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Worst Books About the Beatles/Solo Beatles
2 April 2015
8.55pm
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PeterWeatherby
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I'm a little surprised there isn't a topic for this (closest I could find was a thread on errors in Beatles books) already. It would be nice, I said, mostly to myself, to have a list available of all the books about The Beatles (or individual members) that should be avoided. I was just reading elsewhere on this forum that apparently Tony Bramwell's book "Magical Mystery Tours" is a truck-load of crap -- wish I'd known that before I bought the dumb thing a week ago. Now I don't want to read it. So if we can get a "I Took One For The Team So You Can Avoid This Book" list going, maybe others can avoid spending their hard-earned dollars.

So far, I've got four on the list:

- "The Lives of John Lennon " by Albert Goldman. This book ... well, probably everyone here already knows how awful it is. Wasn't George Martin the one who said it was full of lies? That's enough for me.

- "Magical Mystery Tours" by Tony Bramwell. Joe says it's garbage. I'll take his word for it.

- "The Beatles" by Bob Spitz. The numerous errors in this book are pretty well documented. Too bad, too, because I thought it was good prose, easy to read.

- "The Love You Make" by Peter Brown. I understand not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I spotted several errors in the first 50-60 pages, and that made me wary of reading any more.

Ok, just one more, but it comes with a caveat: I would put George's "I Me Mine " on the list simply because it's supposed to be a sort of biography, and it's not really even close. I'm exaggerating a bit, but it felt like it was maybe 20 pages of George talking about his life, and then it was endless pages of pictures. I was very disappointed.

I'm sure @DrBeatle will have several more to add to this list, being a dedicated reviewer of Beatles books! :)

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2 April 2015
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meanmistermustard
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'The Mammoth Book of The Beatles'. Read it in Waterstones (thank god i didnt buy it) and annoyed the hell out of me. The reviews of the albums are basically if the writer likes them they are great and incredibly relevant and ground breaking, if not they are crap and should be avoided. Tons of articles badly written that offer little.

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3 April 2015
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I'm 50-50 on Peter Brown's book The Love You Make. Yes, there is a lot of one-sided gossip in it and a bunch of repeated myth, but also some genuine revelations, or maybe that was already out in the open and I hadn't heard it before. He was very protective of Cynthia Lennon's and Brian Epstein's stories and no one had seriously taken their side of the story into account in a big way before.

I would second I Me Mine , nothing worse than an autobiography that isn't.

Revolution In The Head is damaging because it's full of errors and no sources and spends half the book insulting the songwriting while declaiming that the age of Good Music is dead.

The Very Worst of the Beatles, which I have not read, appears to just be picking fights for the fun of it.

Apparently Up Periscope Yellow: The Making Of The Beatles' Yellow Submarine by one Al Brodax is complete fanfiction trash if the Hoffman thread is any guide.

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3 April 2015
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Bill Harry's 'The Beatles Encyclopedia' - it is riddled with errors throught-out which continue in the revised edition and i recall there being silly omissions as well. I read it as a young fan, taking it all in, but even after 6 months you're sitting there getting annoyed as the errors are so basic.

"I told you everything I could about me, Told you everything I could" ('Before Believing' - Emmylou Harris) 

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4 April 2015
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DrBeatle
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PeterWeatherby said
I'm a little surprised there isn't a topic for this (closest I could find was a thread on errors in Beatles books) already. It would be nice, I said, mostly to myself, to have a list available of all the books about The Beatles (or individual members) that should be avoided. I was just reading elsewhere on this forum that apparently Tony Bramwell's book "Magical Mystery Tours" is a truck-load of crap -- wish I'd known that before I bought the dumb thing a week ago. Now I don't want to read it. So if we can get a "I Took One For The Team So You Can Avoid This Book" list going, maybe others can avoid spending their hard-earned dollars.

So far, I've got four on the list:

- "The Lives of John Lennon " by Albert Goldman. This book ... well, probably everyone here already knows how awful it is. Wasn't George Martin the one who said it was full of lies? That's enough for me.

- "Magical Mystery Tours" by Tony Bramwell. Joe says it's garbage. I'll take his word for it.

- "The Beatles" by Bob Spitz. The numerous errors in this book are pretty well documented. Too bad, too, because I thought it was good prose, easy to read.

