sincerely believed that honesty and a bargain well-kept championed all else in the “dog-eat-dog” world of entertainment. In fact, promoter Sid Bernstein (who booked The Beatles at Carnegie Hall in 1964 and Shea Stadium in 1965) said, “Once [Epstein] gave his word, he never changed terms or renegotiated. He had that kind of quality; you believed him; you trusted him. That isn’t true of very many people.”


Let me give you a just few examples of Epstein’s policy of personal integrity over profit:


  • Epstein honored his agreements


Epstein became The Beatles’ manager in December of 1961, and at that time they were quite popular around Merseyside and in Hamburg. However, they weren’t well-known outside those realms. In London, The Beatles were virtual unknowns. So, as we all know, Brian set about getting the boys gigs anywhere that he could, often at unflattering rates. Exposure and publicity were Epstein’s primary goals.


You know the rest of the story. Quite rapidly, The Beatles began to capture the attention of the masses and press. Everywhere they traveled they were an astounding hit, and people started flocking to their performances – filling town halls, theaters, dance clubs and cellars. So, not surprisingly, the asking price for upcoming Beatles gigs quickly flew up, up, up. In fact, in Craig Brown’s book 100 Glimpses of The Beatles, one Merseyside promoter, Peter Stringfellow, tells the story of how he delayed booking the four boys for several days. And while he hemmed and hawed over the decision, the asking price soared from £50 to £65 to £100. He who hesitated was lost.


However, Epstein firmly believed that a promise made was a promise kept. And he refused to renegotiate contracts signed months earlier. He refused to charge club owners more than he had initially agreed upon. And many of those bargains were word-of-mouth only! You see, Epstein didn’t require a written contract to do what was right. Integrity was ingrained in him.


  • Epstein kept ticket prices affordable


In June of 1965, when the highly successful Beatles toured France, Italy, and Spain, Brian noticed that the crowds weren’t as large as they’d been on the 1964 tours; so, he asked Neil Aspinall to explain the drop in numbers. At first Barrow pointed out that the unusually high temperatures that summer had somewhat diminished the crowds for afternoon shows. But Epstein instinctively knew that heat alone couldn’t be the sole reason that the fans had decided to stay home. So, he pressed Barrow for the bottom line. Finally, Barrow muttered, “It’s the ticket prices, Brian. They’re more than the average fan can afford.” Epstein was heartbroken. The young manager cared about the fans. And he had always striven to keep ticket prices at fair rates – to make it possible for anyone who loved The Beatles to be able to see them in person. He had no idea that tickets had climbed out of reach, and the moment Epstein heard this frank explanation, he made adjustments. (For the full story, see Shades of Life, Part 1, p. 638-640)


A month and a half later, when The Beatles played the mega-concert in Shea Stadium, the best ticket available – for a field-level box seat – was rigidly set at $5.65. And, of course, for that price, fans got to see the King Curtis All-Stars, the Discotheque Dancers, Cannibal and the Headhunters (“Land of 1000 Dances”), Brenda Holloway (“Every Little Bit Hurts”), the vivacious Sounds Incorporated, and yeah, yeah, yeah, The Beatles. It wasn’t just a “fair price.” It was a bargain!! Throughout the summer of 1965, The Beatles (and their opening bands) filled one stadium after another with fans, fans, and more fans! Lest we forget, in Chicago, the boys gave two performances in front of 50,000 fans total. They played the Hollywood Bowl in front of a sold-out audience. And in Shea Stadium, The Beatles gave the performance of a lifetime to 55,600 awed Beatlemaniacs.


Brian could have charged a great deal more for those tickets and made more profit. In fact, you’ll recall that promoter Sid Bernstein was willing to pay $10 a seat for any unsold Shea Stadium tickets. (However, there were none.) Bernstein thought the ticket to see The Beatles worth at least that price! But Brian Epstein valued what was right, what was just, and what was fair. He wanted everything associated with The Beatles to be completely above-board.


