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New book, ELVIS AND THE BEATLES, reveals surprising relationship between The Fab Four and The King of Rock and Roll

ELVIS AND THE BEATLES bookRock and roll fans know about the historic meeting in 1965 between Elvis Presley and The Beatles. However, most mistakenly believe that was the only connection between the two biggest rock and roll acts of all time.

After that meeting (and even before), there were many positive ways that The Beatles and Elvis Presley connected personally and professionally, and at the very least, had empathy for each other. However, on the surface, it looked like The Beatles and Elvis couldn’t be farther apart.

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Review: The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story – What’s all the fuss about?

fifthbeatle-coverWhat is all the fuss about the graphic novel by Vivek J. Tiwary, Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker about Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ manager? This book has been getting a great deal of attention due to the fact that it not only will be made into a feature film by Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment, but also a multi-part television series with Sonar Entertainment.

The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story is a visually elaborate re-telling of  Beatles’ history as seen through the perspective of their manager, who many including Paul McCartney have called “The Fifth Beatle.” However, that title is not an exclusive one. Recently, after Beatles’ producer George Martin died, Paul McCartney also deemed him “The Fifth Beatle.”

However, Epstein may deserve the title more since without him, The Beatles may have never made it out of Liverpool. It was Brian who persevered in acquiring The Beatles a record contract in England after repeated rejection. It was Brian who negotiated their debut in America with Capitol Records and Ed Sullivan. It was Brian who encouraged them to clean up their act to be presentable to the public. Brian may have believed in The Beatles more than they themselves did.

To tell the complete history of The Beatles, a graphic novel can be a challenging format. Due to the comic book layout, The Fifth Beatle tells its story through more of a screenplay or storyboard format rather than a traditional book, which explains why it can easily be envisioned for the screen. Unlike other graphic novels, The Fifth Beatle leaves out a narrator. As a result, the characters are required to explain much more through their words than they probably did in actuality.

A key drawback of a biographical film adapted from a book is that it leaves out many important facts and details. In some instances, the film creates new truths to satisfy dramatic effect in order to make the movie more entertaining – what is commonly known as “dramatic license.”

Unfortunately, right off the bat, author Tiwary admits that the truth wasn’t a priority to him in his book in telling Brian Epstein’s story: “Almost everything in the pages you’ve just read actually did happen” Tiwary writes. “But conveying the truth – while important – has never been my primary goal.”

Tiwary’s goal was “to reveal not just the facts but the poetry behind the Brian Epstein story.” He certainly finds inspiration and admiration for Epstein in all the obstacles he faced, not only in promoting The Beatles, but dealing with his closeted homosexuality. But that doesn’t excuse perpetuating detrimental myths back into Beatles’ lore. These “truths” used for drama are harmful to the legacy of The Beatles.

For example, The Fifth Beatle depicts Brian Epstein as purposely buying 10,000 copies of The Beatles first single “Love Me Do” in order to get it higher on the UK charts. Great for dramatic effect, but not so great if you’re into the truth.

Beatles historian and author, Mark Lewisohn, definitively states in his recent book, Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years, Volume 1, that Epstein did not do this and that this nasty rumor “unfairly casts a blight on his integrity.”

As John Lennon stated: “It [Love Me Do] sold so many in Liverpool the first two days — because they were all waiting for us to make it — that the dealers down in London thought there was a fiddle on. ‘That Mr. Epstein feller up there is cheating.’ But he wasn’t.”

Tiwary further implies that Epstein also overbought quantities of “Please Please Me” for his NEMS record shops to help it reach number one. Mark Lewisohn’s research refutes that explaining that “in 1962, it made no difference how many copies a shop sold of any record because the charts weren’t computed that way.”
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Another depiction that is greatly exaggerated is Brian Epstein’s dealings with Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Parker. In The Fifth Beatle, the Colonel is depicted as devilish and horribly unfair to Elvis for taking 50 percent of his earnings.
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However, the 50/50 contract, which only applied to side deals, was not signed until 1967, three years after the meeting between Parker and Epstein took place in 1964. The 50/50 split did not apply to all of Presley’s earnings until 1976, a year before Presley died. Another case of dramatic license, and yet the movie hasn’t even been made yet.
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Unlike what is presented in The Fifth Beatle, Colonel Parker was reportedly a big help to Brian Epstein and they got along well. Author Ray Coleman describes Colonel Parker as being generous in his advice to Brian about The Beatles touring in the States.

“Elvis has required every moment of my time, and I think he would have suffered had I signed anyone else,” Parker told Epstein, as recounted in Coleman’s biography of Brian Epstein. “But I admire you, Brian, for doing it… But remember, too, that when Presley soared to fame I was 44. When the Beatles happened, you were 28. That helps.”

