Starred Review.With this massive opus, veteran music journalist Spitz (Dylan: A Biography) tells the definitive story of the band that sparked a cultural revolution. Calling on books, articles, radio programs and primary interviews, Spitz follows the band from each member's family origins in working-class Liverpool to the band's agonizing final days. Spitz's unflinching biography reveals that not only did the Beatles pioneer a new era of rock but they also were on the cutting edge of rock star excess, from their 1961 amphetamine-fueled sets in the clubs of Hamburg to their eventual appetites for stronger drugs, including marijuana, LSD, cocaine and, eventually for John Lennon, heroin. Sex was also part of the equation; in 1962, when the band cut its first audition for Sir George Martin, all four members had a venereal disease, and both John's and Paul McCartney's girlfriends were pregnant. Spitz details the tangled web of bad business deals that flowed from novice manager Brian Epstein (though the heavily conflicted Epstein can be forgiven since he was in uncharted territory). Although this is a hefty volume steeped in research, Spitz writes economically, and with flair, letting the facts and characters speak for themselves. In doing so, he captures an ironic sadness that accompanied the Beatles' runaway success—how their dreams of stardom, once realized, became a prison, forcing the band to spend large parts of their youth in hotel rooms to avoid mobs and to stage elaborate escapes from literally life-threatening situations after appearances. As with all great history writing, Spitz both captures a moment in time and humanizes his subjects. While some will blanch at the unsettling dark sides of the Beatles, most will come to appreciate the band even more for knowing the incredible personal odysseys they endured. 32 pages of b&w photos.
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