Lennon was known for biting remarks made at everyone’s expense, and he did not spare Epstein, whom he is said to have admired and liked greatly. “‘In Baby You Are Rich Man,’ Lennon is reported to have sung ‘Baby you are rich fag Jew’ at the end of the record,” says Turner. There were other such jibes over the years but Lennon, wrote Coleman, may have been the Beatle who truly grasped the extraordinary qualities in Epstein that made him the driving force behind the group. “Epstein put up with Lennon’s remarks. Anyone working with Lennon learned to live with his caustic tongue.”
In February 1963, the Beatles second single “Please Please Me” hit number one and the following month their first album began its 30 week stint at the top of the charts. Fame was quick to follow. “It happened suddenly and dramatically,” wrote Epstein, “And we weren’t prepared for it.”
On November 4, 1963, the band received its highest recognition to date: An invitation to play for Queen Elizabeth and her family at the annual Royal Command Performance. Deferring to Epstein’s judgement, Lennon agreed to clean up a planned humorous remark directed at the royal family in which he invited them to rattle “your jewelry” rather than your “fucking jewelry.” The expletive-free version went over well and the band was a hit. Princess Margaret was smitten.
The Beatles now had broad appeal throughout Britain. “Without Brian the Beatles never get out of Liverpool,” says Glenn Frankel, a Washington Post reporter who is researching Epstein’s life. “Liverpool was a small subsidiary of the Empire. It was Podunk and people in London looked down their noses at Liverpool talent. There was no way to get from here to here to there. Without Brian they could have been Michelangelo but they didn’t get out. Without Brian, they were just the best band in Liverpool.”
In less than one year, the Beatles went from releasing their first record to being the number one act in England. The British press coined the term “Beatlemania” to describe the fanatic reception the group received in public. Epstein’s role for the group took on a new aspect. It was only a few months ago that Epstein was knocking on all doors to sell the Beatles. Now, he was their first line of defense, guarding them from incessant press exposure and mobs of excited fans. Under his watchful eye, Epstein guided the “Fab Four” through the whirlwind they were creating.
During it all, Epstein transformed NEMS into a full-fledged talent management company, hired a staff and signed on other talented Liverpool artists such as Gerry and the Pacemakers and Cilla Black. Elvis Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, found it astounding that Epstein found the time to manage more than one major group. But no matter how many artists Epstein had to juggle, the Beatles were always his first love.
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