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The Beatles: The Biography

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  11,308 ratings  ·  503 reviews
Even before the Beatles hit the big time, a myth was created. This version of the Beatles legend smoothed the rough edges and filled in the fault lines, and for more than forty years this manicured version of the Beatles story has sustained as truth - until now.

The product of almost a decade of research, hundreds of unprecedented interviews, and the discovery of scores of
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Paperback, 983 pages
Published October 10th 2005 by Little Brown
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Michael Finocchiaro
The Bob Spitz biography of The Beatles was the first musical biography that I read a few years back. Not sure that I would be all that interested and yet having read some very positive reviews, I picked up this one and had a really hard time putting it down. The story is absolutely fascinating - from their humble beginnings, the sad and shameful way they disposed of Pete Best for Ringo Starr, the song writing teamwork of Paul and John and the charm and genius of George...it is just amazing the r ...more
Brian Levinson
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Holy crap is this book long. And informative. Also fun to read, so yay. Here's some fun stuff I learned:

1. They all had gonorrhea when they recorded "Love Me Do."
2. John was a huge asshole.
3. Brian Epstein would invite really rough dudes back to his house to beat the crap out of him.
4. Yoko was even worse than John.
5. Paul was kind of a dick, too.
6. But Ringo was a nice guy.
7. During early Beatles concerts, theater owners or whoever would wheel retards into the front row until John started makin
...more
Duffy Pratt
Apr 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: criticism, history
The opening chord of A Hard Day's Night. George, on a twelve string, plays a Gsus chord. From bass to treble that's G,C,F,A,C,G. On a twelve string guitar, the bottom four notes get doubled at the octave, while the top two are doubled in unison. Underneath, Paul plays a D. And John strums a Dsus chord, ADADG, leaving out the bottom string. So from bass to treble we get the following: D, G, A, C, D, F, G, AA, CCC, DD, F, GG, A. The result is a perfect collaboration, and a beautiful example of the ...more
Caroline
Jan 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Rating for the quality of the book: 4 out of 5
Rating for how much I enjoyed the book: 2 out of 5

I realized as I was finishing this book that I wished I hadn't read it. Don't get me wrong - it was well-written and well-researched and I learned a great deal I didn't know about the Beatles. And therein lies the problem.

There is a whole lot I learned in this book that I wished I didn't know. I mean, I knew there was drug use. I knew there were countless affairs. I knew that none of them were standup
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Ange H
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-books
I just realized I got sucked into another abridged version. How the hell do I know if this was good or not when I didn't read the whole thing? I HATE ABRIDGED VERSIONS.

Okay, so I got that off my chest. On the plus side, I have read reviews that complained about how long this book was, but I didn't feel that way at all - I wanted more. I loved having Alfred Molina read to me while I was walking around the lake in my neighborhood. Then I would go home and play whatever Beatles album had just been
...more
Akash Ahuja
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m *finally* done after reading this book for two full months.

I really wanted to give this book a five star rating, but I just couldn’t. There are such great moments in here, and as a music and production nerd, I was in love with how well Bob writes their recording sessions and explains the songwriting process in a reasonably accessible way. Many other moments are also written so well- travels and German shenanigans and agent meetings and everything. The thing that I am most impressed with is
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Meg
Jul 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Still finishing this up, but it's certainly the most comprehensive Beatles bio out there, and very well-written and readable. The best chapters are probably the school years and the Hamburg period which the author fleshes out with much more detail than I've ever encountered. He also has a talent for making it feel immediate when you are reading, with great descriptive passages that give you a sense of what the dives in Hamburg were like and just how grueling the Beatles early touring schedule wa ...more
Paul Bryant
Aug 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: beatles
Well, I only read the last half, to see what jolly Bob Spitz could do with the tale of hippy woe which is the decline & fall of the four jolly boys. I was expecting a whole lot of fun to be had in the style of Bob's outrageous biography of the other Bob, Dylan. In that one, Spitz makes up whole conversations, assumes things when he hasn't got any facts or sources, jumps into Dylan's head to riff on what he "probably" would have been thinking, kicks him when he's down, and all in all has a right ...more
Mike
Nov 29, 2011 rated it liked it
A threshold book. If your interest in The Beatles is only so-so, you'll be bored stiff by the book and I suspect you won’t make it to page one-hundred. The writing is only fair--in style not quite historical, not quite journalistic, and not quite pure tabloid-y entertainment--and the substance is frankly too thin to warrant eight-hundred plus pages of reading for all but the most maniacal of Beatle maniacs. For good or bad, I am such a one. And so I raced through it over a long weekend.

