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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL TOGETHER NOW
I didn't expect SHOUT! to be the best book I've ever read about the THE BEATLES - but in many ways it is (and I've read quite a few over the years). The breathtaking detail, capturing the era in which Beatlemania dominated the world, places the reader right there in the centre of it all - a close observer of the best, and also the worst, of those tumultuous times. But it...
Published on 29 Nov. 2011 by Kelvin Dickinson

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Phillip Norman explains why he should have been John Lennon's best friend instead of Paul McCartney.
Beatles fans beware: "Shout!" is a 400 page fan letter to John Lennon in which Paul McCartney is cast as Lord Voldemort. Poor old George and Ringo scarcely get a look in.

Norman's argument is that the Fab Four consisted of one musical lightweight plus two lucky bit-part players, all of whom rode to success on the back of John Lennon's genius. Yoko aside, I...
Published on 13 April 2009 by Free Radical


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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Phillip Norman explains why he should have been John Lennon's best friend instead of Paul McCartney., 13 April 2009
Beatles fans beware: "Shout!" is a 400 page fan letter to John Lennon in which Paul McCartney is cast as Lord Voldemort. Poor old George and Ringo scarcely get a look in.

Norman's argument is that the Fab Four consisted of one musical lightweight plus two lucky bit-part players, all of whom rode to success on the back of John Lennon's genius. Yoko aside, I can't think of anyone else who would agree with this; for most people, the Beatles were a team (four corners of a square, as McCartney calls them) and provided the ultimate musical proof of that old adage about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Perhaps Norman's view is partly a result of timing ("Shout!" was first published in the immediate aftermath of Lennon's death) but whatever the reason, his claim that Lennon was three-quarters of the band means that "Shout!" gets off on the wrong foot from the very start.

Unfortunately, it doesn't get any better when it comes to the music. The Beatles were a phenomenon in many ways - socially, culturally, commercially - but the thing that made them famous was their songs; they were revolutionary at the time and they still sell by the million today. But Norman makes no attempt at musical analysis (except, of course, to claim that Lennon's songs are all much better than McCartney's), fails to examine how their songwriting developed from "Please Please Me" to "Abbey Road" in just six and a half years and offers no explanation for why the Beatles' music has been so popular for so long. This leaves a huge gap at the heart of this book.

The frustrating thing is that Norman is clearly a good writer. He covers the early, pre-fame years in detail (we don't reach the release of "Love Me Do" until a third of the way though) and he threads his way deftly through the Apple debacle. He's also strong on 1950s-60s period detail and produces a few entertaining set pieces: the band's first tv appearance, for example, or their arrival in the States in 1964. But all this good work is ruined by his pro-Lennon bias; he really does shoe-horn it onto virtually every page and clearly feels that he has to run the other three down in order to build Lennon up. Consequently, George and Ringo are dismissed as a pair of talentless makeweights and reduced to little more than walk-on parts but they get off lightly compared to poor old Paul, the sniping at whom is peevish, mean-spirited and absolutely unrelenting. At times it almost seems as if Norman is jealous of McCartney's relationship with his hero and he goes so far out of his way to take a swipe at him that you simply end up losing all faith in Norman's judgment and in "Shout!"'s version of events. Once this happens, any biography is in big trouble.

