20 February 2014
11 September 2018
I am rereading Bob Spitz’s Beatles biography for the first time in years. I might use this post to make a note of all the errors I notice
p19 ‘and the youngest Julia ‘ – the youngest was Harriet b. 1916.
p19 ‘all five sisters grew strong … at 9 Newcastle Road’ – the Stanley’s moved to 9NR at the start of WW2.
Uncle George’s death is not mentioned at all.
p63. Spitz writes the first Cavern gig was in ‘late Spring 1957’, implying it was prior to the meeting between J&P
p117 ‘… on February 25, 1943, George Harold was born…’ – I never knew George had a middle name.
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20 August 2013
@Tony Japanese, I found this thread What are some of the errors in the biography by Bob Spitz? May I move your post to that thread? I think it is fab that you’re willing to put in the time to point out the errors you find in the book.
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11 September 2018
25 August 2021
Ah, don’t get me started on Mr. Spitz. His book is second only to Albert Goldman’s book in being the most loathsome and inaccurate. (He also relied on Goldman’s archives a lot to make the book, and says “he was a better scholar than writer”, and to a certain limited extent that’s true, but Spitz overstates it.)
Besides a number of sloppy mistakes (misidentifying people in photos, saying Elvis did Blue Hawaii in 1965, neglecting to mention Paul being left-handed), there’s other things about his research. He calls the Hunter Davies book a whitewash, but still relies heavily on it, and does the same with the Anthology. But mainly, what makes it odious is how he interprets events and shows off his unbridled cynicism and his real intent. He spends so much time talking about Brian and John being “self-destructive”, especially the former, to the point that he reports on Brian’s personal life with lurid, voyeuristic glee, including claiming that he had a suicide attempt prior to his futile attempt to clean up at the Priory, but has no real evidence outside of Peter Brown claiming so. He also dredges up the “Spanish holiday” story and treats it as absolute fact, enough to make you infuriated. He does have what might be the best reconstruction of events leading up to Brian’s death and accepts it as accidental, but it’s a real slog to get there. He also has quite some real aversion to hippies and the counterculture, and basically says they contributed nothing to society and left behind no value shift or social statement, and especially uses that to attack John’s growing activism.
But mainly, Spitz gripes about John and calls him an unstable figure with no real moral compass in either direction (including saying that the bed-ins were all about publicity rather than promoting peace), goes really heavy in supporting the “Yoko the Svengali” narrative and directly calling her John’s puppetmaster, and calls Paul an egotistic and narcissistic manipulator while simultaneously seeming to reverse the “John the talent, Paul the cute lackey” stereotype. (Basically, while calling Paul egotistical and manipulative, especially regarding the LSD reveal and Let It Be , he still treats Paul as if he can do no wrong and John as if he can do no right.) He effectively erases George’s talent and haughtily scoffs at his spirituality (he’s much worse than Philip Norman’s lingering irrational hatred of George, even in his mea culpa of writing a fair and quite definitive biography of Paul) and treats Ringo as invisible. He also spends a lot of time saying that Derek Taylor, by the time he became Apple press officer, “had a sweet tooth for every type of drug.” Was this really necessary? There’s even a real vicious swipe at Tony Sheridan that is undeserved. Not to mention, the book has little to say about the music itself, the most important part of any work on The Beatles!
One person said that his book reads like a tragic novel, and it does, with the degree that so much clearly sounds more like it was a work of historical fiction barely rising above that of a tawdry paperback romance book with those airbrushed painting-style photos of chiseled bodies and bodice-ripping curves you can find at the supermarket. So many quotes are attributed to people, both in terms of at the time and in retrospective interviews, that are clearly invented and fictitious. He invents a lot of quotes for the JFK Airport press conference that the footage shows were never spoken, for example. He also favors a lot of inaccurate sources a lot, including resurrecting the “But will you say you’re sorry?” quotes from John’s “Jesus” press conference in Chicago, quotes that again, the footage has never shown were ever spoken.
In the end, one shouldn’t be too surprised. Spitz wrote the article in 1997 that said Paul did Flaming Pie to dig in at Yoko, and was the first source to say that Yoko called Paul “the Salieri to John’s Mozart.” Odds are, Spitz invented all of this too.
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