- "The Love You Make" by Peter Brown. I understand not everyone will agree with me on this one, but I spotted several errors in the first 50-60 pages, and that made me wary of reading any more.

Ok, just one more, but it comes with a caveat: I would put George's "I Me Mine " on the list simply because it's supposed to be a sort of biography, and it's not really even close. I'm exaggerating a bit, but it felt like it was maybe 20 pages of George talking about his life, and then it was endless pages of pictures. I was very disappointed.

I'm sure @DrBeatle will have several more to add to this list, being a dedicated reviewer of Beatles books! :)

 

You've covered two of the worst....Spitz' and Browns. I actually liked Bramwell's book...wonder why

@Joe thought it was crap...Joe? Here's my review --> http://rnrchemist.blogspot.com.....-life.html

 

I Me Mine was not great but not awful...it's what I'd expect from George in terms of paying scant attention to the Beatle years and focusing more on his spirituality and solo music. If you go into it with that mindset, it's more enjoyable. But yeah, it is a bit disappointing...it could've been so much more.

Another lousy one I reviewed recently was The Beatles Through Headphones...lousy book --> http://rnrchemist.blogspot.com.....hones.html

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5 April 2015
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Joe
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I thought the Bramwell book was shoddily written, unreliable from a historic perspective, sexist, boorish and self-aggrandising. Apart from that I guess it was OK.

"So there I was, just 20. I came out of Epstein's office and went to see a sexy little nursing student I was screwing at the time. She lived with a bunch of other girls in Hounslow - the Rolling Stones were always calling round but she kept choosing me. Sometimes I'd bang one of the others if she wasn't around. Anyway, one day I went and her angry boyfriend was there - Boom! - claret everywhere. Afterwards I directed Let It Be . Mal Evans got a credit for the film but he didn't really do anything on it. The atmosphere at the time was 'heavy' - Paul says I was the first person to use that word."

As I was reading it I took notes of the inaccuracies and faults. I counted about 30 or so things which I was going to put into a review, but never got round to writing it.

I don't blame Bramwell too much. Memoirs written by other people (in this case Rosemary Kingsland) often focus on good stories at the expense of historical accuracy. Pattie Boyd's book is another example.

In defence of Albert Goldman, he got a lot of things right and broke a lot of new ground. But he went wrong by making up or exaggerating a lot of stuff that painted Lennon in a hugely negative light, which meant that the book got largely dismissed. It's got some very good stuff in there regardless, and is actually a lot more interesting than some of the hagiographies that have been published. I think @skye started a thread about it several years ago.

I agree about I Me Mine . What a wasted opportunity.

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6 April 2015
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@Joe I'll agree Bramwell did seem to revel in some of those naughty adventures he had a bit too much, and he certainly has a lifelong, all-consuming hatred of Yoko but while I'm not as passionate in my dislike for her, I'm on the same side of the fence as he is with regards to her so his tirades didn't bother me...in fact some of them were pretty funny. I thought a lot of what he said was outlandish, but a lot of it was corroborated in other books I've read so I think while his memory isn't perfect, it's pretty good. Different strokes for different folks and all that I guess :)

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10 April 2015
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Joe
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They can be hard to avoid, but I'd be very tempted to put Philip Norman's books in the worst books category (I'm sure he won't lose much sleep over that). I laid out my reasons in a 2010 thread.

When I saw Mark Lewisohn speak last year he was asked about Norman's books, in particular Shout!, and said something like: "I have to be careful, because I've been asked not to badmouth him too much. But it's a very old book, which Paul used to refer to as Shite!" He said it with no small amount of glee. It's funny because Mark actually worked on that book as a researcher.

Norman also wrote this lovely tribute just after George died. The guy's totally a hack writer.

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10 April 2015
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Warning: slightly off-topic rant ahead. 

Joe grimmoned 
<snip>
Norman also wrote this lovely tribute just after George died. The guy's totally a hack writer.

I could barely stand to read through it. I mean, I know George had a bitter streak that many people find hard to see, and he wasn't exactly innocent either, but really? George is painted as a real demon here (and his just having died, too-- have some respect!). Besides, I found one thing that was just plain erroneous: 

"Of the surviving Beatles he was the only one to record a tribute song, All Those Years Ago..."

speaking of John after his murder. Apparently that lackwit has never heard "Here Today "... which is only one of Paul's most popular songs, nothing special. 

