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When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles' Rise to the Top
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The most positive thing that I can say about this book is that it contains quite a bit of original research; Larry Kane clearly conducted new interviews with many players in the Beatles' early days, both in Liverpool and Hamburg. As someone who has read MANY books about the band, I appreciated hearing new stories and perspectives.

Unfortunately, the book is riddled with inaccuracies that are very obvious to the well-versed reader. For example, when Kane describes Yoko Ono's first visit to John's Aunt Mimi, he quotes her as saying something along the lines of "John's Uncle George was just sitting in the corner, like he was afraid to speak." It's not surprising that Uncle George didn't say much, given the fact that he had died more than a decade before this meeting could possibly have taken place. Since this is a book that only covers the band's early days, I felt that the treatment of their childhoods was generally quite superficial, and this is borne out by the fact that Kane fails to mention Uncle George's death at all (possibly not being aware of it himself?). The obvious misquoting of Yoko also makes me wonder who else he is misquoting throughout the book.

Another significant error was his assertion that Paul wanted Stu Sutcliffe out of the band in part because he wanted to be the bass player. Everything I have ever heard suggested that no one had wanted to be the bass player, which was the reason that John, Paul and George were all playing guitar before Stu became part of the band. If Paul had wanted to be the bassist, why wasn't he already the bassist? Kane offers no support for his assertion whatsoever, which leads me to believe that he simply assumed it was true because Paul became the bassist after Stu left. If he is going to make a claim that is so contrary to the known facts, he should be able to back it up.

Finally, the book is not very well-written and its style can be very grating. As another reviewer referenced, when Kane quotes interviewees, the constant interposition of his own name is totally excessive, and suggests that he is trying to reinforce his own "insider" status. Even if everyone he interviewed really did preface all their statements with "you know, Larry," and "I'll tell you, Larry," these phrases should not have been included in the quotations. The style is generally very informal and at times it seems like it is aimed toward children rather than adults, due to digressions like "Can you imagine what it was like to use an outdoor toilet in 30 degree weather?" (Here, Kane presents Ringo's lack of an indoor privy as unique; in fact, Paul did not have one until he was a teenager and George probably didn't have one either as a child.) Also, I got the impression that Kane pretty much took the part of everyone he interviewed, so that if he had happened to interview a different set of people, the book's perspective would have been totally different. He is especially credulous when it came to the sacking of Pete Best, pretty much accepting the Best family's interpretation of events without looking very much to other sources or perspectives. Without any comment, he repeats a Best family claim that George Martin told Pete's mother that he had booked a session drummer because Pete's drum sound was "too big," which makes no sense (as well as coming from a very biased source). Kane never seems to evaluate the reliability of his interview subjects or to assess their possible motives, which I think makes his reporting much less credible.

Overall, the book is probably worth reading if you are a serious fan, because it does contain some new information, but do not expect an excellent piece of journalism. Having access to many Beatles insiders, I think that Kane largely wasted his opportunity to produce a definitive document of Beatles' early days.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon September 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Author Larry Kane first met the Beatles as a 21 year old reporter in 1964 when he accompanied them on their first US tour - he was also on the 1965 and part of the ill fated 1966 tour of the States and has written A Ticket to Ride: Inside the Beatles' 1964 Tour That Changed the World about his experiences, as well as other books on the band. It is a brave man who releases a new biography about the band's early years, claiming to be "the true story", especially with Mark Lewisohn's epic work about to have it's first volume released in a few weeks. This claims to be the story of how the Beatles became the Beatles, from their childhood up until the end of 1963. In a way, it reminded me of the fanciful account by Allan Williams, "The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away"; entertaining, but more fiction than fact. Some books, for example, "The Day John Met Paul" by Jim O'Donnell have used a fictional feel to good effect - recreating an era, but getting the facts right. This book is a muddled account, which reuses often used myths and stories from those who have their own personal agenda in play.

To be honest I became worried from almost the first chapter - when we are once again treated to the story of Mimi dodging the bombs to visit newborn John in hospital. There was no air raid on the night John was born, which is historical fact. Other reviewers have already mentioned Yoko's story of Uncle George meeting her, when he had died while John was still of school age. Also worrying is the assertion that Mimi had an affair with a boarder. She may, or may not, have had a love affair with a boarder, but it was not an, as implied, marital affair. Mimi only took in paying boarders after the death of her husband, in which case she was a single, widowed lady and perfectly entitled to have a romance if she wished. Few people in the Beatle's story have been as maligned as Aunt Mimi who, surely, had her faults, but certainly did care for John and who he certainly loved deeply.

One of the good things about this book are the number of interviews with people who knew the band in these early days - and it is always interesting to hear their stories, especially those of people who have not written their own memoirs, such as Billy J Kramer. I was unsure why every quote had to be in capital letters though, which was quite jarring to read. Also, there is a real Lennon bias in the whole book, plus a real over emphasis on the influence of Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best. Pete Best and Ringo Starr may have been comparable drummers in the early 1960's, but it was Ringo's charm, humour and personality which made him easily the most popular member of the band when they first went to the States. The recent book by Brian Epstein's friend and Liverpool promotor, Joe Flannery, "Standing in the Wings", has a much more convincing explanation (to my mind) about why Pete was ousted but read "Drummed Out" by Spencer Leigh to assess all the possible reasons for yourself. George's sly sense of humour and his talent are almost overlooked in this book as is the fact that, if there could have been no Beatles without John Lennon - it certainly would not have been the success story it was without the huge influence and massive talent of Paul McCartney. I recently read a huge history of modern pop music, "Yeah Yeah Yeah" by Bob Stanley, in which the author reflects on the Beatles and makes the very sad, but honest, comment that when Paul is no longer with us he will be everyone's favourite Beatle. The tragedy of John's death has made him a myth, which many perpetuate to both Paul's disservice, but also to John's. As for Stuart Sutcliffe; yes, he was John's friend and he certainly was involved in the early styling of the band, but musically he was far less involved. For example, reading Johnny Gentle's book, "The First Ever Tour" reveals that Stuart was always more interested in his art - taking art supplies along to the general mirth and, also irritation, of the other band members. Stylistically he was an influence and he was certainly John's dear friend - but so was Pete Shotton, who continued to be involved in John's life closely, certainly throughout the entire Sixties.

