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Old Nov 06, 2005, 04:49 PM   #41
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Oh, I totally agree about the Pawlowski book -- it's GREAT! It is absolutely my bible when it comes to information about the Beatles' earliest times...not to mention all the simply juicy pictures!

Seriously, though -- it's an amazing book...but unfortunately, I also think it's out of print. Copies do pop up now and again on eBay, though...
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Old Nov 06, 2005, 05:00 PM   #42
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I love the Mark Shipper book! I don't like fanfic, but I love this book. It definitely loses something on repeat readings, but it's a phenomenal book--they should do a reprint.
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Old Nov 06, 2005, 07:20 PM   #43
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I don't care much for the book Paperback Writer because it IS dated humor. At the time it really was funny, but in reading it now, it was like listening to a joke told too many times with a laugh track that was stuck in one place.

Pawlowski's book is excellent. One book I am eagerly awaiting is Here Comes the Sun which is due in another month. I also highly recommend Simon Leng's biography of George. That is an excellent book and a lot of attention and detail are given to the man's music.
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Old Nov 06, 2005, 09:39 PM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ringo_rama
I love the Mark Shipper book! I don't like fanfic, but I love this book. It definitely loses something on repeat readings, but it's a phenomenal book--they should do a reprint.
Maybe that's because you didn't really live through the times it describes and parodies. Mind you, I'm not knocking the book for what it is, but having lived it, I really do find it incredibly dated and no longer funny. In fact, it lost something drastically a mere two years after its publication, when John died...and has gone steadily downhill in its relevance since, IMO.
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Old Nov 06, 2005, 10:17 PM   #45
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Well, John's death really couldn't have been predicted. I don't think it's in bad taste or anything.

Maybe it's just because I wasn't around at the time, but I'm always extra-fascinated in articles and books published when John was still alive, just because they're always written in a different light than books from after 1980 (whether the author intends to or not).
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Old Nov 07, 2005, 03:51 AM   #46
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Oh no, I was in no way saying that it was in "bad taste!" And certainly not because John died two years later -- geez, that's no one's fault! (Well, it IS someone's fault...but not having anything to do with this book!)

I agree, the book is written differently than it might have been post-1980. But for me, at least, that also renders it and the jokes contained in it, terribly dated. Some period pieces age well -- IMO, this one did not particularly do so.
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Old Nov 08, 2005, 02:35 PM   #47
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I read the first couple of chapters in Barnes & Noble, and did anyone else but me pick up on a big revelation? Using Paul's aunt Dill as a source apparently, Spitz claims that Mary McCartney was first diagnosed with cancer in 1948, when Paul was six, not in 1956 right before she died, as conventional biographers have had it.
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Old Nov 08, 2005, 03:17 PM   #48
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And considering all the other errors in this book, and the probable age and memory ability of Aunt Dill, I would question this information also.
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Old Nov 08, 2005, 05:38 PM   #49
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I'm a historian, so I know that just because she is older doesn't mean her memories are automatically suspect. I don't know enough about Spitz's research in those chapters to be able to judge his methods.
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Old Nov 08, 2005, 10:13 PM   #50
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Nobody's saying that is the case, Poor, but since Spitz' book is so rife with errors, it does call this into question. It's not as though his book has a good track record of accuracies -- in fact, there are enough inaccuracies and holes in the book for a fleet of trucks to pass through!
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Old Nov 11, 2005, 08:53 AM   #51
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I read an article about Bob Spitz's book in November 7, 2005 issure of Time magazine & saw nothing mentioning inaccurate facts, and it seems to tell the raw facts about Beatles personality good & bad. Still, I would like to read it to see for myself.
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Old Nov 11, 2005, 09:43 AM   #52
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It IS an interesting book, but it is so cluttered with inaccuracies that it is hard to read it in places without wincing. I read it and found it interesting, errors and all.
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Old Nov 11, 2005, 07:07 PM   #53
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Here is the part of the TIME review, by Lev Grossman, that actually makes me want to read it:

" . . .[Spitz] marshals a staggering mass of research in support of the conclusion, broadly speaking, that Lennon was a drug-addled, attention-hungry rageoholic who picked fights and cheated on his wife; Paul McCartney was a smarmy, manipulative charmer; and George Harrison was dour and sour. Before you lose faith entirely, it turns out that Ringo really was just a loveable goofball" (November 7, 2005).

