Image courtesy Vivek Tiwary
Twenty-one years ago, when he was enrolled in the Wharton School of Business, Vivek Tiwary wanted to build an arts and entertainment career. However, being a first-generation Indian-American, he was a bit of a misfit in his chosen field. He was given a class assignment to do a business case study and decided to write about the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. At the time, there was no Wikipedia, no Google and no books existed about Mr. Epstein.
The man was a mystery.
Tiwary wanted to know about the business side of the Beatles. For example, how did Epstein convince Ed Sullivan to put them on his show?
What his research uncovered was the human side of the story. Epstein was gay, Jewish and from Liverpool: three significant obstacles to making it in business and society in the 1960s. It was a felony at that time in Great Britain to be gay. Epstein was the ultimate outsider.
In the 1960s, people laughed when Epstein said the Beatles would elevate pop music to an art form, but it was this boldness that made Epstein a role model for Tiwary. He needed a hero who chased impossible dreams and realized them spectacularly, and that’s why Epstein’s story was so inspiring to him. Epstein became Tiwary’s historical mentor.
As Tiwary continued his research, he discovered some of the reasons why Epstein’s story had not yet been told.
“The fact that he was gay, at a period when it was literally against the law, was why Epstein was a very hidden person,” he said. “He tried to stay away from people writing articles about him, or a biography, because so much of his life needed to be private, or else he could have been thrown in jail. Among his family and friends, it was an understood thing that they wouldn’t talk about his life. Brian even told the Beatles to focus on playing their instruments and his instrument would be the business, and they would never have to hear it.”
The Under-appreciated Manager
Tiwary, who has managed bands and produced Broadway musicals, felt a kinship to Epstein.
“I feel like managers don’t get any credit in the music industry,” he said. “The Beatles didn’t really appreciate what Brian did for them,” he said. “I think it’s due to a lack of understanding. It wasn’t until decades after he died that they acknowledged or appreciated what he did for them. In 1999, Paul McCartney said, ‘If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian.’ Brian died in 1967, so that was three decades later.”
Tiwary feels that Epstein’s death was the beginning of the end for the Beatles. And his theory is supported by John Lennon, who in a 1970 Rolling Stone interview said, “After Brian died, we collapsed. Paul took over and supposedly led us. But what is leading us, when we went round in circles? We broke up then. That was the disintegration.”
“If you draw a timeline, it was literally after Brian’s death that the Beatles started to have their first failures,” Tiwary said. “Up until Brian’s death, the Beatles could do no wrong; they could say no wrong; they could have no record or project that wasn’t a hit, and it just wasn’t the case after Brian died. After Brian died, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ was a disaster. It was embarrassing. The critics hated it. And the band started fighting very publicly, so if you just draw a line in the sand: with Brian things were wonderful and after Brian things were disastrous.”
Tiwary believes things might have been different if Brian hadn’t died.
“My guess is that Brian probably couldn’t have kept the band together if he lived,” he said. “I think they were all moving in very personal, different directions. When the band started, it was obviously John Lennon’s band – it was called ‘Johnny and the Moondogs – but by the end of the Beatles, they were four different artists. However, Brian saw that the Beatles had a great message of love to give to the world and I believe that he would never have allowed the band to break up publicly with such acrimony. He would have created a situation where they didn’t necessarily quit, but they just went on and did other things. He would never have allowed a band with such a message of love to have gone down in flames with such hatred.”
Though Epstein’s story could have been told decades ago, Tiwary feels that now is the right time to tell it.
“I think the world is finally ready to hear the story of the man who accomplished all of these things,” he said. “We now live in a world where I can say, ‘Hey I want to tell you this amazing story about a gay, Jewish guy who…’ and you haven’t already blocked it out by the time I get to ‘who.’ Ten years ago, after hearing the word ‘gay,’ a large number of people wouldn’t want to hear any more.”