I have admired the music of the Beatles more and more over the last few years and I eventually wanted to know a bit more about their history. I simply wasn't sure about the best place to start finding out until now.
The Beatles anthology answers that question to the above. It is beautifully readable, and painstaking work that must have gone in to it to achieve that standard almost beggar's belief.
The story is told form the point of view of the individual Beatles, their producer George Martin, Neil Aspinall their road manager and Derek Taylor one time spokesperson.
Although John Lennon was killed twenty years ago, the way his account is interlaced with the other members of the bands is seamless and provides a poignant reminder of just what the world of music lost as well as the far greater tragedy for his wife, family and friends.
This book covers the Beatles entire history from the early Liverppol pre-Cavern days through to and now looking back, the inevitably bitter break up in 1970.
The best areas of the book are the detailed accounts of their early Hamburg days, and the wonderfully chaotic yet disasterous running of Apple, the record company the Beatles set up in the late sixties.
Through out the whole story of the beatles, the anecdotes are illuminating, and in the detail fascinating. For example the inspiration behind some of their songs, is breathtaking in how seemingly insignificant phrases and ideas can be turned into gold by sheer unadulterated talent.
All four of the Beatles characters do come through vividly, although it is hard to tell how much is revealed to us by accident or by deliberate act.
For example Ringo appears almost hopelessly and fantastically positive about everything to do with the Beatles.
George Harrison, the quietest of the Beatles seems much more radical in his thinking than even John Lennon was at his peak. He was much more into Eastern philosphy than Lennon which to me appears suprising.
Paul Macartney, does seem to be the one who was hurt most by the Beatles breakup, although he comes through as the most egotistical of the Beatles, although certainly not off-puttingly so.
Lennon himself reamins the most complex character in the Beatles, and it seems through this anthology he never (unsurprisingly) got over the early tragedies in his life and therefore built at a times a deliberately cynical persona, which belied his true personality.
The book I think is also illuminating on Yoko Ono's part in the breakup in the Beatles. The surving beatles are much kinder over time to her now, when they say it was many factors that split up the Beatles, not just her appearing on the scene.
She appears from reading this even if they can't admit to it to have been the impetus that finally broke up the Beatles. Although she probably saved the beatles from becoming a band staying on just for the sake of it, and becoming perhaps a pale shadow of themselves.
The book itself is well designed, although the print is a little on the small side.
The overtyping on some of the pictures can be a little hard to see at times. Although this is just minor quibble. The book is well basically fantastic and shows the beatles inter-relationships in marvellous and often affectionate detail.