Brian Epstein’s Brief but Dazzling Life with The Beatles.

Brian Epstein with the Beatles.

Brian Epstein with the Beatles.

When I saw that the documentary on Brian Epstein on BBC4 was in two parts, lasting over 3 hours, my heart sank. What more could there possibly be to learn about the Beatles? Happily, I was gloriously wrong.

In 1963, a Brian Epstein act was on the number one spot in the UK charts for 37 of the 52 weeks. Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer, Cilla Black, and of course the Beatles. And yet just three years later it all began to unravel.

Texas, God bless America.

Texas, God bless America.

During their tumultuous 1966 tour The Beatles received a spate of serious death threats in Japan, had their records burnt in the Philippines and had to deal in the American south with John’s bigger than Jesus remarks.

They decided to quit touring and concentrate instead on the recording studio. For Epstein, this was a disaster. Without in any way planning it, the Beatles suddenly stopped turning to their business manager for their every decision , and came instead to rely increasingly on their producer George Martin.

Much more damning from a personal perspective was the growing realization that Epstein had made a complete mess of the merchandising deals he had worked out on their behalf after The Beatles had so spectacularly broken America. Business was his purpose in life and deals were supposed to have been his currency.

And then there was his private life. Inevitably, the elegant, suave and extremely erudite gay music impresario had that taste for danger that British establishment figures seem inexorably drawn to. And he’d gone and gotten himself a bit of American rough. All too predictably, he was humiliated by him.

Epstein reposes at home.

Epstein reposes at home.

By 1967, the lonely, gay, Jewish multi-millionaire discovered that for all his apparent success, he was as much of an outsider then as he’d ever been. And that spring he attempted suicide. A few months later, on the bank holiday August weekend, he tried again. This time, there was nobody around to rescue him.

This is the sort of programme that the BBC does so fantastically well. Originally broadcast in 1998 as part of their justly famed Arena strand, it melded first hand interviews with archive footage to produce a cultural snap shot of a moment in time. And the extraordinary impact one man had on it. Keep your eye out for it.

You can see a clip here.

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