Read this book - much of it is very enjoyable, especially the interviews. However, do not for one moment consider it as the true story - or even a very well researched account. It was undoubtedly written with good intentions, but the Beatles are not fictional characters, but real people. This makes a good story, but anybody who knows anything about the Beatles will spot flaws just a few pages into the book which will make them doubt anything they read from that point on. It is good for both the Beatles, and for the fans, that Mark Lewisohn's forthcoming book will be THE honest, unbiased and impeccably researched account they have waited for.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
If you want an accurate book about the early Beatles, read Mark Lewisohn's fabulous, well-researched, highly detailed new book, Tune in. Kane's book is filled with so many inaccuracies, it's laughable. Kane actually states that Yoko had met John's Uncle George -- who had DIED at least a decade before John met Yoko. And Kane's suggestion that Paul pushed Stuart Sutcliffe out of the band because Paul supposedly wanted to play bass is ridiculous when you consider that Stuart was only IN the band because John, Paul, and George didn't WANT to play bass. Kane's persistent anti-Paul bias is grating and predictable. And why Kane relies heavily on quotes from Yoko -- who wasn't around at all during the Beatles early years -- shows you who Kane was working for when he wrote this feeble book. Ignore the 5-star reviews of this book; they're no do doubt written by the author's friends and family. Instead, by Mark Lewisohn's book. He tells the story without bias.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Poorly written, repetitive, very hard to force myself to continue to the end. I found that even the pictures were without interest.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm not quite sure why Mr. Kane (like several other know-it-alls) have to continually refer to Ringo as the "luckiest guy in the world". The Beatles knew him in Rory, they loved his playing, he was a better drummer and better fit than Pete. His left-handed drumming on a right handed kit and his unique style/amazing drum fills that are vastly underrated by people like Mr. Kane, who don't care to know any better. In an era that yielded drum solos and drummers as superstars, Ringo didn't want or need that. Unlike others, he was happiest being part of the team. Ringo was the band's glue, sense of humour, and peacemaker. Give him his due.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
When I finished reading Mark Lewisohn’s scholarly and engaging masterpiece, “Tune In,” I felt lost and thought Mr. Kane’s “When They Were Boys” might help ween me off the Beatles more easily. Instead I was shocked to find a massive collection of misinformation within its pages. The other customer reviews pointing out many of the blatant factual errors in this book are correct, but I don’t believe they go far enough in condemning this type of journalistic ineptitude. Mr. Kane was there with the Beatles in 1964 and 1965 and is part of their history. If he were just some third, fourth or fifth party writer interested in making a mark—and there are plenty of them—this book would still be inexcusable. But the fact that he was actually THERE makes this tragic in that his sloppy journalism will contribute to the rewriting of history and muddy the already-murky waters of the sacred hallowed ground that is The Story of the Beatles. I’d like to add one more blatant error before summing things up. On page 32 he writes: “Sadly, by the time he was seventeen, the mother was gone, and now he relied on his music boys, quiet Uncle George, an unsung hero in his life, and his formidable Aunt Mimi….” John turned seventeen in October 1957 and his Uncle George died in June 1955 when John was fourteen. I’ve visited the grave of George Toogood Smith in St. Peter’s Churchyard where John and Paul first met in 1957. Apparently Mr. Kane hasn’t, nor has he had any of “his people” do so for him. It’s obvious Mr. Kane is not familiar with countless points of fact in this amazing history and is perhaps just working on the fact that about fifty years ago he was simply in the right place at the right time. He should be profoundly ashamed. It’s a very sad state of affairs that so many reputable professional sources could supply such glowing reviews as listed above when this book is clearly filled with factual errors and should either undergo a major revision or be taken off the market.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is garbage. There are inaccuracies on every other page, as many of the readers here have noted. Paul coming home to his mother and father after performing in Germany - when she had been deceased for several years. The same thing with John bringing Yoko to Mimi and her husband, the latter of whom had been dead for years. The most egregious example is Kane's claim that Lennon had a homosexual relationship with Brian Epstein because an interviewee described them as "mates". Doesn't Kane know that "mate" in the UK is a synonym for "friend"? The only reason I gave this book One Star is that No Stars is not an option. PLEASE DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I bought this book directly from Larry Kane at The Fest For Beatles Fans last month. He signed it with "I hope you like it, Larry". I really wanted to like it. I loved Ticket To Ride. But he was actually there for Ticket To Ride, which made this book even more disappointing. Apparently he can only write about things he actually observed. This book which recounts events that happened long before he met The Beatles is filled with inaccuracies which other reviews have already pointed out. I think he fell victim to the people that he interviewed, and their effort to re-write history by making themselves more important then they really were.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I'm baffled how many people gave this 5 stars. It was unreadable. There's no coherence to hit. It's just a jumbled mess - it seems like it was written in one draft and that was that. A really hard read. I wanted to like it. I gave it every chance. I guess this is for die hard Beatle fans. This one was a big fat no for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Not much here that a Beatle fan hasn't heard before. Maybe one thin chapter of personal experience. I'm rather annoyed when every single quote contains a "Larry" somewhere. (They were at the top of the English charts then, Larry, but they were still unknown in the America.)
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