21 October 2005

All You Need Is Cheese

Speaking of Lennonists...

I just finished reading Janet Maslin’s glowing review
of Bob Spitz’s The Beatles: The Biography.

Here's the new angle: Mr. Spitz means to outdo these
conventional tactics by elevating the Beatles' story to
the realm of serious history. Imagine "John Adams"
with music and marijuana. "The Beatles" is written
for the reader who seeks deep, time-consuming
immersion in the past and can look beyond
traditionally lofty subjects to find it. Like Mark
Stevens's and Annalyn Swan's recent biography
of Willem de Kooning, it means to meld the forces
of personality, culture and art into a broad and
emblematic story.

At first this is worrisome. Yeah, yeah, yeah: Mr. Spitz
goes back centuries to link the slave trade with
American and West Indian exports shipped back to
Liverpool. He locates John O'Leannain and James
McCartney II as Irish refugees from the potato famine
of the 1840's. He embroiders the atmosphere of his
subjects' early years, imagining how young John
Lennon (as the family name evolved) was awakened
by "a clatter of hoofbeats as an old dray horse made
milk deliveries along the rutted road."

But the built-in momentum of the material quickly
takes over. And this book - with its eerily gorgeous
cover, unguarded photo illustrations and enchanting
endpapers that reproduce a teenage Beatlemaniac's
love-struck scrawl - begins to exert its pull. With
sweep already built into its story and the cumulative
effects of the author's levelheaded, anecdotal
approach, the book emerges as a consolidating and
newly illuminating work. For the right reader, that
combination is irresistible.

And that “right reader” would definitely be me.
Time to start composing the holiday wish-list.

Fab Four fanatics will also enjoy hearing this episode
of Soundcheck on WNYC public radio. Author Tim Riley
previews the new batch of Beatles product coming out
this season. He also explains why Paul McCartney is just
like Prince, and where to find the best sounding version
of Rubber Soul. (Answer: German vinyl, mono)

And if that’s still not enough, check out the latest news
at cyber-beatles.com -- a massive, frequently updated
list of anything and everything happening in Pepperland.