A new, definitive bio of The Beatles - first of a three-parter


By Mark Lewisohn, the guy who wrote the definitive books on their day-to-day studio work at Abbey Road, the gear they used, their gig schedules while they were getting famous, etc. He has become THE official documenter of their work, so I suppose it was inevitable that he took all of that and wrapped it into a biography. And getting great reviews.

But, argh - Ive read Hunter Davies authorized and revised bio, and Bob Spitz’ up-to-now “best” bio* which was 900 pages itself. This new one is 900 pages up to 1962! ;).

*Spitz has got to be bumming; his book has been very well-regarded, but Mark Lewisohn has cornered the market on Beatles scholarship; if this new book holds up it will become the de facto history…

There’s also a “special extended edition” that tips the scale at a whopping 1,728 pages. No clue as to what the additional material is.

Wow. Biffy, as a Beatles buff ;), would you agree that if this is well-regarded, it becomes the standard?

I neglected to mention that I own and read/pored over a couple of Lewisohn’s prior Beatles documentation -they are more historical records vs a contiguous “story.”

Everything on The Beatles sells and this is the 50th anniversary of a lot of important stuff in their career, so I’m guessing this is right time for a doorstop like this. Though All The Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release looks like more fun.

What surprised me in B&N yesterday was seeing a 1000+ page biography of Barbara Stanwyck. Volume one.

I have experience with serial biographies for a couple of individuals. The tendency in recent years is to bloat everything - where a paragraph about a fight with a director or an incident in college would serve every conceivable need, the writers turn it into many pages or a chapter by including details that they then spend more pages dismissing as wrong.

Book publishing in general can’t stand the idea of compactly written material, because the cost of a 1,000-page book is a negligible increase over a 500-page one and people won’t pay $35 for a one-inch book any more. So pad, pad, pad; bloat, bloat, bloat; extend, extend, extend… with the grail getting a modest biography or history into multiple volumes.

It’s absolutely true that people like to buy books by the pound. And it’s probably getting worse. And will continue to do so as ebooks allow for infinite words. I’d love to put out a 1000 page ebook with an additional 1000 pages of pictures.

But the trend has been around for decades. I think it started in the 1980s when bestselling genre novels all suddenly bloated to 400+ pages. Look at the careers of people like Ed McBain or Dick Francis, who started out writing taut 60,000 word thrillers and then wrote the same book with the same style of plot in 150,000 words.

I blame fantasy, actually. When people realized that the journey in books like Lord of the Rings was more important than the plot, they demanded to get to live with their characters for the longest possible time. Would it have been conceivable for a Rowling or Martin to write seven 1000+ page books about the same characters in an earlier age? Now only death will stop them, although others will pick up the characters and keep their undead cardboard corpses alive for another x*y books.

Yet I can’t help wondering who the audience is for 2000 pages on Barbara Stanwyck. I love her and her movies, but I’m not picking up those books. Probably literally. They’d hurt my hands after five minutes.

Oh, and: there’s a new Volume 2 of the Beatles Live on the BBC. I think it called On Air.

Here it is: http://www.amazon.com/On-Air-Live-The-Volume/dp/B00F3VOL38

I have the first one and it is wonderful. Their live covers have a great edge - the song Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues (with just a little Rock n’ Roll on the side, just for good measure ;)) is so good; same with the Hippy Hippy Shake and so many others…

Mark Lewishon was interviewed on the ABC [Australia] Music Show recently about vol 1. A great interview- made me want to drop lots of hints with Christmas coming. Clearly its not hundreds of pages of padding, wide margins and 16 point font. There’s serious scholarship and contextual history to put the Beatles into place.

If you’re not sure about whether the book is for you, I’d well recommend the interview link above.

A three volume bio of The Beatles? There are to be three volumes? Three?
Poor Ringo. Couldn’t get his own volume.

Perhaps Lewisohn thought it was Best.

(oh, ugh. ;))

Not to mention, if it was set up for four volumes, think of the controversy over who would claim to warrant the Fifth Beatle Volume :wink:

How many pages was the New Testament? Wasn’t it John who said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus? Apparently this biographer means to prove it by volume alone.

But Jesus was only part of a Trinity, not a quartet!

Ahh, he didn’t even write his own material–he had four other guys.

Wow, you couldn’t be bothered to take five seconds and do a Google search before you wrote that, could you?

The actual truth is that while Lewisohn has indeed written a number of books about the Fabs, the only person h=who has written a book about their 'gear" is NOT Mark Lewisohn, but rather Andy Babiuk. The book is here: https://www.amazon.com/Beatles-Gear-Fours-Instruments-Studio/dp/0879309563 and it is awesome. Seems to me you owe Babiuk an apology.

Outtakes and rarities.

Revived 5 year old thread.

The first volume has been out for a while now–does anyone know when the second volume is due?

Comin’ up on 50th anniversary of the White Album.

My older sister (in college 1966-1970) bequeathed me a bright pink lapel button reading THE BEATLES IS COMING. For years I thought it was a weird grammatical error before I realized it was a promo button for the White Album.