Man with a capacity to pick talent

Mr Brian Epstein, who built up the Beatles, Cilla Black, and others from obscurity to international fame, was found dead in bed in his home in Belgravia, London, yesterday. He was 32.

Police were called by the housekeeper. Later a senior police officer said: "We are treating it as a sudden death. I assume there will be a post-mortem examination, but it is up to the coroner what further inquiries will be made."

A friend of Mr Epstein said: "He has been unwell for some months. The reason for his death is at present unknown."

'Great shock'

The Beatles were in Bangor where they were initiated at the weekend into the cult of the Himalayan mystic, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Paul McCartney and his friend Jane Asher, the actress, left for London after hearing the news. The three other Beatles were waiting for cars to arrive from London to take them back there.

Mr McCartney, looking pale and distressed, said: "It is a great shock and I am upset."

John Lennon said: "The Maharishi told us not to be too overwhelmed by grief. I have lost only a few people who were very close to me: This is one of those occasions, but I feel my course of meditation here has helped me overcome my grief more easily than before."

A crowd began to assemble on the pavement opposite Mr Epstein's home, in Chapel Street just off Belgrave Square, waiting for further news. Police reinforcements were called in. By this time, the coffin, accompanied by a doctor, had been carried away.

An official of the International Meditation Society said Mr Epstein was to have travelled to Bangor today to be initiated as a member of the society.

Man with a capacity to pick talent

Brian Epstein was always considered as the Svengali who, by magic, created the Beatles and the resulting beat music boom.

But he always denied that he had "created" the Beatles, and their long-running success has proved him right in this, while reinforcing his own capacity to pick talent. He was far more the Diaghilev of pop music than a Svengali.

Indeed, his personal tastes were for the exotic, artistic, and classical. He loved classical music and enjoyed talking about it, which he could do in some depth. He was far removed for the caricature of the stage manager and, although his success gave him a life that must have been the ideal and envy of many, he was always shy and sensitive.

Early rebel

The sensitive side of his nature was, perhaps, the source of his melancholy. Melancholy is perhaps too old-fashioned a word to use, but it seemed to fit Epstein, for at times he seemed like a character enmeshed in an elaborate ironic Nabokovian plot: the modern artist-business man beset by the thoroughly old-fashioned vulgarities of the Philistine.

Born in 1935, Epstein had a conventional middle-class Jewish background, but was an early rebel against it. He was expelled from Liverpool College for (he explained in his autobiography, "A Cellar Full of Noise") drawing dancing girls in maths class. At 16 he started in his father's furniture shop business , broke this off for a time to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but returned to the family business and became very successful in it as the manager of the record department.

At the Cavern

It was in this capacity that he became aware of the Beatles in October, 1961. Customers, he said, kept asking for a record called "Mr Bonnie," which the Beatles had recorded in Germany for an obscure company. When Epstein learned that the Beatles were appearing at the Cavern Club, just round the corner from his shop, he went to hear them, and soon afterwards became their manager. The rest of this story is well known.

Less well known or appreciated are Epstein's attempts to broaden his own scope as an impresario. In 1965 he bought the Saville Theatre. Unfortunately, he lost money with many of his productions there, particularly James Baldwin's play "The Amen Corner." The Saville was, he thought, too small for him to produce the sort of big theatrical plays he would have liked to produce, and he found himself using it as nothing more than a stage for pop shows.

All this added to his melancholy; he suffered from poor health, and the death of his father, with whom he was extremely close, was another blow to him.


Stanley Reynolds

The GuardianTramp

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