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The Beatles: The Biography

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Even before the Beatles hit the big time, a myth was created. This version of the Beatles legend smoothed the rough edges and filled in the fault lines, and for more than forty years this manicured version of the Beatles story has sustained as truth - until now. The product of almost a decade of research, hundreds of unprecedented interviews, and the discovery of scores of Even before the Beatles hit the big time, a myth was created. This version of the Beatles legend smoothed the rough edges and filled in the fault lines, and for more than forty years this manicured version of the Beatles story has sustained as truth - until now. The product of almost a decade of research, hundreds of unprecedented interviews, and the discovery of scores of never-before-revealed documents, Bob Spitz's The Beatles is the biography fans have been waiting for -- a vast, complete account as brilliant and joyous and revelatory as a Beatles record itself. Spitz begins in Liverpool, a hard city knocked on its heels. In the housing projects and school playgrounds, four boys would discover themselves -- and via late-night radio broadcasts, a new form of music called rock 'n roll. Never before has a biography of musicians been so immersive and textured. Spitz takes us down Penny Lane and to Strawberry Field (John later added the s), to Hamburg, Germany, where -- amid the squalor and the violence and the pep pills -- the Beatles truly became the Beatles. We are there in the McCartney living room when Paul and John learn to write songs together; in the heat of Liverpool's Cavern Club, where jazz has been the norm before the Beatles show up; backstage the night Ringo takes over on drums; in seedy German strip clubs where George lies about his age so the band can perform; on the lonely tours through frigid Scottish towns before the breakthrough; at Abbey Road Studios, where a young producer named George Martin takes them under his wing; at the Ed Sullivan Show as America discovers the joy and the madness; and onward and upward: up the charts, from Shea to San Francisco, through the London night, on to India, through marmalade skies, across the universe...all the way to a rooftop concert and one last moment of laughter and music. It is all here, raw and right: the highs and the lows, the love and the rivalry, the awe and the jealousy, the drugs, the tears, the thrill, the magic never again to be repeated. Open this book and begin to read -- Bob Spitz's masterpiece is, at long last, the biography the Beatles deserve.


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Even before the Beatles hit the big time, a myth was created. This version of the Beatles legend smoothed the rough edges and filled in the fault lines, and for more than forty years this manicured version of the Beatles story has sustained as truth - until now. The product of almost a decade of research, hundreds of unprecedented interviews, and the discovery of scores of Even before the Beatles hit the big time, a myth was created. This version of the Beatles legend smoothed the rough edges and filled in the fault lines, and for more than forty years this manicured version of the Beatles story has sustained as truth - until now. The product of almost a decade of research, hundreds of unprecedented interviews, and the discovery of scores of never-before-revealed documents, Bob Spitz's The Beatles is the biography fans have been waiting for -- a vast, complete account as brilliant and joyous and revelatory as a Beatles record itself. Spitz begins in Liverpool, a hard city knocked on its heels. In the housing projects and school playgrounds, four boys would discover themselves -- and via late-night radio broadcasts, a new form of music called rock 'n roll. Never before has a biography of musicians been so immersive and textured. Spitz takes us down Penny Lane and to Strawberry Field (John later added the s), to Hamburg, Germany, where -- amid the squalor and the violence and the pep pills -- the Beatles truly became the Beatles. We are there in the McCartney living room when Paul and John learn to write songs together; in the heat of Liverpool's Cavern Club, where jazz has been the norm before the Beatles show up; backstage the night Ringo takes over on drums; in seedy German strip clubs where George lies about his age so the band can perform; on the lonely tours through frigid Scottish towns before the breakthrough; at Abbey Road Studios, where a young producer named George Martin takes them under his wing; at the Ed Sullivan Show as America discovers the joy and the madness; and onward and upward: up the charts, from Shea to San Francisco, through the London night, on to India, through marmalade skies, across the universe...all the way to a rooftop concert and one last moment of laughter and music. It is all here, raw and right: the highs and the lows, the love and the rivalry, the awe and the jealousy, the drugs, the tears, the thrill, the magic never again to be repeated. Open this book and begin to read -- Bob Spitz's masterpiece is, at long last, the biography the Beatles deserve.

30 review for The Beatles: The Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    The Bob Spitz biography of The Beatles was the first musical biography that I read a few years back. Not sure that I would be all that interested and yet having read some very positive reviews, I picked up this one and had a really hard time putting it down. The story is absolutely fascinating - from their humble beginnings, the sad and shameful way they disposed of Pete Best for Ringo Starr, the song writing teamwork of Paul and John and the charm and genius of George...it is just amazing the r The Bob Spitz biography of The Beatles was the first musical biography that I read a few years back. Not sure that I would be all that interested and yet having read some very positive reviews, I picked up this one and had a really hard time putting it down. The story is absolutely fascinating - from their humble beginnings, the sad and shameful way they disposed of Pete Best for Ringo Starr, the song writing teamwork of Paul and John and the charm and genius of George...it is just amazing the revolutions and evolutions of music that these four musicians achieved in such a relatively short recording career. One thing I found particularly interesting was the tension between the romantic Paul McCartney who was always looking for the big commercial hit or love song and John Lennon who - if he had had the choice - would have made The Beatles into the first punk band like the Sex Pistols. It was also a bit shocking that both love song Paul and sleep/love-in John were so incredibly abusive of their women early in their careers. Of course, we also learn of how their original and ill-fated manager Brian Epstein screwed them over forever on the rights to their music but also how the production by George Martin gave them the freedom to experiment and create masterpieces like Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt Peppers. The book is a page-turner and the reader learns something on nearly every page. My first musical biography became my favorite musical biography in this case! Still several years after reading this, Spitz' bio of the Fab Four still reigns over the other rock n roll biographies I have read. The anecdotes, the disastrous tour, the recordings (one of which a deceased aunt of mine was actually in the studio for, it os all vivid in my memory and has incredibly enhanced my listening experience of this, the greatest band of the 60s and probably most influential of all time. A must!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brian Levinson

    Holy crap is this book long. And informative. Also fun to read, so yay. Here's some fun stuff I learned: 1. They all had gonorrhea when they recorded "Love Me Do." 2. John was a huge asshole. 3. Brian Epstein would invite really rough dudes back to his house to beat the crap out of him. 4. Yoko was even worse than John. 5. Paul was kind of a dick, too. 6. But Ringo was a nice guy. 7. During early Beatles concerts, theater owners or whoever would wheel retards into the front row until John started makin Holy crap is this book long. And informative. Also fun to read, so yay. Here's some fun stuff I learned: 1. They all had gonorrhea when they recorded "Love Me Do." 2. John was a huge asshole. 3. Brian Epstein would invite really rough dudes back to his house to beat the crap out of him. 4. Yoko was even worse than John. 5. Paul was kind of a dick, too. 6. But Ringo was a nice guy. 7. During early Beatles concerts, theater owners or whoever would wheel retards into the front row until John started making fun of them by putting a plastic bag on his foot and limping around like a spaz. Also, sometimes the parents of said retards would like, bring their kids backstage and then leave them alone. With the Beatles.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Duffy Pratt

