And in the End: Book Review: Peter Brown’s “The Love You Make”

First published in 1983, Beatles assistant Peter Brown’s account of his time in the band’s inner circle, The Love You Make, seeks to establish an authority for itself beyond the traditional constraints of an individual memoir. With co-author Steven Gaines, Brown opts to attempt to provide a larger picture than those supplied by only his own memories and knowledge, offering extensive descriptions of numerous events throughout the band member’s lives which Brown didn’t witness or experience. For example, Brown opens the book with Cynthia Lennon’s account of returning from a short vacation only to discover Yoko Ono, wearing her bathrobe, obviously engaged in an affair with her husband, John, in her own house. This is one of numerous events which were not witnessed by Brown, but which he details in his insider’s story.

This makes Brown’s work, half-memoir and half-not, difficult to categorize. Virtually every other memoir in Beatles historiography tends to toe the implicit line in offering the memoirists’ personal recollections and retrospective eyewitness accounts as the bulk of their material. Memoirs written by Brown’s contemporaries such as Mike McCartney’s The Macs (1981), Pete Shotton’s John Lennon in my Life (1982) or Pete Best’s Beatle! (1984), largely keep their focus concentrated on offering the memoirist’s perspective. Latter memoirs, such as Tony Bramwell’s, Geoff Emerick’s, or George Martin’s, also adhere to this formula, which often offers admittedly subjective but still fascinating fly-on-the-wall primary source material.

In contrast, The Love you Make’s attempts to establish itself as both half-memoir, half-biography requires analysis of both the subjective, primary source material of the memoir and the secondary source material in the biographical sections, and opens it to criticism regarding its lack of methodology. Technically, as a memoir, Brown’s work doesn’t require the same level of citation or sourcing as secondary works. But because of Brown and Gaines’s insistence on turning the book into a quasi-biography, extensively covering areas and topics outside of Brown’s own experiences and observations, their lack of citations and specifically identified sources becomes a major weakness in the book’s work. This error is only enhanced by the rampant errors that pepper the book.

Every Beatles book — even the most revered — presumably has errors of fact and, arguably, of interpretation. But those which provide citations crucially allow the reader to check the sources, identify the origin of the facts or quotations, and discern the accuracy or not of the work. In addition, it is a reality that some errors are significantly more consequential than others. When Brown misinforms the reader that the first name of Linda McCartney’s first husband was Bob, or that John Lennon was the eldest Beatle (the correct answers are Mel and Ringo, respectively) these errors may jar the informed reader out of the narrative, and supply the uninformed reader with inaccurate facts, but they do not fundamentally change his or her view of the band’s story or its members, or its music. However, Brown’s work also contains errors of considerable significance that, if taken at face value, can provide an undiscerning reader with an inaccurate view of crucial events and individuals.

Examples of this include Brown’s vastly simplified version of the decision to stop touring — presented as done after Lennon declared, on the plane after the debacle in the Phillippines, that the Beatles would no longer tour — a version which ignores that the decision was actually made in the midst of the subsequent American tour, and the unanimity required from all four Beatles (the last holdout being McCartney) to enforce it. Heavily borrowing from, presumably, Philip Norman’s 1981 Shout!, which he copies, in this instance, almost word for word, Brown also gives readers a highly inaccurate version of the creation of “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” declaring that Lennon recorded the song almost singlehandedly, with McCartney providing only drums. One of the most striking errors comes in the book’s early pages when Brown, discussing Lennon’s first meeting with McCartney at the Woolton Fete, describes Lennon’s thoughts upon watching McCartney play guitar. Unlike other parts of The Love You Make, when Brown also relays the thoughts of other individuals verbatim based, seemingly, on his own speculation, in this instance Brown has evidence. Indeed, Lennon’s famous quote on first watching McCartney — “He’s as good as me” — is available, verbatim, in The Authorized Biography. This makes Brown’s incorrect version of the quote — “He’s half as good as me” — jarringly inaccurate.

While Brown begins the introduction by emphasizing how numerous crucial sources — including John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Neil Aspinall, among others — all agreed to provide interviews, the failure to cite sources makes it, at times, impossible to determine the source of a claim. Rumor is provided as the basis of claims which could significantly, and even fundamentally, alter a reader’s understanding of the band’s music and its individuals — perhaps the most damaging of these being Brown’s claim that it was widely known that McCartney often dubbed Ringo Starr’s drumming in the studio once all the other Beatles had left; a rumor which prompts Brown to declare, in his next sentence, that Starr simply didn’t have the musical skill necessary to be a Beatle. That Brown himself spent the bulk of his time in the office, and not the studio, is just one reason to question this heavily dismissive treatment of Starr’s drumming. Another would be Brown’s overall portrayal of Starr; the bulk of which is condescending and/or catty: the author’s comment upon Starr’s marriage to Liverpool girlfriend Maureen does not indicate an author given to restraint: they were a perfect couple, the author informs us, because “She was as mousy as he was homely.”

