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505 - Brian Epstein laat van zich horen in 1964

 

In de laatste maanden van 1963 werden de Beatles uit Liverpool enorm populair in eigen land. Met zelf-geschreven repertoire als ‘From Me To You’, ‘She Loves You’ en ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ bereikten ze de nummer één positie in de Britse hitlijsten van popbladen als New Musical Express, Disc en Record Mirror.

   Op 14 december 1963 vonden we ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ op één in de top 30 van Disc, gevolgd door ‘She Loves You’ (op 2). In die zelfde lijst ook drie EP’s en een LP van het viertal: ‘Twist And Shout’ (op 12), ‘With The Beatles’ (13), ‘The Beatles Hits’ (17) en ‘The Beatles No. 1’ (29).

   In die lijst bovendien ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Beatle’ van zangeres Dora Bryan.

   

The Beatles waren boven komen drijven uit een nieuwe generatie popartiesten – geen solozangers of -zangeressen, maar groepen. Die konden optreden zonder begeleiding van een orkest, zoals tot dan toe gebruikelijk. Met zijn Crickets had de Amerikaanse artiest Buddy Holly (1936-1959) het voorbeeld gegeven.

   In de top 30 op het einde van 1963 vond je meer van die Britse groepen: Freddie and the Dreamers (met ‘You were made for me’), Dave Clark Five (‘Glad All Over’), Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas (‘I’ll Keep You Satisfied’), Gerry and the Pacemakers (‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’), de Rolling Stones (‘I Wanna Be Your Man’), Bern Elliott & The Fenmen (‘Money’), Johnny Kidd & Pirates (‘Hungry For Love’), The Hollies (‘Stay’) en The Searchers (‘Sugar And Spice’).

   Een nieuw tijdperk was aangebroken in de geschiedenis van de (Britse) popmuziek.

 

505 1 Disc 14 12 1963Disc, 14 december 1963

 

Achtergrond van Brian Epstein

 

Er was dus een grote verscheidenheid aan een nieuw soort groepen – uit de havenstad Liverpool en andere steden. Maar in de stad aan de Mersey-rivier zetelde Brian Epstein (1934-1967) als aanvoerder van NEMS Enterprises (North End Music Stores). 

   In een interview voor de BBC-radio (‘home service’), de enige landelijke Britse zender in het begin van de jaren zestig, praatte Epstein op 7 maart 1964 over zijn jeugd: “I have a middle-class background, perhaps a little better – shop, you know, retail stores, old established. It was started by my grandfather, principally in furniture.

   When I left school, about the age of sixteen [1950], I had ambitions to be a dress designer, and also to be an actor, but my family weren’t very keen on this and I allowed myself te be swayed into going into business. I think I was more anxious to leave school than anything else, which I didn’t enjoy very much.

   That was Wrekin College, Shropshire, a minor public school. I went into the family business and I did an apprenticeship for a furniture company outside of ours for about six months and then found myself in the family business and interested myself in the display and advertising side. In fact, we opened a store specifically for me to work in and develop interior decoration, which was I was rather interested in. By the time I got to twenty-one I was still feeling this sort of bug about acting and the stage”.

 

Brian zei het zelf. Als het even anders was geweest had hij zelf op het toneel gestaan of was hij werkzaam geweest in de mode-wereld. In een artikel over Epstein en de Beatles (voorjaar 1963) schreef Maureen Cleave: “His family own going business concerns in Liverpool and they sent him to a public school and to RADA [Royal Academy of Dramatic Art].

 

505 2 RADARoyal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA)

 

Student life did not appeal to him. He returned to Liverpool and opened up record branches in the existing family stores. Any record the public asked for, he made a point of stocking, and they kept asking for the Beatles who, unknown to Mr. Epstein, were playing nightly in a sweaty environment only 100 yards from where he worked. But the only record they’d made had to be imported from Germany.