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While Tiwary succeeds in passionately giving credit to Epstein for his role in promoting the biggest band of all time, he also raises concern by presenting inaccurate facts in his graphic novel, which may then be carried over into the forthcoming movie and TV series.
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It’s true that many films adapted from nonfiction books sometimes rearrange or embellish the truth in order to get the main message or theme across. However, something so detrimental to Epstein’s reputation as “buying” The Beatles’ popularity should have been researched more thoroughly. Hopefully, the film version will redeem itself by still exuding Epstein’s passion without sacrificing his integrity. — Trina Yannicos
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Note: A special Collector’s Edition of The Fifth Beatle was recently released which includes a unique textured cover and a section of bonus materials with rare Beatles and Brian Epstein memorabilia, artist sketches and alternate covers.
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George Martin rare 1998 interview provides valuable Beatles insights

Legendary producer for the Beatles, Sir George Martin, passed away on March 8, 2016 at the age of 90. He played such an integral role in the music of The Beatles that many regard him as the “fifth” Beatle.

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In 1999, Sir George released an album called In My Life which was a collection of Beatles songs covered by different artists. Produced by Martin, the album features songs by many A-list celebrities including Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Celine Dion, Goldie Hawn, Sean Connery and Phil Collins.

georgemartin-inmylifeCDTo promote the album, George Martin did an extensive interview with Beatles historian, Martin Lewis in 1998. The audio interview and transcript was released to the media to help publicize the In My Life album in 1999. This interview with Sir George provides great insight into his work with The Beatles.

Here is a brief excerpt:

Q: So there you are in 1962, something happened then that changed everything for you – you met Brian Epstein, who managed The Beatles. Tell me about that.

George Martin: Brian Epstein brought along a tape of a group that he called the most unlikely name of The Beatles, a very corny name I thought, and [the tape] was not very good, in fact it was awful. But it did have something, it had a sound that was very rough and raw. The songs weren’t anything to write home about. My reaction to him – he was very persuasive, he was convinced “this is going to be the best group ever. They’d been in Germany, they’re turning people away when they’re doing gigs.”

He didn’t tell me that he’d been to every other record company in the country, and been turned down by every record company. If I had known that, I would have chucked him out the door, but I listened very politely to him, he was a very nice man, very persuasive. And I said, “If you want me to judge it on this I would have to say never, but if you like I will give these characters some time. If you bring them down from Liverpool, I will take them into the studio and I will see what we can do with them, and then I’ll tell you if they’re any good or not.”

But when The Beatles came down, we spent an afternoon in the studio together and that was quite different.

Q: In what way was it different when they actually came into the studio in June 1962?

George Martin: They had tremendous charisma, these four boys. At least three of them did. The guy who played drums [Pete Best] was very good-looking but he didn’t say much and just kept very quiet in the background. But the other three were full of life and joking around with each other…

The songs they played me weren’t terrific, they were OK, but there wasn’t a hit I could hear. “Love Me Do” was about the best. But they had that quality which made you feel good. And I thought to myself, well if they make me feel good, and I’m a pretty hard, cynical bloke, they’re going to make other people feel good too. And therefore they have that charisma which is necessary for success…

This was the time also, it’s been much repeated, when I brought them into the control room to listen to what we’d been doing to their sound to see whether they thought the balance was right with what they’re used to hearing. And I said, “Have a listen to this and if there’s anything you don’t like, let me know.” Of course, George, the smart-ass that he was, said, “Well for a start, I don’t like your tie.” The others thought I would be offended by this, but it broke the atmosphere. It was very funny.
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Q: Do you think you had the midas touch?

George Martin: I didn’t analyze my technique. To begin with, my main role was shaping and helping with instrumentals, helping with introductions, helping with the way it rounded off at the end. In a song like “Can’t Buy Me Love” for example, I took a phrase out of the chorus and turned it into an introduction.

When Paul first brought me the song, he started it off [imitates music] ba-da-da-da-da at the beginning of the song, and I said we need something more hooky than that, something to grab your attention. Which is why I took out “Can’t Buy Me Love” and constructed a beginning by repeating the hook into an introduction which seized upon your mind. You had to sell things quickly in those days.

Q: Did The Beatles take very happily to you making these suggestions in the first place or were they initially a little surprised that this slightly older person had ideas that melded so well with their own?

George Martin: The Beatles were very collaborative. I suppose they had to be. But no, there was no problem with them because they knew the formulas were working. They could see that anything we were doing together was the right way to do it. You can’t argue with number one.
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Q: There was always the misnomer that John always described himself as a rocker, and yet it was he who wrote songs such as “Julia” and “In My Life” and people say “oh Paul, he wrote all those romantic ballads,” but he also wrote “Helter Skelter.”

George Martin: Paul and John were extraordinarily similar, and yet they were extraordinarily different. They were a perfect match because their collaboration was competitive and they both did the same things very well… But they were both geniuses. In my book, they were equal geniuses. One was not above the other in any way, they were both superb.
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Note: This was just a tiny excerpt from the lengthy, in-depth interview with George Martin. The extended transcript (filling six 8.5 X 11 pages) of this insightful interview was printed in Daytrippin’ Magazine, Issue No. 7 from 1999, which is now available in electronic format at this link: https://daytrippin.com/magazine/back-issues/
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Other articles you might have missed:
When Elvis met The Beatles, was there a secret reporter present?

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