“I am baffled that Brian Epstein has not been posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Non-Performer category. His name should be up in lights. -Billy J. Kramer (Artist represented by Brian Epstein in the 60’s)
Throughout the twentieth century there’s been much talk on the subject of “who was The Fifth Beatle?”. Some have speculated it was their producer and Rock and Roll Hall inductee, Sir George Martin or the soulful and openly gay, singer songwriter Billy Preston, who was the only artist ever to be featured on a Beatles album (Let It Be). These artists are all more than worthy of the title, but after reading The Fifth Beatle, I like to think it was the Fab Four’s first manager and the man solely responsible for making the Beatles the legends they are today…Brian Epstein.
This book was, according to it’s author Vivek J. Tiwary, a life-long labor of love dating back decades, but before I talk about that, let’s talk about the book.
The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided the Beatles—from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of “The Man Who Made The Beatles,” The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian Epstein was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town. He helped spread the Beatles’ message of love to the entire world, yet died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, consumed by staggering ambition and the endless struggles that came with it.
Both heartbreaking and uplifting, The Fifth Beatle not only reveals an important, unsung chapter in the history of the Beatles—but it will inspire anyone who’s ever dared to believe in a dream.
In light of what the man accomplished, his loneliness may seem trivial to some, but loneliness can be a killer, especially when you’re a gay male in sixties England where homosexuality was against the law. Brian Epstein was as much a visionary as Steve Jobs or Richard Branson. From that first faithful evening at The Cavern he knew what The Beatles could become and made it his life’s mission to make, those lads from Liverpool, rock legends.
Author Vivek J. Tiwary’s vision of Brian’s life is told with as much energy as words and ink can handle. From his days as a record store owner in England to becoming The Beatles manager, the haze and hysteria of that point in time in history is exquisitely captured on every single page. Although abbreviated, Vivek takes some pretty pivotal moments in Brian’s life and inspires us with them. The marriage between his words and the delicious artwork of Andrew C. Robinson is nothing short of stepping back into time. There are also moments that add a trippy element, that I thought the author embellished, only to find out that these things did happen.
Case in point, when Brian travels to America to negotiate getting The Beatles (whome at the time were at the time slowly gaining momentum in the U.S.) on The Ed Sullivan Show. The conversation seems normal enough til you realize Brian is talking to Ed Sullivan’s program director whose using a ventriloquist puppet to talk to Brian. A real David Lynch moment to say the least, but it happened.
The art explodes with color and very well thought out art direction and likeness, but never goes over board. Reading TFB was like watching an Oliver Stone film and as always, I’m sure will be made into a movie at some point. The story of one of the worlds most famous men who had to hide his lifestyle in an industry inundated by those like him, but who had to do the same thing, is a hard pill to swallow, but as I did, you too will come to the realization that this has and always will be Rock and Roll.