    The opening chord of A Hard Day's Night. George, on a twelve string, plays a Gsus chord. From bass to treble that's G,C,F,A,C,G. On a twelve string guitar, the bottom four notes get doubled at the octave, while the top two are doubled in unison. Underneath, Paul plays a D. And John strums a Dsus chord, ADADG, leaving out the bottom string. So from bass to treble we get the following: D, G, A, C, D, F, G, AA, CCC, DD, F, GG, A. The result is a perfect collaboration, and a beautiful example of the The opening chord of A Hard Day's Night. George, on a twelve string, plays a Gsus chord. From bass to treble that's G,C,F,A,C,G. On a twelve string guitar, the bottom four notes get doubled at the octave, while the top two are doubled in unison. Underneath, Paul plays a D. And John strums a Dsus chord, ADADG, leaving out the bottom string. So from bass to treble we get the following: D, G, A, C, D, F, G, AA, CCC, DD, F, GG, A. The result is a perfect collaboration, and a beautiful example of the Beatles ability to come up with something that is both chaotic and suberbly balanced all at once. If you've heard it, you remember it, and you know what I mean. If not, then why are you reading this far? Spitz describes this chord in some detail, and quite differently. He says George plays a G7 chord with an added ninth, and a suspended fourth, and leaves it at that. I bring this up for two reasons. First, if Spitz gets this wrong, then it casts into doubt the accuracy of much of his "definitive" biography. This example is important for me, because I have always cared most about the Beatle's music, and much less about all the surrounding stuff. Second, Spitz attributes this chord to George, instead of highlighting what a brilliant group effort it was. That's about the only time in the book that George gets put in the forefront, and on this rare occurrence, Spitz gets it wrong. This book is mostly about John, then Brian Epstein. Paul is still a large figure, but not as much as the first two. George is a strong supporting character, and Ringo hardly gets much attention at all. The amazing thing about this is that the amount of attention a person gets is inversely proportional to his likability. John is a dick. Spitz tries to attribute much of this to his various drug addictions. But he was being a dick to his audiences even before the drugs became an issue. It's pretty amazing that such an inconsiderate asshole could write and perform such brilliant, sensitive music. Well maybe not so much. I have a whole list of artists whose work I adore, but who I would never want to meet, and Lennon doesn't even get close to the top of this list. Epstein didn't interest me back then, and he doesn't interest me all that much now. I guess its worth seeing how he screwed up so many deals for the Beatles. But his character seems almost stereotypical. If someone made him up for a novel, I think most people would roll their eyes at the cliches. And that's pretty sad for him. Paul comes across as controlling, a perfectionist, self-centered, terrible to women, but mostly a decent mate to his buddies. Except then there is the point where the new manager has Paul's longstanding assistant fired. The guy worked for Paul basically all the way back when they played in the Cavern in Liverpool, for over seven years. And when the manager had him fired, Paul refused to even return the guy's phone calls. So, in the end, Paul showed no loyalty at all. But his music, when not corny (does anyone actually like "Someone's Knocking at the Door"?), can be glorious. George is painted as insecure, but growing and spiritual. By the end, he is at least acknowledged as a good song writer. But as the Beatles retreated into the studio, John and Paul treated him more and more as a hired hand. And Ringo is barely seen here as a full Beatle. He doesn't enter the scene until the book is half done, and he doesn't fit. He treats his wife well, and cares about her. And he seems like a nice and stable person. What Spitz does show about Ringo, is how important he was for their live sound. He wasn't the most technically accomplished drummer, but he had an uncanny musical sense and the ability to fit himself in perfectly. The book inevitably tries to answer two questions: First, why the meteoric rise? Here, I don't think the book comes up with any good explanation. In Outliers, Gadwell attributes the rise to the Beatle's time in Hamburg, where they put in the 10,000 hours needed for mastery. That certainly helped them, but there were lots of other groups with their own 10,000 hours. In the end, I think the Beatle's were just a black swan. There really isn't any explaining the sudden mass hysteria that surrounded them. If it had not happened to them, it probably would have been someone else. But I have to admit that its awfully difficult for me to imagine some others in the same role. The second question is why the break-up. The book mostly blames John's envy of Paul, and Paul's need to control things. Add to this the drugs, and their seclusion, and the break-up becomes almost inevitable. The book also lays out another scenario. The Beatles became a truly great live band with all of their experience in Hamburg and at the Cavern and on tour through England. Once they hit the big time, their shows topped out at 35 minutes or so, instead of several hours a night. They played in huge venues to girls who threw jelly bellies at them, and screamed over the music. No-one listened, and the Beatles couldn't even hear themselves. The shows were unsatisfying and became more and more dangerous to them. So they quit. But the energy, and their first love, came from the live playng. Once they retreated into the studio, George and Ringo were no longer as much a cohesive part of the group. And Paul and John could go more and more their seperate ways. So they lost their energizing source, and they lost the feeling of being a band. And that led to them breaking up. Spitz doesn't put it in so many words, but that's what I was left with. In the end, the fans broke up the Beatles.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    Rating for the quality of the book: 4 out of 5 Rating for how much I enjoyed the book: 2 out of 5 I realized as I was finishing this book that I wished I hadn't read it. Don't get me wrong - it was well-written and well-researched and I learned a great deal I didn't know about the Beatles. And therein lies the problem. There is a whole lot I learned in this book that I wished I didn't know. I mean, I knew there was drug use. I knew there were countless affairs. I knew that none of them were standup Rating for the quality of the book: 4 out of 5 Rating for how much I enjoyed the book: 2 out of 5 I realized as I was finishing this book that I wished I hadn't read it. Don't get me wrong - it was well-written and well-researched and I learned a great deal I didn't know about the Beatles. And therein lies the problem. There is a whole lot I learned in this book that I wished I didn't know. I mean, I knew there was drug use. I knew there were countless affairs. I knew that none of them were standup human beings. But I guess I didn't know just how bad things got. John, in particular, I found to be utter repulsive. Incredibly talented, true, but reprehensible. I think he is the most selfish person I have ever read about this extensively. Not that any of the rest (with the possible exception of Ringo - who knew?) are that much better. But John's treatment of his wife, child, manager, and bandmates was awful. I could continue with the adjectives, because there's a long list, but I won't, don't worry. I think one of the reasons I feel this way so strongly is there is no redemption for anyone at the end of the book. The book ends with the end of the Beatles, when everyone was behaving badly. I think that if I'd been able to follow their lives a little longer, they generally clean up their acts a little bit and become a bit more tolerable. However, I understand that this is outside the book's purview. It just would have given me a bit of catharsis. I will give a tip of the hat, though, to the last line, which manages to re-instill in me a bit of the respect that I've always had for my favorite band. These are the closing words from Spitz regarding the Beatles: "And from them, a flood of song and love and pain and beauty, a flood that cascaded out of the Cavern and Hamburg and London town, into the world, a flow that pushed aside what had come before, that cleansed and battered and in the end nourished. Water." Beautiful.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    A threshold book. If your interest in The Beatles is only so-so, you'll be bored stiff by the book and I suspect you won’t make it to page one-hundred. The writing is only fair--in style not quite historical, not quite journalistic, and not quite pure tabloid-y entertainment--and the substance is frankly too thin to warrant eight-hundred plus pages of reading for all but the most maniacal of Beatle maniacs. For good or bad, I am such a one. And so I raced through it over a long weekend. It doesn A threshold book. If your interest in The Beatles is only so-so, you'll be bored stiff by the book and I suspect you won’t make it to page one-hundred. The writing is only fair--in style not quite historical, not quite journalistic, and not quite pure tabloid-y entertainment--and the substance is frankly too thin to warrant eight-hundred plus pages of reading for all but the most maniacal of Beatle maniacs. For good or bad, I am such a one. And so I raced through it over a long weekend. It doesn’t lack for effort. In an effort at contextualizing the story and following good historiography, Spitz provides more than enough details of early Liverpool, of each of the families of the Beatles, and their early school experiences. I remarked to my family that I was on page 340 and the Beatles had yet to make their first single, Love Me Do. Despite the read, the Beatles as a phenomenon are still mystifying. Regardless of a near day-by-day account of every significant decision of the members of the band and their select inner circle, the meteoric rise of Beatlemania remains a mystery. Nor, finally, can the avalanche of tawdry stories of personal lapses and petty feuds satisfactorily account for their dissolution at the height of their creative powers. And despite the author’s truly heroic efforts at getting into the musical mindset of the Beatles, the book cannot adequately explain how, even in the midst of their bitter rancor and drug abuse and unwillingness to communicate with one another, the group continued to produce sublime music—music that always transcended their own respective individual prodigious talents. The book did nothing to diminish my musical appreciation of The Beatles, but I came away admiring only Ringo more. Not only do I now better appreciate his musical contribution to the group, but I came to appreciate him as the sole likable member of the group. Ringo alone seemed to appreciate that the stars aligned with fantastic good fortune in his favor, and that the fame and money that came with that fortune were not entitlements. George’s eccentric if heartfelt spiritualism was marbled with a mixture of second-banana diffidence, smoldering resentment and, ironically, excessive hedonism. And as for Paul and John, their respective musical talents were genuinely unmatched by anyone else in the 20th century, Dylan included. Except for by one another. And that competition of egos—so instrumental early for fueling the Beatles’ rise to prominence--was in time enough to undo the group, as neither man could stand to recognize the obvious: each man was smaller than The Beatles as a group. In the end, the only thing larger than Beatlemania was their egos.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Russ

