You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup by Peter Doggett (Harper, 400 pages, $24.99)
“We were four guys in a band, that’s all.” John Lennon
Rock ‘n roll writer Doggett provides the reader with a Magical Misery Tour in this inexplicable rehashing of the Beatles story, especially its sad ending (Hey Jude). Now really, what’s the point of retelling a story that’s already been told in at least 75 other versions, and by the Beatles themselves in Anthology? Well intended or not, Doggett appears to want to make the point that these were four not really very nice young men; except for the fact that the author is clearly partial to The Legend of John Lennon.
And yet even Mr. Lennon comes off as a crass ruffian in this account. For example, here is Lennon talking about the band members’ treatment of George Harrison: “It’s only this year that (George) has realized who he is. And all the f—— s–t we’ve done to him.” Positively charming.
John Lennon, however, is treated with virtual kid gloves compared to Doggett’s agenda-driven need to attack Sir Paul McCartney (probably the most commercially successful musician of our lifetime), George Harrison (who wrote what Frank Sinatra called the most beautiful love song of the last century), and Ringo Starr (whose upbeat personality and drumming literally bound the band together). It is all very, very tiresome.
The point of this exercise is further called into question when one realizes that there’s nothing in this account that one has not read about before. Even if you’ve read no more than two or three or a handful of books about the Beatles’ storied if marred career, you’ll be bored by the same old stories here. The author seems to admit as such as he often quotes multiple earlier accounts of the same material. For example, when he writes about the evil manager Allen Klein he quotes six other sources before providing his own perspective. Yawn.
There are far better alternatives out there. If you want to read a true story of a highly talented band’s sad demise consider reading the excellent account, Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger by Peter Matovia about Badfinger, the Beatles’ alter-egos band (sometimes referred to as The Junior Beatles). Each of the four members of Badfinger worked with each of the Beatles at some point – and each of them looked like one of the Beatles – and two of their members died by their own hand.
If you wish to read an account of a band that will succeed in making you hate all of the band members, there’s Bad Moon Rising: The Unauthorized History of Creedence Clearwater Revival by Hank Berdowitz. After reading this unofficial history, I lost my aural appetite for listening to the music of John Fogerty and/or CCR.
One final advisory, and it’s an appropriate one. I recently discussed this book with a music-loving friend and he asked me what the complete title of the book was. When I told him that it was supposedly about the Beatles “after the breakup,” he wisely responded: “Well, after they broke up they weren’t the Beatles anymore, were they?” No, and it’s a point well taken. We stand adjourned.
This review was written by Joseph Arellano. A review copy was provided by the publisher.