In the 2006 re-edition, which is the one on which this review is based, rock journalist Anthony DeCurtis attempts, in his introduction, to temper the criticism of the more salacious elements of Brown’s book by declaring that The Love You Make demonstrates how pettiness and artistic transcendence are not mutually exclusive — the same musician who penned the song from which the book title is borrowed is roundly criticized by Brown for his considerable ego — and that fans must realize that dichotomy. DeCurtis’s argument is valid — certainly only a complete novice to the band’s historiography would be shocked at the examples Brown provides. What does not help The Love You Make, however, is Brown’s seeming glee in revealing the pettiness, arguments, salacious and shocking moments. In You Never Give Me Your Money, perhaps the bleakest book in all Beatles historiography, journalist Peter Doggett recounted just as many, if not more, such less-admirable moments. However, Doggett recounts these events with impartiality, rather than reveling in them, as Brown does. The reality that Brown, unlike Doggett, worked for and with the Beatles for years and presumably had numerous scores to settle with them is one obvious reason for this difference in tone: where Doggett attempts objectivity, Brown seems determined to extract his pound of flesh from each Beatle. In addition to the sweepingly dismissive portrayal of Starr, Harrison is presented as doggedly ungracious and often embittered; one of our last impressions of him involves his affair with Maureen Starkey. McCartney, reveling in his own genius and fame, is shown as difficult, insufferably egotistical and promiscuous, while Brown’s portrayal of Lennon leaves the reader wondering, at times, how the musician managed to function with any competency, given the psychological, addictive, and emotional demons the author ascribes to him.

Despite these issues, Brown’s work remains essential due almost entirely to his own eyewitness recollections. Had Brown restrained himself to recounting only that material that he observed or knew first-hand, the work’s reputation and credibility would be considerably better (while still acknowledging the subjectivity of Brown’s version). Brown’s comments and observations form the bedrock of much of our understanding of Brian Epstein’s life, struggles, and relationships with the other Beatles. His declaration that heroin may have been the most important factor, if not the one single factor, that broke up the band — a judgement which largely went unheeded over thirty years ago — continues to gain credence. And other authors, including Doggett, continue to use Brown’s recollections of numerous business meetings in their examination of the business and legal disputes — the “funny paper” — that so complicated the band’s breakup. Whether Brown’s diversions into other areas were editorially driven or not is up for debate; regardless, the many sections where Brown attempts to write the book as a semi-biography are also those that display the works greatest weaknesses.


While Brown’s work is one that I reviewed in “The Beatles and the Historians,” it only received a paragraph or two, due primarily to the constraints of editorial word count. Having revisited the work recently, this led to a more thorough analysis. Thoughts and comments are welcomed.

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46 thoughts on “And in the End: Book Review: Peter Brown’s “The Love You Make”

  1. Linda says:

    I read the book in 1983 and I remember being very disappointed for the reasons you have cited above. His editorializing was mean spirited and jarring. As you’ve said, You Never Give Me Your Money is far from fan boy hagiography but because of Doggett’s skill it never seems to cross a line into nastiness. For me, the most annoying parts of Brown’s book are his description of incidents that he was not there to witness, yet he leaves the impression that he was there. Overall I felt the book was just a tabloid. If Brown had left out all the salacious details that he wasn’t there to witness, I have a feeling there wouldn’t have been anything of interest. Other than as an assistant and gopher I don’t think he knew the Beatles very well. Unlike Neil, Mal, Tony Bramwell and even Alistair Taylor, he wasn’t their friend. He never seemed to spend time with them, other than brief interactions that were strictly business. In that regard he wasn’t any different than Tony Barrow. However Barrow’s book reflects that employee/employer status yet still manages to be interesting. Barrow doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what he was.

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    • Erin says:

      That’s a very good point, Linda: now that you mention it, I don’t recall Brown recounting hanging out with the Beatles, the same way a friend would. Which is interesting, especially given that we have numerous instances of that from other Beatles insiders, including George Martin. Brown does claim that he would visit both John and Paul in New York in the 70s, and seems to imply that those were social calls/catching up, but much of interaction with them in the Beatles period does seem to have been through the prism of an employee. Whereas you have Mal going on Safari with Paul; Derek and John dropping acid together; George and Neil’s very close friendship. You don’t have a moment like that between Peter Brown and any of the other Beatles, at least not that recollects in the book.