That's very a very stereotypical view of John. Paul may have been manipulative during the Let It Be period, but I don't think he was (or is) charming just for the sake of getting what he wanted from people. I can see how George could have been gloomy also during Let It Be, but not during the other times. (Didn't Spitz see/hear/read any 1964-66 press conference clips, if he did so much research?) I don't know very much about Ringo, but there has to be more to him than just being "loveable"!

It seems the Beatle bios take three views, from what I've heard: they (or one of them) were saints, or they were two-dimensional--only "the Cute One," only "the Quiet One"--or they were the worst people on the planet.
I'll skim this one for fun, and then find something more balanced. For example, is there one that shows John as both "drug-addled" and trying to be a good father? I would read one like that.
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Old Nov 11, 2005, 07:18 PM   #54
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I must say....my interest is piqued, based on the very intriguing & all around promotion of this book.
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Old Nov 11, 2005, 11:59 PM   #55
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I was sorting my books and have 120 beatle books (including solo) not sure i want to ready anymore.........I am comfortable with what I know anyway now. I really need to get rid of some too but not sure whethe to sell or how much they are worth etc, especially the magazines.

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Old Nov 12, 2005, 05:09 AM   #56
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I would trust the reviews of fellow Beatle fans before I'd trust Time or the NY Times or any non-Beatles-specific publication. Didn't ANYONE read the article from Daytrippin' that I posted, and what the author said to the editor about "taking an enema and getting a life"? The book, which I have looked at extensively in the bookstore, is RIFE with errors -- and after that comment, it is clear that the author is a real piece of work with no respect for us, the fans.

I'd think twice before buying this one -- but, to each his own...
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Old Nov 12, 2005, 07:53 AM   #57
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I didn't like what the author said to the editor. That enema comment was WAY out of place and completely uncalled for. What I don't understand is why and how on earth that book got past the editor's desk considering it was riddled with glaring errors?! I read it at Barnes & Noble and my opinion is that for those who are not hyper alert to "Beatle facts" like we are, would think it was a good book. It is well written and it is interesting, but I still had trouble with it because of the glaring mistakes.

Still, it is highly doubtful that I would ever be buying this one...
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Old Nov 14, 2005, 02:10 AM   #58
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Here's a review from NEWSDAY. I believe people will find it interesting -- a reviewer who wasn't afraid to speak his mind. I think Spitz forgot to pay him off!

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When they were fab



BY CHARLES TAYLOR
Charles Taylor is a columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger.

November 13, 2005

THE BEATLES: The Biography, by Bob Spitz. Little, Brown, 983 pp., $29.95.



Bob Spitz's "The Beatles" is a piddling doorstop: the longest book ever written about a group that has inspired (by the author's count) close to 500 other books, and one that actually manages to diminish its subject. The 856 pages of text (acknowledgments, notes, bibliography and index add another 127) is one-third of the manuscript Spitz turned in. Even whittled down, it's easy to see that he's made the classic mistake of confusing information with knowledge. Details, corrections, revisions of accepted myth are present; for the story, you have to go elsewhere.

Specifically, to Philip Norman's "Shout!" - still the best book on the Beatles. To the astonishingly bitter Rolling Stone interviews collected in "Lennon Remembers." To Greil Marcus' essay in "The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll." To Roy Carr and Tony Tyler's "The Beatles: An Illustrated Record." To "Backbeat," Iain Softley's 1994 film drama of the group's days in Hamburg, Germany. And to Debbie Geller and Anthony Wall's oral history, "In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story," the companion to their BBC documentary "The Brian Epstein Story," a great, essential film being kept from American audiences by the crumb bums at the A&E network who mutilated its 2 1/2 hours into a 44- minute "Biography."

What those books and films, all different in tone and approach, have in common is that they are in love with their subject (even Lennon's post-breakup bitterness is the rancor of a spurned lover). Not that they are fannish or adulatory or sacrifice critical judgment. But they all realize that any response to the Beatles that cannot allow itself to surrender to - and no other word will suffice - the magic of the group is a poor thing.

Spitz would have us believe he's made of sterner stuff. One sentence gives his game away. Noting that Beatlemania took off when the group's second album, "With the Beatles," was released in the United Kingdom the same day that John F. Kennedy was shot, Spitz writes, "Of course, it was only the beginning of a generation's dependency on rock 'n' roll as an escape from the harsh changes that rocked the world at large." Not only is that badly written, both tone deaf (the echo of "rock" and "rocked") and cliched, not only does the "of course" serve as Spitz's notice that he occupies a loftier space than the screaming Beatlemaniacs, the very notion he puts forth is rot.

