four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
21-Mar-Apr-2006
By: 
Bob Spitz
user_rating: 
0

The Biography

A-BeatlesJohn, Paul, George, and Ringo: the names chime almost biblically from this short remove. From their genesis as the Quarrymen and their triumph on American shores to their ultimate dissolution as a band, the four lads from Liverpool left an indelible stamp on the 20th century. Though the story of their rise and fall may be well known, The Beatles rounds out the tale, giving equal time to the intimate struggles within the band as well as the legendary fanaticism that surrounded them and the songwriting mastery that ensured their enduring fame. As the subtitle’s definite article suggests, Spitz aims for nothing less than the authoritative history of the cultural icons. It seems he has delivered.
Little, Brown. 992 pages. $29.95. ISBN: 0316803529

Baltimore Sun 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The Beatles are what seasoned journalists call a rather good story—a long and winding one at that—and author Bob Spitz milks it better than anyone. … Without explicitly saying so, Spitz makes the case that there wasn’t one thing that broke up the Beatles—not one difficult personality, not one intruding girlfriend, not even the difficulty of living under the magnification of press coverage and a fan base that wouldn’t leave them alone." Jonathan Bor

Montreal Gazette 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Numerous volumes may have gone into comparable depth about various separate aspects of the Beatles and their impact, but no one has got as much between two covers, nor done it so cogently, as Spitz has here." Ian McGillis

Boston Globe 4.5 of 5 Stars
"The Beatles is a dark, riveting fable about a group that in breaking up let the whole world down. Although they made music as one, the Beatles were individuals, too. Their complex equations are thoroughly and movingly explored in Spitz’s memorable biography." Carlo Wolff

Atlanta Jrnl-Constitution 4 of 5 Stars
"Spitz’s knowing, affectionate take on the Beatles will give you a sense of what Wordsworth meant when, describing the revolutions of his own time, he wrote: ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, / But to be young was very heaven.’" David Kirby

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"If you like your Beatles just as you remember them—cute and cuddly and dusted with magic—you might want to avoid this book. Conversely, if you’re looking for insights into the flesh-and-blood men behind the mop tops—warts, peccadilloes, drugs, and all—then this is your definitive Beatles volume." John Kehe

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"With sweep already built into its story and the cumulative effects of the author’s levelheaded, anecdotal approach, the book emerges as a consolidating and newly illuminating work. … Time and again, it chooses perception over presumption in ways that set it off from the pack of Beatle stories." Janet Maslin

Newsday 2 of 5 Stars
"Details, corrections, revisions of accepted myth are present; for the story, you have to go elsewhere. … The Beatles were about escapism? Is that what seven years of work have led Spitz to conclude?" Charles Taylor

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 of 5 Stars
"It’s a long and winding road that takes more than 190 pages just to get to Hamburg and a hundred more to introduce George Martin. Ed Sullivan first gets wind of Beatlemania on page 430, halfway through the book. … Maybe if his writing style were more exciting, the focus on pre-Beatle history wouldn’t feel like such a chore to suffer through. But Spitz’s style is dry and academic to a fault." Ed Masley

Critical Summary

Edited down from a staggering 2,700 pages, The Beatles took eight years of research and writing. But with some 500 books chronicling their lives, loves, and legacy, one would think The Beatles’ story had been adequately told. Adequate isn’t authoritative, however, and most critics believe that Spitz, a former manager for Bruce Springsteen and author of Dylan: The Biography, has synthesized his subject masterfully. Though some would prefer hagiography (Charles Taylor of Newsday seems particularly aggrieved the biography doesn’t live up to the Beatles’ artistic standard—but what has?), the general consensus is that if it’s pop-culture history you desire, The Beatles tops the charts.