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say that without the salacious material there wouldn’t have been anything of interest, though. I found his recounting of the business meetings regarding the Eastman’s and Klein pretty valuable, even if I would have hoped for more documentation from him in that regard, and I know Doggett has used some of Brown’s recollections. He wasn’t exactly a neutral observer — he made it clear that, at least by the time of The Love You Make, his view of Klein was contemptuous — but he was a witness to those meetings, and he didn’t have a dog in the Klein/Eastman fight (beyond evidently finding Klein a rotten personality and blowhard) and I think that makes his testimony particularly interesting. So much of what we get regarding Klein/the Eastman’s in this time period comes from someone with a serious stake in the issue, which is part of why I think we get such extreme vitriol and portrayals — but I appreciate Brown’s relative detachment.

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      • Linda says:

        ” I found his recounting of the business meetings regarding the Eastman’s and Klein pretty valuable,”

        That’s why I’m glad you have read most of these books so recently. You actually remember the books. I only have a general feeling based on how I remember feeling after I finished reading and maybe a few stand out memories. Yes material like that is priceless and I believe that’s why it stands out from the all the tabloid style crap I remember. Because that was Brown’s main function within the Beatles. As their assistant part of his job was to sit in on business meetings. So you finally get valuable, first hand information from Brown.

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  2. David says:

    Thanks for your review, Erin. Somewhere on tape, I have a short interview of Peter Brown on Detroit radio doing a book tour to promote “The Love You Make.” It lasts perhaps just 10 minutes, but in the interview, Brown says almost nothing about his own experiences with the Beatles. Instead, he fills the time talking mostly about the “Paul is dead” rumor. It was obvious to me that he was quite happy to spout second-hand stories and rumor, even that which we all knew was total fiction — just to sell a book. I was disappointed hearing this lost opportunity to gain insight from a so-called “insider”. The impression he left on me then seems to jibe with what you say in your review.

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    • Erin says:

      What an interesting comment, David. Do you happen to remember what Brown said about the “Paul is dead” rumor? In the book, he mainly seems to argue that it was a major work annoyance — which, to be fair, I’m sure it was; it’s not something that they had any training or preparation for, business or P.R. wise — and irked that Paul didn’t do more to immediately squelch it.

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  3. Karen Hooper says:

    Great review, Erin.

    Between the release of Shout! in 1981 and The Love You Make in 1983, Paul–and to a lesser extent George and Ringo–must have wanted to crawl under the proverbial rock. The “she was as mousy as he was homely” comment, as well as the book’s scandalmongery, says more about the author than his subjects, in my view.

    The reality that Brown, unlike Doggett, worked for and with the Beatles for years and presumably had numerous scores to settle with them is one obvious reason for this difference in tone: where Doggett attempts objectivity, Brown seems determined to extract his pound of flesh from each Beatle.

    If you needed to summarize Brown’s book in one paragraph, I think this would be it.

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    • Erin says:

      And in that same timeframe, along those same lines, would have been “The Ballad of John and Yoko,” which is semi-hagiographic: Ray Coleman’s Lennon bio (same) — in which George and Ringo barely exist. We have a less than complimentary comment from George on Shout!, and criticism from Ringo regarding his depiction in “A Hard Day’s Night,” but other than that I can’t recall criticism from them regarding their depiction in Beatles historiography. Although, right after John’s murder, complaining about not receiving your due credit probably wouldn’t have been a good look.

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  4. LouAnn says:

    I’ve always wondered if Peter Brown’s extreme resentment lay in the fact that the Beatles never regarded him as management material in the debate over who would replace Brian Epstein. Peter Brown thought quite highly of himself (while attacking McCartney for his ego problems) and must have been very bitter that the band never even considered that he could step into Brian’s shoes. And Peter Brown was Brian’s No. 2 or No. 3 guy, right? Wouldn’t he have been a natural to take over the manager’s job?

    Instead, the Beatles never gave him insider access (like they did for Brian, Mal, Neil, Derek) and never seem to have even considered hiring him as a possible manager. My theory is that Peter Brown was deeply bitter about that, spent years collecting dirt, and got his revenge by publishing this historical fictionalized account of the band.