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It's not a perfect book, but I think this is a decent enough Beatles biography. It's certainly a long one. I can't believe I just read an 800-page book. It took a little under a month to read. The good: Spitz really captures the insanity of Beatlemania and the craziness that came with being a Beatle. With all the strange goings-on during the latter part of their career, it's amazing that they pulled it together enough to create such magic on record. Spitz touches on all the biggies - Hamburg, Sg It's not a perfect book, but I think this is a decent enough Beatles biography. It's certainly a long one. I can't believe I just read an 800-page book. It took a little under a month to read. The good: Spitz really captures the insanity of Beatlemania and the craziness that came with being a Beatle. With all the strange goings-on during the latter part of their career, it's amazing that they pulled it together enough to create such magic on record. Spitz touches on all the biggies - Hamburg, Sgt. Pepper, Paul is dead, Ed Sullivan, the trip to India. The detail is overwhelming, although it starts to lack in the last part of the book. The bad: This really should have been called John Lennon, Brian Epstein and three other guys: A Biography. John seems to be the 'main character' in the story. I realize he and Paul were the two geniuses in the band, but I was under the impression that The Beatles were four men. Not one, not two, but four. I really could have used fewer depressing details about Brian Epstein (although they help you understand the tragedy of his life and death) and more details about George Harrison and Ringo Starr! Ringo, in particular, comes across in this book as simply a hired hand who was brought out for cheeky laughs and studio drumming. He was certainly much more than that! Also, some parts of the book could have used much more detail. No discussion of the second-side medley of Abbey Road? Come on. The ugly: Reviews on Amazon.com make it clear that this book is flawed and contains many errors. This is the first Beatles book I've read, so I know not what is fact and what is not. However, out of 860-some pages, Spitz must have got something right. Is his book any more flawed than any of the hundreds of other Beatles books? Also, when reading nonfiction, it is a good policy to take everything you read with a large grain of salt. Even first-hand accounts will be biased. The best thing to do is read more than one book to get all possible sides to the story. The presence of errors, though, keeps me from scoring this book higher. Did I enjoy it? Mostly. The Beatles aren't portrayed as good people. When possible, Spitz will point out a flaw over a virtue. The end of the book, of course, is a downer. But the behind-the-scenes stories and the mostly-good details of the creation of the music make this book worthwhile. Last thing I'll say - I consider this to be a beginning to my quest for Beatles knowledge. I will not stop here, nor should I.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amie

    Inconsistent, riddled with errors, inaccuracies and wrong information. Lots of mistakes. Such as photos from 1960 and 1961 being labeled as being at the Star Club, which didn't open until '62. States that George met Pattie Boyd on the set of "Help!" when they actually met on the set of "A Hard Day's Night". Just a couple of examples. Terrible book. And when the list of errors was pointed out to the author, he just insulted those who were telling him. Isn't that nice? Wanker.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Still finishing this up, but it's certainly the most comprehensive Beatles bio out there, and very well-written and readable. The best chapters are probably the school years and the Hamburg period which the author fleshes out with much more detail than I've ever encountered. He also has a talent for making it feel immediate when you are reading, with great descriptive passages that give you a sense of what the dives in Hamburg were like and just how grueling the Beatles early touring schedule wa Still finishing this up, but it's certainly the most comprehensive Beatles bio out there, and very well-written and readable. The best chapters are probably the school years and the Hamburg period which the author fleshes out with much more detail than I've ever encountered. He also has a talent for making it feel immediate when you are reading, with great descriptive passages that give you a sense of what the dives in Hamburg were like and just how grueling the Beatles early touring schedule was (for example). Their drug use is also chronicled in more detail (I don't think I knew that the Beatles smoked their first J with Bob Dylan). Not a book for someone just looking for the Beatles story (you get the full family tree of each Beatle), but fans who have read several Beatles books will find compelling new vignettes here, and be pleasantly surprised at the quality of the prose.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Well, I only read the last half, to see what jolly Bob Spitz could do with the tale of hippy woe which is the decline & fall of the four jolly boys. I was expecting a whole lot of fun to be had in the style of Bob's outrageous biography of the other Bob, Dylan. In that one, Spitz makes up whole conversations, assumes things when he hasn't got any facts or sources, jumps into Dylan's head to riff on what he "probably" would have been thinking, kicks him when he's down, and all in all has a ri Well, I only read the last half, to see what jolly Bob Spitz could do with the tale of hippy woe which is the decline & fall of the four jolly boys. I was expecting a whole lot of fun to be had in the style of Bob's outrageous biography of the other Bob, Dylan. In that one, Spitz makes up whole conversations, assumes things when he hasn't got any facts or sources, jumps into Dylan's head to riff on what he "probably" would have been thinking, kicks him when he's down, and all in all has a right good laugh. But in this Beatles tome disappointingly he plays it completely straight. So it comes off as pretty good, pretty comprehensive, nothing that you didn't already know but you can probably give half of your other Beatles books to Oxfam now because it's all in here.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Akash Ahuja

