The author is Rob Sheffield and the subtitle is The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World. So far this year this is my favorite book, in part because it stretches genres in a creative way. In addition to being a study of fandom, celebrity, 1960s history, “how boys think about girls,” and of course the music itself, it is most of all a splendid take on small group cooperation, management, and the dynamic between John and Paul. I enjoyed every page of this book, and learned a great deal, despite having read many other books on the Beatles. Here is a typical passage”
The Beatles invented most of what rock stars do…They invented breaking up. They invented drugs. They invented long hair, going to India, having a guru, round glasses, solo careers, beards, press conferences, divisive girlfriends, writing your own songs, funny drummers. They invented the idea of assembling a global mass audience and then challenging, disappointing, confusing this audience. As far as the rest of the planet is concerned, they invented England.
A few of the more specific things I learned were:
1. For a while Stanley Kubrick was planning on making a movie version of Lord of the Rings with Paul as Frodo, Ringo as Sam, and John as Gollum. George was to be Gandalf.
2. When the cops raided Keith Richards’s mansion in 1967 and found cocaine, they threw it away because they had never seen it before and didn’t know what it was.
3. When Paul McCartney played an acetate of “Tomorrow Never Knows” for Bob Dylan, Dylan’s response was “Oh, I get it. You don’t want to be cute anymore.”
4. The French title for “A Hard Day’s Night” was Quatre Garcons Dans Le Vent, which translates roughly as “Four Boys in the Wind.”
The book is funny too:
I always loved this sentence in Our Bodies, Ourselves, the Eighties edition I had in college: “The previous edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves included a brief section on astrological birth control, which just doesn’t work.” So much going on in that sentence, dispatched with no drama. Maybe a shade of irony, but no hand-wringing — just a change of mind announced as efficiently and discreetly and decisively as possible.
Paul has a compulsive need to feed his enemies all the ammunition they could want. The software of “don’t take the bait” was never installed in his system. No celebrity has ever been easier to goad into gaffes. I love that.
As Lennon snapped in 1980, after getting asked one too many times if they [he and Paul] still spoke, “He’s got 25 kids and about 20,000,000 records out. How can he spend time talking? He’s always working.”
On the revisionist upswing in this book are Rubber Soul, “I’m so Tired,” “It Won’t Be Long,” and John Lennon’s “God.” On the revisionist downswing is Let It Be and Paul McCartney’s “My Love.”
Not for the unconverted, but I’m glad to see people writing books with me as the intended audience. Here is a quite insightful review, in which Chris Taylor writes: “…it may be the first book to encompass the entire Beatlegeist. If aliens land tomorrow, and demand to know why we keep on pumping this particular brand of music into space, this is the first book you would hand them.”