3) Epstein never dealt underhandedly with business associates


In The Man Who Made The Beatles, famous journalist and Beatles friend Ray Coleman stated, “Brian’s name was a byword for class and integrity – and he cherished his reputation.” (p. 218) Coleman goes on to say that Epstein had “a central core of integrity.” And when asked to give “a certain person [in the United States] a thousand dollars to oil the wheels” so that Epstein’s rising folk group, Silkie, could obtain a work permit for nine television shows in America, “Brian flatly refused.” (p. 303) Coleman explains, “He said he had never bought his artists into anything with cash and did not intend to start.” (p.303)


Honesty was the yardstick of Epstein’s success. As Coleman says in the touching conclusion of The Man Who Made The Beatles, “…Brian died with a golden reputation for integrity and charm intact.” His artists – Gerry and the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas and so many more including that group called The Beatles – were the bright lights of the 1960s. But their fame and his wealth were not amassed at the cost of Brian’s soul. Epstein wheeled and dealed with “the big cigars” of the entertainment industry and yet, remained unsullied.


In the 1960s, Brian Epstein was regarded as “naïve.” No doubt, he would be ridiculed in our cutthroat world of today. But in August of 1967, Epstein left this world with his honor intact. And his high standards of business behavior contributed much to the outstanding quality that shown through John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Brian expected “his boys” to be “better,” to be special. And they were. To Brian Epstein, everything was personal, especially business.


The Curtain Rising: Brian Epstein’s Induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Ignore the above – this amazing piece is…
by Vivek J. Tiwary, author of ‘The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story’
April 11, 2014
“Best of all and far beyond anything money can buy, I love to lean on my elbows at the back of the stalls and watch the curtain rise on my artistes.” – Brian Epstein, 1964.
Yesterday afternoon, hours before he would induct Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, my friend Peter Asher warned me that his induction speech would be short by necessity. I suspect Peter thought I’d be disappointed that Brian might not get his full due. And yet last night, Peter gave the most lovely, heartfelt, personal, poignant, and informative speech about Brian Epstein that the mainstream public has heard in years, perhaps since Paul McCartney told the BBC “If anyone was ‘The Fifth Beatle’ it was Brian” (and that was in 1999).
Speaking of Paul McCartney, let’s get this out of the way: There has been sentiment amongst Beatles’ fans ranging from confusion to complaint about McCartney’s not inducting Brian himself. Well, when Brian died his mother respectfully asked the Beatles not to join the funeral proceedings for fear that the event would become a media circus, focused on the Beatles when the moment should belong to Brian and the people who loved him. The same could be said of last night’s induction ceremony. With no disrespect to the fab Sir Paul, his presence wasn’t missed. Peter took the ball and knocked it from Shea Stadium to Candlestick Park.
Acknowledging Brian’s brilliant vision in being the first to believe in the Beatles, Peter then focused on Brian’s passion, faith, and unwavering persistence in
convincing an entirely disbelieving music industry—and the world in its wake — that the Beatles were destined to become not just international pop stars but
inspiring cultural icons and true artists. Peter spoke specifically of Brian’s intelligence as a manager, recognizing that early exposure was sometimes far
more important than the extra dollar, his savvy packaging and presentation of the Beatles, his wrangling control over the media to insure that each Beatles’
appearance was not just an appearance but an event. He read a note from Brian’s family who couldn’t be there in person, expressing delight at the induction and only regret that Brian’s brother Clive, his mother Queenie and his father Harry were not alive to witness it– and how proud they would have been. Peter even related a personal experience, observing a fleeting moment when Brian took a step back to enjoy some satisfaction in the success of his artists. Brian rarely gave himself those moments.
And Peter often reiterated Brian’s absolute commitment to realizing the Beatles’ wildest dreams—the fact that he considered this commitment his greatest responsibility in life, never wanting to let the band down—and the fact that in the final equation, he never failed them. It’s what made Brian Epstein an excellent manager, mentor, and friend. It’s why he deserves the title Paul gave him in 1999 of “The Fifth Beatle”. And why he deserves the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction last night.
All that being said, Peter’s daytime warning was still well heeded in experiencing the nighttime event. Brian’s induction was indeed brief and came at the very beginning of the ceremony. If you showed up a little late, you might have missed it. If you decided to get a drink before the big rock show, you might have missed
it. If your eyes were a bit dry that day and you blinked a little too long, you might have missed it. And that’s exactly how Brian would have wanted it. He would
have wanted to have been acknowledged and briefly celebrated, but not doted upon. And then he would have wanted to get the hell out of the way, to keep the focus on the artists who create the music.
That’s another quality of a great artist manager… and also illuminates why managers are usually the unsung heroes in their artists’ career histories. Indeed, it’s a credit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that they are now inducting artist managers. And it’s another music industry boundary that Brian Epstein has shattered, paving the way for others to follow in his wake.
(Last night’s second manager inductee, following fast on Brian’s heels, was his dear friend and ally Rolling Stones manger Andrew Loog Oldham).
And then the evening moved on, and was indeed all about the artists. For the next 5 hours, we were treated to a series of glorious music highlights. For me, these included Peter Gabriel’s gentlemanly acceptance and timeless performance, Tom Morello’s outrageously awesome KISS induction speech (and Paul Stanley’s back-atcha); Stevie Nicks having the time of her life giving a powerful vocal tribute to Linda Ronstadt; Yusuf Islam’s performance reminding me what a truly amazing artist Cat Stevens is (now that I’m a father, “Father and Son” blindsided me with unexpected joy and sadness); Bruuuuuce and the E Street Band schooling me on what it really means to be a band of brothers; Daryl Hall and John Oates clearly preferring to rock than talk (and throwing mad props to my second home Philly); Dave Grohl starting by gracefully thanking the many excellent Nirvana drummers that preceded him; and my teenage crushes Joan Jett and Kim Gordon tearing the house down by channeling Kurt Cobain for performances with Nirvana.
All eyes in the house were firmly glued to that stage… Except mine, which would frequently wander towards the back of the concert hall… Where swear I saw him for one fleeting moment—leaning on his elbows, a small smile creeping across his face, watching the curtain rise on the many artists inspired by the Beatles legacy he created and protected.
But then I blinked, and he was gone.
It’s just as well—Brian Epstein would have preferred me to face the music.
Congratulations to The Fifth Beatle Brian Epstein, on his well-deserved 2014 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
You can visit Vivek J. Tiwary’s site – The Fifth Beatle – here >>
CLICK HERE to read Peter Asher’s induction speech.


