Tag Archives: Brian Epstein

Book Review: “My Beatles Hell: The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams” by Lew Baxter

My Beatles Hell: The Tragical History Tour of Beryl Adams by Lew Baxter is one of those books that you keep seeing popping up in Amazon’s recommended reading list or on other people’s bookshelf and eventually you hunt down a used copy and probably pay way to much for it, only to realize that ….yeah, you paid too much for an awful book!

To be completely honest, I started this review yesterday, but decided that I needed to read more than 93 of the 222 pages in this book to be able to give an honest review. Sixteen pages later, I’m more adamant in my opinion that this book is a sham!

She was scathing about the legions of folks – mostly men – although the recently published “ramblings” of Pauline Sutcliffe on her newly “exotic” brother caused incandescent ire in Beryl. These are people, she ranted, who’ve relentlessly jumped on the Beatles’ bandwagon over the last four decades; many touting mythical tales of links with the Fab Four or fabricating stories to make themselves look good or to savor some vicarious pleasure.

This is just a huge embarrassment to the Beatles world. There are very few who don’t/didn’t come under fire from Beryl in this book including Alastair Taylor, Peter Brown, John Lennon, Cynthia Lennon, Bob Wooler (who was married to Beryl), Allan Williams (who was Beryl’s live in lover) and Brian Epstein (for HIS decision to sack Pete Best). I’d truly like to believe that if Beryl hadn’t passed away suddenly (from mad cow disease), she would never have allowed this awful portrayal of her, her time as Brian Epstein’s secretary and her life to have ever been published!

Lew Baxter should be ashamed of himself. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “With The Beatles” by Alistair Taylor

Last week I said I would touch upon the commentary given by Alistair Taylor in the documentary Brian Epstein: Inside the Fifth Beatle. It just so happens that I was reading Alistair’s autobiography last week when I took a break to see the film. With the Beatles was the last book written by Brian Epstein’s personal assistant Alistair Taylor. It’s actually revision of his 2001 book A Secret History. Alistair also wrote a book Yesterday: The Beatles Remembered in 1988 that was reissued in 1991 under the title Yesterday: My Life With the Beatles.

Why so many books by one man?

Alistair Taylor started working at NEMS in late 1960 at the age of 25. Originally he had been interviewed for a sales clerk position, but after a two hour interview, Brian Epstein hired him as his personal assistant. The rest my friends is history. Alistair would become Brian’s right-hand man throughout his time as the Beatles manager and would come to be known as “Mr. Fixit” in the Beatles circle.

Mr. Fixit was exactly as his name implies. He was in charge of any problems that arose in the Beatles professional and personal world. Alistair would shop for cars, houses, islands or anything else the Beatles might request.  If a pregnant fan showed up, Alistair could make her go away with a check from Brian. If a Beatle happened to unfortunately come down with a STD, Alistair would find the cure and hand deliver it to them. And so it went, for 9 years Alistair Taylor literally waited on John, Paul, George and Ringo hand and foot even after Brian’s death. He was even a shoulder to cry on when Jane Asher left Paul. Until 1969 when Allan Klein did a clean sweep of Apple Corp., fired Alistair and the Beatles stopped taking his calls. Life would never be the same….

This is Alistair’s story of those years. Interestingly, much of the first half of this book is quoted a lot in the documentary I watched last week about Brian. Still, it’s a book worthy of shelf space with any Beatles freak’s collection. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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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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