Was this book a Magical Misery Tour? View all 11 comments. Let me put it this way: If you're a John person, read and enjoy.
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If you're a George person, be prepared to feel a bit depressed. If you're a Ringo person I raise my hand here , the little you'll see of him should not distress you overmuch, as he gets the last word and it's rather nice. If, however, you are a Paul person Feb 24, Jim rated it it was ok. While it's an entertaining read, the veracity of the book is questionable. The book starts off well, from the early lives of the band members through their time in Hamburg and the Cavern Club, but starts a steady decline once Brian Epstein begins to manage the b "Now everybody seems to have their own opinion Who did this and who did that But as for me I don't see how they can remember When they weren't where it was at The book starts off well, from the early lives of the band members through their time in Hamburg and the Cavern Club, but starts a steady decline once Brian Epstein begins to manage the band.
There are a number of issues which keep this from being an excellent look at the Fab Four: Omniscient narrator - Norman frequently takes poetic license and spells out the private thoughts of people to further his narrative. Fine in a novel, but misleading and unethical in non-fiction. Exactly how does he know what the deceased Brian Epstein was thinking at any moment in time? If he's willing to include this as a 'fact', how reliable are the juiciest bits of the book?
Lennon, Lennon, Lennon - in the foreword, Norman says that he prefers Lennon Paul is a vain social climber; George is always the kid brother struggling to keep up; Ringo is largely a non-entity. This even continues into the newly added material, where he focuses on the decline of George and Ringo's careers, and ignores Macca's success in favor of criticizing his solo albums. There are good bits - the details about the band's finances, their licensing agreements, and the structures of record companies were educational.
Overall, the book is ambitious, but ultimately unsatisfying. This is the first book I read about The Beatles, and I appreciate Norman for his massive amount of research and interesting account of them. I learned a lot and I became ever more fascinated with The Beatles and their power and enigma in their generation. Because of this, I feel generous enough to give this book 3 stars. Here is why giving 3 stars to this book is generous: There are a lot of information offered, but recently, I've learned that a massive portion of it is either deliberately wrong This is the first book I read about The Beatles, and I appreciate Norman for his massive amount of research and interesting account of them.
There are a lot of information offered, but recently, I've learned that a massive portion of it is either deliberately wrong or it's outdated. It's heavily and ridiculously opinionated. Sometimes, having a voice and tone is necessary to keep the reader interested, but too much of it can be off-putting.
Norman excessively favors John, and it oozes from his tone and language. This I found the most annoying, and at times even irritating, especially given that he's very harshly condescending towards the other three Beatles' misdemeanors while he describes John's much worse doings with a sense of glory and awe. Of course there are preferences, and it's not wrong to have them, but when Norman himself admits to this bias in the book! So, with all that said, I'm only giving 3 stars to this book because it made me aware of The Beatles on a deeper level, and made me want to know more about them.
However, in regards to recommendation, I wouldn't recommend this one; go with Mark Lewisohn's Tune In if you want to truly know The Beatles without any myths or favoritism! Oct 19, maricar rated it really liked it Shelves: An engrossing read especially if one was listening simultaneously to the music , showing the band in all their naked glory and un -glory, with touches of humor and sorrow someone would readily expect from these guys.
Also, I wished he paid as much attention to Harrison An engrossing read especially if one was listening simultaneously to the music , showing the band in all their naked glory and un -glory, with touches of humor and sorrow someone would readily expect from these guys.
Also, I wished he paid as much attention to Harrison and Starkey as he did on Lennon and McCartney—even on this book, it seems that Ringo is taken for granted and basically shoved to the background. Oct 07, Michael rated it liked it Shelves: A highly readable biography of the Beatles and their times. Lennon, like McCartney, was a great collaborative songwriter and had the voice of an angel. Since he has the honesty to show us the state of play, Norman's closing chapters on Lennon reverent and McCartney petulant are kind of embarrassing to read. There were two other legendary musicians in the Beatles, weren't there!
They get combined in a single closing chapter, an editorial decision that was a bit too pointed to have been made without comment. That structure is redeemed somewhat, however -- like the much more badly flawed White Album -- by letting Ringo get the last word. May 22, Laren rated it really liked it Shelves: My sister bought the first paperback edition of this book when it came out, and I read it waaaaay back then. I seem to recall that John Lennon's recent murder wasn't mentioned at all, it having happened after the book went to press.
This is a very comprehensive history of The Beatles and it is chock full of trvial details every superfan craves. However, I do recall feeling that the author was making no secret of the fact that John was his favorite Beatle. In my opinion, that is the one ongoing p My sister bought the first paperback edition of this book when it came out, and I read it waaaaay back then. In my opinion, that is the one ongoing problem that kept the book from being spectacular.
