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Brian Epstein's London

Updated: Apr 17, 2023



HOW IT ALL BEGAN -


In 1961, 27 year old Brian Epstein, having been "medically" dismissed from his military service and having dropped out of The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, was working as the director of his family's record store, Nems, in Whitechapel, Liverpool. So, on Saturday, 28 October 1961, when eighteen year old Raymond Jones walked in and asked for a record called 'My Bonnie', it was Brian who asked from behind the counter, "Who is the record by?" Jones responded by saying "You won't have heard of them. The record was made in Germany by a group called The Beatles." Epstein promised he'd check on Monday and told Jones to come back. Before Monday, two more people asked about the same record.


His inquires came up empty - he couldn't find anyone that could import this record. Asking around to his employees, Epstein found out The Beatles were actually local to Liverpool, had recently returned from Germany, and were playing at the nearby Cavern Club.



On 9 November, 1961, Brian Epstein made a lunchtime visit to the Cavern Club and was immediately taken in by the band. Between songs he made his way to the stage to get information on 'My Bonnie'. George was the first band member to speak to Brian and Paul got the disc played for him. While he thought the record was good he didn't feel it was anything special but he stayed for the rest of their set and when they were finished, a meeting was set "to chat" at his Whitechapel store for 3 December 1961. That initial meeting went so well that, at a subsequent meeting less than a week later, it was agreed that Brian would manage The Beatles and a contract was drawn up.


Epstein's first act as manager was to have dinner with Decca Records executive, Mike Smith, in December 1961. That meal was very conveniently planned to happen at the Cavern Club while the boys were on stage. It was Mike Smith that secured them an audition on New Year's Day 1962 at Decca Records in London. They taped several numbers on that day and then returned to Liverpool to wait.




ROWE SAYS NO -



In March 1962, Beecher Stevens and Dick Rowe, two Decca Records executives invited Epstein to lunch in London. Rowe started the meeting by saying "Not to mince words, Mr. Epstein, we don't like your boys' sound. Groups of guitarists are on the way out."


Certainly not good news as Pye Records had passed on the group as well. But Epstein was determined to get a record deal for The Beatles; he had no doubt they'd be bigger than Elvis and told that to anyone who would listen.





AN ALL OR NOTHING FINAL ATTEMPT - THAY PAYS OFF -

Getting permission from his (reluctant) father to leave the store for a few days, Epstein headed back to London in spring 1962 in a last ditch effort to get the group a recording contract.



His first stop was His Master's Voice (better known as HMV) at 363 Oxford Street. Once there he spoke to the manager, Bob Boast. Boast admitted that he couldn't help Brian but did tell him that he was welcome to use the in-house facilities to turn those audition tapes into a record. The technician that actually cut the record from those tapes really liked the sound of the band and suggested that Brian go see someone at Andmore & Beechwood, a publishing company, in the same building. With a little more help from Bob Boast, Brian met Sid Coleman, a music publisher, who also thought the group had promise. Coleman called a friend at Parlophone Records named George Martin.





Brian's father's patience was wearing thin so Epstein decided to give himself just one more day in London to get a label for the band. The first meeting that day turned out to be the only one necessary. George Martin really liked what he heard and said the next logical step was to set up a recording session.


He'd done it!!






The four Beatles were waiting on the platform at Lime Street Station when Epstein's train arrived. He shared the news that they had a recording session at EMI as soon as they liked. They spent that evening celebrating and daring to dream about the greatness of their future.


In June 1962, at the first EMI session, The Beatles taped 'Love Me Do' and 'P.S. I Love You'. In September 1962, they made their first record of those songs and in October 1962, they were in Britain's Top 20!


MOVING TO LONDON -

In February 1963, Epstein secured rooms for the band at The Royal Court Hotel, just steps from the Sloane Square underground station in Chelsea. This was their first official residence in The Capital. By summer, however, fans were on to them and they boys were forced to flee to another hotel in town.



Epstein also needed an office for his newly formed business he called NEMS Enterprises. The first place he set up shop was at 13 Monmouth Street, just off Shaftesbury Avenue. The Beatles would come here for press conferences so they were seen here often. Needing a better image, since the offices were above a dirty bookstore, Brian found better space just off Great Marlborough Street (more on that location in a minute).


