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Old Feb 07, 2008, 12:19 AM   #1
John Cee
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Default The Most Disappointing Beatles Books?

I know we've had threads asking what your favourite Beatles books are.. but I don't think we've had one asking which book(s) were most disappointing?
I thought of this because after all these years, I finally got to read Philip Norman's SHOUT (I got the revised 2003 edition for Christmas) -- and what a disappointment! I was always told it was one of the best Beatle books out there, but it's full of inaccuracies, and it's shocking how two-dimensionally the Beatles are portrayed. This book reminds me a lot of Peter Brown's "The Love You Make" (in fact, I believe Brown was one of Norman's principle sources), in that it really paints the Beatles story in very dark tones. Norman also, like Brown, makes it sound like George and Ringo were just lucky, marginally-talented stiffs, which makes you wonder how the Beatles could have been that great if 50% of the band was so ordinary. George is no longer the "Quiet Beatle" -- in this book, he's the "Crabby Beatle" -- "charmless" in Norman's words, and totally devoid of any sense of humour. Just count how many times he's described as "unsmiling" -- then look at old newsreel footage of the Beatles being interviewed, where George smiles a lot. (Publicist Tony Barrow, who worked closely with the Beatles for 6 years, wrote "George was the most easygoing of the four, and smiled easily" in his book. ) At the end of SHOUT, Norman concludes "George was not great -- just an average guitarist who got incredibly lucky". Funny how musicians judge Harrison as a real trailblazer. And anyone capable of writing "Something", "Here Comes The Sun", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and many other timeless songs is more than just "average", in my opinion.
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Old Feb 07, 2008, 02:27 AM   #2
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A good topic, there was one book I read a long time ago and I think it was sheer rubbish. I don't remember who was the author but what I didn't like it was the anti-semitism in his writing.
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Old Feb 07, 2008, 09:37 AM   #3
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Yeah, Shout wasn't all that great. Norman was way too biased, and it didn't end with the book; remember his "obituary" for George? He said something like "I always thought he was a miserable little git before I met him. Then I met him, and I never dreamed how right I had been."

Alistair Taylor's With the Beatles (A Secret History in the UK) was pretty awful; he basically wrote it because he was pissed off that he didn't get mentioned in Anthology.
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Old Feb 07, 2008, 02:12 PM   #4
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Yeah, Shout wasn't all that great. Norman was way too biased, and it didn't end with the book; remember his "obituary" for George? He said something like "I always thought he was a miserable little git before I met him. Then I met him, and I never dreamed how right I had been."
I think you hit the nail right on the head... Norman seems to have gone into the book with clear ideas of who and what he thought each Beatle was, then went about making sure each "fact" he uncovered about their personalities fit into those stereotypes. He bends or rearranges quotes to prove his point (and ignores other quotes that don't). He does the same with George Martin, turning him almost into a stern school teacher. For example, when recording the group's first album (PLEASE PLEASE ME), most accounts have Martin asking the group to put together a playlist of songs they'd perform in the Cavern, so as to make it sound as "live" as possible. But in Norman's book, Martin is quoted as saying "What you're going to do is play me this selection of things I've chosen from what you do at the Cavern". It's only a slight difference, but gives you a different overall image of the scene. You can almost envision Martin jamming his finger into their chests in Norman's book. Later, during the RUBBER SOUL sessions, Martin supposedly walks across the studio floor to that sullen ol' George Harrison, and dictates the solo Harrison is to play on "Michelle". (Funny how Harrison described the RUBBER SOUL & REVOLVER sessions as the time he most enjoyed being a Beatle.)
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Old Feb 08, 2008, 09:42 AM   #5
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Later, during the RUBBER SOUL sessions, Martin supposedly walks across the studio floor to that sullen ol' George Harrison, and dictates the solo Harrison is to play on "Michelle". (Funny how Harrison described the RUBBER SOUL & REVOLVER sessions as the time he most enjoyed being a Beatle.)
Martin tells that in an interview, he wrote the bass solo for Michelle.
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Old Feb 09, 2008, 06:17 PM   #6
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If there is one man I'd love to talk to one-on-one about the Beatles (and about the music scene in general), George Martin is the man. I'd love to hear him tell me about this incident, and the many other things written about the Beatles.
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Old Mar 13, 2008, 01:21 PM   #7
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I think Shout! is a masterpiece, really the best Beatles book. People have said that McCartney is slagged off quite a lot in the book... unless he changed that in his revision, I found his portrayals of Lennon and McCartney quite balanced.

However, what really annoyed me (really taking the shine off a great book) was his chapters on Paul and George. After so much rational and sympathetic writing throughout the book, he finally releases his prejudices to the two (especially Paul), and the chapters are unbalanced and unjustified. One bit, where he ridicules Paul's 'Here Today' - saying John would probably laugh at it - annoys me a lot... it's just a pretty nasty thing to write. And the chapter on George is a bit better, but still not very complimentary at all.

On another note, I've met Norman at a lecture (he was talking about his new book on John), seemed like a really nice guy, and had many stories to tell. I just can't understand why he has all of this dislike for Paul.

