. Whether she existed as a composite of personnel assisting the band and Epstein or as a figment of the imagination (not unlike Jessica Lange's angel/confessor in All That Jazz) remains up for debate. Her role in the story serves to heighten one thing we've always known about Brian Epstein - he was lonely.
He had friends and family, and while he may not have been the savviest of managers he had the respect of four lads from Liverpool for a time. Nonetheless, he had no partner with whom to share his success, and that knowledge make this story all the more bittersweet. His premature death in 1967 is arguably the beginning of the end of The Beatles - that's something I've believed for a long time.
We can blame Yoko, but the smoke ignited when the band found themselves without management and couldn't easily decide on a successor. “Mythology is better and more fondly remembered than history! So we create legends rather than recount truths. ” - Brian Epstein There are Epstein-centric books, though, none of which I have read: among them a ghostwritten autobiography published at the height of Beatlemania that is likely whitewashed to appeal to young fans, and a more in-depth history from Lennon biographer Ray Coleman.
One could guess the lack in reading material about Epstein corresponds to the short time he worked with the band and the fact he died so young. I see pictures of Epstein and imagine a man beyond his years - always mature and serious - when in fact he was only six years older than John. I wouldn’t say The Fifth Beatle is a perfect book as it only really shows a stylised portrait of Brian Epstein rather than the full picture but you do come away from it with the right ideas about him.
That he was a lonely, somewhat tragic figure but a brilliant, charismatic man whose ambition and vision paved the way in introducing to the world the greatest pop group of all time. And it really is an absolutely gorgeous book to have (for the most part). Well worth a read if you’re interested in finding out more about the manager of the Beatles, Brian Epstein.
More One thing I've noticed in what's become my scholarly study on The Beatles is that one can find a wealth of information on the band, the individual members, and their chronological history. I may know more about John Lennon than I do my current president, and yet information on their manager, Brian Epstein, remains scarce. Pretty much everything I know about Epstein came from Peter Brown's memoir, The Love You Make.
I know I tend to hold up that book as the standard, but years and years after I'v One thing I've noticed in what's become my scholarly study on The Beatles is that one can find a wealth of information on the band, the individual members, and their chronological history. I may know more about John Lennon than I do my current president, and yet information on their manager, Brian Epstein, remains scarce. Pretty much everything I know about Epstein came from Peter Brown's memoir, The Love You Make.
I know I tend to hold up that book as the standard, but years and years after I've read it, the memory is fresh. Pills would be Epstein’s downfall as the stress of managing the world’s biggest band would cause anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion, and make him dependent upon sleeping pills to rest. He would eventually die at the age of 32 of a sleeping pill overdose.
In a key scene with John, he explains his fascination of the matador: “At his final moment of triumph, the matador becomes death - he kills the killing machine. But not before he gives the bull its glory, shows the world its beauty, its powers, its majesty. He also gives the aficionados something to believe in, something to admire, and ultimately something to hate.
So in the end, he gives people hope. ” That’s Tiwary’s approach to Epstein in this book - Epstein is the matador who shows the bull (The Beatles) to the world, exposing the glory and beauty of their music. For some reason Kyle Baker was brought in to draw the section dedicated to The Beatles’ Philippines Tour which was the only downpoint of the art in the book.
Baker is one of the worst Marvel artists I’ve ever seen and his work on David Lapham’s Deadpool is shocking. I suppose his style was designed to show the humour of the tour? Ech. Epstein was also a closet homosexual, though not particularly due to shame but because during his lifetime homosexuality was literally illegal - a fact that would change mere months after Epstein’s early death.
And his sexuality does play a big part in his story as it isolated him from true companionship, like when The Beatles find girlfriends and spend time with them rather than Epstein who’s left looking into his mirror murmuring “Oh, if love were all… I should be lonely” and taking pills to “curb” his homosexual inclinations. More The Fifth Beatle is a welcome tribute to a figure sometimes marginalized in Beatles history. Petitions to get Epstein inducted as a non-performer in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continue to circulate, and perhaps a book like this will bring more attention to the cause.
