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The Best Books About The Beatles

Updated on May 30, 2012
Pre-Beatles in 1958-Elvis was their idol!
Pre-Beatles in 1958-Elvis was their idol!
The Birth of the Beatles 1961, making a show!
The Birth of the Beatles 1961, making a show!

Over the course of years, many, many books have been written about the Beatles. Most of them, are by someone who had been associated with them (like a roadie, a manager), while others were post-Beatles, long after they broke up or even after George and John had died.

Most claim to be definitive or the authorized biography, but that is true only in a few cases. The question arises, just how many more books will about them, hasn't all the stories, fact or fiction, been blurted out?There is more fascination with The Beatles than any other rock\rock band. They are what legends are made of or from. Elvis is fine, but The Beatles were times 4. Elvis failed to evolve as an artist, the Beatles did, times 4. Even Elvis suffocated under The Beatles' realm from 1964-70. Elvis became a symbol of an older generation, even though, this "generation" in terms of years amounted to only five or so years in age difference.

The only books the world has not yet had are Paul McCartney's and Ringo Starr's autobiography, no doubt they will be coming soon. Ringo is 70, Paul, 67.

So, only two authorized biographies sanctioned by The Beatles are:

1. The Beatles by Hunter Davies (1968). Many subsequent books cite this one because it is written in a totally unbiased account by a well known author. It was the first. Like many "first" things, it remains one of the best. Why? Because it was written when they existed. Each chapter is devoted to one member and traces their lives from birth to 1967. Their family details, nuances, their parents, siblings, their dreams and heartbreaks. It goes into all aspects, like, John at Art College, Hamburg, Brian Epstein (their insightful manager), attempts to secure a record deal, touring, Beatlemania, and how they changed from unknowns to idols. Because it is written like a well researched book, Hunter had access to them. He interviewed them at a time when they were harmonious, so there is no taint or acid to color facts. The divorce of The Beatles would still not happen for another year. Most of the book was written from 1965-67. It is rare to find it.

2. The Beatles Anthology, written by themselves (2000). This is a HUGE book, both physically (13" x 9.5") and in pages, over 365. Even though it sold for $60 then, it is priceless for fans. This material is all based on numerous other books, interviews, the surviving Beatles. They included photos you have never seen from their private collections. The depth of detail about just events in their lives swirling around the group is amazing and interesting to any fan. For instance, in an early gig in Scotland, the band had set up in a L-shaped room only to find they were are the wrong end! Worse, there was only one microphone. I suspect the value of this book is immense and rare already because I am sure the print run was very low.

3.The Beatles by Bob Spitz (2005), at almost 1000 pages, this bio is akin to the Beatles Harry Potter books, well worth the $40. Very few photos, unlike the previous two, this is mostly text minutia of a possessed Beatle-fan author. Extremely interesting and detailed and I just LOVE the cover. This was an out-take from a photo shoot for a Beatle LP. They should have used it. If you cannot find the previous two, this would be all you need. It covers it all to the sad end.

4.Twilight of the Gods by Wilfred Melless (1973). Unlike the others, this focuses only on their music and why The Beatles are often compared to Beethoven and Bach. This IS a technical and analytical book of the structure of their songs. The book is by a music professor from the University of York and began as a series of lectures about their music and why it is so artistic and timeless. This is not about the lyrics. Just music and notation. It is amazing but dry reading. One would never know rock music could be compared to Bach. The Beatles do without ever knowing it.

5. Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation (1981) by Phillip Norman. The author is well known in the UK and was assigned to The Beatles in 1968 to cover their Apple records company from the inside. This book is a treasure of detail because the author interviewed everyone he could find in The Beatles lives. So, while Hunter Davies interviewed parents and siblings, Norman interviews them and those who hung out with the members, played with, went to school with them LONG before there were Beatles and during their formation and long after. It is quite interesting to read to see the personalities of them as kids, teens and as idols.

6. B is for Beatle (2006) by myself. This is a tween-teen story book for ages 9+. In a whimsical, fairy tale, it tells the condensed history in a way that inspires all kids to pursue whatever dreams they have and be just like a Beatle, maybe. Lots of great rare photos.


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      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Great list. I haven't read "Twilight of the Gods" or "B is for Beatle", but the other books are all very good. If you're a musician or songwriter, I also recommend "The Beatles as Musicians", a 2-volume set that covers their entire career from the Quarry Men through Anthology. I'm enjoying all of your Beatles hubs.

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      Team Leader 5 years ago

      Hello Perrya, Thanks, this was a really interesting read. There is so much info out there it is nice to be given knowledgeable guidance. Your 'Team Leader'