So "Shout!" isn't the definitive biography of the Fab Four, still less is it "the true story of the Beatles". It's an unbalanced, one-eyed view of the band that Norman has been peddling, in regular 'revised and updated' editions, for 30 years. Try Hunter Davies for the insider's view, Ian Macdonald for the music or Mark Lewisohn for the anorak's guide. But don't waste your money on "Shout!".
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If it's the music you're really interested in..., 6 Sept. 2009
By 
J. G. Hastie "GogolH" (SCOTLAND) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles (Paperback)
...don't bother reading Philip Norman, a worthy Sunday Times journalist self-appointed as a rock scribe. I opened his much-vaunted Lennon tome at a page where Phil Spector is described as a Motown producer! I read Shout when it was first published and at the time of relatively few Beatle books it more or less sufficed. Perhaps the best thing about is its title - smart marketing. The updated edition contains a particularly snide summing-down of George Harrison as artist and person, and in today's Sunday Times he goes further, describing him as a mantra-chanting, misanthropic sex-addict. Even if this were true, there's no way Norman could begin to comprehend George's contribution as a musician, because he hasn't a clue about music, nor, it would seem by the Spector/Motown nonsense, much real interest in it - like too many journalists what he's really into is the gossip. I love John Lennon, in spite of the numerous tales of appalling behaviour, but The Beatles were above all a great band - all four were outstanding in their different ways. For my money the best book by far is Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head, which provides almost as much insight into the Fabs as people as it illuminates the music - and much more.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Dirty Story By A Dirty Man., 10 Jan. 2010
This is the granddaddy of bad Beatles biogs. Published in the immediate aftermath of John Lennon's murder, it initiated the fundamentally wrong-headed view that John was the dominant talent in the band. Norman clearly has an agenda against McCartney and cannot resist taking a dig at him at every opportunity - Paul is given the doubt of every benefit. As for George and Ringo, both are summarily dismissed, the former as an 'average guitarist' who 'got lucky', the latter as a loveable idiot. In truth, though, both are given short space by Norman, who clearly feels that Lennon was the class act and that McCartney cramped his style.

So far, so bad. But Norman has 'updated' this piece of Sunday Times style journalism with a postcript, where we learn that John's post-Beatles career was a fairy-tale of loving marriage, househusbandry and baking bread: the view propagated by Yoko Ono, whom Norman cleary wants to keep on the right side of (this whole book might as well have been ghost-written by Norman on her behalf), while Paul, George and Ringo quickly slipped into well-heeled mediocrity. The postcript on McCartney, in particular, represents one of the most mean-spirited things ever written about anyone anywhere.

In conclusion: you'll probably enjoy this if you're a 'John was s saint' delusional fantasist, but if you want a balanced picture of the Beatles, you'll (still) have to turn to Hunter Davies' forty-two year old 'authorised' biography, which - for all its many flaws - does attempt an honest and fair look at its subject.

The one star is for Norman's commentary on the affairs of Apple, which manages to reduced this labrynthine and forbidding subject to manageable proportions - though in this he has recently been superseded by Peter Doggett's (much better) book on the subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ALL TOGETHER NOW, 29 Nov. 2011
By 
Kelvin Dickinson (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I didn't expect SHOUT! to be the best book I've ever read about the THE BEATLES - but in many ways it is (and I've read quite a few over the years). The breathtaking detail, capturing the era in which Beatlemania dominated the world, places the reader right there in the centre of it all - a close observer of the best, and also the worst, of those tumultuous times. But it isn't perfect. For me, JOHN LENNON and PAUL McCARTNEY were absolute straight-down-the-line equals in their respective abilities as songwriters. And, crucially, each of the four lived the equivalent of several lifetimes between 1962-70, so who can blame any of them for having said or done stupid things in the midst of it all and beyond? I think if author PHILIP NORMAN revists SHOUT! for a second revised update, he'll tone down - without removing, I'm not suggesting that - some of the more 'emotional' criticisms levelled at Paul McCartney in particular. Preferences aside, the negative-aspect 'Macca' of the last twenty-five years is like he is for a million different, yet largely understandable, reasons, the most obvious ones being the simplest to diagnose: insecurity and mortality, the clock can never be turned back. But the music said it all then, anyway.

Throughout that time, the Beatles' journey was indeed a long and winding road, their itinerary becoming wilder and more unpredictable as it unfolded...STAR CLUB, CAVERN, BRIAN EPSTEIN, GEORGE MARTIN, M.B.E., ED SULLIVAN, BIGGER THAN JESUS, IMELDA MARCOS, SERGEANT PEPPER, SUMMER OF LOVE, MAHARISHI, APPLE, YOKO ONO, LET IT BE...and yet, with hindsight, it's still possible to trace unmistakable fracture-lines in the order and chaos of events held together, paradoxically, by the inextricable hand of fate. The highs and the lows, in every conceivable sense. And those unforgettable others, yet to come.

