The Beatles Anthology
A book review by Jessica Brandt
It's been a long time since I've read a "book." If you knew me, you'd know that the scope of my literary interest revolves around comedy books and books about music. I've read a lot of books about The Beatles (and have written a lot of half-assed high school reports on them, too) but Anthology has been the best so far.
This is the first time anyone has thought to let The Beatles themselves tell their own story with no outside narration at all. The book includes in-depth interviews with Ringo, Paul and George, as well as pertinent snippets from every interview ever done with John. Also in the mix were manager Neil Aspinall, producer George Martin, and friend/publicist/Apple guy Derek Taylor.
The book begins with four seperate biographies of the guys, as told by themselves. It then goes into descriptions of their lives together by year. The book flows well and reads much like a conversation with The Beatles instead of a story. While reading, you really get a sense of their personalities and their love for each other and the band.
Paul comes off as one of those guys who thinks he's being rebelious but is always afraid to go too far. He often says "That sounds like one of my ideas but I'm not sure," wanting to take the credit but also wanting to be a nice guy.
Ringo is everybody's friend. Usually when someone is talking about going on a vacation, it was "I went with my wife and Ringo and his wife." He was most into travelling and would go anywhere with anyone, and didn't say too many bad things about others.
John is just how we all imagined him -- artsy, cynical, rebelious and eerily in love with Yoko Ono (to say the least). The book's editors did a good job of piecing his comments together with the others to make it seem like John had snide comments towards their statements -- even if their statements had been made 30 years later.
George, the "quiet" Beatle, wasn't as quiet in his parts. He got especially mean towards the end of the book (which is also the end of The Beatles) and had some delicious stuff to say about Yoko. He really gets to talking when it comes to his experiences with Indian music and how the others are just big phonies when it comes to it. George was also good friends with Eric Idle (of Monty Python. Shame on you for not knowing!) who put out a spoof documentary of The Beatles called The Rutles which George kept citing as a funny but realistic interpretation of what really went on.
This book is massive. I mean, it's huge. Very hard to read on bed but even harder to read on a bus, I'd imagine. You have to plan when you are going to read it, but give yourself plenty of time because if you are a Beatles fan in any capacity, you will find yourself engulfed in it. It really is like a soap opera.
One complaint about the book is that although the photographs are spectacular and look really great (most of the older shots have been cleaned up to make them look as if they were taken yesterday) but there are no captions on the pages of the book. If you are really curious as to what the shots are, you have to flip (easier said than done with this thing) to a page at the end with photo credits which are usually vague and simply state either place or owner of the photograph. Also, many times the Beatles mention photographs, usually by the press or someone specific, which are not included in the book. When someone mentions a spectacular photograph that would really illustrate their point, I would like to see it. Also, inlaid within many of the pages are lots of things like invoices and contracts and other legal documents. I thought there would be more in the way of drawings by The Beatles and strange fan letters, but instead it was mostly these drab, half-complete contractual things. Better than nothing, but it really left me wanting more.
As for content (ie words) this book is the best I've read. Others I've enjoyed in the past were Peter Brown's The Love You Make and Nicholas Schaffner's The Beatles Forever, both sadly out of print (but track them down. They are worth it!) But Brown's account was from the perspective of a business associate and Schaffner's was of a fan/music journalist. Anthology is the book Beatles fans have been waiting for. It is the answer to all of those questions and the final word on all of the speculations.
I got this book when it came out in October and have waited until I had some time over Winter Break to read it. Of course, now it is 40% cheaper everywhere so it seems like they have gotten their money's worth and now want everyone to enjoy.
I'd reccommend this book not only to Beatles fans but to people who are in a band and want to know the secrets of becomming the world's best and biggest band without selling out and becoming a cookie-cutter boy band. It seems to me that it takes a lot of touring at the begining, tons of beer and other chemicals, and also a sense of humor. Good luck!
Buy Anthology at Amazon.com!