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Smile! The Beatles--George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Paul McCartney--at their final photo shoot.

Beatles--Buy the Book

Fab Three reunite for tell-all tome

By Greg Cahill

ALMOST 30 YEARS to the day (April 10) after they split up, the three surviving Beatles announced last weekend that they have spent the past several years putting all their yesterdays on the printed page for an upcoming official biography.

If the resulting 360-page Beatles Anthology, to be published in the fall, is as tepid as the highly touted Anthologies TV documentary series, then Beatles fans will find yet another reason to rue the day John Lennon fell under gunfire from a demented fan.

A spokesman for the Beatles--Paul McCartney, 57, George Harrison, 57, and Ringo Starr, 59--has promised that the book will be the frankest account of how the band ruled the pop world in the '60s. "It goes across the board; everything is in there," said Geoff Baker, McCartney's publicist. "It is about the Beatles as a band, the music, but it deals with everything else--the tours, the drugs, the disputes.

"The book answers all the questions."

But with the outspoken Lennon out of the picture, Beatles fans may sense revisionist history in the making. Among other things, Baker has said, the book will counter the contention that McCartney was the first to walk away, even though it was McCartney who filed the first legal affidavit seeking dissolution of the partnership. At the time, the Beatles Let It Be sessions were in a shambles, and the group hadn't gathered in the studio since Aug. 20, 1969. Lennon, McCartney, and Starr all were working on solo albums. Harrison and Starr already had quit the group during brief spats. And, in September 1969, Lennon had informed the inner circle that he wanted "a divorce," but was keeping silent because of delicate business negotiations.

But the real truth about the Beatles probably won't be revealed in the official biography (though the upcoming book undoubtedly will prove somewhat insightful), leaving fans to glean info from the plethora of works already on the market. Here are a few noteworthy reads:

The Beatles: After the Break-Up, 1970-2000, a Day-by-Day Diary (Omnibus, 1999)

One of the best overviews of the post-Beatles Beatles--including a detailed account of Lennon's last day--though author Keith Badman missed the recent assault on Harrison by a knife-wielding fan.

The Beatles: An Oral History (Hyperion, 1998)

The formation of the band and its rapid evolution--from the ebullient teen pop of "She Loves You" to the transformative psychedelia of "Tomorrow Never Knows" in just three years--is bountiful grist for editor David Pritchard and interviewer Alan Lysaght. Key players in the band's development offer accounts in a riveting Ken Burns-like documentary style.

The Beatles: Every Little Thing; A Compendium of Witty, Weird, and Ever-Surprising Facts About the Fab Four (Avon, 1998)

From the wild nights of Germany's tawdry bar gigs to the last day the band members spent in the studio, author Maxwell MacKenzie dishes the dirt on the Maharishi, the misunderstanding in Manila, and much more.

Carry That Weight: The Story of the Beatles (Xlibris, 1998)

Author Ernst E. Schutze takes pop history very seriously, thank you, retelling the Beatles myth as a modern Oedipus legend in this clever novel. Money, power, blood lust, and death (in this case, a McCartney look-alike comes on the scene to craft Sgt. Pepper's) could make for a great Oliver Stone flick.

The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Cambridge Music, 1997)

A thoughtful examination of the 1967 album that marked the band's creative apex and helped reshape pop music, with analysis by London College of Music professor Allan Moore and various commentators.

Ticket to Ride: The Extraordinary Diary of the Beatles' Last Tour (Dowling, 1996)

Barry Tashian's personal journal of the Beatles' final tour (peaking in the melee in Manila and culminating at Candlestick Park) by a musician whose proto-punk garage-rock band, the Remains (one of the best American bands in the British Invasion era), accompanied the Fab Four on their stateside dates. Full of behind-the-scenes glimpses and backstage banter.

The Day John Met Paul: An Hour-by-Hour Account of How the Beatles Began (Scholastic, 1996)

This is essential reading for diehard fans. The rest of you--the ones who are thinking, "Beatlemaniacs--fer chrissakes, get a life!"--might want to skip this puppy and give that latest Oasis album another listen instead.

The Complete Beatles Chronicle: The Only Definitive Guide to the Beatles' Entire Career (Hamlyn, 1992)

Still one of the best of its kind, with a foreword by Beatles producer George Martin. Author Mark Lewisohn provides an exhaustive 365-page year-by-year account of the band's comings and goings, from 1957 to 1970. Lewisohn delves into concert dates, recording sessions, key personnel changes, and other critical data, all matched with a series of insightful and clear-eyed analyses of the band's triumphs and failures.

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From the April 6-12, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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