Well-spoken Brian, however, had no idea how to talk to the tough Merseyside dance promoters who were his new charges’ main employers.
So his childhood friend Joe Flannery volunteered to handle the band’s bookings. Flannery also made his house a base-camp for John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best after gigs when it was too late to return to their respective homes.
“As a result Flannery can tell Beatles stories that no one had ever heard before,” says the band’s biographer Philip Norman, who has written the foreword to Flannery’s memoirs, published this month.
Flannery recalls that in the spring of 1962 the newly-formed band seemed to be spending all their time at his apartment in Gardner Road, Liverpool, enjoying “tea, toast and advice in between games of ten-pin bowling”.
Gardner Road was behind a recently opened bowling alley.
Lennon (who nick-named him “Flo Jannery”) liked to fall asleep in front of Flannery’s living-room fire while turning out endless drawings and poems.
“They ate me out of house and home and they all loved the ambience particularly John Lennon,” says Flannery, now aged 81.
“I had the impression that there was little at home to inspire him and that he preferred the warmth of Gardner Road. John would sleep through until late in the morning.”
Though himself more grand than a cabinet-maker’s son, Flannery also recalls Paul asking him for guidance on social etiquette, while he gave George driving lessons in the small hours while the others were asleep.
“Even at this early stage it was evident that something simply had to happen for the Beatles,” says Flannery.
“The more I saw of them, the more they impressed me not just as musicians but as people.
“They were most impressive and quite unlike any young rock’n’rollers I had previously met.” He recalls them as serious musicians who rehearsed hard yet were also both thoughtful and funny.
“They were highly focused individually and collectively or at least three of them were. As for Pete Best I’m not so sure.”
Flannery says it was difficult for Best, the band’s original drummer, who was always an outsider.
“The other three were so close,” he explains.
“It could at times be very difficult to talk to any of them seriously when all three were together. One could only do this when they were on their own.”
For Flannery this was often in the early hours of the morning when he would occasionally run one or the other of them home in his car.
On one occasion as Flannery and Lennon, 11 years his junior, ate chips while looking out over the River Mersey, the songwriter shared his ambitions.
“John was forever dreaming of America,” he recalls. “It was as if his spiritual home was across the Atlantic. He ached to play in the USA, the great source of his inspiration.”
During the same conversation Lennon confirmed that he intended to speak to “the other two” about sacking Pete Best whose mother Mona had managed the group before Epstein took over that role.
“With Mona around it’ll always stay just a dream. With Brian it feels like it might happen,” Lennon confided.
Flannery confirms that Best’s career with the band ended because of his mother.
“It’s as simple and poignant as that,” he says.
He was later replaced by Ringo Starr.
“I could not fail to see that Brian had been very lucky. He had come across four very talented young musicians who needed him just as much as he needed them.”
From handling their bookings to negotiating the Merseyside promoters, to putting them up after late night gigs he is said to be one of the few remaining “Beatle people” in Liverpool to have the respect of the surviving band members.
Indeed Flannery who was one of the last people in the UK to talk to John Lennon shortly before he was murdered in December 1980.
His book contains intriguing insights into the state of mind of Lennon shortly before he was murdered in the lobby of the New York apartment where he lived with Yoko Ono.
During the course of their last conversation Lennon, who was on the phone in New York to Flannery in the UK, talked about making a triumphal return to Liverpool and even asked his old friend to hire the QE2 to bring him up the Mersey.
It was to be one of the musician’s last phone calls and one of the only pieces of evidence that proves that Lennon – for all his reported happiness in the US – was planning to return to these shores.
“We enjoyed a lengthy conversation,” recalls Flannery.
“We talked a lot of rubbish of course. He was very well and happy but he missed Liverpool, he missed the others and he missed London but he told me at one stage that he regretted ‘getting too political’. He said that he had made a bit of a ‘t** of himself’.”
“We came to reminisce about our times eating crap pies [in Liverpool] and him wanting to go over there, meaning the United States. ‘We should start talking about me coming home before that b****** Nixon gets me’ he said. I was rather taken aback and asked him to explain. John launched into a diatribe against the former president. He was convinced that even out of office Nixon carried power and wanted him dead. He felt some kind of curse was hanging over him.”
Flannery believes that Lennon thought his peace activism and lyrical barbs had made him a government target.
“His tone bothered me a little, expressing as it did what sounded like a touch of paranoia. ‘It would be good to come home for a bit,’ he finally stated.”
When Flannery heard of Lennon’s plan to arrive home aboard the QE2 he was further concerned.
“He even suggested that I should fly out to New York when the time came to return with him on the liner. I was flattered but mentioned that I wondered whether the QE2 could actually get down the Mersey. ‘Look into it,’ John shouted, ‘I want to come home in a blaze of glory.’
“As one might imagine I was buzzing after this wonderful conversation with my old friend. Of course it was not to be and I was soon to lose another friend pointlessly.”
When he later visited Yoko at the New York apartment she had shared with her late husband, Flannery introduced himself to the doorman.
“He assured me that John had died on the chair in the corner of the lobby rather than on his way to hospital. This comforted me a little for in my own mind I reflected that he might not have suffered quite so much as I had imagined.”
To order a copy of Standing In The Wings: The Beatles, Brian Epstein And Me by Joe Flannery (History Press) at £17.99 send a cheque or PO made payable to Express Bookshop to Flannery Offer, PO Box 200, Falmouth TR11 4WJ or tel 01872 562310 or online at www.expressbookshop.com UK delivery is free.
THE PARTNER WHO NEVER FORGETS BRIAN EPSTEIN
Joe Flannery met Brian Epstein – the Beatles’ manager until his death in 1967 – through their fathers’ businesses.
Flannery’s cabinet-maker father, Christopher, used to supply chests of drawers to Harry Epstein, the Liverpool furniture dealer whose older son, Brian, would one day manage the most beloved pop band of all time.
Joe had met Brian – and already fallen more than a little in love with him – when they were both children.
“Both grew up to be gay in an era when homosexuality was outlawed in Britain,” says author Philip Norman.
“With Joe Brian had his only happy, stable relationship in a love life otherwise shadowed by fear, guilt, violence and disgrace.”
According to Norman one of Epstein’s reasons for wanting to manage the group was that he was physically attracted to Lennon.
Questioned about their relationship later, Lennon said: “Well, it was almost a love affair but not quite. It was never consummated. But it was a pretty intense relationship.”
Flannery says that Lennon would frequently see through Epstein’s innate insecurity and would often play on it: “Which was cruel but typically John. Brian would usually get over any Lennon jibe particularly those about his ambiguous sexuality or Jewishness by visiting me privately and pouring his heart out – almost like therapy, I suppose.”
And when Epstein died of a drink and drugs overdose in 1967 Flannery was still there to witness the band’s drawn-out, messy collapse.
To one person at least Epstein has never been forgotten.
“Each year on his birthday Liverpool’s Long Lane synagogue gave Catholic Joe special permission to break with Jewish custom and place flowers on Epstein’s grave,” says Philip Norman.
It is a touching tribute to a friend with whom he helped to rock the world.