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Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney Hardcover – October 26, 2010
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*Starred Review* Sounes has earned a well-deserved reputation for writing thoroughly researched, intricately detailed biographies. This comprehensive biography of McCartney is no exception. Sounes seems to have spoken to every living person with any connection to the former Beatle, from the singer’s neighbors near his Kintyre, Scotland, farm to the family veterinarian. Divided into two equally large sections—“With the Beatles” and “After the Beatles”—Fab covers all the highlights of McCartney’s life and long career: his early days in Liverpool; his meeting with John Lennon; the craziness of Beatlemania; his solo albums; the creation and collapse of his post-Beatles band, Wings; his marriage to Linda Eastman; his last meetings with Lennon; his drug bust in Japan; his forays into classical music; his disastrous second marriage to Heather Mills. This is by no means a hagiography. On the contrary, Sounes gives criticism when warranted, remarking on McCartney’s flaws both as a musician (settling for the ordinary, or, worse, mediocre rather then putting in the extra effort to create something exceptional) and as a man (a streak of selfishness that could turn callous). Indeed, Sounes is often brutally honest, offering a full portrait—warts and all—of one of the most famous men of the modern era. A must for Beatles and McCartney fans. HIGH-DEMAND BACK STORY: In spite of his persistent mega-fame, this is the first comprehensive, candid, and up-to-date portrait of Sir Paul McCartney, making it a magnet for boomers and serious music lovers. --June Sawyers
“This is the first comprehensive, candid, and up-to-date portrait of Sir Paul McCartney.”
“Sounes is not afraid to call out McCartney on some of his less than stellar work…Fab is a good book for learning who McCartney was and who he became.”
Publishers Weekly (web-exclusive), 11/22/10
“An engaging, set-the-record-straight biography…Sounes writes knowledgeably of the Beatles' close relationship with their tortured manager, Brian Epstein, the genius produced by George Martin, and the dismal details of the group's final falling out…Sounes packs in a lot.”
Asbury Park Press, 11/21/10
“[A] comprehensive biography…The book is in two parts—before and after The Beatles. It will not be surprising that the first part is a real page-turner. Even though a lot of that material has been covered before in countless books and articles, Sounes makes the stories interesting.”
“A must-read for the Beatles or McCartney fan who thinks he has read it all. Billed as the first complete biography of Paul McCartney's life, Sounes' exhaustively researched book more than lives up to that lofty claim...Through it all, Sounes is both thorough and unflinching in his appraisal of both McCartney's music, and of the man himself.”
“[A] fascinating and minutely detailed biography…An illuminating portrait of the most successful Beatle, and unlike many other Beatle biographies, Sounes gives as much time to his post-Beatle life as the Beatle era.”
“One might think Paul McCartney's life has already been examined exhaustively, but the post-Beatles years—and that's a lot of years—have always been given short shrift until now…Sounes is a tenacious researcher.”
One of the Best Biographies of 2010.
New York Times, 12/19/10
Washington Times, 12/24/10
“This book…is nearly as fascinating as ‘the cute Beatle’ himself.”
“Moves smoothly from the familiar coming together and dissolution of the Beatles on to the subsequent bulk of his life as a solo artist, father, husband (including the disastrous second go-round), and knighted man of wealth.”
“Door-stopper thick…Though the Beatles may be the most written about musical act in world history, Sounes’ giant book reminds us that the existence of the ‘Fab Four’ comprised only a thin slice of McCartney’s life.”
“Paul’s life, loves and music are fully explored. This is a must for Beatle/McCartney fans.”
“Provid[es] a window into the entirety of the great pop musician's creative and personal journey…Impressive...McCartney's life has been well documented in print, but never with such expanse…In many ways, Fab is as much a recollection of another time as it is a window onto a great artist's accomplishments and, not infrequently, failures.”
“[T]he first major unauthorized biography…. Howard Sounes brings to the task the same solid journalistic values he employed in writing his Dylan biography Down the Highway,which succeeded in unearthing troves of new information through the simple expedient of diligent legwork, hunting down the right people, and asking them the right questions.”