If you can get over the odd jarring, marginally detrimental, bias then this is a major achievement.

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's OK, But Spoiled by Pro-Lennon Bias, 6 Jan. 2006
By 
G Reid (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles (Paperback)
The author sets out his stall early on, declaring that for him Lennon was three-quarters of the Beatles. So the McCartney that emerges from the book is a bitter, jealous wannabe, Harrison an untalented, charmless duffer. Lennon alone is the charismatic driving force behind the group.
The odd thing is, that Lennon seems to have been a deeply unpleasant personality. (Norman recounts without criticism his appalling treatment of his first wife, Cynthia, and his sneering mockery of those around him. He repeats without comment a story that Lennon may have brought about his friend Stuart Sutcliffe's death by repeatedly kicking him in the head one time. And when Lennon urinates from his Hamburg balcony onto the heads of nuns passing below we're obviously supposed to laugh at the laddish high jinks.)
It's as if Norman is at some level aware of how ghastly his hero really is, and as a result has to denigrate the other Beatles by comparison. (He reminded me of a small kid sycophantically sucking up to the playground bully in this book.)
It's a shame too that the prologue tries to connect the murder of Lennon with the terrorist attack of 9/11 - a serious error of judgement - and I didn't like the smug way the author reckons his is still the best biography of the Beatles.
So, in short, well researched and a good read, but in no sense impartial.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - The Bible of Beatles biographies!, 15 Aug. 1997
By A Customer
The story of the Beatles' rise to fame has probably been chronicled in hundreds, if not thousands of books all over the world. Why is Phillip Norman's "SHOUT!: The Beatles in Their Generation" different? This is one of those rare books in which the author, while praising his subject, is not afraid of showing the Beatles as human beings, with virtues as well as flaws, strenghts as well as weaknesses.

Philip Norman gives an astonishingly well researched account of the Beatles' life story, focusing briefly but thoroughly on each of the four musicians' childhood and adolescence, and in more detail on their early struggles and their world-wide success, their break-up and their evolution as people and musicians. This book is a fascinating read, both for the casual rock fan and the most die-hard Beatlemaniac. Without a doubt, "SHOUT!: The Beatles in Their Generation" is the Bible of Beatles biographies, and a book no true Beatles fan should be without.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Biased, unmusical- but brilliant, 14 April 2011
This review is from: Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles (Paperback)
Knowing about the Beatles is knowing about life. I bought this biography to learn more about everybody's favourite band. It didn't disappoint.

For any half-serious Beatles fan, this book is a goldmine. Everything you could reasonably want to know is here. I already had a pretty comprehensive knowledge by average standards, but I learnt vast amounts I'd never known, especially about the pivotal importance of Brian Epstein. It's entertaining too. Norman has a chatty prose style and conjures up Apple Corps, Hamburg, and touring wonderfully well. Best of all is the amount of facts available. It is hard to see how it will be beaten in this by a book of its size.

Especially good are the descriptions of the cultural importance of the Beatles. The introduction is focussed on this- it's simply superb. Norman has a great eye for hyperbole, which he deploys in exactly the right quantities to contrast the inconceivable wealth and fame of the Beatles with their humble beginnings and simplistic attitudes. The book is worth getting for these bits alone.

But there are a couple of problems. First is the obsessively generous depiction of Lennon. I'm a hands-down Johnite, but I found this ridiculous. McCartney is not only sidelined but ridiculed. Norman simply doesn't like him. It ruins parts of the book. I find myself just not knowing whether an account of something is accurate. For a 'definitive' history, that's bad. Secondly, and more importantly, the music is practically not mentioned at all. Now, despite what Norman implies, the success of the Beatles lies in their musical genius. To ignore the music so devotedly- despite claiming, in the introduction, to have added more about the music for the second edition- is a bizarre way of looking at the titans of our age.

