le 18 juillet 2015
I have been avidly reading Beatle biographies since I was a child and am the proud owner of an extensive Beatles' library and Beatles' collection. The books I have read range from the trashy, silly little pop books such as "The Beatles' Book" which was just an extension of the inane teen 'zines that just make the Beatles sound like innocents instead of the worldly young men that they were to scholarly works such as this book. The Beatle Literati is quite impressed with this book and give it the highest of recommendations.
Mark Lewisohn is plainly a Beatles' fan and someone who appreciates their work; their history and them as people without being a sycophant. He is plainly a gifted researcher and this book contains fresh information that many other works have not included. He digs into great detail aspects of each Beatle's life as well as those closest to the Beatles, such as Klaus and Astrid; their manager Brian Epstein; Good Ol' Freda and others in the music business as well as the Beatles' close relatives. This is also one of the few books that include the details of the senior Harrisons' marriage in 1931, just 3 months before George's sister Louise was born. Only a few books expose the myth that they married a year before their only daughter's birth; Louise Harrison herself discloses this in My Kid Brother's Band... a.k.a. The Beatles and so does Kevin Roach in George Harrison That's The Way God Planned It
This well detailed tome covers the Beatles' post boyhood years starting with the banner year of 1958 and ends in 1962 when Ringo finally joins the band. 1958 is an especially crucial year for the Beatles as John's mother died in a tragic accident; Paul introduced John to George and George was accepted into the nascent band then called the Quarrymen and Louise Harrison took an angry young man named John under her wing when her son George brought him home for tea in early 1958.
Stories that have been bandied about for many years are brought to light in this work. John's Aunt Mimi, who raised him from the age of 5 did not dodge bombs and war balloons to visit her sister Julia in the hospital when Julia delivered John. From all accounts, Mimi told her nephew that Julia and John's father ("that Alf Lennon" as the Stanley Sisters called him) had fallen out of love and at one point "that Alf Lennon" was in jail.
Another myth that has been exposed to light in recent years is that of the senior Harrisons' marriage. Many books reported that they got married in 1930, a year after they met. It is Kevin Roach and daughter Louise Harrison herself who set the record straight on that count. Harold Sr. and Louise French met in 1927 when they were 18 and 16 respectively. Apparently many authors feared tarnishing the boys' image if it was publicly known that the Harrisons enjoyed each other's company which resulted in the birth of their daughter Louise prior to getting married.
Ringo, who from all accounts had the most difficult boyhood of the Beatles is given a turn at bat. In this book, details of his multiple illnesses and protracted convalescenses are provided in fuller detail as opposed to the sketchy, skeletal accounts other books have provided. Another bonus is seeing previously unpublished pictures of the Beatles such as Ringo, then 6 or 7 recovering during the first of his long illnesses and an especially nice picture of Louise and Harold posing on a couch.
Lewisohn is a truly extraordinary author. He does not whitewash anything; he is objective in his portrayal of historical accounts. He does not pretend that the Beatles or anybody else in their circle is anything other that what they are. He takes readers on a Magical Mystery Tour from the Beatles' births in wartime Liverpool to their later meeting and forming a band. The earliest incarnation of the group was known as the Quarrymen after Quarrybank High School where John and Paul were students. Readers are invited to the July 1957 church fete in Woolton where John and his then band gave a public performance. Paul McCartney, then 15 was one of the people in the crowd. Paul knew John was a musician who was going places and he wanted to join him.
The band went through several more incarnations with different members in their line up. Long story short, Ringo joined the group in 1962 after turning down another offer as the pay wasn't as good as what the Beatles were offering. The other Beatles felt that their original drummer Pete Best was not a good fit or match for them personality wise and professionally. It was reported that Pete was chosen because the band was under contract to hire a drummer and he was the only game in town. However, once the band was more or less in place, other drummers such as Johnny Hutch filled in as Pete was not always available. Pete was known for not conforming to the group's universal Beatle mop coiffure; he was consistently late and sometimes absent for rehearsals and shows and it was said that he and Paul were not friendly toward one another.
Readers also get a Ticket to Ride with Ringo during his early band years with the Hurricanes and subsequent trips to Butlin's Holiday Camp and Hamburg, the city where the early pre-Beatles cut their musical teeth. In 1960 the pre-Beatles, led by their intrepid leader John, then 20 made their first trip to Hamburg. The senior Harrisons, after much deliberation agreed to let their minor son George, then 17 join them. In today's world one might wonder about letting these young men travel to Hamburg "In Spite of All the Danger" and no doubt George was delighted that he got to travel out of the country with a group of guys, the oldest of whom was John. Sadly, George was deported as he was underage. Despite that set back, George grew up a lot in Hamburg. He also reconnected with his bandmates when they returned to England later that year and for their 1961 trip to Hamburg.
By 1962 the Beatles had arrived! Freshly coiffed with their iconic Beatle mops that so many, myself included love and dressed like gentlemen in suits and ties per their manager's directive, the boys were ready to conquer the world! Brian Epstein's astute business acumen and professional handling helped the boys prepare for the roles of their lifetimes - selling their talent and image to the world! The Beatles were the best known, best loved band in Liverpool and were regular fixtures at the famous Cavern Club. There is the trajectory or "Long & Winding Road" to recording deals and contracts and world tours.
Fans were also a constant fixture. Each Beatle's boyhood home was considered a Mecca of Music for fans to congregate and hopefully meet a Beatle. Louise Harrison actually wrote fans back, staying up late into the night to finish correspondence with help from Harold. It was not uncommon for her to invite a fan in for tea and light refreshments while chatting each other up about George. Louise always talked about George's three older siblings and even lent her voice to one of his fan club newsletters. This is chronicled in Do You Want to Know a Secret?: The Story of the Official George Harrison Fan Club.
This book ends in 1962 when the Beatles' "Love Me Do" was recorded and hit the Top Twenty. This was less than a year before George Harrison made his first trip abroad to visit his sister Louise who was then living in Benton Illinois. Louise shopped the Beatles' records around and to her credit got area radio stations to play Beatle songs. By 1962-63, music in America still had the last vestiges of the 1950s style. The Beatles brought in a fresh new look, sound and style. They were and are here to stay and they have raised the musical bar.
England has long been known for class distinctions. Voice and whether one lives in the North or South of England has long been a social class distinction. Liverpool, a northern seaport town was not held in high regard by "Southerners." (A reference to "Southerners" is made in the Beatles' 1964 movie, "A Hard Day's Night.") The Beatles changed all that. Music and art is for everybody and not just one demographic. The Beatles made no such distinctions and even as late as 1964 refused to play the Gator Bowl in Florida when they found out that minorities were being denied entry. They refused to perform before a segregated audience. The Beatles helped dismantle some of the bigotry and class dividing lines. They also sparked a world-wide interest in things English and became in effect World Ambassadors. The four young men that the world at large loved invited people from all over the world; from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life to "Come Together."
I am looking forward to the next installments of the trilogy that Lewisohn is scheduled to write. Knowing what I know of Lewisohn's writing and extraordinary flair for detail, I expect his subsequent books to be every bit as excellent and exceptional and outstanding as this one.