April 10, 2014, NEW YORK, NY—By Peter Asher
Courtesy of our friend Peter Asher—here’s his speech:
I am often asked what I think it takes to be a great manager. My answer, while not necessarily helpful is very simple; a great client who makes brilliant music.
I am very proud to have been asked to induct the first two managers into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, each of whom managed one of the most important ensembles in the history of music, let alone just Rock and Roll – and each of whom guided his band from anonymity to global stature – but in very different ways.
When Brian Epstein first heard and saw the Beatles at the Cavern in 1961 he became a believer. That belief was the force behind his absolute determination to advise, to cajole and proselytize to the very limit of his powers. That belief remained intact even when every record company turned the Beatles down before he finally got them an audition with George Martin. Brian loved, respected and protected the Beatles and that love never flagged.
Brian was a man of impeccable honesty and exceptional charm and intelligence and he took his responsibilities extremely seriously. His biggest fear was of ever letting the Beatles down in some way and he cared deeply about every detail. He made sure that media access to a Beatle was a special event as was every show they did. He was delighted when the world eventually agreed with him that he had found the best band in the land. Specifically, of course, 73 million Americans agreed on February 9th 1964 when they watched the Ed Sullivan show – with typical shrewdness and foresight Brian had negotiated a deal for multiple appearances at a reduced fee, knowing that exposure was more important than a few extra dollars.
I remember when my old duo Peter and Gordon was on the road with the Beatles in 1966 and we were all travelling on an absurdly luxurious private train which had been built for the Queen. Brian was sitting at the head of a majestic 30-foot long dining table as the train whizzed through the German countryside, surrounded by Beatles and a few close friends and his joy and well-justified pride in the tour’s unprecedented success were palpable. But equally, when things went horribly wrong in the Philippines only a week later (through no fault of Brian’s) he was a tormented man. He cared very deeply indeed.
I also remember walking with Paul McCartney decades ago to a Rolling Stones club gig in London. Paul was looking forward to the show but expressed his jealousy over the fact that Brian made the Beatles wear suits on stage whereas the Stones were allowed to wear whatever they liked.
And of course, the man who allowed that was my second inductee, Andrew Loog Oldham. A teenager himself when he first encountered the Stones, something of a hustler and a manipulator, he had an instinctive understanding of the youth culture of 60s Britain. He was a promotional genius and a master of the media decades before anyone started talking about “branding”. Aside from the greatness of the Stones’ music (I used to go and see them at a place called Studio 51 every Monday night before they ever made a record and they were amazing!) Andrew saw what the Stones could become culturally. He brilliantly positioned the “dangerous” Stones as the cultural antithesis of the lovable Beatles, creating a climate in which the idea of your daughter marrying a Rolling Stone was a horrific prospect – today of course she would be marrying into the aristocracy! And let us not forget that Andrew’s commitment and creativity extended into the studio as well; he encouraged (virtually commanded!) Mick and Keith to write their own songs; he produced the Stones’ first five albums.
Two disparate, extraordinary and prescient managers for two different musical groups, parallel only in their intense ambition and their consuming love for the extraordinary and exquisite music which enthralled us all – American rhythm and blues and rock and roll. The greatest cultural innovation of the 20th Century and the reason we are all here.
Brian of course brilliantly managed other acts as well, Cilla Black, Billy J Kramer, Gerry and the Pacemakers and more; he furthermore embraced the Beatles’ own musical growth and never urged them to play it safe.
And Andrew went on to found one of the very coolest indie labels of all time, Immediate Records – the early home of Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac and The Small Faces.
Andrew did not join us this evening. The Epstein family asked me express their thrilled delight – they are only sorry that of course neither Brian’s brother Clive, nor his parents Harry & Queenie are alive to witness this celebration.
Thus it that with the very greatest pride and ineffable delight I induct two men who helped to create musical history, Brian Epstein and Andrew Oldham, into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame where they so certainly belong.
April 10, 2014