Beatles - All These Years
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Q&A with Mark Lewisohn
Q. So much has been written about the Beatles, why is this book different to all other books?
A. 'We know everything there is to know about the Beatles, so what else can possibly be written?' People say that all the time – and I don't agree with it for a second. I wouldn't argue the Beatles' story has been told often, but I would argue that it can't be told again and differently. It's been related the same old way for so very long and it's also dying under the suffocating blanket of 'celebrity'. I want to start again, I want to press the Refresh button.
This is a comprehensive biography, three volumes, a sequential history in which I set out to relate everything that happened, and do so with integrity, attention to detail, accuracy and, I believe, a fair understanding of where the story needs to be told and how to tell it. I'm writing so it unfolds as if in real time – there's no hindsight cleverness, so you get a vivid sense of the forward movement. The Beatles' story always had tremendous energy, speed, vitality – and this must be tangible to the reader.
It all boils down to this. They were four war babies from Liverpool who really did change the world, and whose music and impact still lives on in so many ways, after all these years. I say, let's scrub what we know, or think we know, and start over: Who really were these people, and how did it all happen?
Q. What period of the story does Tune In cover?
A. It ends on 31 December 1962, with the Beatles on the cusp of their phenomenal breakthrough, but with everything having fallen well into place – all the people, places, personalities, situations, organisation. So I'm writing about the Liverpool and Hamburg years, the formative years, the teenage years and the childhood years, and all the family backgrounds in a Who Do They Think They Are?-style history – and these families were almost as fascinating as their famous offspring. The three volumes aren't only about 'who these people were' but 'what made them what they were?' I begin this history in 1845; there's a fair deal of Irish blood in the Beatles and I start with the potato famine, which forces the Lennons into Liverpool. Then it moves swiftish through the next hundred years and becomes very solid from the Second World War and the arrival of all the main players.
I'm sure it won't surprise anyone to learn that the Beatles didn't suddenly grow personalities when they had a hit record – that their talent, originality and relentless desire to move on fast, to try new things, was already well in place in their early years. I'm sure no one would be amazed to find the Beatles didn't become instantly remarkable when they conquered Britain, America and much of the world, or funny when they filmed A Hard Day's Night, or inventive when recording Revolver or Sgt Pepper. It was always who they were, a continuation of what was going in all these earlier years, except more visible. The richness of the stories to come in books two and three is also in volume one all the way through. Really, everything was revved up and running in these formative years, in the halls, houses and streets of Liverpool, the only place these people and those events could have happened.
Q. You have a long professional association with the Beatles, and some of them individually. Are they involved in Tune In and is this book authorized?
A. No. I received the odd tiny bit of help which I specifically asked for and they didn't have to give – but substantially no, they're not involved. That's fine, because it's what I expected and what I wanted. This has to be an independent and impartial book. But are the all main players appearing and speaking at the book's core? Yes, constantly. Paul McCartney decided not to talk to me for this particular project, and I completely respect and understand his reasons – but I've interviewed him maybe fifteen times in the past and I've also sourced other quotes of great strength and immediacy for all the players.
One of many reasons the Beatles' achievements and reputation sustain with such integrity is because they were true. They stood for truth, projected truth and lived truthfully as best they could. It's entirely right that their history is written as true as possible, with no embroidery, nothing faked or glossed, nothing stupidly interpreted, everything transparent, everything attributed. Of course my attachment to this subject is deep and lifelong, but I'm not the least bit interested in writing a book simply to say how great they were. They certainly don't need that, and I certainly wouldn't do it. It'd be a waste of my time. My passion is for learning everything I can about this subject, understanding it, and doing my best to set it down clearly so it can be understood relative to what happened.About the Author:
Mark Lewisohn is universally acknowledged as the world's expert on The Beatles. He is the author of six previous Beatles books and has been described by the Independent as the band's 'Emeritus Professor'.
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