We can imagine the stress of managing an extremely popular group aged him prematurely. Not only that, Epstein dealt with social prejudices that rendered him depressed and unable to sleep. A public figure comes out as homosexual today and it may not be a big deal, but in 1962 to be gay and Jewish in a tiny English port town equated to painting a large target on your head.
The Fifth Beatle, a new graphic novel fictionalizing the life of Epstein, opens with the grim image of Epstein suffering a violent act in what appears to be a hustle gone wrong in a dank Liverpool alley. It's a specter of shame and unrequited feelings that follow him through his short life, terrors he seeks to replace with success. Anyway, I've followed the progress of The Fifth Beatle for the better part of a year and looked forward to reading it.
Overall, I liked the story and the illustration. Fans will easily spot the lyrical Easter eggs in the dialogue, but I find things like that take me out of the story and make it a challenge to take it seriously (Clockwork Angels had this same issue). I will admit, too, there are known scenes of Epstein's life that didn't make it to this book.
George is barely represented here, Ringo even less, and Pete Best isn't on the radar.
Unless you count blurred background Cavern images. Also missing or downplayed are moments of John's cruel humor, anti-Semitic and anti-gay slurs that reportedly drove Epstein to tears. Fans know the legend - Epstein had little to no talent management experience, but knew the music business through the family chain of record shops.
He attends a live show at the Cavern after hearing of the Beatles, and you know the rest. The Fifth Beatle vividly recreates this and other key scenes in Epstein's relationship with The Beatles with sharp characterization and moody colors. Unlike another graphic novel reviewed here (Baby in Black), representations of main and supporting players take on appearances that match their personalities - genuine and assumed.
Brian comes off as enthusiastic despite weary expressions, John is sharp and smirking, and Paul exudes a gee-whiz cuteness. Darker scenes position people like Colonel Tom Parker in a demonic setting and Ed Sullivan as wooden (you'll see it soon enough), and Yoko Ono in an eerie cameo. The book doesn’t go into too much detail of Epstein’s life, sometimes choosing Andrew Robinson’s superb art to tell an ambiguous scene rather than literally spell it out to the reader, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
For example, if you wanted to know why Epstein was in a hospital towards the end of the book, you’d have to look it up separately to find out he was undergoing rehab to change his destructive lifestyle and wean himself off the drugs - in the book, he’s just in a hospital bed, exhausted. And there is a dream-like sequence in his flat as he’s dying that’s a bit too ambiguous for my liking and was also repetitive and a bit too on the nose in explaining Epstein’s feelings. The Fifth Beatle is a graphic biography of Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ first manager, who broke them to the world and took them further than they thought possible - becoming more popular than Elvis - before passing away shortly after the release of Sgt Peppers from a drug overdose.
Before Epstein became The Beatles’ manager, he had tried his hand at fashion which would play a major part in transforming the leather jacket-wearing scousers into the smart, iconic young men who the world would come to know via songs like Please, Please Me and Love Me Do. But he also had a keen eye for bullfighting and is presented on the cover as a matador. Writer Vivek Tiwary presents a vivid and colourful portrait of the man who was also a troubled, lonely and tragic figure whose nature would be his own downfall.
As the quote above indicates, Tiwary plays with fact and fiction in his retelling to spice up the story such as Epstein’s fictional assistant, Moxie, who becomes his confidant on his journey to the top, perhaps representing his ambition, while scenes like Ed Sullivan interviewing Epstein with a ventriloquist’s dummy remain potentially true or false. Writer Vivek Tiwary presents a vivid and colourful portrait of the man who was also a trou “Mythology is better and more fondly remembered than history! So we create legends rather than recount truths. ” - Brian Epstein Andrew Robinson’s art in this book is a revelation.
His painted style gives the book an incredibly lavish look like when he takes traditional narrative captions and moulds them into the scene - the establishing landscape shot of Liverpool in the rain sees the words “Liverpool” etched across the sky forming part of the rain. But really every page is stunning, especially the colours, but I loved the dream sequence where he’s on a train to London and sees himself outside, outrunning the train with a copy of Love Me Do in his hands, and the dance montage with Moxie was incredibly beautiful (as was Moxie!). The clothes of the time, the character designs, the imaginative layouts and angles - it’s all perfect.