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New 'Landmark' Beatles Tell-All Book Is Not All That Telling

Authors Peter Brown and Steven Gaines revisit their most famous subjects with 'All You Need Is Love: The Beatles in Their Own Words.'

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Source: Universal Archive/Universal Images Group/Newscom/The Mega Agency

A new Beatles book offers precious little new insight.

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All You Need Is Love: The Beatles in Their Own Words, set for release today, will be the second time authors Peter Brown and Steven Gaines have collaborated on a book about the Fab Four. But as for what new insight or information the two have to bring to Beatles history at this juncture, the results are mixed at best.

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Source: Universal Archive/Universal Images Group/Newscom/The Mega Agency

Rehearsing for 'Thank Your Lucky Stars,' Birmingham, March 1965.

The pair's first book, 1983's The Love You Make, drew substantial publicity when it was published, though it also came under fire from both critics and fans for its salacious tone and what some claimed were historical inaccuracies. In particular, noted Beatles biographers and chroniclers came down on its claims of an alleged long-standing affair between John Lennon and manager Brian Epstein (Lennon denied it was consummated) as well as the claim that Paul McCartney had fathered an illegitimate child in 1964 (DNA testing proved it false). McCartney was so incensed by the narrative at the time that he and wife Linda ripped each page out of the book and burned them ceremoniously in their fireplace, viewing the book as a betrayal of confidence.

At 87, Brown is among the last of the Beatles' so-called inner circle. As the onetime right-hand man to Epstein, Brown was someone who was privy to the business dealings of the band, and famously helped to arrange John Lennon and Yoko Ono's marriage in "Gibraltar near Spain." And he was unique among the members of that inner circle in his willingness to publicly delve into less-than-flattering incidents and innuendo. As Gaines asserted in an interview with The Times back in 1983: "There was an omerta, a code of silence around the Beatles, and they didn't think anyone would come forward to tell the truth."

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Lennon had agreed to be interview before his death in 1980.

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So what exactly is revealed in this new volume that hasn't already been talked about, dissected, alleged and counter-alleged since 1983?

Honestly, not a whole lot. The book is not an oral history, nor is it stacked with music analysis or behind-the-scenes recording insights. As a recent review put it, All You Need Is Love is pretty much a rehash of the past, with precious few insights that haven't been already revealed in the past 40-plus years. The book consists of the raw transcripts from the past interview sessions, in which the two authors "quizzed their subjects on dirty business dealings, interpersonal conflicts, the Maharishi folly, the disastrous Manilla trip of 1966, the Beatles' sex lives and drug use, and Brian Epstein's sexuality and the circumstances of his death almost exclusively."

Brown has also included a passage centered on a business meeting that was conducted in 1969 between Lennon and notorious manager Allen Klein, whose strong-arm dealings with the Rolling Stones had already driven a wedge between him and Mick Jagger. However, Brown said that Lennon (via NME), "in his wonderful way, had Klein turn up to the same meeting," which was "deeply embarrassing" and "made Mick very uncomfortable."

Source: ℗ © Sony/ATV Tunes LLC/The Beatles/YouTube

The Beatles - Don't Let Me Down

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Brown, for his part, has waved all the recent criticism aside. "There was never any effort on my part to make it negative," he said in an interview earlier this month with The New York Times. "Nobody’s ever questioned that it was true."

Most of the book's interviews were conducted before Lennon's death in December 1980. Among the fresh comments from the new book are McCartney's portrayal of the Lennons as "very suspicious people." George Harrison was even more blunt at the time, calling Lennon "a piece of s--t," wondering why he had "become so nasty."

The one interviewee who comes off as increasingly sympathetic is Ono. Her talk with Brown was conducted in 1981 (as Brown says he spoke to Lennon about a meeting the week before he was killed) and she comes across as empathetic towards Lennon's first wife Cynthia -- in fact, the two mended fences before the latter died in 2015.

Source: Universal Archive/Universal Images Group/Newscom/The Mega Agency

Lennon and Ono in 1971.

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All You Need Is Love: The Beatles In Their Own Words is out today from MacMillan Publishers, and is available in hardcover, digital audio and e-book formats.


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