Goodbye, Tony Bramwell

Goodbye, Tony Bramwell

Tony Bramwell at the Beatles festival in Norway in 2022.

I was very saddened to hear that Tony Bramwell has passed away, but I had feared it for a while. I met and interviewed and had a few pints with Tony at the Beatles festivals in Norway in 2013 and 2017, and we also met up again at the 2022 festival. Tony was always fun and full of stories I hadn’t heard before.

He was smoking thin brown cigarettes and when I asked him, he said that he had stopped smoking years ago, but was lured back into the habit by his friend, Paul McCartney. Paul was still smoking, but only away from the public and in private, and hanging with his friend, Tony started smoking again.

Years after he told me this, paparazzi photos showed up of Paul secretly smoking.

Tony was backstage with Paul and the band during the London Olympics opening, and he told me that whenever Paul wanted his company on the road, he sent his airplane to pick Tony up and fly him to wherever Paul was.

Yours truly and Tony Bramwell in 2022.

Tony worked for Brian Epstein and The Beatles in the sixties and was one of those from Liverpool who made the move to London with the Beatles. A little younger than the Beatles, Tony was born in March 1946. Nevertheless, he got to know the three year older George Harrison when they grew up, playing cowboys and indians or Robin Hood together. Paul McCartney and his brother Mike often joined, as they also lived in the neighborhood. Tony also got to know John Lennon as his mother was a friend of John’s aunt Mimi.

Eventually, both Tony and George became interested in the new music, and both had older brothers who bought records. So they used to visit one another, sitting and listening to records.

In 1957, Buddy Holly and his band were to play a concert in Liverpool, and 11-year-old Tony was lucky enough to win a competition where the prize was a ticket to the concert and to be allowed to meet the artist backstage. The others became very jealous of Tony’s luck, and it was around this time that he got to know Paul McCartney properly.

Tony lost contact with John and Paul as they went to different schools, but George worked for the butcher and delivered meat by bike to the Bramwell family.

One of Tony’s neighbors was friends with Gerry Marsden who had the group The Mars Bars (later Gerry and the Pacemakers) and Tony found out that if he offered to carry Gerry’s guitar to the concert venue, he got in for free.

When the Beatles returned from their first trip to Hamburg in December 1960, Tony heard about the group being advertised as “direct from Hamburg”. Tony thought it was a German band, but on the 61 bus he met George Harrison who could inform him that The Beatles were his group. Tony used the same tactics as Gerry and The Pacemakers and asked George if he could carry his guitar into the concert venue. This worked a charm once again and eventually John and Paul got him to carry their guitars as well. Tony thought the Beatles was the best rock band he had heard.

A couple of years later, the Beatles got a record deal with EMI when Brian Epstein asked Tony if he wanted to work for him, which Tony agreed to. His first job was to promote “Love Me Do” and send out sample records to reviewers and radio stations. Tony proved to have talent as an organiser, and got the job booking transport and hotel rooms. He did this in the daytime at the NEMS offices where he had a desk next to Brian, and in the evening he attended concerts with the groups in Epstein’s stable, such as Gerry And The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Cilla Black and several other artists and bands from Liverpool.

He also put his organisational talent to use when the Beatles started making promo films, what we call music videos today. As a producer, he was responsible for planning and carrying out the filming assignments, finding dates and locations, hiring a film crew and director, ordering catering and arranging permits, etc. In connection with the Beatles appearing on the TV program “Ready Steady Go”, Tony had also been in the studio and learned to handle film and video cameras. When the promo film for “Penny Lane” was made, the Beatles were filmed in Angel Lane in London and on horseback in Sevenoaks in Kent, but they did not travel to Liverpool. So the scenes in the film from there were filmed by Tony, for instance “the shelter in the middle of the roundabout” which he filmed from above – from a church nearby. During one of the festivals at Beitostølen, Norway where he was a guest, he told us that after the filming of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” was over, he went to Barcelona together with director Peter Goldmann and filmed a matador Brian Epstein also managed.

Tony is perhaps best known for having produced the music videos for the group, but he was also the tour manager for the 1966 tour, he had lights and sound and booked acts (Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix Experience etc) for the Saville Theater in London for Epstein. After Eptein’s death, Tony became an important person in the Apple company, especially for Apple Films and Apple Records. Unlike several of his Apple friends, Tony stayed away from drugs, but he liked to have a whisky and coke or a beer or three, preferably Guinness. Often Paul and Tony sat together and drank some beer in a pub where they could sit undisturbed.

When Apple Records became active again in the nineties with reissues of the old albums, Tony was an important resource who was called into service again. At the time, the Apple offices were populated by secretaries and accountants, so they had to call in Tony if there was going to be digging in the archives and finding new material about the old records.

Tony’s book

In 2006, Bramwell wrote and published an autobiography about his years with the Beatles, Magical Mystery Tours – My Life With The Beatles (Amazon link). Tony wrote a much broader story about his successful career in the music business, but it was the Beatles years that the publisher was interested in and those pages became the book. He was an outspoken narrator, who didn’t mince his words. There was never any doubts about what he thought of Yoko Ono. A handsome fellow in his day, Tony’s flings with girls in swingin’ London permeated throughout the book. One of his girlfriends was Norwegian actress, starlet and model, Julie Ege, and they also lived together in Norway for a while.

Tony and I kept in touch by email and Messenger, but suddenly after New Years eve, Tony’s messages stopped and also his frequent Facebook updates. Last I heard was from a friend in Liverpool who said that Tony had been hospitalised but was now sent home, the doctors hadn’t told him what was the matter with him, Tony had said. That was a couple of months ago and now there’s this. Rest in peace, my friend. Tony left us at the age of only 78.


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