By Hunter Davies
Ebury Press – £9.99
As we all know, Beatles books come and go. Some are great, some are pants, some are indifferent and utterly unnecessary, while one or two, such as Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties and The Beatles by Hunter Davies, are simply monumental – and therefore essential.
Already a landmark and highly respected worldwide bestseller, this book is the only authorised biography on the band. Originally published in 1968 (by William Heinemann), The Beatles is, according to Marshall McLuhan: ‘’a document of our century.’ And it’s easy to understand why.
Between 1967 and 1968 – a period many consider to be something of a peak in the band’s career – Hunter Davies spent the best part of eighteen months with The Beatles. He gained unparalleled access not only to the fabs themselves, but to a wide trajectory of family, friends and inner-circle colleagues. As such, Davies garnered a veritable wealth of revealing and intimate material, which, it has to be said, still makes this the classic Beatles book.
Even the cover itself is a nod to the Beatles second album With The Beatles, while the 40th Anniversary logo is something of an acknowledgement to that of the Parlophone logo; the label through which, prior to the formation of Apple, the band released all their (early) material.
Replete with a 2009 Appendix, Discography, and seventy-five page Introduction – which brings The Beatles right up to date – it’s easy to feel intoxicated with information before even embarking on Part One (which kicks off with ‘John’ on page seventy-eight). With the writing itself akin to that of a concise, yet high-octane encounter with great music and audacious, icosahedronic, contagious and turbulent, social mayhem, it’s understandable that the author concludes his introduction with:
‘’The book, as a whole, is a rather bumpy read. If I were writing it again now, I would try to improve the style, smooth out the wrinkles, polish the prose, stand back more and try to put things and people and events in perspective. Or would I? Perhaps its virtue is that it is of its time, a first-hand account of an unusual period, an eye-witness report on the rise of a phenomenon, then at its height, soon to fall apart, although none of us knew it at the time. Just as well. Hindsight can make us all far too clever.
This is the simple story of The Beatles, exactly as it happened in 1968. I hope you’ll enjoy the show.’’
I’ve always enjoyed the show and truly believe I always will – of which The Beatles is an imperative, idiosyncratic and really important part.