The Beatles : the biography /

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Main Author: Spitz, Bob.
Format: Book
Published:New York : Little, Brown, 2005.
Edition:1st ed.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly 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. Agent, Sloan Harris. 196,500 first printing; major ad/promo. (Nov. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

In time for the 40th anniversary of "Paperback Writer" comes this thousand-pages-give-or-take-a-few, overblown account of the already obsessively chronicled Fab Four. The Beatles come in for some rough treatment, à la Albert Goldman, at the hands of Spitz (Shoot Out the Lights, 1995, etc.), who seems taken only with the always affable Ringo Starr. To his credit, he gets the origins of Ringo's nickname right, something many of the 500-plus books on the Beatles haven't managed. To his credit, too, he works with a broad range of reference materials, correcting the record at points, amplifying it at others, and here and there making news: It may surprise many readers, for one thing, to know that the Sgt. Pepper sessions were energized by cocaine, and to learn of the band's ruthlessness in conquering the Liverpool music scene--which included stealing Ringo from a rival group. Still, Spitz stacks up demerits. Like Goldman, he seems to work from a deep dislike for John Lennon, who was, by most accounts, nowhere near as demonic as Spitz has it; the dislike deepens when Yoko Ono, self-absorbed dragon lady, comes into the picture ("she jumped into the smoky spotlight, clutching the mike with both hands and screeching into it like a wounded animal"). Of Lennon the drug-dependent bad boy, Spitz writes: "With his painfully thin frame, gaunt face, stringy, unkempt hair, and bloodshot eyes, John looked demonic, like a zombie had claimed his tormented soul." Paul McCartney and George Harrison have it easier; they're merely egomaniacal and spoiled. Coupled with pet peeves, a tin ear (do gargoyles caper?) and some curious notions (that, for one, Harrison professed "traditional Christianity"), this obese book seems less the "definitive biography" Spitz proclaims than another exercise in ax-grinding for profit. For completists, a necessity. Others will want to consult Hunter Davies's The Beatles, which, though 38 years old and problematic in itself, is a pleasure to read. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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