The short, incredible life of Beatles manager Brian Epstein
The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story
by Vivek J. Tiwary (story), Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker (art)
2013, 144 pages, 8.3 x 12.4 x 0.7
$15 Buy a copy on Amazon
You don’t know much about The Beatles if you don’t know about Brian Epstein. He was 27 when he saw The Beatles play a lunchtime set in Liverpool’s Cavern Club in November 1961 and knew that he was going to make them stars. (“Not stars of the stage or screen. Real stars, like those of the night sky.”)
As the manager of his family’s successful record store, Epstein had connections to all the major record labels, but none of them shared his belief that The Beatles were destined to become bigger than Elvis.
The Fifth Beatle is Vivek J. Tiwary’s fascinating, cinematic account of Epstein’s determination to ignore the chorus of rejections and take The Beatles far beyond where any musical group had gone before — to a place occupied by a handful of religious figures and charismatic world leaders. And Epstein accomplished it, despite the fact that he was Jewish in a culture of strong anti-semitism, and gay when being gay was a felony. That he was able to do what he did in six years (he died of an accidental drug overdose when he was 32 years old) is astounding.
Every panel of The Fifth Beatle is a painting by artist Andrew C. Robinson, whose use of color is as telling as Tiwary’s script. The panels are dark and dirty before Epstein meets The Beatles, then explode into a Carnaby Street palette of flower-power color during his years with the Fab Four, ending with a fade-to-white deathbed scene that readers have compared to the conclusion of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Paul McCartney once said “If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian.” But after reading this, I’ve decided that Brian was the first. – Mark Frauenfelder