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The fifth Beatle
on 26 April 2008
It's one of the biggest questions in pop music, did Brian Epstein get (very) lucky when he discovered the Beatles or were the Beatles lucky that Brian Epstein discovered them? The speculation still continues about Epstein's lack of financial acumen and the merchandising money the Beatles lost out on, hence John Blaney's recent book "Beatles for Sale".
This book is a tie-in with a 1998 TV documentary and is comprised almost entirely of quotes from Epstein's business associates, friends, Paul McCartney, employees etc. At first I found this a very annoying format but gradually a sense of the man and his world begins to emerge. We move from Epstein's Liverpool, to the big time in London and finally international success in New York but unfortunately this success still left Epstein personally unfulfilled. Throughout it all Epstein remained a gentleman and as Nik Cohn noted at the time unlike many of his fellow managers didn't find the need to have people beaten up.
The story of the Beatles and Brian Epstein is one of the most interesting and unique in the whole of popular music and this book does provide a few new insights into that story. However, I think that the book really does need a central voice to assess the various quotes - many of which are conflicting and self-serving - and comment on the wider context.