(October 5, 2000) 368 pages.
What should be the final word on the Beatles has arrived. It takes the form of a massive oral-history tome, its contents derived mostly from recorded conversations with Paul, George, and Ringo for the recent TV documentary The Beatles Anthology. Those are augmented by excerpts from interviews with John that are integrated effectively and almost seamlessly with the new material, and by occasional comments from the group's closest associates, such as recording producer George Martin. Big as it is, the volume virtually overflows with fascinating tidbits about growing up in Liverpool, early gigs, the rise to unprecedented fame and acclaim, and the Beatles' pervasive social influence. It seems crammed much in the way that the Beatles crammed several lifetimes' worth of music and living into the decade of the group's existence. Although the contents are somewhat sanitized--this is, after all, essentially a group autobiography--the four address less-pleasant incidents, such as the sacking of original Beatles drummer Pete Best and the petty squabbles that led to the group's 1970 breakup. The text is accompanied by more than 1,300 photos, many letters, and other memorabilia. There isn't much news, though. After 30 years and hundreds of books, few secrets remain to be revealed. But even familiar bits of Beatle lore seem fresh when told in the band's own words. Expect heavy demand for this monumental release, especially after the holidays, from frustrated Beatlemaniacs who failed to find the pricey item under the tree.