Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Really - Why Write Another Beatles Book?

Because it was the Beatles story that nobody else seemed to want to tell. Yet it begged to be told - it was sat there, screaming, "Notice me! Notice me!"

In a single sentence, You Never Give Me Your Money tells the story of how and why the Beatles broke up, and what happened to their personal and financial relationships over the next 40 years. Check your shelves of Beatles books, if you're that way inclined, and you'll find plenty of books that THINK they've told that story. But really, they haven't. Either they get the facts wrong, or miss the point, or are so biased towards one or another of the main participants that their accounts can't be trusted. Or - and this is the most common failure - they take a saga that is crammed with psychological warfare, corporate intrigue, and good old-fashioned human drama, and cram it into two or three pages at the end of a book that concentrates on the story of the Beatles in their heyday.

I knew that the story deserved better than that. I also knew that none of the published accounts of why the Beatles had broken up, slowly and agonisingly, between 1967 and 1970, rang true to my ears. It was a period of such turmoil and trauma, such adventure and ambition, such mayhem and madness, that the Beatles themselves couldn't keep track of what was going on in their lives. If they could have stopped for five minutes, any of them, and thought about the consequences of their actions, then Beatles history might have been very different. Instead, they charged about in their four individual bubbles, each one fired by an idealistic vision of how life and the Beatles should be, and each one spreading random chaos in all directions.

So that was my first motivation for writing You Never Give Me Your Money. I wanted to find out for myself how the Beatles slipped from Sgt. Pepper to fighting in the London law courts in not much more than three years, and then tell the story with the clear-eyed precision that it deserved.

But the drama didn't end when the Beatles found themselves at opposite ends of a court case in the spring of 1971. As a fan, I'd watched with amazement and often pain as the four Beatles (then, sadly, three, and then two) spent the next four decades savaging each other in public one minute, and then declaring their undying affection for their old buddies the next minute, without ever acknowledging to themselves or the outside world that there was any inconsistency in their actions. Yet every time that the Beatles (corporate trademark) had some product to sell, the surviving members went to elaborate efforts to pretend that they had always worshipped each other, never argued, never sued each other, never sabotaged reunions - in fact, theirs was the greatest love affair of the 20th or any other century. Almost without exception, the media swallowed this nonsense whole, and regurgitated it for the world to read and believe.

I knew there was more to the story than that, and I wanted to tell the truth - not because I bear the Beatles any ill-will, but because I hate to see history being rewritten even while the protagonists are still alive. I thought that the Beatles, and their fans, deserved an honest, unprejudiced book that captured the full yin-yang, love-hate, triumph-disaster nature of their relationship over the last four decades. They were human, these four Beatles and their aides, and they lived and reacted like humans. Sometimes they were brilliant, magnanimous, shining examples of humankind. And sometimes they were fallible, spiteful, and so busy arguing with each other that they lost their bearings. Just like the rest of us, in other words.

There was one final motive for writing this book. If you ask young kids today, "What do you want to be when you grow up?", many of them will say, "I want to be famous". In today's celebrity-soaked culture, fame is often regarded as a cure-all - the ultimate ambition of modern life. But as the Beatles would be the first to tell you, fame isn't always that much fun. In many ways, the Beatles were pioneers of fame. Nobody before them had ever been so famous on such a global scale, and there were no instruction books for them to follow.

The Beatles suffered for their fame: one of them died because of it, another of them was brutally attacked in his home. And the surviving two have been through traumatic crises of their own since the group split up, all in the unrelenting glare of worldwide media attention. You Never Give Me Your Money is a no-holds-barred account of the consequences of fame - and also a tribute to four men who went through almost unimaginable experiences because of their success, but who still managed to create music, together and apart, that will survive long into the future, maybe forever.

So that's why I wrote You Never Give Me Your Money. The book tells all these stories in the best way that I could tell them. But there's plenty that didn't make it into the book - anecdotes, facts, rumours, theories, observations - and that's what you'll find on this blog over the months to come. Feel free to add your own comments and questions - if you post something, you can guarantee that I'll read it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Peter

    I loved your book. I've got hundreds of Beatles books and none have gone into the break up of the Beatles and thge business fall out as much as yours.

    I have been recommending it on my Beatles walking tours of London and will continue to do so

    Richard Porter http://www.beatlesinlondon.com