Anyway, sorry for ranting... we may now proceed with our on-topic conversation. 

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10 April 2015
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That Bramwell book was terrible indeed, for all the reasons Joe counted. (Plus maybe a touch of racism too? but I might be misremembering) I actually kinda enjoyed reading it just to watch myself get irrationally angry every couple of pages.

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10 April 2015
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Joe said

Norman also wrote this lovely tribute just after George died. The guy's totally a hack writer.

 

But [George Harrison ] was as essential to the Fab Four formula as John Lennon 's rebellious smile or Paul McCartney 's great cow eyes.

 

So Paul's 'great cow eyes' is what made him essential to the Beatles? Does that mean that the Beatles only needs Paul's eyes and John's smile to make it work. Well at least George's whole self is essential to the Beatles and not just one body part.

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10 April 2015
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MOCKSWELL
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 But what's happened to Love Me Do ? Din't John say it was a real book about the b@stard Beatles? I can't find it.

I enjoy any books about the guys because it always twigs some good memories, and the rest can be ignored.*

13 April 2015
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You're knocking some quite good books for minor inaccuracies, or 'cos you don't like the tone or emphasis - you ought to try a REALLY bad book!

Like "The Beatles" by a company called Igloo Books - the whole story up to date told in less than depth - 170 pages, lots of big pics. The book doesn't display an author, although the title page indicia says "Written by Kim Aitken".

It's awful. The frequent inaccuracies are accompanied by much which is misleading due to misplaced emphasis, and a strange lack of sensible structure: in the chapter "The Beginnings: Lennon and McCartney", it suddenly goes from early days, to discussing Paul wanting to reverse Lennon/McCartney and Yoko refusing, then back to Stuart Sutcliffe. And it reads like something written in a foreign language and run through GoogleTranslate.

I have subsequently established that large chunks of text are lifted straight from Wikipedia, and some of the errors are appallingly careless.  Did you know, for instance, that when Ringo returned to the group after recovering from tonsillitis, Brian Epstein presented him with a watch engraved "To Jimmy."?  Or that The Beatles first encountered the Maharishi in Bangor, India?

Now that's what I call a bad book!

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13 April 2015
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@DrBeatle @PeterWeatherby @MOCKSWELL @Starr Shine? @vonbontee @meanmistermustard 

(This thread overlaps somewhat with the one called "Errors in Beatle books?")

Autobiographies and memoirs are subject to errors because the authors don't necessarily feel the need to fact check. After all, they were there! Nevertheless, I'm still interested in their general memories even if the details aren't always correct. Thus, on one level or another I've enjoyed Cynthia's, Pattie's, G. Emerick's, Peter Brown, and Tony Bramwell's recollections - warts and all. (George Martin's was very disappointing - not because of errors but because he had very few insights or anecdotes.)

The reason books have errors is that they are NOT PEER-REVIEWED!

In the academic world, an article is peer-reviewed prior to publication: 2 or 3 (occasionally 4) people with expertise similar to the authors' review the submission and point out perceived errors and deficiencies. The article goes back and forth until it's acceptable to the Editor. Even then, the moment it's published, the article is subject to attack!

There is no such process in the book world. An editor will proof-read for vocabulary and grammar and perhaps make organizational suggestions, but that's it.

As noted in the other thread, authors make errors for a number of reasons:

- Bonehead errors (a.k.a. Senior Moments, Brain Farts,...) You have no idea how you possibly could have made that error

- Cut and paste errors and other computer glitches

- You're so sure of something that you don't feel the need to fact check.

- Faulty sources. You've done your research, but alas your source is wrong.

With Into the Sky with Diamonds, I was lucky: Though it took 15 years to write and was heavily researched, my first edition was full of errors for all of the reasons listed above. Through mostly Forum members (in particular Ron Nasty with his encyclopedic knowledge) the latest (3rd) edition is (mostly, I hope) error-free. The book has been officially peer-reviewed!  Whatsmore, the book has not gone through a major publisher that would have printed, say, 10,000 copies. Changes can be made on the fly. If you point out a mistake, it's corrected by tomorrow. With a traditional publisher, you have to wait for the whole lot of 10,000 copies to be sold before you can make changes...  That's a sucky feeling as an author to find a mistake and not be able to correct it.