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    • Erin says:

      I was thinking about that, too, LouAnn: from what I took away from Brown’s book, he was essentially a department store floor manager, hired by Brian, who then became a business/assistant manager of the Beatles. It was essentially the same as taking the floor manager from your local J.C. Penny’s and putting them in place of immense business and financial power regarding the biggest band in the world. Now, you can argue that a lot of people who were in the Beatles inner circle weren’t exactly qualified for their positions, and they still became the biggest band in the world, but you have to wonder how much of that material they didn’t know impacted their legal and financial issues. The Beatles may have been willing to overlook that lack of experience with Brian, because he was their friend, was utterly devoted to them, and had helped them get to the top. But perhaps Brown was seen as having too many of Brian’s same weaknesses, without having his strengths. There certainly doesn’t seem to have been a very strong relationship between John and Peter, and given how much John put stake in that personal relationship, first with Brian and then with Klein, I think that would be pretty important, too.

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      • Erin says:

        Thinking a bit more on this issue:
        We have evidence that the Beatles had a habit of locking onto their first impressions of people and never truly breaking out of them: that’s particularly true with one another, given John and Paul’s admitted inability to see George as an equal, rather than a younger brother, because their first impression was of younger brother/tag-along kid. Peter Brown may have learned a lot during his Beatles trial by fire and had impressive business sucesses after his Beatles period — albeit not as impressive as, say, the Eastman’s — but if the boys were still locked into that first mindset — Peter Brown, department store floor manager when they met him; Brian’s assistant — than Brown had no chance of gaining the manager position. Maybe in retrospect it would would made more sense; but its not as if John and Paul would have known, in ’67 and ’69, that Brown would do well in business post-breakup, any more than they could foresee Klein’s stint in jail in the 70s for tax evasion.

        Plus, there’s the interview Klein did with David Vetter in November 1971. What’s interesting about that — beyond simply Klein’s self-serving, inaccurate spin — is that one element numerous people — John, Yoko, and Ringo — bring up is that one of their favorite qualities of Klein is that he’s, for lack of a better term, a gangster. Ringo flat out says that the music business is full of sharks, and he wanted a shark representing him. If three of the four Beatles genuinely felt that way in ’69, then Brown wouldn’t have stood a chance. Can you really see Brown barging into a meeting with Sir Joseph Lockwood at EMI and trying to bully him, the way Klein did? In a lot of ways, Klein was the anti-Brian, whereas Brown would have been viewed by the Beatles, presumably, as a pale imitation of his predecessor — and a predecessor they hadn’t necessarily been thrilled with, in ’67.

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  5. Rose Decatur says:

    Am I right in remembering a rumor that Peter Brown had been a boyfriend of Brian’s? I recall seeing that somewhere and being shocked, because it seemed like a massive thing to have left out of his book.

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    • Erin says:

      I have no idea, Rose: I’ve never heard that rumor before. One thing about the book is that Brown, while very happy to dish on other people’s romantic/sex lives, has nothing to say regarding his own.

      I understand its a personal issue, and I think you can criticize other memoirists for veering too far in the other direction — Tony Bramwell seems to determined to inform readers of every notch on his bedpost — but it also removes part of the memoir aspect of the book. The way “The Love You Make” is written, Brown had no sexual/romantic attachments during his Beatles period of employment, period. That lack of self-examination from Brown, or information regarding his own life/experiences, is another reason the book struck me as more of a biography than a memoir.

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  6. Bill Slocum says:

    The most memorable impression this book left on me was a caption under a photo of John recording a vocal on the floor: “Lennon, too stoned to sing standing up” it read, or something like that.

    Years later, Lewisohn’s Abbey Road book revealed Lennon’s fixation with recording his vocal however oddly he could manage to get a different sound quality. Brown might not have been in a position to know this, but it didn’t stop him from jumping to the most salacious conclusion (knowing that book-store browsers would be more likely to buy a book from glancing at the photos inside.)

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    • Erin says:

      That’s such an unfortunate flaw in the book, Bill.

      One thing in Brown’s favor is he does discuss the importance of the drug issue, but, like Goldman, he does so in a flawed way. As I mentioned before, Brown wasn’t even in the studio; he was at the office, so how would he have had first-hand knowledge that John was so stoned at the particular session? Not to mention both Paul and George Martin admitting that they tended to try and avoid using drugs in the studio, because when they did the music stunk. (Although I can’t recall if those comments were available to Brown when he first published “The Love You Make,” they were certainly available by the time of the revised edition, in which Brown corrects seemingly none of his previous errors). But pushing that salacious angle — even to the point of giving the reader inaccurate information — was seemingly part of the marketing strategy. And you’re right; the first thing most readers will do is flip to the pictures. I’m the odd woman out in that regard: the first thing I flip to is the bibliography.