It doesn
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Russ
Dec 18, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Beatles fans with an open mind
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amie
Dec 09, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Inconsistent, riddled with errors, inaccuracies and wrong information. Lots of mistakes. Such as photos from 1960 and 1961 being labeled as being at the Star Club, which didn't open until '62. States that George met Pattie Boyd on the set of "Help!" when they actually met on the set of "A Hard Day's Night". Just a couple of examples. Terrible book. And when the list of errors was pointed out to the author, he just insulted those who were telling him. Isn't that nice? Wanker.
Molly Ball
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is an excruciatingly poorly written book that still manages to tell a great story. Tiresomely exhaustive near the beginning, it forces you to wade through much flowery language and such unnecessary flourishes as tracing John and Paul's respective ancestry back to Ireland and a discourse on the Liverpool shipping industry; given how much of it is filler, it's unconscionable that the book runs nearly 900 pages. Quotations are unforgivably mangled, with far too much fussily inserted in bracket ...more
Sandra Ross
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I grew up after The Beatles had already disbanded, so most of what I knew about them was from the music they left behind when they were together.

I found their early music trite and sophomoric and still can't figure out why that music catapulted them to fame as the godfathers of the Liverpool sound (I was surprised at how many bands I did not realize came from Liverpool who went on to make it big here in the US during the British Invasion).

I found their later music very uneven - from really good
...more
Steve
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Never really been into the Beatles, other than enjoying a couple cover bands - one in Las Vegas, and one in the Layton Amphitheater. While I listened to this book, I paused it every time it mentioned a new song and listened to it on Spotify. So reading this was a deep dive into the Beatles' history and music catalog.

Takeaways: very catchy tunes, and the songwriting got better and better. I had no idea how into drugs they were, or how abrasive John Lennon could be to broader society. They were in
...more
Rebecca
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
This Beatles biography (now considered the "definitive" one) is very well-written and full of a lot of colorful, interesting detail. As a long-time Beatles fan, I thought I was already pretty familiar with the Beatles' trajectory, but I learned many things I hadn't known about the boys before. And a lot of it I kind of wish I had remained ignorant about.

While this book gave me a new appreciation for the Beatles as musicians, I felt really disappointed and even a little disgusted at who they were
...more
Rich Meyer
Oct 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
One of the better rock biographies I've read as of late, this one really gets down into the history of the Fab Four and all the dirt and eccentricities that came out of the Beatles, Beatlemania, and the eventual personality clashes as they grew older.

Personally, I've never quite understood the popularity; until Rubber Soul and Revolver, their music was pretty staid and lackluster - some good riffs and licks, a good backbeat, but nothing out of the ordinary. I know it was their Beatlemaniac arri
...more
Joy H.
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Added 1/13/17. (audio, abridged) (First published in 2005)

Interesting biography about The Beatles but sad the way their lives went. Their lives went through so many stages. This audio makes one realize how hectic their lives must have been.

The reader was Alfred Molina, whose voice and expression give the story a mysterious and dark atomosphere.

Believe it or not, I never realized before this that the word "beat" in "Beatles" was related to the "beat" of music. In fact, they first spelled the wo
...more
Paul Dinger
Dec 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's all Yoko's fault the Beatles broke up and Bob Spitz does take the time to explain why. Actually, she just brought out the discontent that was already there. My cousin once told me success was the kiss of death to a rock band. The money comes in, you began to believe your own press, etc. What made the Beatles great is that they never rested on their laurels, but that also brought about their demise. They reached a pinnacle no other band will ever reach. They stopped touring, they stopped rel ...more
Jason Coleman
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: musique
This was a Xmas gift that sat on my shelf for a few years before I gave it a chance, and what do you know, it's really good. Spitz did an absolutely hellacious amount of research, but the book has to survive as a narrative, and does. Although a little slight on the music, it evokes the day-in/day-out experience vividly, as well as the dynamics behind this greatest of show-biz myths.

I have to point out that Spitz, rather incredibly, uses the adjective "horseshoe-shaped" three times in just two pa
...more
Chris Q. Murphy
Aug 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: beatle fans with a lot of time on their hands.
having spent the better part of the last 15 years ingesting any written documentation of the beatles lives and careers that i could get my grubby paws on, i was fully prepared to be undewhelmed by yet another lengthy beatle book; so it was thrilling for me to find a text that not only provided me with new fab four facts, but also offered new insight into the same stories i have been reading for so long. while this book is decidedly "john-centric" and spends far more time documenting the first-ha ...more
Stephen McQuiggan
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
If David Starkey or Simon Schama wrote about rock n roll instead of dead English kings this would be the result. The level of detail, especially in the hefty opening section dealing with The Quarrymen which incorporates the formation of the city of Liverpool itself, is as surprising as it is enlightening. The Epstein saga is tragic, as is the sheer paranoid malice that beset the band by the end. No-one comes out of this particularly well. My only quibble is that, by the time of the White Album, ...more
John
Apr 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music
Good info on the pre-stardom Liverpool/Hamburg stuff; after that, it's pretty hard to come up with info that hasn't been written a zillion times before. One annoyance: the author had the habit of ending chapters with such portentious cliches as: "Little did they know all that was about to change", which were doubly ill-conceived since anybody shelling out the cash for this book already knows what's coming next.
Ishtiaque Khan
Oct 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must read for any who has an interest in "not so arguably" the most famous band, ever. It's a big book. Though the narrative part ends somewhere around 1100 pages, there's another, additional 300 pages of photographs, anecdotes, bibliography, links and a lot more.

