Band on the Run
What more is there to say about the Fab Four, you might well ask. Thirty-one years after the greatest band ever called it quits, the public demand for Beatles material remains high as the recent successes of the Anthology series and the 1 album attest.
Apart from Philip Norman’s Shout!, Ian MacDonald’s Revolution of the Head, Hunter Davies’ authorized biography and Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, there are precious few other books that could be said to be indispensable to the canon of Beatles books. That said, along come these two volumes of The Beatles Diary to test this closed list.
The first volume is a revised edition of the 1998 tome The Beatles: A Diary expanded considerably by writer Barry Miles. Miles was a member of the Beatles’ inner circle and had known the band intimately since 1965 and is thus eminently qualified to undertake such a mammoth task. As its title implies, The Beatles Diary seeks to chronicle the crucial events in the lives of the Beatles and in terms of the first volume, despite Miles’ dogged insistence of keeping commentary to a minimum, this book is never as dry as expected. The opposite is indeed the case, as Miles’ retelling of these amazing facts will leave both casual reader and rabid fan enthralled. A bonus factor comes in Miles’ discerning capsule reviews of each Beatles recording. Rivaling MacDonald for clarity and insight, even the most jaded Beatles enthusiast may find a new perspective or two about those legendary singles and albums. Essential reading for every pop culture junkie.
Volume 2 is a unique proposition no doubt, with its stated objective to account for the post-Beatles years on the premise that ‘the Beatles had never really gone away’. Well, yes and no. I would agree that the popularity of the Beatles remains as strong as ever BUT the individual careers of the ex-Beatles did not directly relate to the band anymore. ‘The dream is over’ as Lennon starkly put it in God. Does this make Volume 2 a bit of a lost cause even before you start reading? Not necessarily. If nothing else the first five years of the break-up serves to remind us that for a time, the solo Beatles managed to maintain a considerable impact on the pop world.
But more than that, the early portion of Volume 2 reveals blunt facts about Paul McCartney’s machinations at self-promotion as he launched his solo career in earnest. It is easy to see how McCartney earned his poorer reputation in relation to the relative sainthood of his erstwhile partner Lennon. The seeds were definitely sown in those nascent days. The rest of Volume 2 would certainly satisfying the most ardent Beatles fan but everyone else may find such detail tedious and irrelevant. My advice would be stick with Volume 1 if you’re anything but a Beatlemaniac.