    Mr. Epstein decided to have a chat with the Beatles, and so the Liverpool boom began. Suddenly the Beatles became very smart because they had a manager. Now all Liverpool groups – and there are said to be 300 – have managers. Fifty of them approached Mr. Epstein himself.

    ‘They come from all walks of life’, he said indulgently, ‘and often they travel round with all their relations. Things have got pretty vicious up there recently, everybody cutting each other’s throats’”.

    Brian Epstein maakte de overstap van aankomend acteur tot zakenman – en manager van de Beatles en andere artiesten.

 

Radio Luxemburg

 

De carrière van de Beatles, Stones en andere groepen wordt vaak gekoppeld aan de komst van de Britse zeezenders Caroline en London (‘Big L’). Daar was voorlopig echter geen sprake van. Caroline ging op 28 maart 1964 de ether in, radio London op 17 december 1964. Om (de nieuwe) popmuziek goed op de radio te kunnen horen was je in Engeland afhankelijk van de BBC-radio, die een conservatief beleid voerde.

   Heel wat (mogelijke) hitsingles kreeg je er nooit te horen – ze kwamen niet positief genoeg te voorschijn uit de censuur. Er werd vooral gelet op de inhoud van de tekst. Volgens ouderen had die vaak een verderfelijk karakter.

 

De Britse jongeren waren dus, evenals in Nederland, aangewezen op buitenlandse radiostations. Radio Veronica was al in 1960 in de ether. In Engeland luisterde men – hoe slecht de kwaliteit ook was – naar de AFN (de Amerikaanse legerzender) en vooral ’s avonds naar de programma’s van radio Luxemburg – op 208 meter (middengolf). Platenmaatschappij EMI, waar de Beatles onder contract stonden, had gesponsorde programma’s, die vanuit het groothertogdom op Groot-Brittannië gericht werden. Ze werden in Londen op de band gezet en overgebracht naar Luxemburg.

    Sam Costa (1910-1981) trad op als disk-jockey voor EMI, de platenmaatschappij van de Beatles en andere Epstein-acts.

 

Fabulous

 

Radio Luxemburg, een commerciële organisatie, timmerde aan de weg. Het station, ver weg van Londen, besloot een eigen muziekblad uit te geven. Dat gebeurde al in de jaren vijftig – onder de eenvoudige naam ‘208 – two-o-eight’. Vanaf 1964 positioneerde Radio Luxemburg zich met een nieuw tijdschrift: ‘Fabulous’. 

    Het eerste nummer van Fabulous, op 18 januari, had – het kon bijna niet anders – een kleurenfoto van de Beatles op de voorpagina. Diverse pagina’s waren besteed aan John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison en Ringo Starr.

 

505 3 Fabulous 18 1 1964Fabulous, 18 januari 1964

 

Mike Mostyn wijdde een artikel aan ‘Emperor Epstein’. Daarin kon je lezen: “Brian is just twenty-nine, but looks younger. Only an inch or so under six feet, but he looks shorter. A Liverpudlian through and through but his voice is the well-modulated voice of an actor. But then, Brian Epstein, the man who put Merseybeat on the map, has long had an ambition to stride the boards, maybe as a Shakespearian actor”.

    Over zijn manier van communiceren werd gezegd: “Quietly-spoken, slow to anger”.

    En dan te bedenken dat hij in de kortste tijd een imperium had opgebouwd. “He copes with some of the strongest characters in Popsville. The Beatles, Gerry and The Pacemakers, The Fourmost, Tommy Quickly, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas and Cilla Black”.

 

505 4 Emperor Epstein

 

Op een vraag van Mostyn begon de manager opnieuw over zijn jeugd. “At school I was mad about acting. But when I left, I found myself in the family business in Liverpool. Wardrobes, dining suites – these were the main things in my life. If anybody had even mentioned beatgroups to me, it wouldn’t have registered.

  I wanted to try acting. I took off to London for twelve months to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I loved it. But it didn’t last…

  I realised that I wanted to do something with my life on a sound financial basis. So it was back to the family business for me and I started off in the disc department”.

