“I don’t want to be on the other side of this.” ~ My wife quoting me as to why it took so long to finish this book
Don’t know what it means to reach this point, in life or with Peter Doggett’s book. The English music journalist, author and magazine editor who took a very intense year to write on the break up of my all-time favorite band. Had never taken this long to get through a tome in all my years of reading. If my mother was alive, and took a gander at my Goodreads page, wonder what she’d have to say about this:
The voracious reader that she was, no doubt mom would simply have told me to abandon something that didn’t interest me enough to finish it back in 2014. The, “Life’s too short to read bad books.”, argument she’d espouse. Would have told her it wasn’t the case, in all honesty. Even the Annie Lennox quote gracing the book’s appropriately fashioned Apple Records vinyl label cover art was spot on:
“Peter Doggett’s book about the Beatles split is a real page-turner”
What she’d have made of it anyone’s guess. Certainly, took two other very important women in my life, my wife and daughter, to finally get me off my see-saw treatise with the hardback. Each witnessed me picking it up, sporadically, reading a scant few pages before tucking it back in bed. Finally coming out and stating it was my intent to never finish the thing…a monument to how I felt toward the title.
That did it…like my father’s, “God hates a coward.” view…had to be done with it one way or another.
Part of the reason I milked this, it exhaustively went down a very painful path for any fan of The Lads. Especially, those young enough and grew up as the foursome reshaped music in the ’60s and reset (some would say, skewed) lofty ideals. Suffice it to say, what happened from 1969 onward laid out on these pages. What had been scattered, or rumored endlessly, in the music media of the day, amply laid out here.
Presented in scrupulous detail sure to leave a mark…much like a scar.
The real story behind it best evidenced in the court logs and judgments behind the scenes, which Doggett tenaciously researched and brought to the forefront with this. The scribe, my peer in age and as impacted by the John, Paul, George, and Ringo phenomena and personality, brought a fascinating, if at times, uncomfortable lens upon decades of raw material and grievances to fill four lifetimes.
Even spotlighting those who used the Fab Four‘s lofty celebrity (even after their break up)1 for their own benefit with actions not to be wished upon your worst enemy:
“There was no shortage of opportunities to make money. Albert Goldman, who had appalled fans of Elvis Presley with a biography that accentuated the star’s failings and frailties, signed a $1 million deal for a book about Lennon. Scurrilous ‘revelations’ were offered by Ono’s tarot card reader, Lennon’s assistant at the Dakota and assorted survivors from the NEMS and Apple payrolls. Those who couldn’t muster a book depended on a magazine or newspaper exposé, such as the ‘exclusives’ credited to Wing’s guitarist Denny Laine. ‘He wrote two articles,’ retorted Linda McCartney. ‘One said I led Paul around totally, the other that Paul totally dominated me. I thought Denny came off badly.'” ~ pg. 276
If The Beatles music, and the joy it brought listeners, represented Mount Everest piercing the sky, surely all the legal complications that immediately followed their split post Abbey Road2, due in part to their and Brian Epstein’s naiveté with a music business turning into a worldwide industry (again, in some measure because of them), during the next forty years, would fill the depths of the Mariana Trench.
While they helped define pop music, The Lads equally peerless in personal bitterness, it seems.
The dense 400 pages that is You Never Give Me Your Money3 doesn’t so much as list the ventures that came as a result of three songwriter-musicians4 hurtling away from The Beatles‘ meteoric rise, but weave the dark tapestry that resulted. The stand-offs, in particular, some of which surely would have permanently ended mere mortal friendships, yet never did, are part vexing and heartbreaking to read.
Without a doubt, it is a difficult account to take in, and made doubly so if you have a personal (music or otherwise) stake with the group. Each business loss, substance problem, or slight like a train-wreck happening in slow-motion. And can’t take your eyes off of it till the next pause (when I’d usually force myself to put the book down) or new bad idea, along with Allen Klein, appeared on the page.
The oft-talked about reunion millions (fans and promoters) wanted and prayed for, seemed to drive them further apart and was its own sick joke, in retrospect. Don’t take this wrong, Doggett writes with a keen understanding of what went on, with some sad irony to boot. Never maudlin or histrionic, but that only made the journey (for the group and the reader) harder to dismiss. Let alone, erase from memory.
Like The Beatles disintegration, as with finishing, at long last, You Never Give Me Your Money, it was bound to happen. Being on the other side of it, back then as a high school teen, and now at the same age Paul McCartney wrote about, it carries a sad symmetry. As I suspected it would back in February 2014. Each pilgrimage ultimately worth it, even if the resulting twinge that accompanied both left the music, and heart, aching.
- What “collectors” tried to gather up after the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison is truly despairing, if not despicable. ↩
- Props to whoever chose the book’s title — “You Never Give Me Your Money” a song by The Beatles that opens the climactic Abbey Road medley on side two of the LP. Written by Paul McCartney and composed in the midst of the band’s break-up, during the Allen Klein phase (the ABKCO Music & Records founder he never trusted). ↩
- In the UK, the 2009 hardcover was subtitled, “The Battle for the Soul of The Beatles”, while the 2010 US editions subtitled, “The Beatles After the Breakup”. ↩
- John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and the always undervalued George Harrison would leave the easy-going Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey) not only the odd-man out, but the one band member you would have wished the others had listened to more often. ↩