Anyone less likely than the young Brian Epstein to mastermind a new, brash musical trend, appealing to every wild teenager, jarring to every genteel bourgeois, would be hard to imagine. Brian was middle-class gentility on two legs, a well-groomed son of the synagogue, who seemed destined to spend his life welcoming customers to his father's furniture store, carefully insulated from the stench of the slums and the dodge-and-scamper of street-life.
It was actually his failure as a furniture salesman (and everything else) that prompted his father to let him have part of the building for his record business. Here his uncanny knack of sensing a hit, from among a mass of new material by young unknowns, led directly to his backing of the Beatles, against much expert advice.
This was about the time Benjamin Britten declared that "we have one skin less" - outwardly referring to composers, but hinting at a different 'we', who were at that time a genuinely persecuted minority. Brian's thin skin would be both the making and the breaking of him. He could actually be quite stubborn, pressuring the four lads to wear identical suits and hairstyles, and ordering the anarchic Gerry Marsden to take elocution lessons. (Marianne Faithfull said they needed one grown-up figure around.) But that secret and sinister world of resins, acids and white powders was beckoning, encouraged by Lennon, and he would sink further and fatally into its embrace. That was quite apart from the other secret world of his private life, where his constant unhappiness was all too plain - just an endless sequence of one-night pick-ups, without a semblance of a relationship. And at the low point, he told his chauffeur that he envied him for having a close family.
But he needed to be needed by the Beatles, and when they were fully launched, that need became uncomfortably diminished. As for his possible suicide (after some rent-boys failed to show up), we still don't know. I remember one report of a man walking quickly away from the house, muttering about 'a terrible mistake'. Mysteriously, we never heard any more of that one.
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