The Beatles were about escapism? Is that what seven years of work have led Spitz to conclude? (Did he break a mirror before he began work on the book?) Escapist doesn't even apply to the music on "With the Beatles," which, on numbers such as "It Won't Be Long" and "Not a Second Time," was already showing darker shadings that would be the constant flip side of the Beatles' utopianism (think of the tug between hope and despair that makes up "We Can Work It Out").

Spitz expands on this dubious notion throughout the book, referring to their "phony clean-cut image," repeating the cliche of the Beatles making polite music while the Stones were rebels (and what are they now, on their umpteenth farewell tour?), and coming up with the lulu that the sound of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was appropriate for an era when "rock music was growing up." To prove that rock music had grown up (something that you'd think would already have been proven by "Things We Said Today" or Buddy Holly's "Listen to Me"), he cites hacks such as the Doors or Jefferson Airplane (or worse - Ten Years After!).

If psychedelic bloat is held up as proof of rock and roll maturity, if Spitz's analysis of the Beatles' music is perfunctory when attempted at all, what else is there for the book to offer?

Well, in his accounts of the Beatles' individual Liverpool childhoods and of their days in Hamburg, Spitz offers the pleasures of good storytelling. Here's where his fetish for detail works best, sketching particulars of the Beatles' home life and then of all the Liverpool bands fighting for a toehold. Even when he is at his most wrongheaded, the book is readable, never a slog.

As it goes on, though, it reveals an ugly, insidious influence: Albert Goldman, the late necrographer of Elvis and Lennon. In his notes, Spitz admits that Goldman was "a dear and trusted friend" but also that he found his hatchet job, "The Lives of John Lennon," "unreadable" and "irresponsible" and told him so. Spitz had access to the taped interviews Goldman conducted for that book and reveals that Goldman never transcribed the tapes, only taking what he called "the good parts," i.e., the most salacious and defamatory. Goldman's lies are a matter of record, so this confirmation of his slipshod "research" is no surprise.

But Goldman's slimy influence can still be felt. I have no evidence to doubt Spitz's truthfulness or the accuracy of his research. But he shares some of his late friend's taste for cheap shots - "Paul realized he didn't know as much about the arts as he thought. (Or much else, for that matter)" - and he shares a belief that the real story is in the dirt.

Nowhere is that approach more visible than in the appalling treatment of the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein. After the revelatory fullness of Geller and Wall's book and documentary, Spitz falls back on cliches of Epstein as a self-loathing homosexual and a lousy businessman. That there is no evidence to suggest that the Beatles would ever have made it out of Liverpool if not for Epstein's vision and persistence simply does not occur. And next to that, what does it matter that he got them lousy merchandising deals?

No doubt Spitz believes his details of the tour bacchanals and the tales of Lennon's cruelty are the correctives to portrayals of the Beatles as "four irrepressible woolly-jumpered lads," and that such truth-telling is what serious-minded biographers do. But even if you can back up your facts, that's finally indistinguishable from the tabloid approach: The thing that remains of any artist, their work, gets lost in the grime.

Spitz tries to make up for this in the book's closing lines, waxing lyrical about the Beatles' "flood of song and love and pain and beauty." His flood won't wash. The Beatles gave the world an unparalleled, sustained and unequaled eruption of creativity, joy and good feeling, an insistence that life and work should be about pleasure and camaraderie and, for all of the utopianism of their vision, an awareness of contingency and doubt that did not negate the exuberance of that vision. To this, Spitz has responded with journalism. Of a sort.

Copyright 2005, Newsday, Inc.
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Old Nov 14, 2005, 05:31 AM   #59
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Maybe this writer could not be bought.
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Old Nov 15, 2005, 08:50 AM   #60
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Hmmmm.... I don't quite agree with Mr Taylor's ideas of where we should go for the real history on the Beatles. I mean, come on.... watching "Backbeat" to figure out even how that little time period went down is sketchy. That movie is jam packed with mistakes.

And I guess for a little update: I'm about 100 pages into the book, and I have to say, it is really pretty good so far. I've found a few things from eye-witness accounts that I am taking with a grain of salt, same as I would in other books, but overall it seems pretty good. I know plenty of people are upset and don't wanna give a dime to Mr Spitz, but from where I stand right now, I would suggest maybe borrowing a copy or getting one from the library and reading it. It'd be good to judge for yourselves. Again, I'll report back once I actually finish this 800+ page beast. ;)
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