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The Beatles: The Biography Paperback – October 10, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With this massive opus, veteran music journalist Spitz (Dylan: A Biography) tells the definitive story of the band that sparked a cultural revolution. Calling on books, articles, radio programs and primary interviews, Spitz follows the band from each member's family origins in working-class Liverpool to the band's agonizing final days. Spitz's unflinching biography reveals that not only did the Beatles pioneer a new era of rock but they also were on the cutting edge of rock star excess, from their 1961 amphetamine-fueled sets in the clubs of Hamburg to their eventual appetites for stronger drugs, including marijuana, LSD, cocaine and, eventually for John Lennon, heroin. Sex was also part of the equation; in 1962, when the band cut its first audition for Sir George Martin, all four members had a venereal disease, and both John's and Paul McCartney's girlfriends were pregnant. Spitz details the tangled web of bad business deals that flowed from novice manager Brian Epstein (though the heavily conflicted Epstein can be forgiven since he was in uncharted territory). Although this is a hefty volume steeped in research, Spitz writes economically, and with flair, letting the facts and characters speak for themselves. In doing so, he captures an ironic sadness that accompanied the Beatles' runaway success—how their dreams of stardom, once realized, became a prison, forcing the band to spend large parts of their youth in hotel rooms to avoid mobs and to stage elaborate escapes from literally life-threatening situations after appearances. As with all great history writing, Spitz both captures a moment in time and humanizes his subjects. While some will blanch at the unsettling dark sides of the Beatles, most will come to appreciate the band even more for knowing the incredible personal odysseys they endured. 32 pages of b&w photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Edited down from a staggering 2,700 pages, The Beatles took eight years of research and writing. But with some 500 books chronicling their lives, loves, and legacy, one would think The Beatles story had been adequately told. Adequate isnt authoritative, however, and most critics believe that Spitz, a former manager for Bruce Springsteen and author of Dylan: The Biography, has synthesized his subject masterfully. Though some would prefer hagiography (Charles Taylor of Newsday seems particularly aggrieved the biography doesnt live up to the Beatles artistic standardbut what has?), the general consensus is that if its pop-culture history you desire, The Beatles tops the charts.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
It's starts off a bit slowly with in depth accounts of their parents and even grandparents for gosh sakes, but then launches into their early years when they met each other -- before they were even the Beatles. Great stories. So many behind the scenes views of their inner lives and inner circles of friends, associates, and the people who came into their lives who made them what they were. Lots of explanations of their failures and shortcomings too. I really felt like I was there., day by day. Great photos too.
Here are summaries for the three lengthy--but NEVER boring--parts of this grand book:
"Mercy": The childhood stories of John, Paul, George, and Ringo are related as smoothly as a bestselling novel. We learn how they meet, merge into a band, and gain a reputation.
"Mania": The Beatles conquer Britain, America, and the world. They endure hardships, and they profit. Eventually they stop making live performances before the masses because the masses misbehave.
"Mastery": Are the Beatles true masters of music? Though the four wealthy young men run into snags in their lives away from music, they never lose their ability to make good music. Right up to the time they split, at least some of their new songs are topnotch. Maybe Beethoven SHOULD roll over, and beg for quarter.
Last month I read Ron Chernow's Pultizer Prize winning biography of George Washington. Except for factual errors, Bob Spitz's book is just as good. Regarding the Beatles' dissolute life styles, Spitz is bold and direct. But he praises their music. I was especially pleased with his descriptions of the songs. He doesn't describe all of them, only about twenty, but he describes them well. He tells the origin of the title, lyrics, and music. He reveals sources that were borrowed from, how the lyrics were written, how the music was composed, and how well the song played.
The book's extras include thousands of notes, a large bibliography, an index with subtopics, and two sections of photos. I would have welcomed more photos. For example, of the Beatles' cars (including the Magical Mystery bus), children, and estates. (We do get one photo of John's Kenwood estate.) Also, I wanted photos of album covers, though I found them on the Internet. My favorite photo in the book was of the mural painted on the Apple Boutique. Subsequent to the photo, the mural was removed upon demand of neighboring businesses.
Because so many reviewers here on amazon have condemned this book because of its factual errors, I want to address that issue. The only error worth mentioning is the photo of the child that John is holding. It is supposed to be Julian Lennon, but trusting other reviewers I believe that child is not Julian. It is some girl. Yes, the errors are there, and there are plenty of them, and Spitz could have made a more dedicated effort toward accuracy. Then how can I, appreciating truth as much as anyone, award Bob Spitz with five stars?
I ask myself, "If another author were to write a Beatles' biography containing the same information as Spitz's but with corrections of all his errors, would I buy that book?" My answer is a firm no. Because I have read Spitz's thorough account, despite his errors, any new group-biography of the Beatles would be boring. The value of Spitz's book lies not with the individual trees, but with the forest. Within a few months, I will have forgotten more than ninety percent of the book's details. So my advice is, do not worry about the inaccurate details. True or false, within a few months you will have forgotten most of them.
This is a rewarding biography that paints a high-definition picture of a legend.