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The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz

The Beatles: The Biography

by Bob Spitz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
For anyone who did not live through the 60s and 70s and wants to know what all the fuss was about. Or, for anyone who wants to find out the real "trash" on these guys. Reads like a novel, but provides a fairly balanced portrait. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
This was the first extensive biography I had ever read on the Beatles, and I don't think I could have picked a better example to start with. This massive tome covers the entire history of the Beatles, from their childhoods to their skiffle beginnings to their angry final sessions at Abbey Road Studios, and everything in between.

The problem of chronicling the history of the Beatles (or any pop culture superstar, for that matter) is that myth and reality get so wrapped with each other that it's hard to tell which is which. And with a group as legendary, controversial, and beloved as The Beatles, it's even harder for the author to keep subjective emotions from clouding the facts.

Now, this biography is not free from the author's emotions (his dislike of Yoko Ono, for example, is quite noticeable), but Bob Spitz goes to great lengths to dispel the myths surrounding the Beatle's existence and make each member of the Fab Four stand out as individuals. And to this extent, he succeeds marvelously. John Lennon is portrayed as a conflicted, frustrated, yet violent artist, Paul McCartney as a diplomatic, ingratiating, and slightly arrogant musician, George Harrison as a brooding, sarcastic, and occasionally biting guitarist who was never given much of an opportunity to grow within the band, and Ringo Starr as an easygoing band mate with tendencies towards brooding and moodiness. Are these perceptions accurate? It's hard to say. With the Beatles, there will never be one "correct" account of their work, but it's really something to see these larger-than-life personalities become grounded and somehow almost more human.

As much as I loved this book, this would not be the best title to start with if someone is just beginning to explore the history of the Beatles. For example, the first third of the book focuses solely on the Beatles early beginnings, back when they were still in school and playing local gigs as the Quarry Men. While it sets the stage brilliantly for the triumphs and challenges that were to come in later years, that section is overwhelmingly detailed, to say the least, and may be unnecessary for someone who is solely interested in the Beatles' heyday.

This book requires commitment and an open mind, but the journey it creates for the reader is exhilarating, shocking, heartbreaking, infuriating, and awe-inspiring - just like the Beatles themselves.

Recommended for: dedicated Beatles fans and/or rock 'n roll buffs.


There aren't many books that can match this one in terms of scope or detail, but here are some other acclaimed books about the Beatles.

The Beatles Anthology. A massive collection of original interviews, rare photos, and artwork from the Beatles' career.

The Beatles - Hunter Davis. Davies was the authorized biographer for the band, and his biography was published in 1968. There's a lot of information about the band, coming firsthand from someone who knew them well, but unfortunately, it's an incomplete history.

Revolution in the Head - Ian MacDonald. A thorough analysis of the Beatles' music and its relationship to the social changes of the 1960's. It mixes a fan's enthusiasm with the highest level of musical history & criticism.

Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles - Geoff Emerick. As the Beatles' primary sound engineer for Revolver & Sgt. Pepper's, Emerick has many fascinating tales about the band, their music, and their group dynamics at the height of their musical career. There's a lot of emphasis on technical aspects, but it's still a highly readable book, and it packs a heck of an emotional wallop by the end ( )
  coloradogirl14 | Sep 24, 2013 |
Normally, I'm not much into non-fiction. No matter how interested I may be in the topic, I just have a hard time getting through it. Nevertheless, I did a little research and found this, which seemed to be a well-respected Beatles history, and decided to give it a shot.

Despite my love for music, rock music in particular, I have come to the Beatles relatively late in my life (in my 30s) for a myriad of reasons which are not particularly relevant to a discussion of this book. What is relevant is that, as my appreciation for their music grew, I realized that I knew less than the bare essentials of their story. Knowing the cultural impact that their music - and really, their entire existence - had, and continues to have, I was intrigued. So I picked up this book, determined to find out.

The fact that I did not struggle to get through this and was only very occasionally tempted to give it up is a testament to how well written it is, as well as to how interesting the story of the Beatles actually is. Sometimes non-fiction can be dry or joyless, and this book was neither. The book was obviously researched exhaustively, but Spitz manages to spin it into a yarn, more like he's telling a story than presenting information. And I appreciated that.