 

Beatles om de hoek

 

In de winkel waar hij de scepter zwaaide met de verkoop van grammofoonplaten ging het goed. “Business built up fast”. Maar dat was niet genoeg. “He didn’t feel there was much of a challenge in life”.

  Op een dag wilde iemand een plaat kopen van de Beatles. “Never heard of them. But I’ll try”, zou hij geantwoord hebben.

  Epstein wilde zijn klant niet teleurstellen. “Here was a challenge. He tracked down the fact that they’d made a disc in Germany – as backing group to guitarist Tony Sheridan”.

  De platenwinkelier ontdekte dat de jongelui bij wijze van spreken om de hoek opereerden. “He found the boys were working almost next door to his record department. And anxious to see what all the fuss was about, he went to see the boys in action”. De Beatles moesten volgens hem nog heel wat leren, maar ze hadden wel wat te bieden, was zijn conclusie.

  “Brian’s innate sense of good taste took a hammering that noisy lunch-time. He didn’t like the way the boys dressed; shivered at the sight of their haircuts, objected (as an ex-actor) to the way they sipped cups of tea on stage. But he liked them as personalities”.

 

505 5 My Bonnie jan 1962 METony Sheridan-single in Muziek Expres, januari 1962

 

Dat was het begin van de samenwerking van de gesjeesde acteur en de vier jongens uit Liverpool. “So it started. Quietly – for Brian is a quiet man – he set about managing them”.

  Vanzelf ging het niet. “It was a long haul. The recording companies didn’t want to know. But Brian’s qualities include a sort of bulldog persistence. He used all his tact to keep the boys happy while he pestered and browbeat recording managers”.

  De manager deed meer. “Brian dressed smartly – bang in fashion all the time. He devised the original Beatle suits, occasionally wears collarless jackets himself. He thinks at lightning speed. Usually a couple of jumps ahead of anybody else in sight!”

 

Populair in Liverpool

 

Door zijn aanpak werd Brian populair bij al die artiesten en groepen in Liverpool. Continu werd hij benaderd om hun manager te worden. Zijn eerste nummer één was er een van de groep met Gerry Marsden als zanger. “His first number one was Gerry and The Pacemakers on ‘How Do You Do It’. The next five number ones were all by Brian’s groups. But he says: ‘The novelty will never wear off for me. It must be the most exciting business in the world’”.

 

Volgens de redacteur van Fabulous was Epstein een bijzondere man. “Fact is that Brian really cares about his groups and singers. In turn, they all respect him and never argue about business matters. And would cheerfully go to Outer Mongolia for him if he thought it best”.

  Bijna alles lukte wat de ‘keizer van Liverpool’ had aangepakt in 1962/3. En hij zat boordevol met plannen. “His career as ‘emperor’ Epstein has lasted only two years. Brian’s plans go on and on. He’s interested in film production and certainly he is acting as special adviser on the upcoming Beatles’ film”.

 

Epstein zou een fijne neus hebben in het herkennen van talent. Over Billy J. Kramer liet hij bijvoorbeeld afdrukken. “You meet future stars in the strangest of ways. It’s a matter of spotting what you think is a star quality and then sticking to your opinion. Like with Billy J. Kramer. He was walking – no slouching – along past the Cavern. Looked as if he had all the cares and worries in the world. I told him I’d seen him singing around the Cavern but had forgotten his name. Billy was worried. He felt he had little future in show business. But I felt sure he had that star quality.

  So Billy became another of Brian’s Boys”.

 

505 6 Billy J. KramerBilly J. Kramer in Fabulous

 

Ondanks het ongekende succes bleef Epstein bescheiden, was op 18 januari 1964 te lezen in het nieuwe tijdschrift van Radio Luxemburg. “Brian is, above all, a modest man. He sees his success as a team sucess”.

