Interview for Melody Maker • Saturday, August 19, 1967

The Epstein interviews

Press interview • Interview of Brian Epstein
Published by:
Melody Maker
Interview by:
Mike Hennessey
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The Monkees have been a great boost to the music industry but don’t think they can seriously compare with the Beatles…

I understand that your contract with the Beatles runs out towards the end of this year. Do you have the slightest doubt that they will re-sign with you?

No. I don’t. I don’t think they mind how long I sign them for. A contract doesn’t mean much unless you can work and be happy together. And I am certain that they would not agree to be managed by anyone else. Obviously, I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) make them do anything they didn’t want because of any legal rights I hold. Most of the time we think in the same direction anyway. And so we just groove along. In fact, the principal value of a contract between us is really for the benefit of the lawyers, accountants and all that scene, because those people always think these things should be “proved” on paper.

When did you first sign them up?

In December 1961, after hearing them at the Cavern in November.

It is widely believed that you went to see them after receiving repeated requests for their records in the record departments you managed. Is this true?

More or less. At the time I was getting very bored with what I was doing. I’d been selling records in my family’s stores for about five years and had attained just about as much success in that sphere as possible. I’d tried window-dressing, selling furniture, soldiering, selling books in Charing Cross Road with varying degrees of success and just about that time I was looking for something challenging and exciting.

You must frequently have been asked if you foresaw the tremendous success of the Beatles when you signed them. May I ask you yet again?

I never had any doubts that they would be huge. But I couldn’t have seen the turn of events. I saw the potential of the Beatles without knowing how it would evolve. The timing was right as well.

If you had not met and signed the Beatles, do you think you would still have become a manager and impresario?

I don’t know. At sixteen I wanted to be a dress designer, but it didn’t happen. At 22 I wanted to be an actor so I went to RADA but I didn’t like it. And then I started selling records and after that, I met the Beatles.

How much do you think you have contributed to the success of the Beatles?

Well, they are certainly not where they are today, because of me, if that is what you are suggesting. But our good relationship has been a contributing factor. When people ask why the Beatles have been so tremendously successful they always expect one short answer. But there isn’t one. There are hundreds of contributory factors.

Would the Beatles have been so successful if they had been managed by someone else?

They may have been as successful, but I don’t think they would have been as happy. I do know that I have always been straightforward and honest with them and they appreciate this.

Do you take 25 percent of their earnings?

I certainly did at the beginning when I had more expense in promoting them. But now it works out roughly at a share for all five of us.

I imagine, however, that Paul and John, as composers, have the biggest incomes.

Yes. I imagine that too.

There have been suggestions in the past that you used the Beatles to promote other artists. Is this true?

In spite of everything that may have been said, this is absolutely untrue. I have never used them to promote other artists. I have always been perfectly single-minded about this and I must say, in fairness, that the Beatles have been easy to manage. If they had decided on someone else to manage them I am sure they would maintain the same faith and ideals. Faith and belief have existed mutually between us since the beginning.

Has the phenomenal success of the Beatles caused people to over-rate your gifts as a pop Svengali?

I think this used to happen more than it does now. I was simply showered with talent. But I am not looking for it any more. I have delegated all my responsibilities as agent and I think people have stopped overrating me.

People have referred to the Monkees as the biggest pop music sensation since the Beatles. How do you regard this claim?

I think the Monkees have been a great boost to the music industry but I don’t think they can seriously compare with the Beatles.

Do you think a phenomenon like the Beatles can ever occur again?

I think it is unlikely in the same form or magnitude. When people refer to a group as being the new Beatles it doesn’t worry me. It is the same as Bardot. She doesn’t mind that there are 48 girls all being hailed as the new Bardot. But if another Beatles phenomenon does occur. I know that I’ll be watching it rather than handling it. I’ve been through all the phases of management with the Beatles and that is sufficient for me. I’d like to go on with the Beatles and with Cilla, and I’d like to see Gerry happen. Naturally, I am also proud to be associated through NEMS Enterprises with other artists. Especially The Cream, The Bee Gees, The Who, Matt Monro, Donovan and so on. But I obviously could not deal with all NEMS activities personally, so I’ve given these responsibilities to the people who I think are right for the job.

As well as successes, you’ve had your share of failures in artist management. How do you feel about them?

I feel very sorry for the artists who didn’t make it under my management.

Do you think in these cases that your judgement was at fault or was it the judgement of the public?

I think mostly, in the past, I was at fault. Then there are other factors of young people growing up and not maturing and progressing as one would have liked.

Have the Beatles changed very much since you first met them?

Yes, a lot.

A frequent criticism of the Beatles these days is that they have lost touch with the public who made them. What do you think of this?

This is quite untrue. I don’t think it is a good idea for them to talk to the Press every minute. On the other hand, they have been quite open about a lot of things. Paul talked quite freely to the Press recently. But there has to be somewhere that you stop. There are 100,000 reporters who want to interview them. When we launched the Sergeant Pepper LP we considered for a long time the best way to do it. Finally, we decided to have a party at my pad. It was difficult to decide who to invite — we wanted people who were close to us and people who would spread the word. I suppose we had about 15 journalists there. It proved a good idea because the story went round the world.

But will the Beatles be making any more concert appearances?

Not in the usual form. But it is difficult to predict future developments. For instance, I couldn’t have said twelve months ago that the Beatles were going to appear to the whole world to tell everybody ” All You Need Is Love.” As you know the Beatles are working towards a TV programme for distribution throughout the world. They are also keen to develop ideas for a film. “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band ” has been a fantastic success. To date it has sold 521,043 copies in Britain, nearly two million in America and huge sales figures have been received from many other countries. I think they would like to make a sort of Sgt Pepper film. They have proved that they can do the sound part and now they feel they can tackle the visual part as well. They would like the film to come from within our orbit and there are plenty of good people in NEMS who can help them with this. They want complete freedom to make it and create it in their own way.

Is it true that the Beatles are getting more and more outside help on their records and are less personally involved?

No, they’re not. Quite the reverse. They are more involved in the making of their records than they have ever been. I cannot emphasize the truth of that statement too much. Of course, George Martin and others play their part. But the Beatles are still the creators. They go to many of the mixing sessions and have maintained control over everything. As far as I am concerned, I believe in them more than ever.

Last updated on September 1, 2023


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