Tag Archives: Brian Epstein

Documentary Review: “Brian Epstein: Inside the Fifth Beatle”

I delved back into my Amazon Prime account to see if there were any new Beatles flicks I could watch for free. That’s where I discovered the 2004 documentary – Brian Epstein: Inside the Fifth Beatle. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can rent it for $1.99 or buy it on DVD for about $5 or less at Amazon. Or you can skip all of the above and just watch the documentary online here for free!

Okay, now that you know you can buy it, rent it or watch it for free….maybe you’d like to know if it’s at all worth it?

This hour long film actually isn’t bad at all! There are many familiar names and faces of people that provide personal stories and commentary on working with the fifth Beatle – Brian Epstein. Included among theses are promoter – Sid Bernstein; Brian’s personal assistant Alistair Taylor; Brian’s secretary Beryl Adams; Mersey Beat owner Bill Harry; Beatles first manager Allan Williams; historian Richard Porter; and Beatles chauffeur Alf Bicknell. (Interesting note that Alistair, Beryl and Alf all passed away within months of this documentary being released.) There are snippets of conversation with Cilla Black, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Derek Taylor mixed in with the often repeated, but tolerable newsreel and film clips.

One point I couldn’t help but notice is that Alistair Taylor is very prominent in this film and provides most of the narration and maybe that was because he was the closest to Brian before and throughout the Beatles years. And interestingly, Alistair also wrote several books on the topic of the Beatles himself, but I’ll save the topic of Alistair’s books for next week’s review!

Though this film is 13 years old, it proved to me that there is still more for me to learn about Brian Epstein. And since one of my criteria for rating system in my reviews is based on whether or not it provides factual information for anyone that is new to The Beatles, I’d have to say that this easily passes that test. And for that reason…

I rate this documentary, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “A Cellarful of Noise” by Brian Epstein

My reading and review of A Cellarful of Noise by Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein has been too long in coming. This book was published in August 1964 and since I was born in July 1964 and was unable to read at the time, I think I have a firm excuse for being tardy.

I’ve known about this book for a very long time, but it was during the reading and review of Peter Brown’s book, The Love You Make, that I finally decided to invest in my own copy. These books don’t come cheaply. My first edition hardcover copy cost me $25 + shipping. If you’re not inclined to spend that much on a book, you can get a copy of A Cellarful of Noise on Kindle for $7.99. But I digress…

I had one trepidation about reading this book and that’s because it was ghost written by my arch-nemesis Derek Taylor. Anyone who has read along with my blog for any substantial amount of time will know that Mr. Taylor just gets under my skin despite the fact that everyone associated with him always writes very highly of him and his place in the Beatles organization. Still, I wasn’t going to let this stop me from reading what I consider to be an absolute must read experience for any Beatles freak!

To give you some background on the writing of this book, let me quote a paragraph from Peter Brown’s book:

The book’s entire interview and research period took place over a long weekend at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay in the south of England. On the first day Brian got through his childhood period without much trouble, but on the second day he started having difficulty telling Derek the story of his teens and early twenties.

At only 120 pages, this book is a short and abbreviated story of Brian Epstein, his life, career (with and without the Beatles) and his hopes and thoughts about his future, the future of the Beatles and his other artists. At some points, it seems to almost become a sales pitch for Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black and Gerry Marsden since it was written so early on in Brian’s career as a manager, but still it is a very enjoyable read with a lot of stories I had already heard and some stories that were new and revealing to me (remember, I don’t consider myself a Beatles trivia expert, so a lot of tales are still very new to me). Brian, always being the consummate professional and purveyor of good manners, is kind throughout the pages and if he does tell any tales of arguments or disagreements, he’s sure to clear up any harsh exchanges with words of peace and harmony in the end. And even though I had my doubts about this book because of Derek’s influence in it’s pages, I’m led to believe that because of Brian’s inscrutable honesty in all manners, that he would have never allowed the release of any book that wasn’t a true story and depiction of himself or those around him. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Love You Make” by Peter Brown

I sincerely apologize for not posting this review last week. In all my heart, I truly believed I was going to read this 437 page book in one weekend! Stupid me. Time got away from me and try as I might, I just couldn’t get it read for a review last weekend….so here it is.