  Gelukkig maar dat Epstein niet zelf op het toneel was gaan staan. “It’s a good thing he decided not to go on with the acting lark. Where’d we all be without The Beatles, Gerry, Billy J. and the others?”, met die woorden eindigde het artikel.

 

Brian Epstein schrijft artikel voor Fabulous

 

Voor het tweede nummer van Fabulous had Brian Epstein in eigen persoon een artikel aangeleverd. Het was getiteld ‘Brian himself speaking’.

   De manager begon met aan te geven dat zijn stad, Liverpool, in korte tijd een vooraanstaande positie had ingenomen in de hitlijsten van Engeland. Hoe lang zou dat duren?

   “I do not believe that Liverpool can control the hit parade and set the pop music trends of Britain for evermore. But I believe Merseyside has more to offer in the way of modern entertainers than any other single part of the country.

  I suppose it’s natural for me to have a bias in favour of my own hometown. I have a love for Liverpool and for the city’s young people. I admire their determination and their love of life. 

  There comes a point, however, when bias gives way to hard facts. My belief in Liverpool as an important centre of show business is built upon something much more than sentiment”.

 

505 7 Epstein 25 1 1964Brian Epstein, 25 januari 1964

 

Merseysiders

 

Het hele gebied rond de Mersey had in korte tijd aan betekenis gewonnen, aldus Epstein. “As a businessman I’d be keen to acknowledge the competition of any other city’s artists. I’d be ready to accept the challenge of a situation where Liverpool groups were in constant competition with equally popular groups from, say, Birmingham, Brighton or Tyneside. But the facts of the past twelve months scream out that Merseyside is ahead of them all. A gold mine of showbusiness talent.

  It is the duty – and the business – of record companies and managers to search out fresh talent. Since The Beatles opened up a new field for up-and-coming groups you can be sure the scouts and the agents have combed the country to find a power which could compete with the Mersey Beats.

  There have been a few isolated cases of success which I welcome.

 

The fact remains that Merseysiders have beaten all others to the peak of the record charts throughout 1963. They have pushed down to the lower reaches of the Top Ten the pop music giants of yesterday.

  One or two smash hits – maybe just ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘How Do You Do It?’ – might have been dismissed as flash-in-the-chart flukes. Certainly a city could not expect to build a lasting reputation of musical importance upon a handful of songs.

  However, the Liverpool successes have been many. No less than eleven recordings made by Liverpool groups have reached the top of the hitparade in as many months.

  I have been associated with nine of these eleven number ones”.

 

Searchers

 

Brian Epstein moest bekennen dat hij niet betrokken was bij het succes van één andere groep uit Liverpool – de Searchers. “The two exceptions were ‘Sweets for my Sweet’ and ‘Sugar and Spice’, a pair of catchy singles made by The Searchers. If I could re-trace my footsteps and add just one more Liverpool group to my list of recording artists I would choose to have The Searchers on my books. They make a great team”.

  Misschien wel omdat Brian niet de manager van de Searchers was, veroorloofde hij zich om commentaar te geven. De afzonderlijke leden van de groep, onder contract bij Pye Records, hadden nauwelijks een eigen imago. Als hij hun leidsman geweest was, zou het nog beter gegaan zijn, is uit zijn tekst op te maken. “I think it is a pity they have not got across better as individual members. Too few people know Tony, Chris, Mike and John by their first names and yet each of them has a strong personality”.

 

505 8 SearchersSearchers in Fabulous

 

Inkomsten van de Beatles

 

In Engeland wilde iedereen nu wel eens weten hoeveel die fameuze Beatles wel verdienden. Epstein leek verbaasd dat er zo weinig kennis van zaken was en hoe de pers daarmee omging.

  “ Sometimes it surprises me how little people in show business and in Fleet Street appreciate my true position. One reporter from a national daily asked me how much The Beatles earned in a week. 

  I told him it was impossible to give a reliable figure.

  He followed up with a question about that week’s takings where The Beatles had been appearing for six evenings.

  ‘The box office collected something in the region of £7,000’, I told him.