    I’m *finally* done after reading this book for two full months. I really wanted to give this book a five star rating, but I just couldn’t. There are such great moments in here, and as a music and production nerd, I was in love with how well Bob writes their recording sessions and explains the songwriting process in a reasonably accessible way. Many other moments are also written so well- travels and German shenanigans and agent meetings and everything. The thing that I am most impressed with is I’m *finally* done after reading this book for two full months. I really wanted to give this book a five star rating, but I just couldn’t. There are such great moments in here, and as a music and production nerd, I was in love with how well Bob writes their recording sessions and explains the songwriting process in a reasonably accessible way. Many other moments are also written so well- travels and German shenanigans and agent meetings and everything. The thing that I am most impressed with is the ridiculous level of detail that went into researching this book, which was a seven year project. However, I didn’t like the bias in how John and Paul were treated next to George and Ringo. John gets three chapters and some change devoted to his childhood, actually reaching back some generations to how his grandparents met and lived, with a surprising amount of detail. Paul gets about one chapter, and then George and Ringo really only get enough to bring you up to speed with how they ended up meeting each other. The spotlight is on Lennon-McCartney, and if you’re a George or Ringo fan, this book will infuriate you. This biography also continually paints John in a bad light- a moody, drug addled narcissist, and tries to redeem Paul’s faults by explaining that he was just trying to make the music he loved, or trying to bring the band back together. The book also screeches to a halt mere pages after the release of Abbey Road, and it almost feels like Bob is out of breath as he tries to explain how the band broke up. We then get a page an a half describing all four of their lives, which feels very lopsided compared to the 300 pages that are written before the Fab Four come together. I still had a fantastic time reading this, and can’t express how impressive this work is. It has its faults, but in the end, it made me re-listen to the entire Beatles discography, so it did something right.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This is an excruciatingly poorly written book that still manages to tell a great story. Tiresomely exhaustive near the beginning, it forces you to wade through much flowery language and such unnecessary flourishes as tracing John and Paul's respective ancestry back to Ireland and a discourse on the Liverpool shipping industry; given how much of it is filler, it's unconscionable that the book runs nearly 900 pages. Quotations are unforgivably mangled, with far too much fussily inserted in bracket This is an excruciatingly poorly written book that still manages to tell a great story. Tiresomely exhaustive near the beginning, it forces you to wade through much flowery language and such unnecessary flourishes as tracing John and Paul's respective ancestry back to Ireland and a discourse on the Liverpool shipping industry; given how much of it is filler, it's unconscionable that the book runs nearly 900 pages. Quotations are unforgivably mangled, with far too much fussily inserted in brackets or (sic)'d; numerous quotations are plunked into the text totally without attribution. A former music manager, Spitz gets the music business abundantly well, which may be why the best drawn character by far is Brian Epstein (with the glaring exception of Epstein's homosexuality, with which Spitz evinces maximum discomfort, handling it as if with tongs). He does not, however, get music or musicians. Attempts at critical explication of the Beatles' catalogue are ham-handed at best and are noticeably less frequently attempted as the book wears on. Having met the boys as children, we never really get a picture of their adult personalities or what drove them as artists. In contrast to the detailed early picture, more and more is glossed over as the Beatles' lives and careers become more complex. It is as if Spitz were writing the book from beginning to end all at once and got more and more tired, until finally he couldn't go on, and the book ends before the release of Let It Be. Nonetheless, even in purely superficial chronicle, the story of the Beatles is a great and powerful one, and this fan, at least, put on Abbey Road and cried while reading the epilogue.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This Beatles biography (now considered the "definitive" one) is very well-written and full of a lot of colorful, interesting detail. As a long-time Beatles fan, I thought I was already pretty familiar with the Beatles' trajectory, but I learned many things I hadn't known about the boys before. And a lot of it I kind of wish I had remained ignorant about. While this book gave me a new appreciation for the Beatles as musicians, I felt really disappointed and even a little disgusted at who they were This Beatles biography (now considered the "definitive" one) is very well-written and full of a lot of colorful, interesting detail. As a long-time Beatles fan, I thought I was already pretty familiar with the Beatles' trajectory, but I learned many things I hadn't known about the boys before. And a lot of it I kind of wish I had remained ignorant about. While this book gave me a new appreciation for the Beatles as musicians, I felt really disappointed and even a little disgusted at who they were as people. I learned awesome facts about their innovative musical techniques -- for example, they were the first pop/rock group to use a synthesizer, the first band to print the lyrics to their songs on the album sleeve, and the first band to ever make a music video for their songs. They also did all kinds of things in the studio that no one had ever tried before. In terms of their professional skill, I couldn't have been more impressed. But, alas, the Beatles -- especially John and Paul -- were not very nice people. Most of them (Ringo being the pretty consistent exception) were extremely greedy, self-centered, egotistical, impractical and naive with money, materialistic, ambitious, misogynistic, and unkind. They all treated their wives and "friends" very crappily. And John didn't just experiment with drugs, like the other three did, but became a full-on violent alcoholic and heroin addict, to the point that he could barely function and write music anymore. And while I had gone into the book with a pre-conceived dislike of Yoko Ono, I had no idea just how self-indulgent, bossy, manipulative, and superficial she was until reading in detail about how she derailed John's musical and personal life. So my recommendation of this book is ambivalent. On the one hand, it has everything you could want to know about the Beatles in it, which is wonderful in many ways. And the author couldn't have done a better job of presenting his material. But on the other hand, you'll never be able to think of the band with quite the same level of respect again. And at 850 pages, it's kind of a beast to get through, so you'd have to be really committed to finish it. So thumbs half-up/half-down?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rich Meyer

    One of the better rock biographies I've read as of late, this one really gets down into the history of the Fab Four and all the dirt and eccentricities that came out of the Beatles, Beatlemania, and the eventual personality clashes as they grew older. Personally, I've never quite understood the popularity; until Rubber Soul and Revolver, their music was pretty staid and lackluster - some good riffs and licks, a good backbeat, but nothing out of the ordinary. I know it was their Beatlemaniac arri One of the better rock biographies I've read as of late, this one really gets down into the history of the Fab Four and all the dirt and eccentricities that came out of the Beatles, Beatlemania, and the eventual personality clashes as they grew older. Personally, I've never quite understood the popularity; until Rubber Soul and Revolver, their music was pretty staid and lackluster - some good riffs and licks, a good backbeat, but nothing out of the ordinary. I know it was their Beatlemaniac arrival that "changed" pop music all over the world, but until they started experimenting in the studio, I didn't really hear anything that special. But when they started raising the bar, they opened the floodgates for everything and everyone out there, as they legitimized rock music as art. Bob Spitz's book covers all aspects of their careers, from their individual life histories in Liverpool, the myriad early groups and gigs they performed there and in Germany, to Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe, Brian Epstein, George Martin, and all the major figures in their lives, and to the strangeness: The drug use, Yoko Ono, and the blatant fear for their own lives they had when performing on some tours. This is definitely a good read for any Beatle fan, and I think it provides a good look as to how the pop music industry used to work (originally and post-Beatles), which shows a marked contrast to the pap of today.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joy H.