The Love You Make – An Insiders Story of The Beatles by Peter Brown (and Steven Gaines) was first published in 1983. I stumbled across my copy at a book sale at a local library for just $2.50, but according to Amazon.com, they sell for over $10 each. The book was re-released and 2002 edition is available as a used book for as low as $0.01!

But enough of the crap…let’s get on with the review…

Peter Brown started out as salesman at NEMS when
Brian Epstein recruited him from another store across the street. When the Beatles came along, he took over managing NEMS in Brian’s absence, but was soon to follow Brian in working for the Fab Four. This is his story…

For all my fellow Beatles freaks, you may find a lot of the information in this book as ‘old news’ though there are quite a few instances of Peter saying, “…told for the first time here”. Obviously, after 34 years, his new stories have become common knowledge or have been debunked. There are also the usually tall tales like that of John Lennon being born during an air raid when all official government reports from Liverpool say that there was no air raid on October 9, 1940.

I was informed by a friend that Peter Brown caught a lot of flack for some of the stories he told in this book and that there was a sizable backlash. He tells the story of Brian and John’s holiday trip to Spain after the birth of John’s son Julian with details that I’ve never heard before reading this book. He talks of their sexual encounter that is different from the story told by John’s childhood friend Pete Shotton in his book. In fact, this book tells a great deal of many of the Beatles carnal activities all the way back to their pre-Hamburg days. There are also the stories of John and Yoko’s heroin addiction and the usual praising of Derek Taylor‘s drug and alcohol fueled work at Apple. Paul’s extracurricular activities while living with Jane Asher are also discussed.

The stories go on and on…I can’t even make a dent in them in this review. You’ll just have to read it for yourself. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir” by Joel Grey

While in Philadelphia last week, I dropped into a small independently owned book store to see if I could find anything new and exciting to review for my blog this week. I spied an autographed copy of Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir by Joel Grey and being a sucker for the movie Cabaret, I just crossed by fingers and prayed that I’d find the word “Beatles” in it, or find a way to tie his story to the Fab Four.

Born Joel David Katz in 1932 in Cleveland, OH, Joel Grey knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a theater actor. His father, Micky Katz, was a musician and comedian and his mother was a stage mom! Joel also realized by the age of nine that he was attracted to men, and like Brian Epstein, he would go to great lengths to hide his sexuality. Joel even went to far as to live out his lifelong dream of getting married to a woman and raising a family, all the while having homosexual affairs that, well…he didn’t consider them as affairs. He married Jo Wilder in a friend’s apartment at the Dakota in New York City in 1958. Together they had two children – Jennifer Grey, of Dirty Dancing fame and an adopted son James.

I couldn’t put this book down and if my eyelids would have allowed, I would have finished it within 24 hours of picking it up. Joel tells his story with such honesty that at times I almost felt like a voyeur sneaking peeks into his private life. He talks openly about his marriage, but will leave his readers with an uneasy feeling of, “Do you hear what you’re saying, Joel?”, when he talks about talking care of his wife and family as they lived off HIS fame. There is one rough part in Chapter 8 where he contradicts a couple early statements, but other than that, the book was amazing. I’m so glad I picked it up…

More recently, Joel Grey has taken up photography.  You can see his work on his website: http://www.joelgreyphotographer.com.

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book review: “Best of the Beatles: The Sacking of Pete Best” by Spencer Leigh

Best of the Beatles: The Sacking of Pete Best by Spencer Leigh is the revised edition of Leigh’s 1998 book – Drummed Out: The Sacking of Pete Best.  Mr. Leigh is a well known BBC radio show host and the author and co-author of over 30 books about British pop music and culture.

