Thursday 16 September 2010

The Brian Epstein Story

I’ve just watched an Arena documentary, made a while ago, about the extraordinary life of Brian Epstein. It’s not a crime story in any way, but Epstein’s short life and indeed his rather mysterious death certainly had dramatic elements that make truth seem stranger than fiction.

Epstein was the man who discovered the Beatles, became their manager, and piloted them to the status of pop, and pop culture, legends. The documentary gave a fascinating picture of Liverpool in the 60s, before I knew it, and there was some amazing footage of a crowd at Anfield football ground singing ‘She Loves You’ and ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ – Epstein managed Cilla Black as well, along with groups like Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Epstein came from a wealthy business family, but he was a closet gay, although he never seems to have had a truly fulfilling relationship on a purely personal level apart from with his family and favourite acts – above all, with the Beatles and John Lennon in particular. Despite his wealth and success, he did not seem to find happiness, although he had plenty of friends, and he became an increasingly heavy drug user.

He died in London (he’d moved from Liverpool by this time) at the age of 42 from a drug overdose. The official verdict was accidental death, rather than suicide. The Beatles were devastated, and one can see why. Epstein was a fascinating, complex individual, and the Arena documentary captured the contradictions in his life and character pretty well, as well as providing a good supply of nostalgic material about a golden era in British culture and the history of Liverpool.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thanks for sharing this documentary. As you say, little is really known about Epstein, and yet, he was so important in launching The Beatles into the worldwide phenomena they were. Crime-related? No. Fascinating? Yes. Glad I learned from this post? Absolutely.

Fiona said...

Despite being a teenager in the 60s I was never a Beatles fan, but I do have a story linked to this (I don't know how well known it is in Beatle history). In December 1961, a month before Epstein took over, the group visited my home town, Aldershot, for a gig. It was doomed to disaster for various reasons and the audience numbered just 18. There's an excellent account online if you want the back story - just Google 'Beatles Aldershot'.

Nan said...

Sadly, it doesn't seem to be available at Netflix, but still I want to thank you for reminding me of him. I found a good site which you may have already visited:

There is a great old pic of the family store.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Interesting post! Such a shame this talented manager died so young.

Dorte H said...

How funny! I think I have come across Brian Epstein and The Beatles in a crime story recently. So in that way it strikes me that someone has made him crime-related.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments - and the links! Dorte, what book could you be thinking of!!!