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ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR: THE BEATLES IN TIME BY CRAIG BROWN

We have gathered all the fantastic reviews our Book Club Members have sent us this month.

Click on each name to read the review. If you would like to become part of the Viking Book Club, sign up sign up here >>

REVIEWS

Jane Chesterfield

If a book cites seven sides of sources at the end, you can bet it’s going to be pretty ambitious in scope, and Craig Brown’s book most certainly is that. It’s an excellent choice for either a cruise or a lockdown – an epic journey of 600 plus pages through the history of the Beatles, yet structured as a series of 150 anecdotes which are generally complete in themselves. This makes it both a satisfying long read and something you can easily dip in and out of. It encompasses not only the Fab Four but also others they knew or who knew them, from fellow musicians to prime ministers. Who among us remembered Jimmie Nichol, a Beatle for ten days when Ringo was in hospital, and who could possibly have imagined that Margaret Thatcher once posed for a photo on the Abbey Road crossing? The whimsicality of the book is highly entertaining: comparing the Beatles’ Christmas messages to their fan club with the Queen’s Christmas broadcasts to the nation in the same years, for example, or imagining that it was Gerry and the Pacemakers who achieved cult status while the Beatles remained just a part of the Mersey sound. Thoroughly recommended!

Carol Goodwin

I am afraid I struggled with this one. The Beatles were slightly before my time, and although I do like their music, I found this biography, while interesting in places, lacking in any real draw for me to keep reading. Perhaps one for die-hard Beatles fans who are old enough to remember them in their 'hey day'. That said, I do thank Viking Book Club for giving me the opportunity to read it.

Lynne Morris

I settled down with a cuppa to start reading and although I was never a Beatles fan as such, I enjoyed their music so was happy to give the book a read. To be honest I found it quite hard going and didn't grab me enough to "not be able to put it down". I thought it was interesting how they started up and along the early days how their paths cross with many famous artists. It perhaps says a lot that I am only half way through, or perhaps that says more about me!

Val Burgess

This is not a book I would have picked up normally but I have really enjoyed reading it. Craig Brown has a style which is easy to follow and he has stories from many sources about the Beatles, from when they were teenagers and through their careers. The different personalities of the four Beatles comes through as we follow their lives. We see the young men starting out and, through various people’s stories see them develop into a massive phenomenon, then go through their descent into arguments and finally breaking up. There are mentions of the members who were part of the original band, like Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best. There is even a drummer, rarely mentioned, who did a few appearances when Ringo was ill. We hear of connections to famous people and how they were influenced by the Beatles music. A very good and easy read, especially for fans of the Beatles music. You could read it in small doses and still get the full story. I would recommend it.

Christine Turley

Thank you so much for sending me this book to review. I was thrilled to receive this book from the Viking Book Club as I was a huge fan of the Beatles growing up in the 60’s. I was a member if their fan club and collected all sorts of weird magazines and memorabilia. So, this was a book I couldn’t wait to get started on. However, this is not an easy book to get into and to be honest it didn’t hold my interest for very long sadly. The first 100 pages are pretty gloomy and at times difficult to know who is relating the story. Is it the author or someone else? Maybe it’s just me, but the style of writing didn’t suit me. Sorry to say my overall verdict is “mediocre” and not a book I’ll want to read again.

Graham Maslen

On February 7th 1964, at the age of nine, I saw the Rolling Stones perform ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ on the Arthur Haynes Show on our newly acquired television. From that experience I became and remain a Stones fan. Ironically the song was written by McCartney (mostly) and Lennon. Craig Brown discusses this divide between the two groups and their tribal fans in Chapter 65 of this entertaining and enlightening biography of the Fab Four.

I came to this book as a disinterested onlooker of a famous pop group and came away with a much richer appreciation and understanding of the Beatles as a significant and important twentieth century global cultural phenomenon.

Craig Brown is a prolific writer and his well-developed journalistic style renders the reading easy. This is a biographical collage with 150 chapters made up of contemporary interviews, anecdotes, multiple reports of the same event, lists, photographs, personal reminiscences and analysis by other ‘Beatle experts’. For fans this is a refreshing re-working of familiar material but for me most of it was new, interesting and compelling.

The book concentrates on John, Paul, George and Ringo as people with distinct personalities who wrote and performed songs rather than the music they created. It also describes some of the many fellow travellers such as ‘Magic’ Alex Mardas, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Yoko Ono whom he exposes skilfully through their own ludicrous inventions, spiritual banality and artistic fakery. The good guys in their story, Brian Epstein, Aunt Mimi and George Martin are treated more respectfully. A surprising and rewarding read even for a Stones fan.

Martin Davies

Another book about the life and times of The Beatles! So is there is anything original left to say that hasn’t been offered in the hundred or so books about them that already exist? Certainly Craig Brown’s approach is different from most. He provides an entertaining book that is neither a narrative nor a chronology, but is built from the views and memories of a generation whose lives were greatly influenced by the first global super group and the social revolution they helped to create. Many of the views are well known and some are disputed, but others add new perspectives on both the Fab Four and the array of loyal friends, families, chancers, frauds and sycophants who were part of their meteoric rise and drug induced demise. The author cleverly analyses, not always sympathetically, the individual personalities and backgrounds of the Fab Four that collectively created their genius and recognises the key role of their manager Brian Epstein. His ‘reverse chronology’ of Epstein from suicide to first discovery of the group, however, is a curious chapter, as is his strange parody on Gerry and the Pacemakers, which seems utterly irrelevant. But, overall, a fascinating and compelling piece of exhaustive research. How amazing that the music we were playing in the early 60s is still vibrant today.

Sue Oldland

When first opening the package, I was a bit unsure about this book. I am neither a fan of biographies nor the Beatles. In the spirit of things, I decided to give it a go, rather than put it to one side. I am now half way through and can confirm that this is one of the least stuffy biographies I have read. The author manages to cleverly combine facts with interviews, reviews, trips to old haunts etc to produce a highly readable book, it is a funny, entertaining read and despite my initial misgivings, I will be lending it to a friend when I have finished and looking for other things by this author.

Geoff Daniels

Although not a Beatles fan, I found this book captivating in how it is written and how the Beatles impacted so many people's lives, philosophies and careers. The story comprises of short chapters focusing sometimes on the Beatles speedy upward career but also on the people closely and loosely connected with them. From Cilla Black to Harold Wilson and inspiring musicians such as The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen demonstrate some of what Beatlemania was about. Who knew that they could have acted in Tolkien’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy and are still the only artists to take up the first positions in the charts. The songs are not that bad either.

Susan Garside

Do not read if feeling at all depressed and in need of cheering up. This is not a feel good book. It is though a worthwhile insight into the rise and fall of the phenomenon which was The Beatles. Like the author’s recent book about Princess Margaret it pulls together accounts by contemporaries of their recollections of the book’s subjects to produce a record of events in a chronological format. This is not always successful and time lines sometimes become little confusing. I had to date check occasionally. I soon got used to this and it did not lessen my enjoyment of the book. It is a sad story of four talented, young men whose dreams of fame and fortune turned sour on them as their lives changed under the influence of some of those around them. The final chapter, dealing with Brian Epstein is perhaps the saddest. The way the author tackles this is novel. It is written in dated short pieces starting with his funeral and moving backwards in time to his first meeting to see The Beatles performing. The book’s final words are attributed to George Harrison, “what brings you here Mr Epstein?”.