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Exclusive: Peter Asher's RRHOF speech for Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham

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(Peter Asher has given Beatles Examiner the complete text of the speech he gave April 10 to induct Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and has allowed us to print it here. Both Epstein and Loog Oldham were given the Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement. Thanks to Mr. Asher and Keith Putney for providing the speech.)

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“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 Feb. 9, 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.”

The news of Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham's induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was announced in December, along with that of fellow inductees KISS, Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Hall and Oates, Cat Stevens and Linda Ronstadt and The E Street Band.

Epstein first saw the Beatles performing at a lunchtime show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool on Nov. 9, 1961, which he attended with assistant Alistair Taylor, according to Bill Harry's “The Beatles Encylopedia.” That first view led to several more encounters both at the Cavern and the Cashab Club, run by Pete Best's mother Mona.

On Dec. 10, the group agreed to hire him as their manager. The decision was formalized with a contract signing on Jan. 24, 1962 at Pete Best's home. The contract was for five years from Feb. 1. He agreed to a 10 percent commission on any income up to £1,500 per year and 15 percent on amounts above that.

One of the biggest changes that Epstein instituted was a change of image making the Beatles switch from leather jackets to formal suits, which both John Lennon and Pete Best resisted at first. As time went on and the Beatles got more popular, he became more involved with business and less with the music. Besides the Beatles, Epstein also managed Gerry & the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas and Tommy Quickly.

Before his work with the Rolling Stones, Andrew Loog Oldham helped promote the Beatles' “Love Me Do.” In October, 1963, he went to see the Stones, then a brand-new group, and became their manager shortly afterward along with Eric Easton. It was Oldham's idea to give the group the “bad boy” image they used so successfully through their career. He remained their manager until 1967 and later wrote an autobiography, “Stoned” and a sequel, “2Stoned.”

Vivek J. Tiwary, co-author of “The Fifth Beatle” graphic novel about Epstein that came out in 2013 and also co-producer of the forthcoming feature film about him, praised Asher's speech in an online statement.

“Peter gave the most lovely, heartfelt, personal, poignant, and informative speech about Brian Epstein that the mainstream public has heard in years, perhaps since Paul McCartney told the BBC, “If anyone was ‘The Fifth Beatle’ it was Brian” (and that was in 1999),” he wrote.

“Peter often reiterated Brian’s absolute commitment to realizing the Beatles’ wildest dreams—the fact that he considered this commitment his greatest responsibility in life, never wanting to let the band down—and the fact that in the final equation, he never failed them. It’s what made Brian Epstein an excellent manager, mentor, and friend.”

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