The first contract The Beatles signed with their manager is up for auction at Sotheby’s in July and expected to sell for around £300,000.
Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and the band’s original drummer Pete Best signed the agreement on 24 January 1962, 14 months before they released their debut album, Please Please Me.
The document itself was signed in Best’s living room and assigned Epstein with the task of finding the band work, managing their schedule and handling all publicity.
He was also responsible for “all matters concerning clothes, make-up and the presentation and construction of the artists’ acts and also on all music to be performed”.
The Beatles previous manager, Allan Williams, had supposedly warned Epstein “they’ll let you down”, but Epstein saw the group’s potential. Born in Liverpool, Epstein was managing his family’s music shop when he first witnessed the Beatles play the Cavern Club. Epstein offered his services to the band less than three weeks after he saw them perform.
After signing the group, Epstein had the Fab Four trade out their leather jackets for suits and ties, presenting a more clean-cut image of the band.
“[Epstein] stopped them eating on stage,” said Gabriel Heaton, a specialist at the Sotheby’s auction house.
“He made sure they played the songs properly and coherently, and he got them bowing at the end of a set. He was just blown away by the passion, the energy, the charisma, the raw sexuality on stage. They had the stage energy, but he instilled a sense of professionalism in them.”
Epstein would go on to manage other Merseyside acts, including Cilla Black, and Gerry and The Pacemakers.
While all of the band members signed the contract, Epstein did not, saying “even though I knew I would keep the contract in every clause, I had not 100 percent faith in myself to help The Beatles adequately. I wanted to free the Beatles of their obligations if I felt they would be better off.”
The contract shows that Epstein’s fee would be 10 percent, 15 percent at the highest, if their earnings should exceed £120 a week.
Following Best’s departure from the band, a new contract was drawn up and signed on 1 October 1962 by the band and their new drummer Ringo Starr, and an increased percentage cut for Epstein.
The Fab Four’s relationship with Epstein far extended beyond the business relationship of manager and artist, McCartney called him the Fifth Beatle. “We loved him”, said Lennon, “he was one of us”.
Epstein died tragically young in 1967 at the age of 32, following a drug overdose that was ruled as an accidental death.
“It took more than inspired musicianship and song-writing to remake popular music, and the presentation, direction, and internal harmony of The Beatles all owed a huge amount to their manager,” reads the statement from Sotheby’s.
Visit the official website for auction details.