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  7. Hologram Sam says:

    Brown certainly seems to have a chip on his shoulder:

    From wikipedia:

    The Love You Make was reissued in 2002 by New American Library, with minor revisions and a foreword by Rolling Stone journalist Anthony DeCurtis. Speaking to New York magazine, Brown explained his decision to re-publish, saying that he had read a review of the Beatles Anthology book that mentioned “other Beatle books and not mine. And I got pissed off.

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    • Brit says:

      Oh Boy! Lewisohn has apparently been hanging out with Peter Brown a lot lately, so I guess we know what to expect from the 1969 section of the next/final Tune In.

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      • Erin says:

        I’d fully expect Lewisohn to contact and interview Brown; in fact, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t. Given that Brown’s a primary source/witness, it would be remiss of Lewisohn not to interview him. As I said, other authors have used him before, such as Doggett. Now if Lewisohn based his version of 1969 solely on Brown’s recollections that would be a methodological error of massive proportions, for any variety of reasons, but I’ve seen nothing from Lewisohn to indicate that he would choose that particular path. Lewisohn has mentioned before his preference, which is accurate, for contemporary documentation, and my understanding is that Lewisohn has also gotten ahold of parts of some breakup era tapes. Brown is certainly a piece of the puzzle that I’d expect Lewisohn to incorporate while, at the same time, not using his unverifiable recollections unquestioningly.

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        • Brit says:

          Erin, I know that you respect Lewisohn’s methodology, and I get why you always defend him in that respect, but I think he is extremely biased and a real danger to Beatles history, especially because he has been anointed an almost god-like status amongst fans. Lately he has been making the rounds on podcasts with alarming statements such as: John was never actually addicted to heroin, John actually meant and believed everything he ever said, and that Allen Klein may actually be the hero of the Beatles’ break-up. I get the distinct sense he is on a mission to permanently redeem John and Yoko as the visionary geniuses of the Beatles and to once again cast Paul as the greedy, small-minded villain; in other words, regress back to the Shout! And Love You Make narratives. So yes, maybe he uses good sources for his “facts,” but his interpretation of those facts is deeply troubling.

          I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Philip Norman, but I now understand what he meant when he said he created a monster in Lewisohn! The danger is that ML professes to be unbiased, but he is not.

          Basically, what I’m learning is that all Beatles biographers are problematic. 🙂

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          • Erin says:

            Brit, I agree wholeheartedly that no one, not even Lewisohn, is above analysis or examination. And any fan who goes into reading Lewisohn with the mindset of reverentially accepting his interpretations in their entirety simply because they come from Lewisohn is approaching the work in a flawed way. I, for one, have no intention of simply accepting Lewisohn’s interpretations at face value because that would be a betrayal of my training and my profession.

            I will examine his evidence and interpretation according to proper historical methodology the same way I would with everyone. And you are entirely right in that arguing that a work is unassailable due to its reputation or the reputation of its author is also flawed. History is riddled with countless books that were regarded as largely unassailable doctrine in their respective time periods but whose interpretations are now disputed. But the point from my previous post still stands: the danger is not in Lewisohn interviewing Peter Brown: the danger is in him blindly accepting Brown’s version of events. One is evidence, the other is interpretation. You have lost confidence in Lewisohn’s interpretations and their objectivity; I am adopting a wait and analyze approach.

            I haven’t listened to the podcasts you reference, so I will have to largely have to wait until he provides the evidence and interpretations in his book. There are, after all, years between the podcast interview and the publication of the work for Lewisohn to amass new evidence, and I am going to put enough confidence into Lewisohn as a researcher that he has not predetermined his interpretations on these issues and is willing to accept new evidence and revise his interpretations if the evidence so calls. If Lewisohn has predetermined his interpretation on these issues, then that is an error, no doubt. Given that these interpretations are, as you mention, rather tilting against the accepted wisdom that’s now prevailing in Beatles historiography regarding the Beatles and drugs, and especially Klein, Lewisohn would have to offer some pretty compelling evidence to buttress those conclusions. And if the evidence doesn’t support those conclusions, than he will certainly be open to legitimate criticism in that area.

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          • Alex says:

            No wonder it’s taking him so long to finish his book with all those interviews he gives.

            Maybe he’s playing nice to get access to information. Or maybe someone has offered him a large sum of money and he’s decided that the truth isn’t so important after all. He wouldn’t be the first, and he’s just a journalist writing about a rock band at the end of the day.

            That’s the problem with all these books, I suppose – the people who write them are corruptible. Or human, depending on how you want to look at it.

