Craig Brown is probably more known for his satirical writing in the UK magazine Private Eye. The book begins in 1961 with the 27 year old Brian Epstein visiting the Cavern Club in Liverpool with his assistant, Alistair Taylor and finishes only 9 years later with the decision by Paul McCartney to finish recording with the Beatles. Alistair Taylor describes the band – “these four horrible young men on stage, dressed in black leather trousers, black jackets, smoking, drinking and making noise …”; he also found them “charismatic and exciting” and “sensational”.
The story is pretty well know, but there is a lot of detail that Brown has brought together to make a fascinating piece of modern history. It is funny, intriguing, astonishing and fascinating. He not only describes the history of the band, but also the urban myths, assorted hangers on and the current industry around them.
I was really too young for the whole Beatlemania, but was certainly aware of it. Aged around 7 I remember one of the other children in the street asking me if I had heard ‘Twist and Shout by the Shadows’. Always a clever little madam, I took great delight in informing her that it was in fact by The Beatles. This probably brought repercussions later but it felt so good at the time. I do also remember walking past the outside of the cinema when A Hard Day’s Night was being shown and hearing the screams of the girls inside. Even then, I suggested to my mother, that there was little point in screaming at a film. Having said that, we were of course very aware of and knew all their songs. I think I probably still know the words to all of their UK singles.
From 1967 when Brian Epstein died, we were of the opinion that they had all gone a bit weird. It seems we were pretty much spot on with this although they still made some great music. I was probably in the 3rd form in high school when we gawped at some of the older girls at school sobbing in the cloakrooms at the news that Paul had left. Yoko Ono who was blamed for the whole thing, was almost certainly the most hated woman on the planet at the time. It is difficult to even comprehend the impact that The Beatles had on what was a society still recovering from WWII. I suppose they were in the right place at the right time.
So having lived through it, sort of, it was interesting to get the inside information and an inkling of the size of the Beatles industry, still. Brown is hilarious on his visits to the various childhood homes of the fab four, and the prices that Beatles’ artifacts still bring is eye watering. The format of the book is unusual. It is done as short ‘postcards’ along their journey along with other experiences from fans and himself. I loved it and read the whole thing in a handful of days.