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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 4 January 2016
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on 10 February 2016
Bought as a present for my daughter. She is loving it and promises to lend it to me next!
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on 24 October 2015
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on 15 February 2017
A wonderful book and a great service to all Beatles fans around the world. Can't wait for the next volume in the series. Thank you Mr. Lewisohn.
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on 7 December 2013
A work of true dedication by a man whose expertise could be thought of as obsessive - but what a magnificent obsession. Lewisohn gives us the very early days,weeks, months and years of the Beatles, much quite ugly, some quite touching. The more ordinary the foursome appear the greater seem their fantastic achievements. Also, whether you were born post - Beatles peak time - in which case you'll learn what it was really all about - or born fifteen or twenty years before they peaked - in which case you'll hear the sounds, remember the excitement, savour the nostalgia and have a dip in the ocean of the Sixties. Either way, this is a wonderful book. I can't wait to once again suck on the lollipop of Beatlemania, and feel sure the flavour will be there right through to the end of the promised third volume.
Read and enjoy.
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on 10 November 2013
A review in a national newspaper criticized this book as being bogged down in too much detail. I disagree. The basic story of the Beatles is very well known, and it is this depth of detail that brings new insights, new revelations; so that the history you thought you knew becomes a whole new story. Reading the book you never get the feeling that you're wading through a mass of detail. This is because, firstly, the book presents you with so much new information. There is virtually a surprise on every page. Secondly Mark Lewisohn has such an easy narrative style, full of humour and with an obvious affection for the subject
The book was ten years in the writing, and it shows. He must have read every book, magazine, interview, article, contract, invoice, and scribbled beer mat. However, the author hasn't just accepted everything en mass; he's rejected anything that was embellished or exaggerated, in order to present the most complete history of the era.
Some of the things that struck me include:
*** The role of luck in the story. The government abolished National Service just before John Lennon was due to be conscripted. Without this lucky timing, instead of being in Hamburg, John would have been in the army [or, more likely, living in exile in Ireland.
A similar dose of luck allowed John to obtain a passport in record time, literally at the last minute, which enabled him to take part in that all-important first visit to the Hamburg clubs.
It was really good luck which gave them two key management figures in Brian Epstein and George Martin; a couple of decent chaps in an industry full of sharks.
*** The book not only gives us the story of the individual Beatles, but is also a snapshot of Liverpool life in the period. In particular, for a writer from outside the area Mark Lewisohn displays a complete grasp of 1960s Liverpool idiom and slang.
*** Following their return from Hamburg the Beatles appeared on the bill at the Litherland Town Hall on 27th December 1960, and event widely praised as being the real launch pad of their Liverpool fame. Mark Lewisohn estimates that, at the time, they were the most experienced Rock group in the world. He captures well the excitement of these early live appearances, where audience members became lifelong fans after seeing them just once.
This period, from the Litherland gig until the end of the book, was the pinnacle of the Beatles live act, performing for fans in smoky, sweaty cellars, before they were drowned out by the screams of Beatlemania.

*** I found the relationship between the group and their fans really touching. While the Beatles where over in Hamburg they regularly kept in touch with a band of loyal fans, mainly young girls, with letters, postcards and photos.

*** The author puts a whole new light on the infamous Decca audition, and explains why rejecting the group was a stupid idea, not with hindsight, but at the time. Truly fascinating reading.
*** For the first time I really understand why Pete Best was sacked, and why his position with the group was always tenuous.
***The significance of "Love Me Do" has been largely downplayed in previous Beatles books. To have a first record, by an unknown group, make it into the top twenty, and stay there longer than most others, despite absolutely no promotion by the recording company, was huge. It was during this period that the Beatles battled the London-centric show business establishment, who were not merely indifferent, but actually hostile. They detested the name Beatles, their clothes, hair, and accent. The basic structure seemed to baffle them. Up to now there were vocal groups or instrumental groups, but here were these lads from up North who did both. It was new, it was different and it upset the status quo.
To sum up, I can't recommend this book too highly. The word awesome is overused, but Mark Lewisohn has truly done an awesome job with this first volume. I eagerly await the next.
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on 16 March 2014
Grew up in the area around the time of the fabs so found some of the details annoyingly inaccurate - names, place names.
The feel of the back does capture the atmosphere of the times very well and the description of the characters of the fabs fits with my recollections. I notice some of the errors appear in other books about the Beatles so wonder if it's just copied research without verification and also what else I've missed.
Nevertheless a good read for those interested in Liverpool at the time and especially a true account of the formation of the band.
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on 10 November 2013
To Beatles addicts like myself ("OK then, just one more biography and I'm done") this is one to savour. There have been plenty of readable accounts of the pre-fame Beatles before. I would always recommend Philip Norman's Shout and Alan Williams's heavily biased but entertaining the Man Who Gave The Beatles Away. But in the absence of a hard nosed academic albeit enthusiastic historian's job on the story there were some big and unexplained gaps. So do you want to know what happened during the year long 'dead period' where The Quarrymen were without any gigs or a drummer? It's all filled in over hundreds of pages. Want the low-down on John and Paul's two weeks in Paris as The Nerk Twins? A whole chapter. And want a witness's account of what really happened when John's mum and dad decided on his upbringing? Prepare to read this and several other received stories shot down in flames.

In this mammoth tome Lewisohn brings new life to a great story (and the history of The Beatles really is a great story) and, as importantly, as a backdrop he gives a good account of a remarkable cultural renaissance in a remarkable city. Simply as a social history it rightly kicks back at the lazy Dominic Sandbrook school of postwar revisionism which seeks to belittle the postwar political consensus. More specifically, without the NHS Ringo wouldn't have lived past the age of 7 and without decent affordable council housing the McCartneys might have been destitute after the death of Paul's mother and the consequent loss of income. In other words, No Atlee or Bevan, no Beatles.

This took over a decade to write and the detail makes it worth the wait. I only hope we don't have to wait so long for volumes 2 and 3.
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on 21 May 2017
Do we need yet again another Beatle biography. The subject matter here has been flogged to death. It's all rather saddening that these writers can't seem to find any original subject matter to observe, choosing instead to hang on grimly to the Beatle gravy train which by now must be running low. My advice is just listen to the music it's far more revealing and satisfying than any writers slanted take on the Fab Four.
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on 12 November 2013
As a long standing Beatles fan this release was much anticipated and a most welcome addition to my collection of books on the group. A great read, can't wait for volumes 2 & 3
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