At the height of Beatlemania in the 1960s, a reporter asked John Lennon the secret of the group’s success. His reply? ‘We have a press agent.’
Lennon’s answer may have illustrated his famously dry wit, but it also contained more than a grain of truth. Tony Barrow, the Beatles’ press officer from 1962 to 1968, undoubtedly maximised the impact of a group who, when Brian Epstein first came to him for help, were an unknown Liverpool act still seeking a record contract. He carefully courted the British media during their rise then, once their home country had been conquered, shrewdly orchestrated the press and publicity campaigns which helped to ensure the Beatles became a worldwide phenomenon.
As a member of the Beatles’ inner circle, he also witnessed history in the making, and his memoir John, Paul, George, Ringo And Me (a new edition of which was recently published) is full of revealing stories and perceptive insights. He was there when the Beatles met a socially awkward Elvis Presley, saw John Lennon’s fear and panic when his remark that the Beatles were now more popular than Jesus threatened to alienate their American fanbase, and observed at first hand Brian Epstein’s tragic personal disintegration.
Tony Barrow, who wrote early stories on the Beatles for the Liverpool Echo, later became their PR man and was credited for coining the term “The Fab Four” that became the preferred label for the group, has died at age 80 three days after his birthday, Beatles authors Mark Lewisohn, Tony Bramwell and Spencer Leigh announced Sunday morning on social media.