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            • Erin says:

              I haven’t met Mark Lewisohn; the only academic Beatles conference I went to, at the University of Michigan, was one he didn’t attend. And for a variety of real-life reasons, primarily kid-related, I haven’t been to any Beatlefests or other conventions since.

              Having said that, I don’t have a problem with the amount of interviews he’s giving. He does so in order to drum up interest and sales in the book, which his financial future, to a large extent, depends on. He also does so to send out the call for evidence, as he does in the afterword or Tune In. Perhaps there are interviews he is turning down; we don’t know. I do find his original prediction for the publication of the second volume wildly optimistic, and understand how that can be immensely frustrating for fans and readers.

              Again, I want to emphasize the importance of analyzing Lewisohn according to the proper methodology the same way we should do with all Beatles authors. But I’d disagree with calling him a journalist; from what I’ve seen, he’s a self-taught historian, in that he doesn’t have the actual degree, so far as I know, but has evidently studied the methodology. His comments in various interviews indicate to me that he has more than a considerable knowledge of the proper way of finding/selecting/evaluating evidence. It doesn’t make him foolproof, but given that there is a contrast between journalistic standards and historical ones, I think its an important distinction.

              As for the speculation — on him playing nice, on him accepting money in order to write the story a certain way — I want to emphasize its status as speculation. You could also speculate that Lewisohn is driven by a vendetta against George Harrison and Yoko Ono, who attempted to have him fired from the Anthology project, and will therefore write a skewed history. You could speculate he really is secretly in Paul’s camp, as part of McCartney’s decades-long attempt to revise Beatles history and his portrayal in it. You could speculate he’s really more of a Stones fan. But I think when we’re getting to the point that we’re speculating that an author with a very good personal and professional reputation for credibility has taken a bribe in order to write the history in a certain way, we may be traveling to a bridge too far.

              Again, I think its interesting to hear about the frustration surrounding Lewisohn. I had some issues with parts of his methodology and analysis in “Tune In,” and I look forward to the next volume to see what new evidence he brings. To an extent, I’m more interested in Lewisohn’s new evidence than I am in his interpretations. Even if there are readers who will vehemently disagree with Lewisohn’s interpretation of this new evidence, the new evidence will still be around and subject to re-interpretation. Other authors may take the same piece of heretofore unknown evidence and interpret it very differently than Lewisohn, as is their right. Or new evidence may come out post-Lewisohn that upends his understanding. New evidence is always coming out. They just found a document from John Locke where Locke advocates equal rights for Catholics in Enlightenment England (although, using the terminology of the time, he calls them Papists), when previous understanding was that Locke didn’t support that train of thought. Even Lewisohn’s interpretations, whatever they may be, will not be graven in stone, although they will, admittedly, carry a lot of weight for a certain generation of Beatles fans.

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              • Alex says:

                But that’s the thing, Erin – I don’t doubt that Lewisohn’s methodology is sound, and I accept that he has uncovered some new evidence. I’m not sure that I find much of that evidence as earth shattering as he makes it out to be, but still. What I find difficult to reconcile however is the idea that a self-taught historian with considerable knowledge of the proper way to find and evaluate evidence could possibly reach the conclusion that John Lennon was not a heroin addict.

                Now, I haven’t heard the podcasts that Brit refers to, so I have no idea whether Lewisohn has actually made these statements or in what context he has made them. But I do know this – Lewisohn knows very well that John Lennon was a heroin addict (as do we all – we have seen the video evidence), and if he is arguing otherwise, he is telling lies.

                Why would he do that if his only motivation was to uncover the truth?

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                • Erin says:

                  Alex, we’re venturing into speculative territory again, and I always feel its important to label that as such when we go down that road.

                  It so happens I disagree with your premise: Lewisohn does not have to know that Lennon was a heroin addict and therefore must be lying when he says otherwise. I haven’t listened to the podcast either, so I want to clarify that. But arguing that lying is the only possible reason for Lewisohn to reach that conclusion is a flawed argument, and speculating on insidious reasons, such as bribery, for why he is offering what you regard as an incorrect interpretation only builds on that flawed argument.

