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The Beatles original management contract sells for £275,000 at Sotheby's
Lot 168, The Beatles, signed management contract with Brian Epstein, 24 January 1962, est. £200,000-300,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

LONDON.- The Beatles’ original management contract with Brian Epstein was sold at Sotheby’s London today for £275,000 / $347,875 (est. £200,000-300,000). Signed by the band on 24 January 1962, this ‘old piece of paper’ marks the beginning of the transformation of The Beatles into the band that would conquer the world.

However, Brian Epstein’s signature is conspicuously absent from this contract. He chose not to sign it, meaning that, whilst this contract bound Epstein to the Beatles, it did not bind The Beatles to Epstein. He explained: “It was because even though I knew I would keep the contract in every clause, I had not 100 per cent faith in myself to help the Beatles adequately. In other words, I wanted to free the Beatles of their obligations if I felt they would be better off.”

Epstein had no prior experience of music management when he took on The Beatles, but it is inconceivable that they could have achieved all that they did without him. Epstein entered their lives when they were in danger of losing momentum. They had recently lost a band member (Stuart Sutcliffe), and though they were pre-eminent in the Liverpool music scene they were unknown elsewhere, struggled to find gigs at new venues, and were gaining a reputation for bad behaviour.

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. He was, as Paul McCartney has acknowledged, the Fifth Beatle. “We loved him”, said John, “and he was one of us”; his sudden death in 1967 was a huge loss and without him the band began to disintegrate.

Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts specialist said: “This contract was a transformative document not only for The Beatles, but also for the 1960s and popular culture of the time. We feel extremely privileged to have offered such a significant piece of history, a document that set the band on a path that brought them a level of success and cultural influence that was surely beyond their dreams when they put pen to paper to entrust their future together to Brian Epstein on that January day in 1962."

Elsewhere in the sale, a collection of material relating to The Fab Four’s legendary performances in Hamburg sold for a combined £66,625 / $84,281. Hamburg was much like the Beatles’ home town of Liverpool - a port city, always in flux with the ships and sailors who would dock there with pay in their back pocket, ready to let loose and listen to music.

The city had become instrumental in the development of the British rock and roll scene by chance, thanks to a Liverpool club owner who ended up exporting English rock and roll bands to German bars. The Beatles had been going there since 1960, and performed at the Star-Club, the city’s leading rock venue managed by Horst Fascher - a former boxer who had found his way to Hamburg's music scene after his release from prison for killing a sailor in a street fight.

Included in the sale were two performance contracts for The Beatles at The Star-Club which sold for £35,000 / $44,275 and £18,750 / $23,719 respectively. A collection of photographs and further materials relating to the Star Club also sold for £11,875 / $15,022, many multiples of the estimate of £2,000-3,000.

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