The Beatles‘ first publicist Tony Barrow, who coined the indelible nickname “the Fab Four” and helped shape the world’s view of the rock group, died Saturday in Morecambe, England, The New York Times reports. He was 80.
Barrow’s death was confirmed by Mark Lewisohn, a Beatles historian, who had known Barrow for several decades.
Barrow began his career as a writer when he was 17, reviewing albums under the pen name ‘Disker’ in The Liverpool Echo. In December 1961, Brian Epstein reached out and asked Barrow to mention his burgeoning group the Beatles in his column “Off the Record.” Barrow declined because the group had no recordings at the time. Later, Barrow was taken by a low-quality live recording Epstein played him and helped arrange the Beatles’ famous audition at Decca (where Barrow also wrote liner notes).
After the Beatles were signed to EMI subsidiary Parlophone in 1962, Barrow became senior press and publicity officer for his new company, NEMS Enterprises. With his extensive background in music journalism, Barrow catered his early press releases to his former peers. In one such statement, he dubbed the Beatles “the Fab Four.”
Barrow penned liner notes for the Beatles’ early British albums and EPs. He convinced the group to record a yearly Christmas disc to be sent to fan club members. Paul McCartney even asked Barrow to tape the Beatles’ final live show at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29th, 1966. Though the recording has never been officially released, it has been widely bootlegged.
Barrow and the Beatles eventually drifted apart after Epstein’s death in 1967. The Beatles set up their own company, Apple, and Barrow eventually left NEMS to start his own publicity company: Tony Barrow International (later Tony Barrow Management). He represented an array of artists including those on MCA Records, as well as the Kinks and the Bee Gees.
Barrow retired from publicity in 1980 and returned to writing and editing. In 2005, he published a memoir about his time with the Beatles: John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me: The Real Beatles Story.
Barrow is survived by his wife and their two sons, Michael and Mark.