                  He could be misreading evidence, including the video evidence you mention. He could misinterpret it and come to the incorrect conclusion. He could be basing that conclusion of non-addictiveness on evidence of which we are unaware, which, again, he could be interpreting correctly or incorrectly. He could have exaggerated or misspoken during the podcast. He could be influenced by private experiences with drugs and addictiveness of which we are unaware but which are influencing his interpretations. He could be ignorant enough of drugs and addictiveness to not recognize the signs and understand it to identify it. All those are options that don’t necessitate Lewisohn lying, and all are ones that fall inside the realm of possibility for why Lewisohn is currently offering that conclusion. He could also be so interested in upending our current canon on Beatles knowledge and how the story has been told that he gives outsized weight to the new information/evidence/interpretations in his own work and therefore affords them greater credibility than he should. He could argue that John’s psychological issues were so rampant at the heroin period that its impossible to separate the two. He could also be right in his interpretation that John was not a heroin addict, although my current reading of the evidence would certainly disagree, as would much of current Beatles historiography. None of those necessitate Lewisohn out and out lying, or accepting bribes as motivation for those lies, and all would fall more easily under the umbrella of Occam’s Razor, which I tend to regard as a helpful tool when sifting through evidence.

                  I think this is a good time to step away from this argument, which is venturing into areas I find unnecessarily close to a kind of hyper-speculation that is slanting very negative with no evidence to support it. There should be a new post up, hopefully soon, which will lead to a new set of openings for discussion.

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            • Karen Hooper says:

              That’s the problem with all these books, I suppose – the people who write them are corruptible. Or human, depending on how you want to look at it.

              I kind of think it’s the latter: that some of Lewisohn’s interpretations are erroneous rather than reflective of an umseemly ulterior motive. It’s too easy, I think, to assign nefarious intent to an author when they come up with interpretations which we believe are erroneous at their core–unless the author is Albert Goldman, in which case the evidence is ample to both criticize the methodology and the motivation for the interpretation.

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    • Erin says:

      Yeesh.

      I’m curious now to know what minor revisions were made in the 2002 edition, because that was the edition I read and I was soundly unimpressed with the numerous errors it contains, including ones that should certainly have been corrected by 2002. I’m not curious enough to go back and do my typical read chapter one of the first edition — take notes, read chapter one of the revised edition — take notes and compare while looking at what changes were made, however. But Brown’s motivation for reissuing the book is an interesting one, to say the least.

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  8. Hologram Sam says:

    Brown’s motivation for reissuing the book is an interesting one, to say the least.

    Throughout history, “And I got pissed off” has been the reason men started wars, committed crimes, and reissued bad biographies. It may be the biggest driver of history of them all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin says:

      It reminds me of part of Norman Smith’s argument for why he felt compelled to write his memoir (which is frankly bizarre — the memoir, not the argument): he felt he had been unjustly omitted from the bulk of Beatles historiography, and named certain works — Anthology, George Martin’s Memoirs, Paul’s MYFN — by name that hadn’t given him his due justice. Smith seems to argue that there was a concerted effort to omit his contributions.

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        • Erin says:

          One of the Beatles engineers, pre-Emerick: he worked on their albums pre-Revolver. He has some interviews given over various decades, but he also published a memoir in the last ten years or so. Frankly, its a bizarre one: he rambles: he gives us lengthy imaginary conversations with Beatles verbatim (he even acknowledges they’re imaginary); he argues that a flood at Abbey Road in the early 90s was deliberately engineered in order to destroy Beatles records (even though there’s no evidence there was any Beatles stuff in storage down there) and argues that Beatles historiography has conspired to largely ignore him. It also gives us probably our most negative view of George Martin since, well, Emerick’s book, implying that Martin sought to gently nudge Smith into writing his book in a certain way and charging that Martin didn’t like his depiction in Bramwell’s book and actually demanded parts be removed. The curious aspect of that is I don’t remember any negativity regarding the depiction of Martin in Bramwell’s book at all: the most memorable portrayal of Martin is where Bramwell compares him to the Beatles Q, from James Bond. “Don’t fiddle with those knobs, double 00 Lennon, or you’ll blow us all to kingdom come.”

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          • Erin says:

            I don’t think he spends too much time in his memoir on that, interestingly enough. Its somewhat difficult to remember, as Smith jumps around chronologically; as a result the book is disjointed and lacks a clear narrative flow. (Incidentally, Smith argues this was deliberate: he purposefully didn’t put all of his Beatles stuff in just one or two chapters because then he figured people would only read those: he wanted everyone to the read the entire book). The incidents he does spend most of his time on are 1. railing against the Northern Songs/Dick James contract John and Paul signed, and condemning George Martin for setting it up 2. discussions with his secretive collaborator, known only as “Research,” with whom he has conversations regarding various conspiracies in Beatles historiography regarding attempts to suppress his contributions 3. Criticizing George Martin for this meeting in the garden of Abbey Road and Martin’s attempt to nudge Smith into writing a certain kind of memoir. 4. His song which the Beatles evidently almost recorded but then chose not to.

