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New Beatles biography best written to date

Frederick Douglass once said of Abraham Lincoln, “The whole field of fact and fancy has been gleaned and garnered. Any man can say things that are true…but no man can say anything that is new.”

Of course, this was 1876, and historians since have overwhelmingly not listened to him. Had Douglass ever heard The Beatles, and seen any of the mountains of books, documentaries and TV specials dedicated to them, he probably would have said the same thing.

In “The Beatles: The Biography,” author Bob Spitz may not be telling a new story, but he is certainly telling the best version of it.

With the paperback edition clocking in just short of a thousand pages, Spitz’ chronicling The Beatles’ rise and fall is most impressive because of it’s attention to detail. The author does his best to separate the looming mythos of the “Most Popular Band Ever” from what actually happened, which goes from the mundane (family backgrounds) to the fascinating (inspirations for songs and how they were recorded).

Spitz narrates the entire tale enthusiastically, though his extensive vocabulary sometimes gets in the way of the story itself. Spitz’ discussion of Lennon’s first attempts at rock ‘n’ roll state that “the natural evolution of teenagers augured a fickle heart whose beat was shifting…”

Though the book is ostensibly a biography of the band, Spitz spends the first third of the book setting up the band members with extensive coverage of their youth and childhood, eventually leading up to how the group met and evolved into The Beatles. Though the section runs long, the information is a necessary element for the insights into the group’s years together and subsequent by the end, inevitable breakup.

Throughout the book, Spitz also keeps the band, its close friends and associates on a first-name basis, which draws the reader in on a more sensitive level to the peaks and valleys of the relationships between John, Paul, George and Ringo.

All of the milestones of the band’s career are present and vividly portrayed: forming in Liverpool, honing its skills in Germany before returning to England, the subsequent rise to stardom and “Beatlemania,” and the albums and pressures that followed.

To his credit, Spitz spends much of his time focusing on these events as the band lived them and reacted to them, through quotes from The Beatles themselves and those that were with them at the time.

Spitz’ biography does what it can to infuse new life into a subject most fans already know backward and forward. Fortunately, his new versions and insights into events make the book a worthy read for any serious Beatles fan.

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