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.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every week with all the very best and worst in film tele­vi­sion and music!

Speak Your Mind