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Sotheby's London Rock & Pop sale to offer the contract that launched the Beatles
"...The Artists are desirous of performing as a group of musicians to be known as 'The Beatles'... Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- The contract that launched the most successful band of all time, binding together the Beatles with manager Brian Epstein, will be offered for sale at Sotheby’s London Rock & Pop sale on September 29th 2015 (est. £300,000-500,000).

Signed on 1st October 1962, just days before the release of their first single ‘Love Me Do’ propelled the band on the most incredible journey in pop music history, this is the only management contract signed between the Beatles and Epstein after the band attained its final line-up of John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr.

“Without this contract, and the relationship it represents, it seems inconceivable that the Beatles could have achieved all that they did: it took more than inspired musicianship and song-writing to remake popular music. The presentation, direction, and internal harmony of the Beatles all owed a huge amount to Brian Epstein. He was, as Paul McCartney has acknowledged, the Fifth Beatle.” - Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s Specialist in Books and Manuscripts.

“...I never thought that they  would be anything less than the greatest stars in the world – and I mean that. I always knew that they were going to be tremendous  …  I sensed something big, if it could be at once harnessed and at the same time left untamed...” -Brian Epstein, quoted in Lewisohn, p.999

The story of Epstein’s relationship with the Beatles is more of a romance than a business deal. From the very first time he heard their sound, Brian Epstein was determined to be their manager. He had never managed a band before but he soon convinced them that he could do the job; he was, after all, a successful businessman, ran the best record shop in town, was smartly dressed, and had the wisdom of age (he was all of twenty-seven years old).

The young Beatles had long known Epstein by sight as the manager of NEMS (North End Music Stores), a treasure-trove of American 45s for the rock and roll-hungry teenagers, but Epstein only became aware of the band when a fan asked him for a copy of 'My Bonnie', which featured the Beatles as backing band. He soon tracked the Beatles down, and on 9 November 1961 visited the Cavern Club in Liverpool to hear them play for the very first time. He returned every day for a week to hear them again and again.

The Beatles agreed to take him on as their manager at a band meeting on 10 December 1961. Epstein immediately set to work putting together the look that would soon become famous around the world. More than a traditional manager, he  was  considered  “The  Fifth  Beatle”. The band began to crumble after his sudden death in August 1967. As Lennon put it on hearing the news, “We  loved   him  and  he  was  one  of  us.”

The Beatles had signed their first contract with Epstein at Pete Best's house on January 24 1962, however less than nine months later (on 1st October 1962) this brand new contract was drawn up - the first to include the names of the final line-up of the band. There had been a recent change in the band's composition; in August it had fallen to Epstein to tell Pete Best that he was to be replaced by Ringo Starr.

The contract was signed in Epstein's office in the NEMS shop in Whitechapel and witnessed by his secretary, Beryl Adams. Paul and George were both under 21, so their fathers were also summoned to act as co-signatories. With this new contract, Ringo newly in place on the drums, and their first recordings under their belt with EMI, the Beatles were ready to take on the world.

• The contract appointed Epstein as the band’s  manager  for  five  years  for 10% commission on the Artists’ earnings  up  to  £400 a week, 20% between £400 and £800, and 25% above  that.  

• NEMS Enterprises (Epstein’s company as an impresario) to be responsible for advertising and publicity, arranging  performances and recording sessions, and advising “on all matters concerning clothes, make-up and the presentation and construction of the Artists' acts and also on all music performed in the course of or in connection with such acts”.  

• Following the recent departure of Pete Best, a clause was included allowing for members of the Beatles to be kicked out, “should two or more of them desire to remove one or more of the other Artists  …  with the consent in writing of the Manager”.

• Another clause, allowing for the termination of the contract with three months’  notice, was cancelled on 22 January 1963 when all parties signed an amendment in a further gesture of mutual trust ( and by which time 'Please Please Me' was climbing inexorably up the charts)

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