When NEMS moved to that new location (on Argyll Street), this location (known as Service House) became headquarters for the official Beatles Fan Club. The fan club grew at such an extreme pace it soon took over the entire second floor. One of the fan club secretaries once explained her duties as an employee. First, upon arriving every day, she would head upstairs and spend hours sorting through bags upon bags of fan mail. Once she was promoted, she became one of the "fan club people" that signed autographs. She was John Lennon. The fan club moved from here in 1966 and ended up back in Liverpool.



In the fall of 1963 the band had been living in a series of hotels. These stays were short lived because once their location was found out, hoards of screaming girls forced them on to the next one. The four of them finally settled in a flat Epstein had secured for them at 57 Green Street in Mayfair. It was a fourth floor flat (Flat L, fourth one on the right - as noted below the buzzer) and the only place the four of them ever really lived together. Eventually, Paul would move in with girlfriend Jane Asher and her family and John with Cinthia and Julian to their own flat in Emperors Gate. George and Ringo would move together as roommates to a lower floor flat in Whaddon House, a building Epstein already resided in . Brian often presided over lavish parties here at Whaddon House. It's been said they were legendary and often quite loud. Complaints were usually forgotten when police arrived, saw who the guests usually were and stayed when asked.



In October of 1963, The Beatles appeared on a very popular family TV show called "Val Parnel's Sunday Night at the London Palladium". The venue is located at 8 Argyll Street. The small street was so packed with fans when The Beatles came out after the show but there was no car waiting for them. The four of them rushed to what they thought was a taxi but turned out to be a police car. The policemen wouldn't let them in. The newspapers carried stories of the mayhem the next day. Before this, the press had basically ignored the band and its fans. The Palladium show changed that and as a result, the term "Beatlemania" was born.



March of 1964 saw Epstein move his offices from Monmouth to the new, better location in Sutherland House at 5-6 Argyll Street. He was a bit of a frustrated actor so no one was surprised when he picked this location, right next the theater, for his offices. The Beatles visited these offices often and gave interviews from here. A couple of the more famous instances include when George Harrison and Pattie Boyd came to face the press after they got married in January of 1966 and - a more infamous one - the day the Evening Standard journalist spent the day traveling to Sutherland House with John Lennon and conversation turned to John's views on religion and how church attendance was dwindling. He was quoted in her subsequent article as having said, "we are more popular than Jesus now".









In 1965, Brian Epstein signed a lease on the Saville Theatre at 135 Shaftesbury Avenue to keep his interest in the stage close. The theatre ran plays during the week but Epstein took advantage of the fact that everything was closed on Sunday so that became concert day at the Saville.












On 29 January 1967, The Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for The Who. In the audience that day were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and all three members of Cream. It is said that after that show, Jack Bruce (Cream's bass player) went home with a Jimi like bass riff in his head and wrote "Sunshine Of Your Love".





On 4 June 1967, three days after The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was once again playing The Saville Theatre. McCartney and Harrison were there as well as Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Stevie Winwood. Hendrix told his bandmates that they were going to open their act with Sgt. Pepper and the trio learned it from the record half an hour before they took the stage. Paul McCartney claims to have never forgotten the feeling when the curtains parted and Jimi walked out singed "It was 20 years ago today" and in future interviews, McCartney has referred to it as a shining moment for him.


The Beatles never played at The Saville Theatre because they'd stopped performing live before the theatre's Sunday concerts started but there were two time The Fab Four used its stage. Once on 26 October 1965 for a press conference after accepting their MBE's (Members of the British Empire) from the Queen and on 10 November 1967 when they filmed three promos for their single, "Hello, Goodbye".



Brian bought himself a Belgravia house (Number 24 Chapel Street) just steps from Buckingham Palace's backyard in late 1964. In May of 1967, it was in this house that the official launch party for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album took place. Just a few months later, in August of 1967, while the band was in Wales meditating with the Maharishi, Brian Epstein died here of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. He was 32 years old. Hard to believe that he was The Beatles manager for only five years. Brian was buried in Liverpool on 29 August 1967 in a private family funeral. His family didn't want the attention the band would bring to the day. Instead, The Beatles attended a memorial service for Brian on 17 October 1967 at the New London Synagogue in St. John's Wood, just a short distance from Abbey Road Studios.


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