I’m up to page 270. John, who like Brian of Nazareth is a very naughty boy indeed, and Ringo, who seems to have spent more time in hospital than school, are both 15. Paul, who has discovered an inherited gift to play any instrument he lays his hands on is 13, and George, already showing signs of withdrawal from exposure, is 12. They, along with posh but troubled Brian Epstein, haven’t met yet but are encircling one another in Liverpool like vultures hovering above the carcase of the UK’s teenage population which in a few years time they will devour like hungry beasts.
Yes, Santa brought me the special extended edition of Tune In, the first two cased volumes of All These Years, Mark Lewisohn’s monumental Beatles biography. I’d already dipped into the ‘short’ version but I’ve put that aside now that I can tackle the big one.
What we have here is not just the most comprehensive, accurate and eminently readable biography of The Beatles ever written but the whole history of just about everything else appropriate to the story as well; the mass emigration from Ireland after the potato famine, the rise and fall of Liverpool as a great port, the history of the record industry from shellac cylinders to vinyl discs, and how rock and roll was born from the jazz, blues and C&W and came to dominate that industry despite attempts by many – not least the industry itself – to derail it. In reality it’s the story of The Beatles in extraordinary detail set against a social history of the 20th Century, the UK for now but, surely, the USA to come.
It’ll probably take me until March to finish this book, not least because it’s too heavy to carry around and I’m forever looking up note references and footnotes to discover all sort of titbits (like the astute history master who hung on to one of John’s schoolboy essays, and sold it in 2006 for £126,500… how did he know?). At 1,698 pages Tune In is a staggering achievement, epic indeed. I salute Mark, and I know for certain that when I have finished these two volumes (which bring the story up to the end of 1962), I will have difficulty waiting for the next instalment and reading what Mark has uncovered about the Beatlemania years.