I hadn’t read Spencer Leigh’s original book about Pete Best being fired from the Beatles, so this book was completely new to me.  And even though there were no new theories as to why the Fab Four tossed Pete for Ringo that I hadn’t already heard, I still found this book enjoyable.  Mr. Leigh did a great job of pulling quotes from his various BBC interviews over the decades, along with research from books and new interviews to bring all the theories together to shine light on the true reason for the firing.

Along with theories, this book also contains a Postscript with all the new information that was discovered after the writing of the first book.  There you’ll find, what I consider, the only new revelation and it concerns Raymond Jones, the young man that was the first person to walk into NEMS and request a copy of the Beatles singing ‘My Bonnie‘ with Tony Sheridan.  There is also a chapters for the discography of Pete playing with the Beatles and another for Ringo’s discography.

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Author and BBC radio show host – Spencer Leigh

The only problem I found with this well-written, quick and easy to read book was that I didn’t feel that the author ever really came to one absolutely conclusion as to why Ringo replaced Pete as the drummer for what was to become the greatest rock band the world has ever known. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: Do You Want to Know a Secret?: The Autobiography of Billy J. Kramer

I don’t request review copies of new books too often.  I prefer to spend my own money so I don’t feel obligated to give a decent review in exchange for the freebie.  This time, it’s going to be difficult!

When I first got my copy of Do You Want to Know a Secret?: The Autobiography of Billy J. Kramer I noticed the page count was only 180 pages.  “Cool!”, I thought, “This will be a breeze of a read.”  I should have realized that the low page count would mean there wasn’t much sustenance to this autobiography.  I guess that goes along with Billy J. Kramer’s belief that after he leaves a stage, his life is his own and no one should bother him or invade his privacy in any manner whatsoever.

So, what’s in this book?  Well, Mr. Kramer marches nicely and neatly through his life explaining to us everything he hates and didn’t like about his career in the music industry.  He didn’t like Dakotas, George Martin’s production on his song, his manager Brian Epstein’s choice of songs, the screaming girls at the concert or the fans that mobbed him after the shows.  The only time I felt Billy J. was truly honest and interesting in the telling of his story was when he finally admitted to himself that he had a drug and alcohol problem.  Unfortunately, after the telling of that period of his life, he resorts back to his arrogant “I did nothing wrong…it’s everyone else’s fault” attitude.

If you’d like to know the basic story behind his Billy J. Kramer’s life and how much he worshiped the Beatles, then give this book a read.  If you’re looking to know stuff like where he fell in the chronological line with his 7 siblings, then you’re going to have to consult another source.  And for that reason…

I rate this book 2 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “The One After 909: A Mystery with a Backbeat” by Tony Broadbent

I’d like to thank author Tony Broadbent for sending me a copy of his latest book, The One After 9:09: A Mystery With A Backbeat.  Tony is a Brit, born and raised, who now lives in North Carolina, USA.

This book is incredibly well written.  Even with over 400 pages, a reader can easily read through it without feeling like it’s never going to end.  The book contains, what I believe, to be three stories revolving around the early days of the Beatles career in the Liverpool and Hamburg days.

The first story is that of Raymond “Spike” Jones, the young man who apparently was the first Beatles fan to walk into NEMS record store and request a copy of “My Bonnie” with the Beatles singing back-up.  This particular storyline is fictitious, even though Raymond is said to have been a real person.  The second story is that of the mysterious private life of Brian Epstein and his (illegal) gay lifestyle.  The third story is that of the Beatles in their early days of getting to the toppermost of the poppermost.  Included in the all of the stories are Sam Leach, Mal Evans, Bob Wooler and many other well known Liverpool personalities.

All these tales and characters’ lives intertwine and overlap throughout the book, but at the same time, each holds it own.  The problem comes, though, when the reader isn’t sure which story is the main focus of the book.  And in the end, the storyline I had thought would figure prominently and close out the book wasn’t the one.  It was as if there was one train of thought that never came to the dramatic conclusion that I was looking for in the end.

Still, this book was a nice light read and the author says that except for the Raymond Jones story, the book is factual and he even provides sources at the end.  And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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