January Books: Tune In – The Beatles – All These Years, Volume 1, by Mark Lewisohn

 

Mojo music magazine review asks “Is This the Best Beatles Book Ever”.

The answer is emphatically Yes. If you are even remotely interested in the story of The Beatles you will be fascinated and enthralled as the story unfolds. The same review states

at 840 pages (an ‘author’s cut’ due in November is more than twice the length), it’s an epic that is unprecedented in rock’n’roll biography.

Well its a long read indeed but the pages fly by as we are taken from the community halls of Liverpool to the rock clubs of Hamburg and the initial EMI recordings with George Martin. This first volume takes us from the 1940’s to the end of 1962 with the Beatles returning from their final Hamburg shows and the madness of 1963 awaits. You learn that they were all very unreliable interviewers, quite often mis-remembering their own history as the author proves many times. In the video below he explains exactly what he set out to do and the importance of giving the social context to the story,the book being nearly as much about the post war years in Britain as it is a biography.

 “The Beatles were rocking, smoking, eating, joking, drinking, charming, cussing, laughing, taking requests and answering back; they spoke local, looked Continental and played black and white American music with English colour; John and Paul vied and jibed for attention, George smiled quietly to the side and sang from time to time.” The Beatles’ drummer at the time, Pete Best, “drummed and kept his head down.”

Aah yes, the perennial Pete Best issue. Quoted in the book, his mother says that if he had not been sacked he would have eclipsed all the others with his talent. Well, unfortunately he was sacked, the reasons given are various: a poor drummer; a moody bugger;a loner; being too popular with the (girl) fans. You choose, possibly a combination of all these things.

The book is definitely not a hagiography and John emerges as quite unpleasant though charismatic, Paul as a bit needy and sly, George as a bit of a chancer. However that’s my reading and maybe they come over differently to others. You can read reviews at the New York Times, The Daily Telegraph , and The Guardian.

I can hardly wait for the next volume, but wait I must as it’s not due until 2020… So it’s been straight back to Ian MacDonalds “Revolution in the Head” and Phillip Norman’s “John Lennon”.

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