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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

on 12 January 2015
Thoroughly enjoyed thus rare insight into the life of Brian Epstein, one of the all-time greats of the British pop music industry. His early death left a great void in the lives of many people and one only has to read this book to see how loved he was by those who knew or worked with him.
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on 11 February 2017
excellent value and condition on this used book, very pleased
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on 17 October 2014
Interestingly researched though doubtful anyone will get everything right on this situatiuon ever.
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on 27 May 2016
Very happy with my purchase.
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on 15 March 2014
The Brian Epstein Story, compiled and written by Deborah Geller and edited by Anthony Wall was published in 1999 in the UK by Faber and Faber. This publishing house rivals Penguin in the UK for its minuscule fonts. I can state that this edition had the smallest typeface of any book I had ever read, so while its 180 pages did not make it a long book by length, it certainly qualified as jam-packed by content. The story of Epstein, the manager of the Beatles, was told in the form of interview excerpts from those who were genuinely closest to him, including Paul McCartney. Thus none of the quotations were from friends of friends or those who had no regular direct contact with him. In fact, most of those interviewed for the book were former business associates and were, in my opinion, highly credible.

There have been many rumours about Epstein's personal life, and since he lived as a closeted gay man who repressed his sexuality, rumours run rampant. This conduct of life, as well as having a mother who blindly ignored her son's reality by pushing seemingly eligible women his way, only led Epstein further into the closet. Such a way of life could only lead to risky rendezvous and The Brian Epstein Story does tell of blackmail attempts from former short-term boyfriends. Back in the 1960's, homosexuality was still illegal in the UK and it would have been scandalous had word got out that the Beatles' manager was homosexual. That Epstein also kept his Judaism under wraps, almost ashamed of it, cast his life under a heavier cloak of repression. His feelings of suffocation even led him to write his last will and testament at the age of 21. The will is reproduced in The Brian Epstein Story. Thus hiding his homosexuality and his Jewish identity gave Epstein a lifelong inferiority complex which led to a self-destructive lifestyle in the fast lane of partying and drugs and alcohol. Rex Makin, the Epstein family lawyer, said:

"We discussed his personal problems. He was enthusiastic about a lot of things and very pessimistic about a lot of things. He was pessimistic about himself. He felt himself a square peg in a round hole for a long, long period and wanted to escape the background in which he'd been brought up."

Epstein led a privileged life, the son of a successful furniture merchant. His father wanted him to continue in the family business but Epstein had other directions for his entrepreneurial spirit. He managed the family's record store and through his work he found out about the Beatles. The Beatles in fact would frequent his store but he didn't recognize them until he and his personal assistant Alistair Taylor went to see them perform for the very first time at the Cavern club. Taylor says:

"There were these four guys onstage in black leather, wearing what we call bomber jackets today, black trousers, black T-shirts, and they were so loud. There was smoking onstage and they were joking with the girls in the audience and it was just like, 'Oh my God, what are we sitting here watching?' I mean we were in suits. I always had to wear a suit when everybody else was freaking out. So here were these two straight guys who liked classical music sitting in the back two seats of this smelly, sweaty club. And these guys were just so awful. It was quite appalling, really."

Those who were interviewed gave no credence to the rumour that Epstein only agreed to manage the Beatles because he was infatuated with John Lennon. Other Epstein biographies have stated this yet The Brian Epstein Story went as far as raising the point then refuting it with its quoted testimonials. I was glad to see that the author and editor didn't shy away from dealing with the dirt.

The Brian Epstein Story reminded me of Edie: An American Biography, in that both were told in the form of interview fragments by those who knew the subject (in the latter case, Edie Sedgwick). I do not enjoy biographies written in this way, as each paragraph reads differently and there is no coherent narrative told by a single author. The flow is reduced to stops and starts, as each new quotation, or each new narrator in fact, has a different way of expressing himself. Often the interview passages would go off-topic, and it got confusing when one person would say something about Epstein's life and another person would contradict him in the next paragraph with his own impressions.

Epstein managed to convince the Beatles to sign him on as their manager, and the group refined their style from slick-haired leather-jacketed rude boys to mop-topped suited-and-tied witty gentlemen. The Beatles trusted Epstein with his proven business sense, his vision for the Beatles' future, and his respect for them as musicians with talent. The Beatles wanted to go places and Epstein showed them that he could deliver. He was unlike other managers of the time, in that Epstein took the artist fully into his care, paying for their hotel accommodation and even the gas they would use to drive from gig to gig. This is the norm for managers today, so I found it hard to believe that (English) managers of fifty years ago would only find the gigs for their clients and leave them to their own devices to get there.

This was not a laugh-out-loud book, but some quotations gave me a chuckle, even after multiple reads. Nat Weiss, Epstein's American business partner, said about the design of the Sgt. Pepper LP cover:

"When the Beatles went ahead and put all these pictures on the Sgt Pepper cover and had no releases from anybody, Brian found out. It was a nightmare to think of thirty or forty people suing the Beatles. Brian said, 'Look, as far as I'm concerned, put the album out in brown paper bags.' I had a note to that effect. But Paul McCartney had called me and said, 'Why is Brian upset? We can do this. It's a fiesta.' Brian hit the roof and said, 'They must be on something,' because he knew the consequences of something like that."

