So much has been written about the most popular band in history that any new book about them has to have an original perspective. Craig Brown’s is a kind of time-travel adventure which mixes personal reflection, excerpts from interviews, intriguing ‘what-if’ scenarios, fascinating coincidences, present-tense narration, lists, fabulous photos and more. If you want a straightforward telling of the Beatles story, with descriptions of how every album was made, chart positions, a timeline, etc, then this book isn’t for you.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was funny and unusual. The ending was particularly striking, going backwards through time from Brian Epstein’s death until the moment he first saw the Beatles. Not everything about the band is included in the book but all of the significant events and divisive characters are there. What’s quite interesting is that Craig Brown examines the other bands and artists of the era too, the ones who got left behind once Beatlemania took off, in addition to those whom the Fab Four partied with.
There are some flaws in the book. Certain quotes are repeated two or three times and I’m not sure if this was an oversight or intentional. There is a bias towards material on John Lennon, which I suppose is understandable as he’s the most controversial and idolised of the four. I felt that George Harrison had the least coverage, as the childhoods of the other three were written about but his wasn’t (unless I somehow missed it). I thought it was a pity that Linda McCartney was barely mentioned, while Yoko Ono occupied the limelight. Occasionally the author goes off on a tangent, including passages from books which don’t have anything to do with the Beatles but which he felt were apt quotes. The sources section at the end of the book should have been organised into a proper bibliography rather than into paragraphs. Also, if I’d wanted an index, I’d be disappointed.
In summary, you’ll like this book if you’re a Beatles fan (obviously), you have a sense of humour and you want an unusual read.
First published in 2020.