    Added 1/13/17. (audio, abridged) (First published in 2005) Interesting biography about The Beatles but sad the way their lives went. Their lives went through so many stages. This audio makes one realize how hectic their lives must have been. The reader was Alfred Molina, whose voice and expression give the story a mysterious and dark atomosphere. Believe it or not, I never realized before this that the word "beat" in "Beatles" was related to the "beat" of music. In fact, they first spelled the wo Added 1/13/17. (audio, abridged) (First published in 2005) Interesting biography about The Beatles but sad the way their lives went. Their lives went through so many stages. This audio makes one realize how hectic their lives must have been. The reader was Alfred Molina, whose voice and expression give the story a mysterious and dark atomosphere. Believe it or not, I never realized before this that the word "beat" in "Beatles" was related to the "beat" of music. In fact, they first spelled the word as: "Beatals". They were once known at "The Quarrymen" (Named after Quarry Bank High School, per Wiki). Before choosing the name Beatles, they were also known as: the Silver Beats, the Silver Beetles, and the Silver Beatles. http://entertainment.howstuffworks.co... References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bea... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Le... It occurs to me that I should read the above-linked Wiki pages which, now that I've heard this audio, might have more meaning to me, since I now have a certain perspective on their lives. But who has time? :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Paul Dinger

    It's all Yoko's fault the Beatles broke up and Bob Spitz does take the time to explain why. Actually, she just brought out the discontent that was already there. My cousin once told me success was the kiss of death to a rock band. The money comes in, you began to believe your own press, etc. What made the Beatles great is that they never rested on their laurels, but that also brought about their demise. They reached a pinnacle no other band will ever reach. They stopped touring, they stopped rel It's all Yoko's fault the Beatles broke up and Bob Spitz does take the time to explain why. Actually, she just brought out the discontent that was already there. My cousin once told me success was the kiss of death to a rock band. The money comes in, you began to believe your own press, etc. What made the Beatles great is that they never rested on their laurels, but that also brought about their demise. They reached a pinnacle no other band will ever reach. They stopped touring, they stopped releasing singles, and yet their popularity never died. They were above the ratings and the charts. Yet, they weren't above themselves. This book makes for compelling reading. Yoko does come off the worst, but why not? She did latch on to the John Lennon train and never truly got off. What would she have been without him? She changed him, this is true. But not always for the better. Their relationship however is compelling for all of its disfunction. John was a portrait of contradictions. I won't listen to my Beatles and John Lennon records in the same way again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jason Coleman

    This was a Xmas gift that sat on my shelf for a few years before I gave it a chance, and what do you know, it's really good. Spitz did an absolutely hellacious amount of research, but the book has to survive as a narrative, and does. Although a little slight on the music, it evokes the day-in/day-out experience vividly, as well as the dynamics behind this greatest of show-biz myths. I have to point out that Spitz, rather incredibly, uses the adjective "horseshoe-shaped" three times in just two pa This was a Xmas gift that sat on my shelf for a few years before I gave it a chance, and what do you know, it's really good. Spitz did an absolutely hellacious amount of research, but the book has to survive as a narrative, and does. Although a little slight on the music, it evokes the day-in/day-out experience vividly, as well as the dynamics behind this greatest of show-biz myths. I have to point out that Spitz, rather incredibly, uses the adjective "horseshoe-shaped" three times in just two pages. It comes during the 1965 American tour and is used to describe: 1. Shea Stadium 2. The rental house in Bel-Air where John and George dropped acid with the Byrds and Peter Fonda 3. Elvis Presley's couch It gets a little compulsive after awhile; you could practically make a drinking game out of it. The way Spitz tells it, America must have seemed like a giant horseshoe to the Beatles. And I guess it kind of was.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chris Q. Murphy

    having spent the better part of the last 15 years ingesting any written documentation of the beatles lives and careers that i could get my grubby paws on, i was fully prepared to be undewhelmed by yet another lengthy beatle book; so it was thrilling for me to find a text that not only provided me with new fab four facts, but also offered new insight into the same stories i have been reading for so long. while this book is decidedly "john-centric" and spends far more time documenting the first-ha having spent the better part of the last 15 years ingesting any written documentation of the beatles lives and careers that i could get my grubby paws on, i was fully prepared to be undewhelmed by yet another lengthy beatle book; so it was thrilling for me to find a text that not only provided me with new fab four facts, but also offered new insight into the same stories i have been reading for so long. while this book is decidedly "john-centric" and spends far more time documenting the first-half of the beatles career than the later stuff, the childhood histories spitz provides are better told than those in the individual beatle bios and the sheer volume of information on the pre-fame liverpool and hamburg days is invaluable.

  18. 4 out of 5

    John

    Good info on the pre-stardom Liverpool/Hamburg stuff; after that, it's pretty hard to come up with info that hasn't been written a zillion times before. One annoyance: the author had the habit of ending chapters with such portentious cliches as: "Little did they know all that was about to change", which were doubly ill-conceived since anybody shelling out the cash for this book already knows what's coming next.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brian Page

    The Beatles: the biography is the story of the thousands of improbabilities that took the lads from Liverpool to becoming the most influential pop group of the latter half of the 20th century, not the least improbable being the boys themselves. And the book itself is the product of immense scholarship. I read a borrowed copy of this weighty tome and I nearly abandoned it after the first few pages. I have a natural aversion to flowery prose and in the beginning, at least, there is an entire garden The Beatles: the biography is the story of the thousands of improbabilities that took the lads from Liverpool to becoming the most influential pop group of the latter half of the 20th century, not the least improbable being the boys themselves. And the book itself is the product of immense scholarship. I read a borrowed copy of this weighty tome and I nearly abandoned it after the first few pages. I have a natural aversion to flowery prose and in the beginning, at least, there is an entire garden: “The crowd, moving erratically in the brittle night air, swelled like a balloon waiting for a dart.” (p. 3) or “The four boys, riding in the dark, grimy cargo hold like astronauts in a cramped space capsule…” (p. 3) or “…a terrible volley that had the familiar bam-bam-bam of a Messerschmitt wreaking all hell on a local target.” (p. 10) But I persisted, and the flowers quickly wilted beyond a critical point that I could tolerate. The text from the very beginning is written, perhaps even slanted, with the end in mind: inexorably moving to a predestined breakup of the group and commercial train wreck. And the word I must use to describe this text is “plodding.” It’s 856 pages and one wonders if, like Dickens, Bob Spitz was being paid by the word. It’s very much ODTAA and another and another. Still, in such a long tale covering such a vast landscape, it’s hard to imagine how Spitz could have written a measured pace with a unifying thread leading to a climax while maintaining the excruciating level of detail for each character and for each day needed to make this collective biography definitive and exhaustive. In his seven years of research, Spitz uncovered many bunny trails. You learn, for instance, that the woman hired in New York to answer the phone once worked for Leopold Stokowski and Gian Carlo Menotti. There’s not a bunny Spitz won’t follow. The Beatles is not, in my opinion, an easy read. It’s not necessarily a fun read. So why read it? Because it is definitive. It’s everything & more that anyone could want to know about The Beatles as an astounding cultural phenomenon. And there’s one more very important reason to read this book: if, like me, you were raised on the music of the Beatles, you’ll never again be able to hear their songs in the same naïve way that you first heard them on AM radio in the 1960s.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    This is the only biography of the Beatles I've read (and am likely to read), but it has to be the best out there. Very readable, very entertaining, and very enlightening. The author was as aware of their faults as he was in awe of their music and aura. I am a huge fan of the Boys' music, but their lives were a mess from the very beginning. I did, however, come away with a higher opinion of Paul (and a much lower opinion of Lennon). Drugs and Ono were certainly John's downfall, but he was bent on This is the only biography of the Beatles I've read (and am likely to read), but it has to be the best out there. Very readable, very entertaining, and very enlightening. The author was as aware of their faults as he was in awe of their music and aura. I am a huge fan of the Boys' music, but their lives were a mess from the very beginning. I did, however, come away with a higher opinion of Paul (and a much lower opinion of Lennon). Drugs and Ono were certainly John's downfall, but he was bent on self-destruction from very early on. Sadly due, it seems, to intense father hunger. Loved it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amelia Smith