Read this book, but unless you want to think the Beatles were just John Lennon's PR stunts, read 'Revolution in the Head' as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not about the music..., 11 July 2010
This review is from: Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles (Paperback)
This is a fairly interesting and comprehensive book on the Beatles. Other than a single chapter on childhood and a chapter on each `ex-Beatles' the focus is firmly on the rise and fall of the fab four. It's a passable overview for the general fan, but as someone looking for insights into the music for my Beatles Songwriting blog I was disappointed.

Norman rarely touches on the music, and when he does he often gets it wrong. In fact he not only reveals little insight into the Beatles songs, but little grasp of music generally.

So we have Stu Sutcliffe struggling to play chords shapes on his bass (57) and a Les Paul guitar is apparently a "state of the art" guitar (458).

Mistakes about the Beatles songs are even worse, leaving you wondering how closely he's listened to the songs. The 8 second guitar coda on A Hard Day's Night is described as being "gloriously long and irrelevant" (239) (it was there to act as a cross fade to the action in the film). The lyrics to Polythene Pam are wrong (397). And this is in a `Completely revised and updated edition'.

Musical history doesn't fare much better. Norman claims Only a Northern Song was written for Yellow Submarine (334) - it was a Sgt Pepper outtake, and that the Ballad of John & Yoko was recorded single-handedly by John with later drum overdubs by Paul (389) - they recorded it together, famously calling each other `Ringo and George' on the master tape.

As other reviewers have mentioned, Paul comes in for a good kicking whenever the chance arises - for secretly coveting the position of bass player in Hamburg days! for having a ghosted autobiography (even though this `autobiography' was written solely by Barry Miles) or merely for being `desperately anxious to be liked".

The book has some good insights into how the publishing deals were struck and how the Beatles finally broke though in the states. But in a world swamped with books on the Beatles I can't help feeling that there are better ones out there.

I'd suggest the The Rough Guide to the Beatles (Rough Guides Reference) as one possible (and more accurate) alternative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical Book, 30 May 2012
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I am going to say here that Shout is a must read for anyone interested in The Fab Four. I could not put the book down, it carries you on a journey through the lives of these interesting charismatic musicians. Phillip Norman has written a down to earth life story of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and I deliberately place the guys in that order. I do think that Phillip Norman has done his homework and has dug deep talking to those who were close to The Beatles. There are undoubtedly worrying truths behind Brian Epsteins death. It is a valuable contribution to put into writing what may have happened from individuals concerns.
I do feel though that the author has short changed George Harrison in his writing. George was a shy gentleman and undoubtedly lived in the shadow of Lennon and MacCartney, but as Paul said in an interview George was part of four corners of the square and without all four they would not have been so massively successful.
There will always be a magic that surrounds The Beatles and I think Phillip Norman has captured that, if you read the book carefully, there was and probably still is a Supernatural element to each of their lives.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If your name's not Paul McCartney you'll enjoy this bio., 16 Mar. 1997
By A Customer
Just when I thought I couldn't cram any more Beatle lore
into my cranium, I read Philip Norman's biography of the
four lads.

The story of the Beatles is known worldwide and I'll not
repeat any of it here, except to say that Norman gives
each phase of the group's life and career equal time and
equal detail. Showbiz bios too often linger on an act's
childhood and background (to prove that they've researched
extensively?) or are simply a cash-in on current success
and add nothing to the story that one couldn't get from
People Magazine (see bios of Selena, etc.).

If the book has a fault, it is that Norman has obviously joined the "John was the real leader and only decent songwriter" camp and takes swipes at McCartney's personality and music early and often. This is another subject that has been covered ad infinitum, and I will add only that this bias detracts my overall rating of this otherwise excellent and detailed work.
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Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles
Shout!: The True Story of the Beatles by Philip Norman (Paperback - 18 Jun. 2004)
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