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13 April 2015
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Derail: @Into the Sky with Diamonds, Ron Nasty was just telling Hannah about reviewing your book. How cool to see you mention it as soon as I open the forum tonight!

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20 April 2015
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@Into the Sky with Diamonds I know how you mean...with the two books I've written and published on Blur, since they were self-published I had to go through them with a fine tooth comb...I also enlisted a couple of friends who work in the literary field for help with proofreading and editing, which was a huge help!

 

(by the way, your book is on my never-shrinking "to-review" pile...I'll get to it! :) )

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13 May 2015
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MOCKSWELL
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 My problem is not the writing, since I do that all the time, for years and years I've hacked at science fiction and what not. No, the problem is how to keep a Beatles book from digressing into umpteen related issues, viz: MKUltra, Hollywood, space program, etc. yadadadad. - all stuff that was around when they became bigshots. 

 

[Mod removal of irrelevant waffle. Once again Mockswell, please stay on topic.]

15 May 2015
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Tin helmet on but i actually enjoyed goldman's book on john, i think he went too over the top in some of his attempts to shock in places and paid scant regard to the music but he really did find some interesting stuff about parts of johns life that had never been really covered before.

2 August 2018
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I feel about as castironshore does. Goldman was early days for me. That hit mass-market paperback around the time I was getting into the music. I'm sorry to say that Lennon's surviving loved ones and every indignant rock critic alive had done a bang-up job as a volunteer publicity wing for the book, so that was all still in my head. Those who were old enough in 1988 will remember what a huge deal this was. I cannot think of a book about a musician since then that got such incessant coverage. Rolling Stone was all over it; SNL was all over it (there was a funny sketch with Goldman as a trombone-playing Beatle kicked out of the group at Elvis's suggestion); every morning talk show had some John intimate trying to set the record straight; U2 hastily worked a reference to it into a song on Rattle and Hum. There was even a long radio show with Yoko, Julian, and 12-year-old Sean rebutting it. At the point when The Bangles were asked about it in an interview, and one of them encouraged everyone never to read it, we had truly reached saturation point. (They were a four-member "B"-named group, and they did have a song called "Going Down to Liverpool," so I guess there was some kind of link...) 

It was the Streisand effect 15 years before people were talking about the Streisand effect. We still see that today.

Anyway. If a person were able to read Goldman's massive tome with a certain detachment (and I certainly can understand why that would be too much to ask of the widow, the kids, and the friends), it had some things to say for it. I do think Goldman had some strengths. He was a dogged researcher and he could write with a compelling flair. But a lot of this was thinly sourced and negatively biased. When you read your share of bios, you pick up a good sense of when someone is writing from a position of disdain, just as you do when someone writes from drippy fan-love. Much of the writing about Yoko had a distasteful quality of ethnic prejudice. Goldman also mind-read a lot. It's been decades, but I seem to remember a chapter with John aboard a ship, and there was something about how his mood was always elevated when a lot of fit, handsome young men were around. That was example #834  of the the "John dug guys" theme, and that was another thing about the book I found ugly -- the sensationalizing of homosexuality (real or exaggerated or imagined) as "good dirt."

It read like a streak, I'll give it that. It's a shame Goldman fatally got in his own way, with his overreaching and mean-spiritedness. I've never read his bios of Lenny Bruce or Elvis (I'm not as interested in the subjects), but the Lennon bio, commercially successful as it was, cemented his reputation for all time as a hatchet man. 

13 November 2018
11.08am
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I don't know who Joe is but anyone that says that Tony Bramwell's book is garbage has no idea what they're talking about. I know Tony and I've spoken to people who were there at the time, and they all say that no one alive today knows more about The Beatles and their story, including Paul and Ringo, than Tony. He was there from the very beginning and through the end. Tony was a child hood friend of George Harrison and through George, he met Paul. They hung around together in their pre-teen years. When Brian took over, he asked Tony to jon his company and he was there for very significant event.

Tony is brutally honest when it comes to The Beatles. Sometimes, that riles a few feathers, but he tells the truth. 

Are memories sometimes inaccurate? Of course they are just like they are with Paul and Ringo. When Tony doesn't recall something, he'll tell me. 

I've recommended Magical Mystery Tours, My Life with The Beatles to several people and they have all been blown away by it. Outside of Tune In, it is the most factual book that you can read on The Beatles. Do yourself a favor and read it.

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