  The next day he reported the earning of The Beatles as £7,000 per week.

  I cannot believe he thought the theatre staff worked for nothing, the remainder of the staff received no salaries, the printing, publicity and general organisation cost not a penny and that he price of every single theatre seat went straight into the pockets of John, Paul, George and Ringo. In fact, I myself set the average earnings of a group like The Beatles somewhere between one and one-and-a-half thousands pounds per week between them”.

 

Over zijn eigen inkomsten liet hij weten: “People in the business say I made a quarter of a million pounds last year. I shall be lucky if I keep a fraction of this sum in the bank after paying a staff of twenty and settling the year’s enormous expenses in the way of office rents, travelling and a hundred and one other costs!”

 

De artiestenstal van Brian Epstein

 

Verontwaardigd reageerde de muziekondernemer op andere ‘beschuldigingen’ in de Britse pers. Hij zou willekeurig een groot aantal artiesten en groepen onder onder contract genomen hebben. Dat er een paar waren komen ‘bovendrijven’ was puur geluk en toeval geweest...

  Epstein in zijn artikel: “I was equally shocked (and a little confused) by the recent comment of one record company executive.

  ‘No wonder Epstein hits the jackpot’, he said, ‘if you’ve signed up fifty or sixty groups you can hardly miss, can you?’
  At the time of his remark I had only The Beatles, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer with The Dakotas and The Big Three (before they re-formed) under contract to me – each of of the four had found a place in the hit parade and three of the groups had reached the number one spot! Four groups not ‘fifty or sixty’.

  Since then I have added The Fourmost, Cilla Black and Tommy Quickly to my line-up. I am not anxious to increase this number much further. If I did it would be difficult to have enough personal contact with each artist. I consider this friendly relationship one of the most important parts of my work”.

 

Andere aanpak – werken in dienst van de artiest

 

Epstein zette zich af tegen zijn ‘ervaren’ collega’s. Die waren misschien enigszins vastgeroest. “ At no stage in my career to date have I taken notice of the methods used by my other managers in the business. I was a complete newcomer to it, when I agreed to look after the interests of The Beatles, two and half years ago. I didn’t think what ‘manager’ meant in the eyes of other people. I merely asked myself what management ought to mean if I was to satisfy myself that I was doing a worthwhile job.

  I have enjoyed total loyalty from my artists. From the beginning The Beatles have confided in me and we have respected one another. For this I am enormously grateful because it is always uppermost in my mind that I work for these groups – not that they work for me. They pay me for my professional duties and I can carry them out as well as I can”.

 

505 9 visitekaartjevisitekaartje

 

Met die aanpak ging Brian Epstein door. Kort na de publicatie van het artikel in Fabulous traden de Beatles op in het veel-bekeken Amerikaanse tv-programma van Ed Sullivan. Dat was het begin van hun internationale doorbraak en de zogenaamde British Invasion.

  Brian Epstein werd niet oud. Op 27 augustus 1967, op 32 jarige leeftijd, kwam hij onverwacht te overlijden.

 

Harry Knipschild

23 september 2023

 

Clips

 

* Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Peggy Sue

* Billy J. Kamer & the Dakotas, I'll keep you satisfied

Beatles, I want to hold your hand, 9 februari 1964

* Searchers, Sweets For My Sweet 

* Brian Epstein op Amerikaanse tv, 1964 

 

Literatuur

 

Maureen Cleave, ‘How that lucky Mr. Epstein got a head’s start with the Beatles’, Evening Standard, 27 april 1963

Alan Smith, ‘Billy J. Kramer: Singing Was Forced On To Me!’, New Musical Express, 17 mei 1963 

Chris Hutchins over Brian Epstein, Billboard, 17 augustus 1963

Mike Mostyn, ‘This is emperor Epstein’, Fabulous, 18 januari 1964

‘Brian himself speaking’, Fabulous, 25 januari 1964

Deborah Geller, The Brian Epstein Story, Londen 1999

 

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