have to admit that I took his enthusiasm with a ‘pinch of salt’. Brian was
always thinking of projects in order to bolster what he saw as his rather
mundane existence at NEMS. They seldom came to fruition and this seemed to be
just another one of those projects”.
By August 1961 however, Joe recalls Brian appearing so excited by Mersey Beat
(in particular) and the local scene (in general), that he was reviewing record
releases in the paper. Joe recalls that Brian was very proud of his small input
into Mersey Beat, although he states that they had to keep reminding him that
his own tastes were “rather middle of the road” and those of the Mersey
Beat-buying public “R&B, girl groups, and the like” were poles apart. In fact,
if one takes a look at some of Epstein’s reviews in copies Mersey Beat from that
era, they do appear somewhat incongruous. However it was that important contact
with Bill Harry and Mersey Beat, together with Flannery’s direct involvement in
the local scene that finally prompted Brian to visit the Cavern.
Mersey Beat’s contribution cannot be over-estimated. As far as journalism is
concerned, it was hardly Rolling Stone, but that style of rock journalism which
(for better or worse) came to regard itself very seriously indeed some years
later, was born out of trailblazers such as Mersey Beat. In fact, one of the
most illuminating articles about the Beatles during the 1960s came from Mersey
Beat in 1961. It was not written by Bill Harry, however, but came from the pen
of Bob Wooler.
In fact the urban myth about Raymond Jones coming into NEMS requesting a copy of
‘My Bonnie’ and thus introducing Brian to the work of the Beatles is partially
exploded by the fact that Mersey Beat would have been sitting on the sales
counter at NEMS well before that time. Joe distinctly recalls that issue one had
been published on 6th July, 1961 precisely because “NEMS had ordered a few
copies and Brian showed me his copy on our trip to Manchester”
Back in 1961 the decision to visit to the Cavern was very symbolic for Brian
Epstein. Joe states that Brian “would have been very nervous about being seen in
such a venue”.
Although he was enthusiastic about the Liverpool music scene, this enthusiasm
was from a class-based distance. It would have been far easier for a man such as
Epstein (upper-middle class Jewish background) to remain on the periphery of the
scene - ideally from the distance of NEMS, but he summoned up enough courage to
get his shoes dirty.
“I didn’t think he would, to be honest. Bill Harry arranged this and, as all of
the usual books will tell you, Brian and his lieutenant Alistair Taylor went to
a lunchtime session at the Cavern on the 9th November 1961. What the books don’t
tell you, however, is that Brian also visited me on a number of occasions that
Joe recalled November, 1961 very well because it was the first month that Lee
Curtis and the Detours had been booked in the city centre (but not the Cavern
club) that year. The week before his visit to the Cavern, Brian had visited Joe
and had told him that he intended to catch the Beatles within seven days and
that Bill Harry was arranging everything.
“I informed Brian that Lee Curtis was also booked in town that month for a
number of gigs at the Liverpool Jazz Society, which was around the corner in
Temple Lane. It was quite evident to me by this time that Brian was entirely
hooked on the prospect of management. I must confess, however, that I did wonder
whether there was an ulterior motive. I was fully aware that Brian had a taste
for younger, working-class men (labourers especially) and, of course, knew full
well that he had engaged in a number of disastrous liaisons in the
Joe decided, therefore, to keep a relative distance from this new adventure,
while, at the same time, offer as much practical help that he felt necessary.