As per my reading experience, I can divide the book in to three parts. First, the early years. This is where we get to know about all the people and things that played a pivotal role in the lives of the four Beatles. It'
...more
Francisco
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
No new information here, but it served well to pass the time driving to and from work.
Jonathan
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished the nearly 1000 page behemoth that is The Beatles. And, actually, it was worth it. Never really a huge Beatles groupie (before my time - honestly!), but I have most of their albums and really like their later stuff. The earlier music, while catchy, just isn't sophisticated enough for me.

In this massive biography, Spitz starts with John Lennon and then Paul McCartney growing up in Liverpool, a grungy industrial backwater. Both had pretty tough childhoods - Lennon's father left th
...more
maricar
I’m telling myself, as I pulled Bob Spitz’s The Beatles: The Biography off the bookstore shelf, that reading yet another Beatles book is superfluous. I mean, what else could possibly be new? And I’m not saying that because I consider myself a Beatles expert.

pfft…hardly.

But there is the cynicism that, unless the author had a place in that coveted inner-sanctum of the FabFour, there really couldn’t be any other tidbit that can be dished out that hasn’t been told in the past 3 or 4 books I’ve rea
...more
Brian Page
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Beatles: the biography is the story of the thousands of improbabilities that took the lads from Liverpool to becoming the most influential pop group of the latter half of the 20th century, not the least improbable being the boys themselves. And the book itself is the product of immense scholarship.

I read a borrowed copy of this weighty tome and I nearly abandoned it after the first few pages. I have a natural aversion to flowery prose and in the beginning, at least, there is an entire garden
...more
Josh
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This massive biography (over 850 pages of text) of The Beatles is, if anything, comprehensive. Spitz does a wonderful job in setting the stage (no pun intended) to fully cover the meteoric rise of the band as he goes into such details as painting a history of the Liverpool area and delving into the band members families. In the early part of the book the Lennon’s and McCartney’s are, understandably, given the more comprehensive back story, but I would have appreciated the same treatment with the ...more
Tyler
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Synopsis: This is the decisive biography for the Beatles. Published in 2005, it includes over 100 pages of notes for a book that was obviously painstakingly researched and carefully written. The book covers each of the Beatles from birth (including a history of their parents) and then follows the Beatles up through their tumultuous breakup in 1970. Nothing from the Beatles past is off-limits in the book. The book details Beatlemania and their encounters and addictions to drugs, sex, music and mo ...more
Scott Lee
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spitz certainly pulls no punches in this book. I guess I was a naïve fan to some extent before reading it. I mean rock 'n' roll stars behave like rock 'n' roll stars, right? I was alternately fascinated/sickened by learning the details Spitz shares here. Thankfully the majority of the book focuses on events that were not entirely puerile tabloid the boys did these drugs and these people reporting, although there was more of that than I would have liked. Especially about Brian Epstein. An importa ...more
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Bob Spitz is the award-winning author of The Beatles, a New York Times best seller, as well as seven other nonfiction books and a screenplay. He has represented Bruce Springsteen and Elton John in several capacities. His articles appear regularly in magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times Magazine; The Washington Post; Rolling Stone; and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others.

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“Later, when the other Beatles arrived, the crowd in the street had swelled to an estimated twenty-thousand, some of whom were whipped up in a terrific heat. Others, many of them young girls who had been waiting since dawn, suffered from hunger and exhaustion. The police force, which had been monitoring the situation nervously, called in the army and navy to help maintain order, but it was short-lived. By late afternoon, with chants of "We want the Beatles!" ringing through the square, the shaken troops, now four-hundred strong, felt control slipping from their grasp. They didn't know where to look first: at the barricades being crushed, the girls fainting out of sight, the hooligans stomping on the roofs of cars or pushing through their lines. A fourteen-year-old "screamed so hard she burst a blood-vessel in her throat." It was "frightening, chaotic, and rather inhuman," according to a trooper on horseback. There most pressing concern was the hotels plate-glass windows bowing perilously against the violent crush of bodies. They threatened to explode in a cluster of razor-sharp shards at any moment. Ambulances screamed in the distance, preparing for the worst; a detachment of mounted infantry swung into position.” 3 likes
“And yet at the center of this vortex was the desire to do something more with it. What or with whom, he wasn’t sure. But he sensed it was only a matter of time until it all came together and he put his own stamp on it. Eight months later, he met John Lennon.” 1 likes
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