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I just prefer my history more unbiased. Recently I came across an updated version on a clearance shelf at the bookstore and bought it. Now it has John and George's death in it as well, and the paperback is now a larger version which makes the photos more enjoyable. It remains a comprehensive history which might be far more than a general music buff would want to tackle, but to go beyond a rehashing of basic Beatle history, read this and enjoy it!
Maybe it is also because the Beatles story is at root the story of friendship imploding, scorched with the whiff of what could have been.
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None of the Beatles actually come off very well. John was cruel and insecure, Paul was controlling and insecure, George was moody and insecure and Ringo was alright really but something of a clown, probably crying on the inside. It is John that Norman romanticizes the most and you get the impression he sides with John against Paul and has little time for the other two. For me the most compelling portrait in the book is that of Brian Epstein.
He appears as somewhat of a contradictory figure and in some ways was responsible in part for the rise and fall of the Beatles. His enthusiasm, drive and hard work boarding on desperation at times secured their meteoric rise but his naivety in business and financial matters would ultimately contribute to later squabbles, particularly when Allen Klein raises his head. I also enjoyed the chapters after the death of Epstein and the establishment of Apple.
Norman is also guilty of giving too much credence to rumour, hearsay and inference, which makes some part of the book more sensationalized than they should be. Apr 18, Jessica rated it it was amazing. Here's the thing - I'm a Beatles fan. So even if some of the book is confirmation of things I've previously read, I'm still going to enjoy it. Norman has great love for John Lennon obviously, the man wrote a whole biography about him and no love lost for Paul McCartney. But that's the nature of the Beatles. People are either Lennon fans or McCartney fans. I'm a Harrison fan. And with the section added to cover the death of George, I found myself getting a little choked up.
But no matter his preference, Norman does a great job giving you a glimpse of the crazy storm these four men lived together for a decade. Dec 19, Lauren rated it liked it. Not my favorite Beatles biography. Although very well written and well-researched, I found the book a little anti-Paul for my taste. In addition, for a book about the Beatles, the Beatles themselves don't really feature very much. Certainly more time is spent developing the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein, than is spent on Ringo. However, there were some illuminating little extras like stories from the Beatles' stoop-watchers and other lesser-known figures that featured prominently in the Beatles Not my favorite Beatles biography.
However, there were some illuminating little extras like stories from the Beatles' stoop-watchers and other lesser-known figures that featured prominently in the Beatles' day-to-day. Jan 07, Rebecca McNutt rated it it was amazing Shelves: Who doesn't like the Beatles? I mean, I'm not one of their die-hard fans or anything but I have a Beatles poster and some Beatles vinyl records, and even in this day and age of autotuned synthesized fake-sounding music like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Snoop Dogg, nobody has forgotten the Beatles.
This book discusses why exactly that is, and why this band has made it further than most bands ever do. It also talks about the Beatles themselves and why they performed music for so many different Who doesn't like the Beatles? It also talks about the Beatles themselves and why they performed music for so many different genres and styles. Slow pace with great detail, you won't find yourself blazing through this book but I think most fan will get insights into this band that they may have never heard before. You can see why none of the Beatles agreed to be interviewed for this book though, it is unflinching in its portrayal of the four men whose mark remains clear on the music world.
Feb 08, Andrea Bolton rated it really liked it. Even though it took a long time to read, it was well worth the time.
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For anyone with any interest in the history of The Beatles, it is very informative and interesting reading. It takes you from the very beginning to the very end. It gives the reader a lot of insight into the band as a group and as individuals.
Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation
Sep 21, Audra Middleton rated it it was amazing. I recently re-read this Beatles biography. Norman is definitely a John fan and not a Paul fan, but this book is so well-done, it's a must-read for any Beatlemaniac.
It reads like a novel. I waited nearly four years to read this book after receiving it as a Christmas gift from my wife and kids, almost afraid to peek behind the curtain surrounding my favorite band of all time. Once I started, it took me nearly a month to get through it, not so much reading as absolutely consuming its contents.
I was a huge Beatles fan before, but I knew very little about them, and this book only deepened my appreciation for them—even if it severely spoiled my perception of them. Who knew they were I waited nearly four years to read this book after receiving it as a Christmas gift from my wife and kids, almost afraid to peek behind the curtain surrounding my favorite band of all time. Who knew they were such flawed individuals, much like the rest of us? I grew up with idealized visions of them and what they represented.
That this was to be no glowing fan review prompted me in its early pages to slow down and literally study the book, much like a college text, soaking up and squeezing out every detail that I could. I found myself constantly going back and forth, re-reading sections, checking the index, and looking up additional information and photos online. It came down to Jesus, the Kennedy assassination, and them". This is the problem. Ironically, Norman's greatest strength is also his fatal flaw: As such, it's very successful, both in terms of unearthing facts and bringing Norman's considerable descriptive skills to bear on the phenomenon of Beatlemania.
