Welcome to Something New: The Beatlefan Blog, where the editors of Beatlefan magazine will offer exclusive opinion pieces, news updates, articles that don't appear in the print magazine, behind-the-scenes looks at the magazine, and other treats. We hope you enjoy this new publishing outlet, and a tip of the hat to longtime contributor Wally Podrazik for coming up with the new blog's name.
And now, in our initial post to the blog, Beatlefan London Editor Simon Rogers offers his thoughts on "Tune In — The Beatles: All These Years," the first volume of Mark Lewisohn's three-part biography of the Fabs, which came out Oct. 10 in Britain and is published Tuesday, Oct. 29, in the U.S.
Take it away, Simon ...
Time to 'Tune In'
It's taken 10 years of research to finish the first book of a three-volume set on the history of The Beatles that will take longer for Mark Lewisohn (pictured above) to write than the band was together.
But is it worth the hype? First of all, the copy I have is the standard U.K. edition. There is a deluxe edition planned for November that comes in two volumes and has everything that Mark wrote for the project.
I have deliberately tried not to give too many spoilers, as I am sure many people are looking forward to enjoying the book themselves. The first thing to realize about this book is everything about it is HUGE. The U.K. standard edition is around 1 kg in weight and runs to just shy of 1,000 pages and some 400,000 words. The book itself looks and feels somewhat like a Bible, which is rather apt as many people are calling it the Bible of Beatles biographies.
But there are some who say surely the world does not need yet another book on The Beatles, especially one that only goes to 1962 and does not even cover the band's first No. 1 hit.
The pure and simple answer to this is: Hell, yes, this book is needed. Lewisohn has long been regarded as the premier Beatles author and scholar, so not surprisingly this book does offer new information and shatters some old myths that have appeared time and time again. He seems to have left no stone unturned and has used firsthand interviews and rare documents to tell the story rather than relying on earlier biographies.
Yet it's the way he uses all this research to enhance the story that makes "Tune In" such a great read.
One would think a book of this size would be a burden to read but the chapters flow freely; it's the kind of book you don't want to rush through because you will find little nuggets of information throughout. In fact, the Beatles nerd in me would love to know what cuts he has made to make this version of the book; I must admit the more I read of the standard edition, the more my appetite was whetted for the full author's cut, which will run 780,000 words.
The book's first chapter starts in 1845 and gives some background to the story of the family histories so you have some idea of what made The Beatles the people they were. Lewisohn offers his own view on the relationship between George's grandparents, John and Louise French, and how that would explain why Harrison would later hate people prying into his private life.
Unlike other books that treat Ringo's entry into The Beatles as almost a footnote, Lewisohn has him in the story from the very start, and even the story of how his family got the Starkey name makes interesting reading. Also, one of the people in Beatles history that very little is known about is John's father, Alf Lennon. Lewisohn tracks down one of his Alf's best friends, who as a witness sets the record straight on the oft-told story of young John having to choose between his Mum and Dad.
Lewisohn also puts the record straight on two of the most often asked questions about The Beatles — why Peter Best was sacked from the band and why George Martin ended up working with The Beatles. Lewisohn's theory on this breaks fresh ground.
The book has set out to tell The Beatles' story accurately and give the band the definitive history they deserve. It also puts their story in context by covering other societal developments during the 1950s and 1960s.
Lewisohn says the day the ’60s really began was Oct. 5, 1962. The Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do," was released and the band were playing a gig in Nuneaton. The Rolling Stones were playing the Woodstock Pub in North Cheam, Surrey. The Beach Boys' first single, "Surfin Safari," was issued in the U.K. In America, Bob Dylan was top of the bill at one of his earliest important shows, the Traveling Hootenanny at the Town Hall at West 43rd Street in New York City. It's kind of cool to think that my local pub, the Woodstock, is billed as playing a part in music history!
So, is this book the best Beatles biography every written? I would say it is No. 2. The No. 1 Beatles biography likely will be the full deluxe version of "Tune In." I cannot wait, but any serious Beatles fan must have one of the versions in their collection. Essential reading.