As a footnote in Beatles history, Peter Brown makes a respectable showing: manager Brian Epstein’s assistant, executive director of North End Music Store (NEMS) Enterprises, administrative director of Apple Corp., best man at John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s wedding, a character in the lyrics of “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (“Peter Brown called to say/We can make it okay”). But with the publication of The Love You Make, an Insider’s Story of the Beatles, Brown emerges as something more: a trusted friend and confidant who has broken the unofficial code of silence of the Beatles’ innermost circle.
Coauthored with Steven Gaines, the book reads like a paperback pulp novel, and the sensational revelations were even excerpted in the National Enquirer. In the name of setting the record straight, Brown maintains, among other things, that the late Brian Epstein had a sexual encounter with John; that George Harrison seduced Ringo Starr’s first wife, Maureen; that Paul McCartney has an adult illegitimate son; that John was a hard-core acidhead and went through heroin addiction with Yoko; and that Paul overdubbed many of Ringo’s drum tracks.
Brown’s post-Beatles career has included a five-year stint as president of the Robert Stigwood Organization; as John and Yoko’s neighbor on Manhattan’s Central Park West, he has sublet his apartment to such glamorous tenants as Mick Jagger, John Travolta, James Taylor, Carly Simon and Al Pacino. The very picture of a discreet and dapper English gentleman, the forty-six-year-old Brown hardly looks like the author of a rock exposé.
How did the Beatles react to your decision to tell all?
The attitude of all of them was, “Yes, I suppose it’s a good idea.” It wasn’t, “What a fabulous idea!” But they were totally cooperative. For the first interviews, we went down for the weekend to Paul’s house in Sussex, and he was super. In London, we did a long session with Paul for several hours. I had people coming over for dinner that night, and Paul was going on and on and on. I kept hoping he would finish the interview so I could get home and start cooking.
You don’t play favorites, but with whom did you have the best rapport, John or Paul? And how would you explain their balance of power within the group?
I could communicate with Paul. I suppose I was closer to him, but I was always enamored of John’s enigmatic personality. Paul was the thorough one, the workaholic, and John was lazy. But in the beginning, John was absolutely the boss. It was his group. It was John the leader, John everything. And John was never a compromiser. John did what John wanted. So when Paul took over, it was only because John had lost interest. Of course, that was a problem when Yoko came along and got John to assert himself again. He wanted to take everything back.
How far back do you go with the Beatles?
I knew them before Brian even went to see them at the Cavern. But it wasn’t until London that I actually started to live lives with them. Brian would make all the decisions, but I was the only other intermediary. No one else was allowed to talk with them. There was the red phone on my desk that only they had the number to. It was really an FBI kind of setup.
In a sense, then, you were heir to Brian’s position.
Exactly – well, no. There was no conception that anyone could ever take his place. And I was a bit emotional about not being seen as stepping into Brian’s shoes. If I’d known that someone like Allen Klein would come along and appoint himself manager, then I might have been more assertive.
You discuss Brian’s gay lifestyle and how George and Ringo liked to upset him by dropping in on his private parties unannounced.
It was a friendly tease, they were never nasty. I would often be at these parties, and suddenly two Beatles would arrive at the door, which stopped everything. They would stay just long enough to get Brian uptight, and all the boys there would be highly amused and not know how to behave.
How did you confirm Brian and John’s sexual encounter?
John told Hunter Davies the whole story, including the fact that it was consummated. But Hunter was told not to put it in [his authorized Beatles biography in 1968]. Brian didn’t want to tell me, because he thought it would be a breach of confidence with John. But he had to – I mean, he was so pleased. So, I had it firsthand from Brian, and Hunter Davies had it firsthand from John. But I never told anyone until now. When people read it, I’m sure they won’t think it’s that extraordinary. I mean, everyone knows John as having an artistic nature, being a rebel. Why wouldn’t he experiment?
You detail the Beatles’ drug exploits graphically, but you never seem to be involved with acquiring the drugs.
I wouldn’t do a thing like that. I wouldn’t have been asked. That was the road managers’ job. I however, would have to sign the petty-cash slip to buy them [laughs]. It had to go down as something – candy, very expensive candy.
What has been the reaction to the book among the Beatles camp?
I think that Patti [Boyd Harrison Clapton] and Maureen [Starkey] were nervous about having talked about the “incest” incident, but I haven’t heard anything yet. No one’s called, except Yoko, who’s been the same as ever. But I’d expect that from Yoko – she’s so sophisticated, so inscrutable.
Were you well-off financially when you left the Beatles’ employ?
No, I wasn’t. I was on a very good salary and had a lot of perks, but I didn’t make a fortune. The Beatles never paid anyone that well. I made much more money after leaving them. They thought in an old-fashioned, Liverpool way, like, “Let’s be sensible, no sense getting carried away” [laughs].
Did you ever find that having your identity so married to the Beatles’ was a drawback?
No, I really rather enjoyed it. It’s funny, because only since I’ve been in the U.S. has it been suggested that this or that happened because I was manager of the Beatles’ company. And always my reaction is, “Well, how dare you think that!” I suppose I certainly was lucky, but I just never thought of it that way. My ego has always been sufficient enough to think that I did it. I don’t have any affiliation with anyone now, but I still manage to get a decent seat in a good restaurant.