And I'm also enjoying Bob Spitz's new biography - very similar to Shout!, but in far more depth, and taking a more sympathetic attitude towards The Beatles themselves... really excellent stuff.
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Old Mar 13, 2008, 03:07 PM   #8
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I read Shout years and years ago and I didn't think it was anywhere near as great as everyone had always said and in fact I think The Love You Make is far better! haahaaaa!
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Old Mar 13, 2008, 03:12 PM   #9
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Oooh and of course anything written by GG is utterly horrific...not that is a disappointment really because as if you would expect anything that you didn't get out of it with his reputation.
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Old Mar 13, 2008, 10:20 PM   #10
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I think the problem with "Shout", as with many biographies I've read, is that the author's biases show through loud and clear. Whether Norman considers himself a "John" person, rather than a "Paul" person, as he says in the opening chapter of his 2003 version, his writing should be balanced. Instead he picks and chooses the anecdotes he writes in order to prove his point, and bends facts quite liberally, making the "True Story of the Beatles" banner underneath the title a bit of a joke. Norman freely admits he allowed that bias to rule him in the original 1981 edition -- and I feel they also permeate the revised version. I'm very much a "John" person too, and a "George" person, yet I can't imagine how an objective writer can say, as Norman did, that John Lennon was 3/4 of the Beatles.

Not all of what Norman writes is wrong, mind you -- and some of the book is quite interesting. But there are so many checkable errors that I end up questioning all of it. For example, Norman writes Lennon recorded "The Ballad of John & Yoko" virtually solo, with McCartney overdubbing the drums later... this is to prove Norman's point that the two couldn't stand each other by then. In fact, John & Paul worked on the song together, joking with each other throughout the session (according to Mark Lewisohn and several other sources). The facts should tell the story; he shouldn't need to bend them in order to make his point.
Another error is where he writes Harrison wrote "Only a Northern Song" in half an hour in order to fill out the YELLOW SUBMARINE album -- actually the song was recorded a year earlier for SGT PEPPER but was rejected then. (Wow! A legitimate opportunity to knock George that Norman missed!)
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Old Mar 16, 2008, 09:04 PM   #11
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I read Shout years and years ago and I didn't think it was anywhere near as great as everyone had always said and in fact I think The Love You Make is far better! haahaaaa!
I'm not the biggest fan of "The Love You Make" either -- I think a lot of what's written sounds more like gossip than an "insider's view" (Brown writes things like "it was a poorly kept secret Paul overdubbed the drumming after Ringo went home" in the latter years, without offering any real proof) -- but at least Peter Brown really was part of the Beatles' circle, and he was especially close to Brian Epstein.
Still, I find it interesting that Brown is not mentioned even once by name in publicist Tony Barrow's recent book "John, Paul, George, Ringo... & me". Could Peter Brown be the unnamed person who, as Barrow disparagingly writes, "described himself as one of Brian's best friends", yet when the Beatles' manager dies picks through Epstein's belongings, wondering aloud if he can unstitch the "BE" monograms from the poor man's silk shirts? Wups, now here I go spreading gossip! lol Maybe I should write a Beatles Book too!
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Old Mar 21, 2008, 07:33 AM   #12
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I'm not the biggest fan of "The Love You Make" either -- I think a lot of what's written sounds more like gossip than an "insider's view" (Brown writes things like "it was a poorly kept secret Paul overdubbed the drumming after Ringo went home" in the latter years, without offering any real proof) -- but at least Peter Brown really was part of the Beatles' circle, and he was especially close to Brian Epstein.
Still, I find it interesting that Brown is not mentioned even once by name in publicist Tony Barrow's recent book "John, Paul, George, Ringo... & me". Could Peter Brown be the unnamed person who, as Barrow disparagingly writes, "described himself as one of Brian's best friends", yet when the Beatles' manager dies picks through Epstein's belongings, wondering aloud if he can unstitch the "BE" monograms from the poor man's silk shirts? Wups, now here I go spreading gossip! lol Maybe I should write a Beatles Book too!
I agree, John Cee. It says a lot for Brown's honesty that he chose the gossipmonger Steven Gaines to write it with him. Brown's book has been discredited by everyone who knew the Beatles and Brian, and famously (infamously) was researched through deception. Unfortunately, where Brown left off with his second-guessing and innuendo was greedily picked up on and taken far out into fantasyland by Albert Goldman and, to a lesser degree, Geoffrey Giuliano.

It's unfortunate that the book is such an entertaining read. I also find it very sad that authors such as Bob Spitz are now using the Brown/Goldman trash as resource material ~ thus spreading the lies further.

Brown being "especially close" to Brian was a case of finely-tuned brownnosing with the Epstein family from the beginning. Then, he "cloned" himself as much as he could, even to the point where, when he answered Brian's home phone, he was often mistaken for Brian. He easily slid onto the throne when he let Brian die Brian died, but to his dismay the Beatles refused to allow him to wear the management crown. Poor Peter, all those years of scheming flushed down the loo.

As for Tony Barrow, I don't totally trust his stuff, but at least whatever untruths he passes on, he does out of na´vetÚ ~ John especially loved to bullshit him because he was looked upon as being "soft" and not really "one of them" like Tony Bramwell was (I much prefer Bramwell's "Magical Mystery Tours:My Life With The Beatles"). It's funny that Barrow got punk'd so much by the Boys during the 60's and never caught on, but too bad that it resulted in him writing all this leg-pulling as fact, and people now believing it, and neither John nor Brian around anymore to set him straight.

I'll stick with Ray Coleman.
And Debbie Geller, of course, for Eppy materials.
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Old Mar 23, 2008, 03:24 PM   #13
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Anything by the Messrs. Guiliano and Goldman.
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