Review: One Two Three Four
So, what don’t we know about the Beatles? Craig Brown’s take on the band, is what. The satirist and author of unusual, funny and page-turning books on Princess Margaret and other famous and infamous historical figures examines the cultural impact of the Fab Four fifty years after they split up, in One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time.
Yes, fifty years, this month. Think about that.
Meet The Beatles
You know the basics – Liverpool, the Cavern Club, Pete Best, producer George Martin, “more popular than Jesus”, Abbey Road Studios, Yoko Ono, the 1969 rooftop concert.
Beatles fanatics of any age, and there are millions who were nowhere near being born when the band existed, are mostly happy to read any rehashing of the basic rags-to-riches-to-legends story. Be sure, future biographers will continue to explore and occasionally just lazily regurgitate their story.
In One Two Three Four, Craig Brown presents this phenomenon, and the 1960s in which it occurred, in an intriguingly different light. Brown is a New York Times-bestselling author of many novels and biographies, and writes a parody celebrity “diary” in the piss-taking Private Eye magazine. He was born in 1957, grew up on the music of the Beatles, and is not afraid to look very closely at his heroes. “When we talk about The Beatles,” writes Craig Brown, “we talk about ourselves.”
One Two Three Four is one for all fans
Don’t worry though, while there is the strongest of points of view here, the book isn’t all about the author. Fans will get a satisfying amount of new insight from people that knew the boys back when, and those that carry the flame today. And oh, it burns very brightly and sometimes very weirdly. One of John’s teeth sold for £19,000 in 2011 (to a dentist hoping to harvest DNA and possibly find illegitimate kids out there).
Brown digs into these small players in a large story and the stars of the day. Reporting from Liverpool, London and the US, he hears tales of run-ins with Elvis and Bob Dylan, and John Lennon’s not so doting father; takes a look at the financial mess that was their company, Apple Corps; and has some fun with Yoko Ono and her art. And did you ever hear about the planned JRR Tolkien film project? What the…?
If you want a straight, emotion-free biography of the band, knock yourself out, there are many out there. One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time is one man’s journey: we get the youngster’s impressions of this new music, the journalist’s look at the scandals and craziness and coping mechanisms that came with the Beatles incomprehensible success, and as a fan, Brown’s retrospective musings on the role of luck and the “what if?”s. Why the Beatles, over all their popular contemporaries? What if they had continued, would they have fizzled? And why fifty years on, are we still so interested?
published by Harper Collins
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.