Tuesday 19 June 2018

Seltaeb, Nicky Byrne and The Beatles merchandise

Who or what is Seltaeb?

Can you imagine being Brian Epstein in the winter of 1963 as Beatlemania is really kicking in? They have released their debut LP Please, Please Me and are swiftly following it up just 7-months later in November with their second; With The Beatles.

There has been a string of singles, including the wild pop of She Loves You with the moptop shaking yeah yeah yeahs which has taken the boys to another level and in November 1963 they won a nations hearts with their slot at the Royal Variety Performance with Lennon pushing his cheekiness to the limit by asking will the people in the cheap seats clap your hands, if the rest of you just rattle your jewellery?

Epstein was in as much of demand as the Fab Four, his dreams were coming true and he would have been in his element. People across the world were smelling money - Epstein delegated merchandising to his solicitor David Jacobs.

Jacobs was tasked with prosecuting infringements (of which there were many) and also to issue new manufacturing licenses. He was pretty busy!

So Jacobs also looked to delegate and he chose a guy called Nicky Byrne - someone known on the London King Road party scene from running the Condor Club in Soho and through his wife Kiki's Chelsea boutique.

Byrne was initially reluctant due to the bad name Epstein was making for himself in the business world, but was then persuaded to take on rights for Europe and throughout the world - thus forming a company named Stramsact and then a subsidiary names Seltaeb (Beatles backwards) for American rights - with The Beatles due to fly to New York in February 1964 to play on the Ed Sullivan Show.

David Jacobs was left to draw up the contract and he unimaginably told Byrne to write the percentage he thought he should take on the deal.

Byrne wrote 90 percent!

To his amazement, Jacobs didn't even question it. He didn't think of it as 90% to Byrne, but as 10 percent to The Beatles!

It is estimated that this cost The Beatles somewhere in the region of £100,000,000. A lot of money now, a hell of a lot of money in the 60's!

The Beatles went to Paris for a few shows in January. After the last show a telegram was sent through to Epstein. I Want To Hold Your Hand was number 1 on the American Billboard Top 100.

Things went crazy as Byrne and his five partners set up camp in one of New York's poshest hotels, renting limos and helicopters to ferry prospective clients in to meet them.

Wigs, bubblegum, clocks, sweets, cards, dolls ..... and of course - t-shirts were being made, printed and sold by the million.

Epstein was impressed when Byrne handed him a cheque for $9,700 and asked Byrne how much he was owed. Byrne replied 'nothing, that's your 10%'. Alarm bells must have been blaring in Epstein's head!

Where Byrne really came into his own was his little known part in creating Beatlemania when the band landed in New York.

For all Capitol and CBS cared, they were just going to walk off the plane and go to their hotel. Nobody would have even known they were in America.

Not quite true - The Ed Sullivan show at received 50,000 applications for 700 tickets and Capitol had allocated $50,000 for a 'crash publicity program' and printed five million car stickers proclaiming The Beatles Are Coming.

Byrne had his own reasons - the magical 90%!

Byrne enlisted the help of two NYC radio stations and they declared that there would be a free Beatles t-shirt for every kid who went out to the airport to meet and greet the band!

1,000 fans cheered The Beatles off from Heathrow. 5,000 welcomed them to America. Beatlemania crossed the ocean. And it wasn't just at JFK airport, fans chased The Beatles limo and lined the streets - imagine visiting America for the first time to this reception?! Check the footage below.

What happened to Byrne and his 90 percent?

Epstein managed to renegotiate back to 49% by August 1964 and then became embroiled in a 3-year court battle right up to his death in the summer of love of 1967 - ruled to have died from an accidental overdose. Jacobs was found hanged in his garage in December 1968. Byrne later retired to the Bahamas.

It's a film in the making!

There are lots of excellent books on The Beatles, but Philip Norman's Shout: The true history of The Beatles comes highly recommended. I have ready many but hadn't come across this amazing story before.


Unknown said...

A fascinating tale. Just goes to show what greed can do.

The Secret Fundraiser said...
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