Peter Asher to induct Brian Epstein into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Thursday night

His entry to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is long overdue, but Brian Epstein – the legendary manager of The Beatles – will finally get the recognition he deserves on Thursday night.
During a ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Epstein will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Doing the honors will be Peter Asher.
A titan of the music industry in his own right, Asher is looking forward to Thursday night. Some of his thoughts on Epstein:

Brian Epstein single handedly changed what it meant to be a rock and roll manager. Before Brian and the Beatles, the assumption was that a pop group’s career was destined to be short and their impact ephemeral. Just as the Beatles changed this whole notion with their brilliant music, so did Brian with his honesty, his belief, his commitment, his faith and his avoidance of the greed and short term thinking which was the norm. Before the Beatles, pop music was not supposed to be imporant – and before Brian no one treated the musicians that way either. He was charming and articulate but in the end his ability to make others believe (as he did) that the Beatles were the best band in the world stemmed from his own absolute conviction that it was true. And fifty years later it is clearer than ever that he was absolutely right! I was proud to know Brian – and when I became a manager myself I looked to his determination, loyalty and style for inspiration.

In addition to doing the honors for Brian Epstein, Asher will also be inducting former Rolling Stones manager – and past FEST guest – Andrew Loog Oldham. Asher’s thoughts:

I shall pay tribute to the achievements of these two brilliant men (both friends of mine) as best I can…Brian will be sorely missed as always and Andrew has chosen not to attend but am thrilled to have the privilege of inducting them both into this illustrious organization.
The induction being filmed on Thursday night will air on HBO on May 31st.