BRIAN EPSTEIN'S DEATH
Beatles manager Brian Epstein died somewhat suspiciously in August 1967. Brian had a lot of skeletons in his closet and was an easy target for exploitation.
Born into a Jewish family, who owned a furniture business in Liverpool, he had already led a colourful life before managing the Beatles. In 1950, at the age of 16, Brian began work at the family's Walton Road premises, although he wanted to become a dress designer - something his father strongly opposed.
He was conscripted to the army at 18, but was discharged after 10 months for being emotionally and mentally unfit. In his autobiography “A Cellarful Of Noise”, published in October 1964, Epstein explains this was for impersonating an officer. The hidden truth was that he had paid a tailor to make him an officer's uniform. A uniform he wore whilst cruising the gay bars of London. He was arrested by the military police, but avoided a court martial by agreeing to see an army psychiatrist who uncovered Epstein's homosexuality. This was a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain. The Lennon penned song “You've Got to Hide Your Love Away” is alleged to have been about Brian Epstein and there are persistent rumours that Lennon and Epstein had a fling whilst holidaying in Barcelona after the birth of Julian, Lennon’s son.
Why did John agree to go, and what did they do there? Only Epstein and Lennon knew with certainty, and both are no longer here to tell us. Before they died, they gave varying and ambiguous accounts of what happened. John told Playboy in an interview that, "Brian was in love with me." In Spain, "It was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated." Brian never publicly acknowledged his homosexuality.
As the Beatles fame grew, Epstein’s drug dependency did too. He was also a compulsive gambler and frequented casinos run by notorious East End London gangsters, the Kray Twins, and their associates. Epstein continued to gamble huge sums of money away and with concerns that his Beatles contract was coming to an end in 1967 tried to merge NEMS with Robert Stigwood’s organization for £500k. Not only that the Kray twins were blackmailing Epstein over his numerous ‘personal’ issues and informed a Glasgow gang leader Arthur Thompson they were about to take the Beatles from him. Thompson convinced them that this would destroy the Beatles and so they continued to blackmail Epstein for cash.
The Beatles had announced they would no longer tour in late 1966 and concentrated on long hours creating music in the studio. Brian felt he was losing control of the band and his day to day involvement was fading as the Beatles pursued other interests. He had also made some questionable business decisions that, although making the Beatles very rich young men, had meant that many others had cashed in at their expense. This had made him insecure that he could continue managing the group. Some more speculative theories link his death to the Paul McCartney death rumours which will be covered later.
Whilst the Beatles were in Bangor attending lectures in meditation and tranquility, Brian Epstein was found dead in bed on 27th August 1967. The official inquest declared it accidental due to the consumption of too many sleeping pills. However Peter Brown, a long time employee of Epstein claimed that he had removed a suicide note and a will from Brian’s bedroom prior to the arrival of the police to the scene. The note he claims was from an earlier suicide attempt that he had not gone through with. The Beatles without Epstein were like a rudderless ship and this was almost certainly the event that became a catalyst for their eventual break up in 1970.
Despite all the theories regarding Brian’s death, Paul McCartney (or his replacement) believes it to be an accident.
I don't think there was anything sinister in his death. There were rumours of very sinister circumstances, but I personally think it was a drink-and-sleeping-pills overdose. I think what happened was that Brian was going down to his house in the country. It was a Friday night, and there were going to be friends there. Brian went down with one of his friends, but no one had showed up - so he thought: 'Ugh - it's Friday night! I've got time to get back to London if I rush. It seems feasible to me, knowing Brian. Then he drove back up to London and went to the clubs, but they were all closing and there was no action. So he had a few bevvies, then a sleeping pill or two before going to bed Brian always did that.I think he woke up in the middle of the night and thought: My God, I can't sleep. I haven't had a pill.' Then he had a few more pills, and I think that could have killed him.
My feeling was that it was an accident.
-Beatles Anthology 1995