    A great, thorough read on the world's most famous band. Spitz started and ended this hefty biography with the same word. Well-rounded and well done!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Francisco

    No new information here, but it served well to pass the time driving to and from work.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Ross

    I grew up after The Beatles had already disbanded, so most of what I knew about them was from the music they left behind when they were together. I found their early music trite and sophomoric and still can't figure out why that music catapulted them to fame as the godfathers of the Liverpool sound (I was surprised at how many bands I did not realize came from Liverpool who went on to make it big here in the US during the British Invasion). I found their later music very uneven - from really good I grew up after The Beatles had already disbanded, so most of what I knew about them was from the music they left behind when they were together. I found their early music trite and sophomoric and still can't figure out why that music catapulted them to fame as the godfathers of the Liverpool sound (I was surprised at how many bands I did not realize came from Liverpool who went on to make it big here in the US during the British Invasion). I found their later music very uneven - from really good ("A Day in the Life," "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," "Eleanor Rigby," "She's Leaving Home," "Girl," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and "The Long and Winding Road," to name a few) to, if not really bad, just really weird or asinine ("A Little Help From My Friends," "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," and "Yellow Submarine," etc.). This biography - it's a tome at almost 1000 pages - gave me a background to each of The Beatles and an in-depth look at how their lives and their music were so inescapably intertwined. I never cared much for John Lennon as an artist (I always thought he got too much credit within The Beatles and his solo work just never resonated with me). I never thought much of Paul McCartney because he seemed to embody "Silly Little Love Songs" as a songwriter and as a musician. Ringo Starr I probably underestimated (although I liked all his solo work). And George Harrison was always my favorite (fantastic guitarist, deep and intelligent lyrics, and his well-known altruism). Not much of that has changed after reading this biography in terms of which Beatle I like the best. However, I have a better understanding of the dynamics personally and lifewise that connected these four men. Surprises? The sheer volume of different kinds of drugs combined with alcohol for a long time should have fried everyone's brains, if not outright killed them. It's mind-boggling to read. Paul McCartney was a massive jerk and a control freak unparalleled. Ringo Starr was perhaps the sanest and the most grounded. George Harrison had a nasty temper and didn't hesitate to show it. John Lennon, which I already knew because of previous biography I'd read, was on a collision course from an early age with the delusional paranoia and insanity that he descended into the last half of his life, in part from heavy LSD, cocaine, and heroin use (enough that would have killed a normal human being), and in part because of the beyond-insane-craziness of Yoko Ono. That combination just makes me shudder thinking about it. It's still a tragic story though. Paul McCartney was an sickeningly-sweet optimist - sort of - but he was also the glue that held The Beatles together as long as they were actually together. He was the fixer, the mediator, the prodder. Ringo Starr lived the most normal and least affected life of any of The Beatles. Unlike the other three, his ambitions were Liverpool working-class ambitions and as soon as his life exceeded those, he was satisfied. I think of the four, he was also the happiest. George Harrison was enigmatic and under-valued in the band. He was younger than Lennon and McCartney and they treated him, throughout the band's duration, like a nuisance kid brother, instead of valuing his contributions as a guitarist and a songwriter. The things that became issues throughout their time together led to their breakup and affected their relationships for the rest of their lives (Lennon died in 1980 and Harrison in 2001). They wore the hurts and bitterness of offenses in their lives after The Beatles to the extent that they had little to no contact after the band broke up. When you read how close they were starting out, that is perhaps the biggest tragedy. Definitely a good read...sad on some many levels, but informative. In the hindsight of reading, the inevitable outcome is obvious to us, but sadly everyone within the band was too close to it all to see it coming and to be able to stop it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Finally finished the nearly 1000 page behemoth that is The Beatles. And, actually, it was worth it. Never really a huge Beatles groupie (before my time - honestly!), but I have most of their albums and really like their later stuff. The earlier music, while catchy, just isn't sophisticated enough for me. In this massive biography, Spitz starts with John Lennon and then Paul McCartney growing up in Liverpool, a grungy industrial backwater. Both had pretty tough childhoods - Lennon's father left th Finally finished the nearly 1000 page behemoth that is The Beatles. And, actually, it was worth it. Never really a huge Beatles groupie (before my time - honestly!), but I have most of their albums and really like their later stuff. The earlier music, while catchy, just isn't sophisticated enough for me. In this massive biography, Spitz starts with John Lennon and then Paul McCartney growing up in Liverpool, a grungy industrial backwater. Both had pretty tough childhoods - Lennon's father left the family when Lennon was very young, and Paul's mum died of cancer. Both turned to music as a refuge, as neither was a very good student. They quickly bonded and even began writing songs as teenagers, despite very little exposure, as during that time, only a few foreign stations carried any interesting music. George, a few years younger, starting hanging with them and they formed a band with some other mates. The music business was even more insular and hard to crack than it is today, but they persevered and were off to Germany for some hard living and hard playing. 8 hours a day on stage, they honed their craft to a fine point. After they got back, they canned their drummer, Pete Best and hired Ringo. Some say it was due to a lack of technical prowess, although Spitz also claims that part of it was jealousy on McCartney and, especially, Lennon's part as Best was drawing too many fans. Spitz then chronicles the rapid rise of Beatlemania and just how crazy things got, as The Beatles tried to survive their crazy fandom. It is a wonder they toured even as little as they did, as it must have been very exhausting. Then, as they made money like the printed it, they spent it on various endeavors, from clothing to plays to music. The book ended as they split up, in the late 60s, as jealousies really tore the band apart. John was mad at all the control Paul was trying to take, while George was tired of being the 3rd, unappreciated wheel. Even Ringo got tired of the bickering, so it was a relief to all when they went their separate ways. A very readable book with only a few nitpicks. I got tired of all the armchair psychology Spitz went into. Some of it was possible but plenty of it was junk. I just didn't believe the part about being jealous of Best, and a few other times. I realize these guys are high strung "artists", but they must have been a little more confident of their own strengths than Spitz makes them out to be. I also thought he delved into the childhoods of too many peripheral characters. While I realize Brian Epstein, their first manager, is an integral part of the story, there was just too much detail of his background, going back a couple of generations. It was really eye opening just how little control The Beatles had over many things, from financial to even music. It was amazing how mangled their US releases were. The record labels just kind of picked and choose the songs that went on what albums, packaged new ones, all willy nilly and without anything The Beatles could do, especially in the early years, But even later, when they were the biggest thing on the planet, their music was turned over to Phil Spector for "production" without any of their input. It was crazy. Spitz did an excellent job describing the music, though. Each album's creative process as described in fascinating detail, from the early days of just 4 of them playing intensely, to the wildly creative days of Rubber Soul, Revolver and then, of course, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, where they were just breaking new ground in music every song, or even every bar. What a heady time that must have been! I really enjoyed the background into the phenomenon that was The Beatles. Certainly, it was a book that had its own soundtrack, as the songs constantly played in my mind while reading. Highly recommended!

