‘Fifth Beatle’ was an unsung hero

Musical retelling of Beatles story through eyes of manager
Oct 08, 2015
Courtesy of: ECA Murphy Martin will play the role of Brian Epstein, the “fifth Beatle,” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, at the Edmonds Center for the Arts.

Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and guided them to mega-stardom, making them the most successful musical artists of all time, has become a comparatively forgotten man since his tragic death in 1967.

“In My Life – A Musical Theatre Tribute to the Beatles” is a musical retelling of the iconic band’s story through the eyes of Epstein and features the live music of renowned tribute band, Abbey Road.

The award-winning musical will return to the Edmonds Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, and the Edmonds-Woodway High School String Quartet will accompany the cast on stage for five songs.

In 1961, Epstein worked at his family's furniture store and took over the small record department. He worked day and night at the store to make it a success, and it became one of the biggest musical retail outlets in Northern England.

It was from this shop that he set out on Nov. 9, 1961, to catch the lunch hour show at a dingy, dank former vegetable cellar, The Cavern Club, a few hundred yards away.

He made his way past a queue of teenage girls in beehives and boys in skin-tight drain-pipe trousers, and down 18 damp stone steps to check out four sweaty young men playing guitars and drums.

Epstein favored the finer arts like opera, theater and chamber music, not the simple, raucous rock 'n' roll that was sweeping across Britain.

On stage, the Beatles wore black leather jackets, drank, smoked cigarettes and spiced their stage banter with profanity.

“Against all odds, he was instantly charmed by what he saw on stage,” Murphy Martin, who plays “Epstein” in the musical, said. “He then seized upon the idea of “cleaning up” the band and transforming them into something the world could embrace.”

 

Epstein had no musical talent of his own, and he did not impart any influence on the Beatles' music, but it is safe to assume that if he had decided not to manage the Beatles, they would have never been unveiled to the outside world and society as we know it today might be quite different.

Epstein also had no experience managing entertainers, and he did not he have any contacts in the music industry. However, the Beatles were desperate for someone to help them with their careers.

Although they were the kings of Liverpool, they were stuck in the UK's Merseyside County. In essence, Epstein and the group needed one another – his eloquence, fine upper-class manners and wealth obviously impressed the Beatles, all of whom grew up in working-class environments.

Within two years of first meeting Epstein, they were performing in collarless jackets and taking synchronized bows.

Everyone knows what happened next. After being rejected by nearly every major recording company in London, Epstein secured a meeting with George Martin, head of a small subsidiary of EMI Records called "Parlophone."

In May 1962, Martin agreed to sign the Beatles, partly because of Epstein's conviction that the group would become internationally famous.

“I immediately liked Brian when I first met him, and he greatly impressed me with his passion to make the Beatles succeed,” Martin said. “It was that passion that encouraged me to meet the band, audition them and eventually to sign them.”

By the end of 1963, the Beatles were the hottest act in Britain, and, in the following year, they would become the most famous four people on the planet.

While he didn’t single-handedly invent rock management and promotion, Epstein clearly took the profession to previously unknown peaks with huge stadium concerts, global tours and publicizing his clients’ personalities, as well as their music.

After the Beatles stopped touring in August 1966 and focused their work in the studio, Epstein had fewer responsibilities with the band, fell into drug addiction and died of an overdose in August 1967.

Over the next three years, as the Beatles' fame and public adulation escalated to unprecedented heights, Epstein, not even 30, attained a level of affluence and power he could not possibly have ever dreamed of.

After the Beatles stopped touring in August of 1966 and focused their work in the studio, Epstein had fewer responsibilities with the band, fell into drug addiction and died of a drug overdose in 1967.

“Epstein was a fascinating, complex figure who was a deeply troubled and insecure man who fought demons that ultimately ended his life in tragedy,” Martin said. “It is a challenge to play him.”

Ironically, it was McCartney, not a great admirer of Epstein, who declared to the BBC, "If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian."

Last year, Brian Epstein was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Edmonds-Woodway High School students Dane Johnson, Helen Nguyen, Jonathan Mah and Andrew Kim will join the band for the songs "Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," "A Day in the Life," "Hello Goodbye" and "Hey Jude."

Tickets are $35, $45 and $55 and may be purchased online at www.edmondscenterforthearts.org, by phone at 425-275-9595, or at the theatre box office at 410 Fourth Ave. N. The show is appropriate for all ages.

 

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