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The Beatles: The Biography


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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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Surprisingly, relatively few of the hundreds of Beatles books over the years comprehensively document the band's story. Spitz (Dylan: A Biography) claims to have written the definitive work, and it is certainly far more detailed than Philip Norman's Shout!, the last serious attempt by an outsider to tell the Beatles' tale. Spitz spent several years cobbling together the story from new interviews with old Beatle friends and hundreds of existing sources (including discredited John Lennon biographer Albert Goldman's archives, which may raise eyebrows). The band's family histories and early years are told with flair and fairness in unprecedented depth-this is the book's biggest contribution to Beatles scholarship. But once Beatlemania hits, Spitz loses steam: the group doesn't even invade America until well over halfway through the narrative. As familiar stories of the Beatles' prime years take over, sloppy, head-scratching errors start to creep in; certain stories ingrained in Beatles legend, such as how they arrived at the finished recording for "Strawberry Fields Forever," are ignored. With the band sinking into dysfunction, Spitz relies more heavily on sources that take a negative tone, and the book sputters to an abrupt end, ignoring the lawsuit that Paul McCartney filed against the others to dissolve their partnership formally. Despite these flaws, The Beatles emerges as the most complete chronicle of the Fab Four to date, at least until Mark Lewisohn finishes his massive three-volume Beatles biography in 2016. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 7/05; see also Larry Kane's Lennon Revealed, p. 66.]-Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Masterly...A deep, serious, and accomplished account worthy of the most important band in the world...A book that, although exceptionally lengthy, is actually the perfect size...Spitz expertly captures the sense of time and place to frame his story."--Tom Sykes, New York Post

"Spitz marshals a staggering mass of research...The early chapters are irresistible; they have the hypnotic effect of a film clip run backward."--Lev Grossman, Time
"Filled with intimate scenes...The first third of this opus is a treasure chest of revelation...Spitz demonstrates his deep research and writing chops by transporting us to the place where it all began...This book reminds us--in generous detail--that the Fab Four were just people."--John Kehe, Christian Science Monitor

"Fresh, terrifically entertaining...Packed with details and anecdotes that bring the Fab Four to life...Spitz's group portrait should now be considered the definitive Beatles biography."--June Sawyers, Booklist
"Irresistible...The Beatles amplifies and corrects some of what is known about the band's formative years. It shapes a particularly vivid picture of the young, surly John Lennon...It powerfully evokes both the excitement and the price of such a sudden rise...A captivating picture that hasn't been seen before."--Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Richly detailed...The Beatles comes as close to being a quick read as any 983-page book has a right to be...Spitz also does a remarkable job capturing the distinct qualities of each Beatle."--Jonathan Bor, Baltimore Sun

"Juicy, detailed, well-written, and authoritative...What makes Spitz's book a standout is his attention to visual detail...He has a knack for description and for cliffhangers. Every chapter of The Beatles promises more misery for the lads, more pleasure, more surprise."--David Kirby, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Beatlemaniacs will swoon."--People
"Riveting...Startlingly well-reported and consistently engaging...Even though the Beatles story is well known, Spitz has fleshed it out fully, revealing the flawed, singularly creative human beings behind the lovable moptop image....What Spitz does exceptionally well is contextualize."--Carlo Wolff, Boston Globe

"In its scope, structure, and sheer length, this meaty 983-page true-life epic unfolds as a sort of Beatles's War and Peace...Spitz's genius is how he stitches together available Beatles knowledge with the artistry of a fine novelist."--Michael Tarm, Cincinnati Enquirer

"Spitz has done a masterful job of focusing his kaleidoscope eyes on the greatest pop thing since Jesus."--Richard Gehr, Village Voice

"Spitz knows his subject. His encyclopedic grasp pervades every page.--Joe Selvin, San Francisco Chronicle

"Spitz has performed a valuable historical service...The Beatles respects its subjects without canonizing them...Best of all, at the end of the long and winding road, it sends us back home to the music."--David Hinckley, New York Daily News

"A real page-turner...A vibrant and exhaustive factual and emotional picture of John, Paul, George, and Ringo's early life and times...It actually adds some new information--or at least a fresh analysis--to this often-told story...The lads's schoolboy years are told in captivating detail...Engagingly written, meticulously researched and documented, and tremendously insightful."--Ruminator Review

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