Classic Rock Review

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The Beatles: All These Years Vol 1 (Published October 29th, 2013)

41tcK1TR6eL__SY346_Covers the period till the end of 1962 and nearly 1,000 pages. Bet this is quite good.

Tune In is the first volume of All These Years—a highly-anticipated, groundbreaking biographical trilogy by the world’s leading Beatles historian. Mark Lewisohn uses his unprecedented archival access and hundreds of new interviews to construct the full story of the lives and work of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr.

Ten years in the making, Tune In takes the Beatles from before their childhoods through the final hour of 1962—when, with breakthrough success just days away, they stand on the cusp of a whole new kind of fame and celebrity. They’ve one hit record (“Love Me Do”) behind them and the next (“Please Please Me”) primed for release, their first album session is booked, and America is clear on the horizon. This is the lesser-known Beatles story—the pre-Fab years of Liverpool and Hamburg—and in many respects the most absorbing and incredible period of them all. Here is the complete and true account of their family lives, childhoods, teenage years and their infatuation with American music, here is the riveting narrative of their unforgettable days and nights in the Cavern Club, their laughs, larks and adventures when they could move about freely, before fame closed in.

For those who’ve never read a Beatles book before, this is the place to discover the young men behind the icons. For those who think they know John, Paul, George, and Ringo, it’s time to press the Reset button and tune into the real story, the lasting word.

From amazon.com

I first heard of this project almost 10 years ago. I already had two of Mark Lewisohn’s books on the Beatles: Recording Sessions and The Complete Beatles Chronicle. I knew they were books which were objective, yet with an eye for everything interesting and humorous. When the news came out that Lewisohn was writing a complete biography, I waited anxiously for its publication. And waited. And waited…. as it got pushed back ever further. Well, finally it’s here; and the waiting was all worth while.

‘Tune In’ tells the story of the years before Beatlemania, weaving together the biographies of four boys from Liverpool who grew up with a shared passion, to play music. They each found ways of working towards realizing their dream; in fact, it’s about the only thing they did work at, since nothing else seemed to be interesting to them. Their paths gradually came together, first John, then John and Paul, then John, Paul and George and finally, a few months before this part of the story ends, John, Paul, George and Ringo. Lewisohn cleverly constructs the book chronologically, bringing the stories together rather than dealing with each person separately. This gives the book a ‘real time’ feeling, in which events are recounted as they occur. This sense of immediacy is one of the book’s biggest strengths; no other biography (and I’ve read many) gives the reader such a sense of being there, almost as if watching the story unfold in front of you.

Lewisohn’s greatest attribute is his willingness to take the trouble to get it right. He makes sure that he not only finds the best sources, he sets them out in extensive footnotes. Where there is not a definitive source, he says so; there is no reciting of rumor, gossip and biased opinion as fact. His objectivity is admirable, for although he is a fan of The Beatles’ work, he does not gloss over their human weaknesses and foibles. This is a warts and all account, but never loses sight of the fact that every experience and every character trait is part of what made them so iconic as a band.

There are surprises. One of the most intriguing questions for me has always been why The Beatles first contract with EMI (George Martin’s organization) was dated 2 days before Martin ever saw them; Lewisohn solves the mystery and it isn’t at all what I was expecting. He answers the questions about why Pete Best was replaced and whether ‘Love Me Do’ was pushed into the charts by Brian Epstein. However, the revelations are not the reason for reading the book. The quality of writing is the main attraction here. This book is always hugely entertaining, even fascinating. It’s witty without being pretentious, sad without being maudlin and affectionate without being sentimental. As this part of the story ends, you find yourself feeling uplifted and eager to read about what happens next.

Ah, there’s the rub. The book ends just as The Beatles are about to make history- not just pop music history, but history-book history, as one of the most important cultural influences of the second half of the 20th century. Mark Lewisohn is working on it. I’m already waiting for it.

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September 21, 2013 - Posted by | The Beatles All These Years Vol. 1 | ,

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