  25. 4 out of 5

    maricar

    I’m telling myself, as I pulled Bob Spitz’s The Beatles: The Biography off the bookstore shelf, that reading yet another Beatles book is superfluous. I mean, what else could possibly be new? And I’m not saying that because I consider myself a Beatles expert. pfft…hardly. But there is the cynicism that, unless the author had a place in that coveted inner-sanctum of the FabFour, there really couldn’t be any other tidbit that can be dished out that hasn’t been told in the past 3 or 4 books I’ve rea I’m telling myself, as I pulled Bob Spitz’s The Beatles: The Biography off the bookstore shelf, that reading yet another Beatles book is superfluous. I mean, what else could possibly be new? And I’m not saying that because I consider myself a Beatles expert. pfft…hardly. But there is the cynicism that, unless the author had a place in that coveted inner-sanctum of the FabFour, there really couldn’t be any other tidbit that can be dished out that hasn’t been told in the past 3 or 4 books I’ve read. And YET, as I turned the first page, the excitement began to mount. And I soon realized that no matter how may people have written about the Beatles, no matter how much and how many times their story has been rehashed and retold, it is, after all, a story of the Beatles. And, for me, their incredible journey never fails to fascinate. If you think I’m overrating the Beatles, then sod off… *cackling an evil laugh* Details (and inaccuracies) aside, Bob Spitz’s work is actually quite remarkable. His narrative finds engagement under his lyrical and sometimes dramatic prose. Rather than simply telling the story of how John and Paul met, how the band performed in Hamburg, or how Epstein forged an empire under the shadows of the band’s fame, Spitz ‘situates’ the stories, lending color and even feel to the events (notables are his depiction of pre-Beatles Liverpool, the hotbed that was the Reeperbahn, the ominous Marcos ‘snub,’ the “bigger than Jesus” controversy, and the Paul and Linda meeting). Certainly, of course, these are already very familiar stories to some people. But under Spitz’s pen, the familiar becomes quite unfamiliar—whereas, in the past books I’ve read, a Beatles anecdote was told in a matter-of-fact way, Spitz creates a new spin on things by making me feel like I’m in the same room, studio, or car where events are unfolding. In ‘setting the stage’ by giving a seemingly palpable atmosphere of texture, sound, and light, he enchants a fan by making a faraway encounter come off as deeply personal. And surprisingly, there were new things I’ve learned about the band (Beatlemaniacs hold off your snort of disdain): their first recording ‘session’ as the Quarrymen, the many kept-under-wraps Lennon rants and rages; Lennon’s close-door reaction to the ‘bigger than Jesus’ debacle, the darker side of Epstein (and sorry, I have not yet read any Epstein biography, so…), and even how a Beatle felt about the many people who tried to get through the airtight Beatles bubble. Some were shocking, while others still were saddening (particularly when it all came apart). My verdict (such as it is)? Read it. Sure, there are LOTS of inaccuracies. Really die-hard fans will surely call out for Spitz’s blood. Credibility probably took a backstage in favor of making *his* FabFour story more thrilling than some. So, an advice would be to just read more Beatles biographies. It’s not a difficult suggestion to follow, surely. Regardless of how many times something about a public persona has been told (particularly if there were 4 of them), either truthfully or otherwise, it just becomes a matter of comprehending how different people ‘see’ the Beatles and accepting the fact that no one can ever really come close to knowing who these four ‘lads from Liverpool’ really were. The only comfort is the music they’ve left behind. And you know how that is… As far as consolations go, that isn’t so bad.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    This massive biography (over 850 pages of text) of The Beatles is, if anything, comprehensive. Spitz does a wonderful job in setting the stage (no pun intended) to fully cover the meteoric rise of the band as he goes into such details as painting a history of the Liverpool area and delving into the band members families. In the early part of the book the Lennon’s and McCartney’s are, understandably, given the more comprehensive back story, but I would have appreciated the same treatment with the This massive biography (over 850 pages of text) of The Beatles is, if anything, comprehensive. Spitz does a wonderful job in setting the stage (no pun intended) to fully cover the meteoric rise of the band as he goes into such details as painting a history of the Liverpool area and delving into the band members families. In the early part of the book the Lennon’s and McCartney’s are, understandably, given the more comprehensive back story, but I would have appreciated the same treatment with the Harrison’s and Starkey’s but oh well. The pacing of the book is odd as he spends an inordinate time covering the family back stories, the transformation of the Quarry Men into The Beatles, and their time spent in Hamburg. Although helpful it made the rest of the book, from Beatle mania to Let It Be, seem constantly rushed. Having said that, here are a few things that were either hammered home or were new to me as someone who came in knowing the music so well, but only the story so-so. 1) Although somewhat understandable, from his upbringing and losing his mom at such an early age, John was…well…kind of a dick. 2) The sacking of Pete Best was ridiculous considering he had been in the band for a few years and instead of the band doing it as they knew Pete for awhile, they had Brian Epstein do the honors as one of his first acts as manager. 3) I hadn’t realized how much the later period (1967-1970) was dominated by Paul. I had always assumed the reverse would be true with the music becoming less “poppy” and more conceptual but most of the concepts came from Paul and he became increasingly overbearing because of it. 4) Brian Epstein’s death pretty much threw everything into a tailspin in ways I never quite realized. 5) Brian Epstein also used to pay men to come back to his place…so they could beat the crap out of him. Alright, then. 6) Yoko was even worse when it came to the band than I even thought I knew although, possibility ironically, she was about the best thing that ever happened to John as he was in BAD shape when they met. Anyway, I’m sure I could throw out more things, but how about you just this give this a good read (no pun intended) as it’s well worth the time of anyone with an interest in the band.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    Synopsis: This is the decisive biography for the Beatles. Published in 2005, it includes over 100 pages of notes for a book that was obviously painstakingly researched and carefully written. The book covers each of the Beatles from birth (including a history of their parents) and then follows the Beatles up through their tumultuous breakup in 1970. Nothing from the Beatles past is off-limits in the book. The book details Beatlemania and their encounters and addictions to drugs, sex, music and mo Synopsis: This is the decisive biography for the Beatles. Published in 2005, it includes over 100 pages of notes for a book that was obviously painstakingly researched and carefully written. The book covers each of the Beatles from birth (including a history of their parents) and then follows the Beatles up through their tumultuous breakup in 1970. Nothing from the Beatles past is off-limits in the book. The book details Beatlemania and their encounters and addictions to drugs, sex, music and more. My Review: I've never been a huge fan of the Beatles, but I liked them and enjoyed most of their songs. This book, however, may have changed much of that. Reading this book was more of an experience than reading a normal book because I would tune youtube to the songs and albums that were being described in the book. Every song and every album has a story behind it and I am better able to appreciate how the Beatles progressed and grew as they tried new ground-breaking techniques with nearly every new song. John Lennon was an amazing musician that allowed drug-use to destroy him (he's the only Beatle to really get into heroin use). He was always a jerk, but once he got involved with Yoko Ono (who was even nuttier than he), then he somehow became an even bigger jerk. Paul McCartney was another amazing musician that was less dependent on drugs than the others, but was always Mr. Bossypants in the studio. George Harrison and Ringo Starr were more low-key and likeable throughout most of the Beatles years, although they both were pretty fed up with John and Paul by 1970. It's hard not to feel sorry for Pete Best (who Ringo Starr replaced) as he was in prime position to be a star, if only his drumming had been up to par. Brian Epstein (the Beatles manager), loved to have guys over to his apartment to beat him up and treat him super rough. When the Beatles recorded their first hit song, Love Me Do, each of them already had gonorrhea. Disclaimer: Nothing is off limits in this book. There is lots of language, drug use and sex, but the sexual escapades are thankfully not detailed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott Lee