I read some criticisms of the book that mentioned its lack of discussion of the Beatles' music. Personally, I found what discussion there was to be perfectly appropriate for this particular book. It highlights a few songs and gives at least cursory attention to a whole bunch more. This time around, I just wanted the story of their time together. When I'm ready to read more about their music - and I will be, at some point - I'll seek out a different book. A more thorough music discussion didn't really fit into the purview of this book's intent.

I did think the book was a little uneven in its descriptions. At one point the band would be great; later, they'd lack polish, or talent, or they'd be wooden onstage. Now, it could be that he was referring to how they were perceived relative to where they were in their careers - e.g. they were great for the Cavern but too raw for a record deal - but it seemed like Spitz was just speaking in general. I also felt like he could have done a better job of emphasizing which individuals outside the band were going to be important throughout. I knew about Brian Epstein and George Martin, for instance, but a couple of other names kept popping up, and I couldn't always remember who they were. And finally, I think it ended too abruptly; it cut off just as McCartney's first solo album was released, signaling the breakup of the band. I think it could have carried on at least long enough to deal with public reaction to the breakup, as well as the reception of Let It Be on the heels of McCartney's album.

Of course, I'm also interested in each of their lives and solo careers from that point on, their relationships with each other as non-Beatles, and so forth, but all that would be outside the purview of this book as well, so I'll have to seek out that information elsewhere. As for this book, I find that I have a good deal of fondness for it, a feeling I never really knew I could have for a work of non-fiction. Most of it is due to the subject matter (interestingly enough, despite the fact that only Ringo comes off as actually likable, I gained quite a bit of respect and even affection for each of them, even Epstein and Martin, at least as "characters"), but that wouldn't come through without a good writer to give it direction. So, kudos to you, Mr. Spitz. ( )
  jonwwil | Jan 23, 2011 |
A Christmas gift from Bruce Barth, and a very intriguing read it was. This tells the tale of each individual Beatle from birth, to the point where they gradually formed a band, to the final rooftop concert and the breakup. I really had very little knowledge of their history beyond the basics that most music lovers would know, and the book, while voluminous and filled with detail, was never a chore. I didn't realize that Ringo's addition had been so instrumental (so to speak) in causing the band to gel. I also hadn't realized how the group's evolution was so dependent on a series of coincidences and strokes of luck. Fascinating book for anybody who has loved their music. ( )
  burnit99 | Aug 10, 2010 |
This is a very thoroughly detailed accounting of The Beatles from their individual childhoods until their break-up in 1970. Wildly entertaining to read but filled with the kind of “Ewwwww!” salacious details that require a shower afterward. Aside from that, it’s a very good, fast-moving read putting things into historical context for those that didn’t live through it can understand why The Beatles are so important in musical and cultural ways. ( )
2 vote AuntieClio | Apr 5, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bob Spitzprimary authorall editionscalculated
Stansic, RenatoDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
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Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
When the mode of the music changes,
the walls of the city shake.

Sandy & Angie D'Amato
and Lily
And for all those whose lives are enriched
by the Beatles' music
First words
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Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (73)

1962 in British music

1962 in the United Kingdom

34 Montagu Square, Marylebone

A Cellarful of Noise

Alan Durband

Alfred Lennon

In My Life

Instant Karma!

January 1962

Jim and Mary McCartney

Julia Baird

Julia Lennon

Sexy Sadie

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (song)

Tell Me Why (Beatles song)

The Bag O'Nails

The Beatles at The Cavern Club

The Beatles in 1966

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316803529, Hardcover)

Spitz restores the Beatles to what they were: a loud, angry rock and roll band, kids that became gods, not gods who happened to look like kids. This is a biography of the band in full, not merely the story of John and Paul and their two mates from Liverpool.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Even before the Beatles hit the big time, a myth was created. The Beatles legend smoothed the rough edges and filled in the fault lines, and for more than forty years this manicured version of the Beatles story has sustained as truth--until now. This biography is the product of almost a decade of research, hundreds of unprecedented interviews, and the discovery of scores of never-before-revealed documents.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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