Bill Hornets looks back…
When I was old enough to drink legally – I’d been drinking illegally for three years, since I was 15 – I was in Liverpool. Tt was my first job. The only places in that great northern seaport where one could get a drink after hours were the Press Club, Alan Williams Blue Angel club or a pub in the centre of Town where you knocked on the side door three times and it was opened by the biggest, campest, warmest, toughest dyed-blonde hair queen I’d ever seen in my young life – Sadie, what a fantastic guy.
The pub late at night (or early in the morning) was full of plain clothes policemen, some gangsters, some businessmen and anybody to do with entertainment or the theatre. It was very easy and well run. I once saw Sadie throw two hard guys out, their feet hardly touched the ground.
In the pub, often, were four lads, always dressed in black leather. They were a band. I chatted to them occasionally. They said they were called The Beatles. Funny name, I thought.
I don’t remember Paul McCartney, they had a different drummer – Pete Best, I don’t really remember him either. I remember Lennon, he made me nervous. He seemed an aggressive, sharp-mouthed street kid, which later I found out wasn’t his background at all.
The one that impressed me most was George Harrison. He seemed to be sensitive, aware and even in black leather he had style.
At this time in Liverpool there was a group of interesting people I was involved with – that group turned into what was later known as The Liverpool Scene – artists and poets, painters – the premier painter being Yankel Feather – and the members of the band The Scaffold – there were a lot of creative ideas buzzing around.
Amongst this swell of talent was a successful young businessman with a passionate interest in the arts. Brian Epstein. To me he seemed tremendously smooth, an educated charming and sophisticated man.
He told me one day he’d acquired The Beatles from Alan Williams. I still didn’t really know who The Beatles were. Brian said come to lunch and we’ll see them – it must have been lunch, as I was working in the evenings.
We went to the Cavern, there they were totally changed, they had their Beatle haircuts, but they were dressed in stage suits and white shirts, and their image was totally different from the four boys in the bar.
I didn’t know I was looking at history. When you witness the birth of a legend, of course you don’t know.
The Beatles were the voice of young people. They were the 60s. Now young people had a caring voice to relate to.
The Beatles were not just about music. They were about style – style in their recordings, their artistry, their brilliant songs and in the way they were presented.
The man who made this possible wore classic suits, white shirts with a tie and good shoes. When wearing morning suit and top hat for Ascot, the outfit was totally him.
As the ever-dapper Sir George Martin, The Beatles’ producer always said: “No Epstein, no Beatles”.
Epstein had the vision and the instinct that kicked the 60s into being.
I wonder if the city of Liverpool could one day put a discreet bronze bust in the Walker Art Gallery or the Philharmonic to Brian Epstein, who truly put Liverpool on the map.
Incidentally, the only person outside Sir Paul and Ringo Starr who knows the real story of The Beatles is Peter Brown. He was Epstein’s closest friend, confidante, fixer and right-hand – and had been such for some years before The Beatles. He is a very able, maybe brilliant man, who wrote a book on The Beatles. I’ve never read it, I’m more interested in their music. Artists’ lives rarely interest me. To me, their work and their style are the thing.
The Beatles were extraordinary, but the product of a brilliant retailer. Personally I’m a Stones man, and Chuck Berry and Elvis man.