    Spitz certainly pulls no punches in this book. I guess I was a naïve fan to some extent before reading it. I mean rock 'n' roll stars behave like rock 'n' roll stars, right? I was alternately fascinated/sickened by learning the details Spitz shares here. Thankfully the majority of the book focuses on events that were not entirely puerile tabloid the boys did these drugs and these people reporting, although there was more of that than I would have liked. Especially about Brian Epstein. An importa Spitz certainly pulls no punches in this book. I guess I was a naïve fan to some extent before reading it. I mean rock 'n' roll stars behave like rock 'n' roll stars, right? I was alternately fascinated/sickened by learning the details Spitz shares here. Thankfully the majority of the book focuses on events that were not entirely puerile tabloid the boys did these drugs and these people reporting, although there was more of that than I would have liked. Especially about Brian Epstein. An important figure? Granted. More important than George or Ringo? Absolutely not, but he gets a lot more face time here than either of those gentlemen. It was fascinating to read of their beginnings, to see, as best we can, the musical process that developed all the fantastic music that the band produced, and to see where and how what has been "classic" and nearly standard for longer than my lifetime was truly innovative and even shocking at the time. I enjoyed learning about the music most, but was left in the lurch a little bit at times by my own ignorance. Someone who knows theory and song structure well just has a different vocabulary than some one who doesn't, and while I would say the book was not overly jargony nor full of Spitz's showing off in detail with musical specifics, there was just enough that I couldn't quite follow that I'm reminded of how much more I'd like to learn about music despite my more than a decade's worth of instruction on the piano, trombone, etc. I just don't know theory... Ultimately to me this read like a tragedy--something of tremendous power and beauty grew and was destroyed by its own success, its own excesses, and Yoko Ono (Spitz definitely implies she was the straw that broke the camel's back). I still want to see what comes of the forthcoming multivolume group biography "All These Years," the first volume of which, Tune In was published last year. I guess that's the mark of good nonfiction in the end: informative, entertaining, honest without pulling punches, and leaving you with at least some desire to learn even more.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I have been a huge fan of the Beatles for most of my life and have had this book in my pile of to-be-read books for a couple of years. I have put off reading it, one, because it is a huge book and two, because I was not sure that I wanted to learn all the horrible details concerning my heroes lives. In the end, I am glad that I read this book because it was extremely well researched and written. I would say, like a lot of other reviewers, that the author’s main focus does seem to be on John Lenn I have been a huge fan of the Beatles for most of my life and have had this book in my pile of to-be-read books for a couple of years. I have put off reading it, one, because it is a huge book and two, because I was not sure that I wanted to learn all the horrible details concerning my heroes lives. In the end, I am glad that I read this book because it was extremely well researched and written. I would say, like a lot of other reviewers, that the author’s main focus does seem to be on John Lennon followed by Paul McCartney and neither of them really comes across very well. John in particular was a troubled man that basically hurt everyone in his life that cared about him. I particularly felt for Cynthia Lennon. Not as much time was spent on George Harrison and Ringo Starr; I wished the author had spent more time on their stories, especially Ringo. A lot of time was also spent on Brian Epstein’s life, which I found interesting because I did not know that much about him and he was even more disturbed than John Lennon. While reading this book, I imagined what it would have been like if Beatlemania had happened in the present, especially with the way the media is nowadays. There would be no way that all the Beatles “secrets” would have been ignored or covered up that way it was back in the ‘60’s. Also, reading about the crowds of fans that swarmed the Beatles, it is a wonder that no one was killed with the poor way that security handled the concerts and public appearances. There is no way this would happen now. It is incredible now listening to the Please, Please Me album knowing that John Lennon could barely sing because he was so sick and yet managed to sound amazing on Twist and Shout. Now, I have to pull out my i-pod and take a fresh listen to all their songs knowing the back stories to a lot of the songs.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marguerite

    An exhaustive look at The Beatles by a writer who obviously loves music and (some of) the folks who make it. There's great background about Liverpool and the circumstances from which the band members came. But Spitz is best when writing about the music: "Please Please Me may have been unpolished, but not unexceptional. Only a sigh longer than two minutes, it rocked the lofty studio like a small explosion, its beat unleashed to startling intensity: a bass throbbing faster than an accelerated hear An exhaustive look at The Beatles by a writer who obviously loves music and (some of) the folks who make it. There's great background about Liverpool and the circumstances from which the band members came. But Spitz is best when writing about the music: "Please Please Me may have been unpolished, but not unexceptional. Only a sigh longer than two minutes, it rocked the lofty studio like a small explosion, its beat unleashed to startling intensity: a bass throbbing faster than an accelerated heartbeat, a cascading harmonica riff as joyful as birdsong, a lead vocal that drives like a sports car with a hole in its muffler, harmonies that soar and clutch each other for dear life, a convulsion of 'c'mons' that churns up tension and desire. Throughout, the song sends spikes of exclamation and falsetto raging through the lyric. Not since Little Richard had vocals raged so viscerally in a pop song." Listening to the songs while reading about them enhances the experience. (There are a lot of video clips, too.) The view from backstage is interesting and limited at the same time. I found the songwriting collaboration the most interesting part of the Beatles' phenomenon. And Paul, who comes off as churlish at best, gets the last word, though Bob Spitz includes a lot of archival material from John (and George). Lennon and McCartney both take more credit than they likely deserve. Like most idols, these fellows are not attractive up close. The same could be said for Yoko Ono. Ringo is the exception. If you lived through Beatlemania or love the music, this book is for you. But, get an electronic edition. The hardcover book weighs more than three pounds. At 856 pages of text, it's a commitment -- and a workout.

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