HOW many books have been written about the Beatles down the years? I reckon – and this is, fair warning, only the roughest of guesstimates – the answer must be somewhere in the region of “lots”. I might even go so far and suggest it’s “lots and lots”.
You want numbers? Well, hundreds at least. Maybe it stretches into the thousands now. I haven’t got time to count them. More than you could work your way through on a bank holiday weekend, that’s for sure. I mean, Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles: All These Years alone is the best part of a 1,000 pages long. And it’s only the first volume of three.
Clearly, we can’t get enough of the Fab Four. And yet none of these books are from the horses’ (should that be insect’s?) mouths.
None of the Beatles has written a memoir. George Harrison published I Me Mine, a record of a conversation he had with the Beatles press officer Derek Taylor about his past and the inspirations behind his songs, in 1980. Ringo Starr has published a couple of photography books. And John Lennon? Well, he was killed before he could get around to it.
So, yesterday’s announcement that Paul McCartney (I can’t imagine he asks anyone to call him Sir Paul) is to publish a two-volume book – another 900 odd pages – this autumn may be the closest we’re going to get.
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But this is not a memoir either. The Lyrics tells the story of 154 of Macca’s songs, from his teens to his solo work, with a commentary on each based on conversations he’s had with the Irish poet Paul Muldoon.
It’s quite a coup for the publisher Allen Lane and it looks like it’s going to be a handsome book (at £75 it should be). The involvement of the Pulitzer and TS Eliot prize winner Muldoon should be a bonus and maybe his involvement will guide the book beyond McCartney’s (understandable) tendency to keep burnishing his own long-established, primarily matey take on the band he was once in. Time – November to be exact – will tell.
Given those hundreds (maybe thousands) of books already published do we need another book on The Beatles, you might ask? In this case, probably, given the source.
And it’s another thing to own, of course, another item to join the box sets, vinyl reissues and limited-edition hardbacks we baby boomers are so keen on.
We still love the idea of ownership, don’t we? Of having the physical object, even in this age of streaming.
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Maybe it’s just habit. But I wonder if it’s more than that. I wonder if those of us born between the 1950s and 1970s are using the formats we grew up with as a way to try to hold onto the past. To comfort ourselves that these things still matter and therefore so do we, as retirement and old age loom?
Still, we could do worse than take McCartney as a role model. He’ still going strong at 78. He’s even got a new book coming out. Had you heard?
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