Epstein by the time Sgt. Pepper was released felt less useful as a manager because the Beatles had decided to stop touring in 1966. He was prone to frequent suicidal thoughts and drug and drinking binges. The book ended after the death of Epstein by accidental drug overdose in 1967. I would have liked to read more about what happened to his estate and surviving family (and how they managed his estate) but unfortunately only five pages were devoted to the aftermath of his death.
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on 1 September 2009
The lovely Brian Samuel Epstein (1934-1967) - the charismatic, flamboyant, troubled and suave manager of The Beatles - would have been touched that, over forty years after his sudden death at the age of 32, people are still interested in him and the phenomenal success he experienced in his lifetime. Each year a steady trickle of devoted fans - who are usually also dedicated fans of The Beatles, too - make the pilgrimage to his grave in the Jewish Cemetery in the Fazakerley area of Liverpool (in unglamorous suroundings opposite a factory in the heart of a huge industrial estate).

Epstein was perhaps not only a victim of his own "incautious self-overdose" (as the coroner recorded at his inquest), but also of his time: The number of people dying from fatal accidents caused by overdoses of barbiturates - often mixed with alcohol - rose from 49 in England and Wales in 1945 to more than 800 in 1962 (according to The London Observer at the time). Part of the sadness of his death in the late summer of 1967 is that he did not live to experience the post-Stonewall era, during which it became possible to live out homosexuality more openly and with less danger or threat of recrimination.

Geller's book - which is actually a series of transcripts from interviews used in the BBC documentary of the same name which aired in 1998 - benefits from access to Epstein's unpublished diaries and correspondence. She has also interviewed Paul McCartney on Epstein ("There was no question in our minds that if we were to be managed by anyone it would be by Brian") as well as Lonnie Trimble, his home-help ("People couldn't really get close to Brian, because he didn't let them"), and the New York attorney Nat Weiss, Epstein's best friend (who is open about Epstein's dependency on uppers and downers). All of these commentators have interesting things to say about the man.

Further commentary is provided by, amongst others, Marianne Faithfull ("I flirted with Brian, but I like to flirt with people"), his assistant Joanne Petersen (at whom, in one of his temporary fits of temper, he threw a teapot), his chauffeur Bryan Barrett ("That's what he hated I think: the loneliness") and Beatles' producer Sir George Martin.

I think the two key aspects of Epstein's life that come out of this series of recollections are Epstein's private sadness and his caring, emotional character. Now that both Deborah Geller and Ray Coleman have died, it will be down to the next generation of Beatles addicts and Epstein enthusiasts to keep his spirit and memory alive.

Also recommended>
1. Ray Coleman, Brian Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles (1989) - biography
2. Brian Epstein, A Cellarful of Noise (1964) - his autobiography
3. The Hours And Times (1991) - a film which gives a fictionalised account of the Lennon-Epstein holiday of 1963 in Spain
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 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.
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on 20 January 2000
This book written by Debbie Geller & edited by Jon Savage is a FaberBooks/BBCArena co-production based upon the airing of a special of the same name on BBC2 that aired over Xmas and Boxing Days, 1998. The book appears to be much of the dialogue we heard in the 150 minute broadcast and many of the "outtakes " that never made it to air due to editing towards timeslot constrictions. (Unlike the A&E (USA tv network version) that butchered the the original down to 45 minutes & commercials). Previously, the most complete book about Brian Epstein besides his own auto biography "Cellarful of Noise", was "The Man who made the Beatles " by insider Ray Coleman who also wrote the exceptional 2 volume "John Lennon" biographies. The book offers a few early excerpts of Brian's diaries, and some new clues regarding how Epstein coped with his internalized homophobia over his own homosexuality in a time in the UK when it was illegal to be gay. Details glossed over in the past dealing with Epsteins prescription drug and alcohol addictions are finally out in the open, as are his unfortunate history with rehabilitation clinics and suicide attempts which occurred in the year long spiral toward his accidental death August bank holiday weekend, 1967. A companion book definitely, to the far superior Epstein & Coleman works. ( Perhaps now the remaining Beatles will release " Cellarful of Noise - The Audiobook " which Brian Epstein recorded with George Martin in studio around the time it was released foreshadowing AudioBooks by at least a decade!
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on 2 May 2002
The book takes a format which I'm not usually a fan of - uninterrupted and unappraised quotes - but it works excellently in this context, in examining a man about whom there are so many myths and legends. It doesn't attempt to judge or assess any of the tall stories, but allows the words of the players to speak for themselves. It also trips along speedily and with real verve.
It's a real diamond for anyone looking for an insight into the managers' side of the Beatles story, with emphasis too on Epstein's other business interests, but without becoming too dry and dull.
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