But the sense of journalistic detatchment hovers over the narrative, and becomes more and more of a distracton as the book unfolds. Norman calls himself a 'fan' of the Beatles, but supporting evidence for this claim is far from easy to find.
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Norman's focus is on getting the story, getting it into print, then moving on to his next job. Never once does he stop to offer any hint of effusiion or enjoyment of the Beatles' music, which he regards as merely a catalyst for the phenomenon he is studying. If anything, Norman - a plummy-voiced Englishman, with an unmistakably Conservative sensibility - frequently appears rather sniffy about the Beatles, the Sixties, and much of the core subject matter of his book.
We get the distinct feeling that, while we perhaps could not claim Norman has come to bury the Beatles, he certainly han't come to praise them either. Norman may have 'got the story', but some of his mistakes can be telling: A diligent journalist or editor could have checked these details, but that is irrelevant; anybody who likes the Beatles will have those words hard-wired into his psyche. Norman's focus is very much on the phenomenon of The Beatles, the story of their rise to unprecedented levels of fame and acclaim, and their descent from those dizzy heights at the end of the Sixties.
The group's longevity, Norman believes, reflects "the residual power of the generation that grew up with them: Very little is written here about the Beatles' records. Instead, Norman focuses on cultural contexts, which would be a perfectly valid line of enquiry, were it not for the fact that Norman's own political and social prejudices keep intruding. Equally, he feels no nostalgia for the 'hallucination' of 'Swinging London': As a misreading of a Beatles song, it's hillarious; as an indication of the extent to which the author is out of sympathy with his subject, it's profoundly depressing.
The book is divided into 5 symbolically titled parts: These give a farily accurate impression of how Norman views his narrative of rise and fall, with the exception of 'Lasting', which might be better titled 'Unravelling'.
The conventional wisdom holds that 'Shout! It would be closer to the truth to say that the book's early sections are by far the most compelling, whereas the book drags in the middle then peters out towards the end. Individual chapters within each part are headed up by a relevant quote, such as 'Elvis's manager calling Brian Epstein in Birkenhead', 'Even the jelly babies are symbolic', or 'We've got to spend two million or the taxman will get it'. Norman is a highly skilled writer, capable of consistently producing concise, elegant prose.
His novelistic descriptive powers are well-honed, and he has a keen journalistic eye for detail and atmosphere. These skills are used to best effect in the early chapters of his book, which make for essential reading. A classic example is his description of the Beatles' early performacnes in the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool:. For this they did two minute spots at the end of teh central tunnel, on the tiny stage with dead rats under it, and positively no acoustics.
The low-arched brick, and the wall of impacted faces and bodies, so squeezed out al empty air that Pete Bests drumbeats rebounded an inch in front of him, making teh sticks jump like pistols in his hand. A single Chuck Berry number. The bricks sweated with the music glistening like the streams that coursed from their temples, and sending a steady drip of moisture over equipment in which there were many naked wires.
Each breath they took filled their lungs with each other's hot scent, mingling uniquely with an aroma of cheese rinds, damp mould, disinfectant and teh scent of frantic girls. The book begins brilliantly, Norman's brisk yet literary style resulting in an exhilirating read. As the narrative progesses, however, Norman's opinions and prejudices begin to overwhelm any sense of objectivity.
This, combined with his obvious distaste for the Beatles, their music, and their fans, sours the experience of reading what would otherwise be a hugely enjoyable book. Norman comes across as bitter, curmudgeonly, and class-obsessed. On the subject of the Beatles' debut album, 'Please Please Me', he notes that "the front cover photograph showed four figures in Burgundy-coloured stage suits, grinning cheerfully down from a balcony in what seemed to be a block of council flats.
No one seen in the Top Twenty since Tommy Steele had made so overt a declaration of being working class. However, when considered in the light of the fact that Norman is surely too experienced a journalist to have made such a mistake, it seems more likely that this is merely a disingenuous attempt to massage the facts to fit Norman's preconceived notions.
As the Beatles' story unfolds, and the social and cultural changes they were so much a part of take effect, Norman's innate priggishness comes to the fore. Drugs, we are told, "occurred, like everything else, in almost wearisome profusion. Pepper "was total", crossing social and generational boundaries: Norman is particularly unenchanted by the White Album. John Lennon's 'Yer Blues' is "one-dimensional and charmless, the playing turgid".
Despite this damning appraisal, Lennon seems to be a relative favourite of Norman's, and gets off lightly compared to McCartney. Norman's anti-McCartney bias is unmistakable throughout.
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