Rolling Stone, 11/11/10
“Few Beatle biographies are as exhaustive as this 634-page epic: Sounes paints an unsparing portrait of McCartney…For fans willing to ponder their hero’s flaws, Fab delivers all you need to know—and a lot more.”
Booklist, July 2010
“Everyone knows who Paul McCartney is. And everyone can imagine how much in demand this biography will be.”
“[A] solid addition to the ever-expanding library of books about the Beatle named Paul…More than 200 interviews—and no-nonsense attention to detail…The graceful prose and superb storytelling create a riveting narrative.”
“A proper biography…Given that Sounes manages to tackle both the highs and the lows of McCartney’s career while neither rhapsodizing nor crucifying the man, it’s no surprise that the reviews for Fab have been, well, fab.”
Melbourne Herald Sun (Australia), 1/8/11
“Howard Sounes has done his homework to turn up so much that even Beatles fans might not have known. These 672 pages mostly demand attention, much more so than 671 pages of McCartney's authorised biography...A compelling re-telling of rock's greatest story.”
Charleston Post and Courier, 1/9/11
“This comprehensive text is billed as ‘the first exhaustive biography of Sir Paul,’ and it lives up to that billing. The book is well-researched and finely detailed, with many pages of source documentation provided…The book is stuffed with fascinating anecdotes and previously unpublished incidents…An excellent resource.”
“A 'must’ for any library seeking a definitive representation of the Beatles.”
Toronto Star, 11/5/10
Montreal Gazette’s “Words & Music” Blog, 11/11/10
“The first book to properly deal with McCartney's career after the Beatles.”
Kirkus Reviews website, 10/26/10
San Francisco Book Review, November 2010
National Post(Canada), 11/1/10
CBC News (Canada), 11/4/10
Record Collector (UK), December 2010
Tucson Citizen, 11/8/10
Top customer reviews
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In fact, it could have been a GREAT bio, if only the author would have been more objective and had kept his opinion on Mccartney's music to himself.
Really, nobody buy this book to hear Howard Sounes opinion's on Paul's music.
The moment he called "Here There and Everywhere" a weak song, I knew the guy knows nothing about music, and if I was going to keep reading the book, his opinion HAS to be ignored.
Apart from that, the book is good. A lot of good info on relevant topics and interviews from people close to Paul Mccartney.
A great read for any McCartney fan.
If you're interested in McCartney's music, here are some books that describe and analyze it:
* Tony Bacon and Gareth Morgan, "Paul McCartney: Playing the Great Beatles Basslines"
* Vincent P. Benitez, "The Words and Music of Paul McCartney"
* Howard Elson, "Paul McCartney, Songwriter"
Benitez and Elson are justly critical of some of McCartney's work (Bacon and Morgan only discuss songs they think are great). All three of these books evince an enjoyment of his best music and an ability to illuminate it that Sounes' book does not. And John Blaney's "Lennon and McCartney: Together Alone" is a sensitive, far-ranging analysis of both men's solo work.
How can Sounes say virtually nothing about McCartney's bass playing? It's like writing a biography of Jimi Hendrix without discussing the way he plays guitar, or the life of Janis Joplin without describing how she sings. There's also very little mention of his singing, and the analysis of his songs is shallow.
Sounes seems fundamentally out of sync with McCartney's personality and music. There's no question that Sounes is on target when he dismisses some of McCartney's weaker solo material (I'd chew off my own arm to avoid ever hearing "The Girl Is Mine" or anything from "Pipes of Peace" again). But saying "Maybe I'm Amazed" is no classic? Asserting that "Ram" is "not and never was in the same class as 1970s classic albums" because it lacks "musical and/or intellectual weight"? Only if you disregard the music and don't pay enough attention to the lyrics. Sounes seems to like moderately a handful of McCartney's solo songs, and to dislike actively the rest. He's got a right to his opinion, of course, but I really wish that someone writing a tome about McCartney's life appreciated his best music more.
I think Sounes' dislike of so much of McCartney's music stems from two things: Sounes is much more focused on lyrics than on sound, and he approaches every song with the same level of seriousness. McCartney is more like Brian Wilson than like Bob Dylan, the subject of Sounes' previous biography. For Wilson and McCartney, the music -- the sound, the harmony -- is paramount. Lyrics are important, but they're far from everything, and Sounes writes as if the lyrics are the songs. In addition, the tone and seriousness of McCartney's songs ranges widely, but Sounes writes as if every song should have the weight of "Eleanor Rigby." I laughed out loud when Sounes said "Hi, Hi, Hi" shouldn't have been released because it's so clearly about sex and drugs. Where does this guy think the term "rock and roll" came from?
I was left wondering what motivated Sounes to write "Fab." The closest he comes to talking about this is on pages 420-21, where he describes going to his first McCartney concert, in 1990, and becoming "a convert to Paul McCartney as a live performer." More analysis of McCartney as a performer, and less retailing of seemingly every remark anyone's ever made about him, would make this book vastly more interesting.
At the end of the book Sounes says he wasn't looking to find fault with McCartney, but to study him under a microscope. Yet he consistently inclines toward a negative view of McCartney when the facts would support more than one opinion. One of the grating aspects of "Fab" is Sounes' use of familiar nicknames for the people he's writing about -- Linda McCartney is "Lin," Ringo Starr is "Ritchie," etc. This kind of faux intimacy is especially nauseating when it's paired with the snarkiness that much of Sounes' writing displays.
"Fab" is a case study in what happens when a biographer writes about someone he or she just doesn't connect with -- far from getting an objective look at the subject, you get a profound lack of insight.
When you hear a Paul McCartney song, you think of him as a man of many voices; the Beatle with the most potential...the one who demonstrated the hardest work ethic for the group; a man who plays countless instruments; one of the best rock bass players of our time; a writer and a composer of music; and/or a living Beatle who we want to know more about, as fans.
From the title of this book, and what I thought to be above average favorable reviews, I decided to buy this book yielding over 600 pages and I read every single word with the exception of the Notes and the Index in the back of the book.
I am an avid reader of true stories/biographies, etc. I am not apt to Review a book which I did not like, and I must say I don't think I've written a Review giving it only two stars, but I have to this time for other Beatle Fans, and for Paul McCartney. (No, I am not a love-sick teen of the sixties, but I do know when someone is trying to destroy another person's reputation by writing about them in a consistant critical form, chapter after chapter.)
The ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS are at the end of the book. The author states as part of a sentence, "I did not have an agenda to find fault with Sir Paul..." And he continues to tell us that he tried to tell the epic story of his life as fairly and as truthfully as he found his facts from studying Paul "as an entomologist might put another kind of beetle under the microscope."
Look, I have problems with the entire book as it was written in a critical way. I found the author looking for petty views of this man he was writing about. For instance, in the research that he did, it appears that he probed to get a tense angle on Paul, no matter what the setting, who the person interviewed, whatever a situation 'looked like', without knowing for certain. In a nutshell? This author tries to show us that Paul McCartney is a difficult person, and no matter what, he wound up each situation with that conclusion, as a
Beatle, then as a post Beatle.
I wish the author would have pointed out how successful Paul's 30 year marriage was to Linda. Though the author did a lot of coverage of her, again, he was was quite critical of her as a person and as a singer (which everyone probably does agree that Linda was in the Wings Band for Paul's confidence and could not sing.) The author plugged at her, yet never touched on the subject of how the couple handled her battle with cancer....you know...all the intimate stuff which he had on so many other lovers...yet not upon their cancer ride.
If you are not an avid reader, you might find this book too long for you. I read it all but sputtered to my husband for the three weeks of reading it that I was so disappointed in this author's style of writing...his demeanor of writing about P.M. throughout the entire book, but I was bound and determined to finish it, due to my devotion to reading the book in it's entirety, before I decided to add it to my personal home library or to sell it at my summer yard sale.
And if the Beatle's truths be told, as a band or post Beatles, you can get that information from their Anthology interviews.
Paul McCartney is the most influentual and most successful entertainer, songwriter, singer, musician and writing partner with John Lennon. History (has) will hold this proof in it's pudding! PEACE
Most recent customer reviews
At over 600 pages, Fab is an exhaustive biography of the first sixty-seven years of Paul McCartney’s...Read more