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            • Brit says:

              Oh, WOW! That’s a LOT.

              As soon as you explained he was an engineer, I remembered him from Geoff Emerick’s book. But he obviously was not a memorable part of the story! Yeesh. It must be really hard for some of those extraneous people to brush with greatness but never really make it into the story.

              Like

  9. George C Heon says:

    I recall a confrontation around the time of the book’s original release where Paul took Peter Brown to task for not admitting his relationship with Brian Epstein.

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    • Erin says:

      If that’s true — if Brown and Epstein did have a relationship — then that is a pretty glaring omission by Brown. Beatles historiography demonstrates that romantic and sexual relationships can influence how things and events unfold.

      Like

      • Claudia says:

        I remembered reading Paul and Linda commenting on this book, so I did a little research. They talk about it in the 1984 Playboy interview which can be found online. They both said they thought of him as a friend before the book. Paul says that Brown told them he was writing a book about the music of the sixties, not a book on the Beatles. They saw the book as a breach of trust. Linda said they chose not to actually read it but had been told what it said. She said they threw the copy Brown gave them in the fire place and she photographed it while it burned!

        Paul didn’t specifically mention Brown and Epstein having a relationship in this interview. He does seem upset that Brown mentioned John and Brian’s trip to Spain as neither were alive to respond to it.

        Interestingly, there is an article from this April in Billboard, in which Brown’s co-author, Steven Gaines, says he wants the interviews from the book to be released. This article is also available online. He says they recorded 60-80 hours of interviews with the remaining Beatles, the wives, Allen Klein, Neil Aspinall and others. Gaines says he once heard Brown say he would never sell them. Brown wouldn’t respond to Billboard’s request.

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        • Erin says:

          Claudia,

          I particularly loved your point about Brown’s interviews. He does stress that in the book’s intro., both the amount of people they interviewed and the amount of material they got out of those taped interviews. Unfortunately, since Brown won’t release them, we have no knowledge of what material they selected for inclusion and what they rejected.

          That reliance on interviews is another issue I have with Beatles historiography in this time period. In fact, its a major weakness of a lot of the works — Apple to the Core, The Beatles Forever, Shout!, Coleman’s Lennon bio, and Brown’s work — from the 70s and 80s. On the scale of primary sources, interviews are almost always going to be more subjective and less credible than contemporaneous documentation, particularly retrospective interviews, which many of Brown’s are. Brown, to his credit, has interview material from more than one side of the breakup –unlike, say, McCabe — and I’m glad that balance is there. But relying too heavily on retrospective interviews is a real weakness in Beatles historiography in this time period, and Brown’s work has it in spades.

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  10. Karen Hooper says:

    I was curious about what kind of review Brown received for the book, and found this one on Kirkus Reviews. The last paragraph says it all:

    The attempts at psychological insight are hackneyed, the tone is alternately muckraking and platitudinous. So, though some readers will appreciate the petty anecdotes and tacky details here, most will want to stick with Philip Norman’s Shout!–which, if also too sensationalistic, does pay real attention to the music and the period.

    Sounds like a swing and a miss for Brown, deservedly so.

    Like

    • Erin says:

      Interesting that that review argues that Norman pays attention to the music, because that’s one of the premier criticisms of Shout!, at least the first edition, that came from the critics (the other being his vast marginalization of Paul’s contributions). Norman even admits in the second edition that he didn’t spend enough time on the music and attempts somewhat to improve on that in the latter editions, although how well he succeeds is debatable.

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  11. Tim says:

    After reading Erin’s review, I decided to dust off my 1983 edition which I purchased when I was 20 (please don’t do the math …) – the deficiencies identified in the review and the comments are well founded. One take away for me was that Brown really painted a picture of chaos, dysfunction and mismanagement (Brian Epstein, Apple, Klein, the breakup, etc.) all around him and that he was an island of sanity and reason. Perhaps a key agenda with the book was to insulate himself from the poor choices made by and on behalf of the Beatles that he would have been involved in (directly or indirectly) with the benefit of 1983 hindsight?

    However, in spite of all the shortcomings in Brown’s work, as a primary source of many key events in the Beatles historiography, for me it was still a worthwhile read. For example, I thought he did a reasonable job describing some of the business/financial issues the Beatles faced.

    Just frustrating what he could have contributed ….

    Like

    • Erin says:

      Don’t worry, Tim: math was never my strong suit. Still isn’t. That’s why I study history.

      That’s a very good point on the chaos Brown emphasizes, and how he’s doing this after-the-fact, when its easier for him to condemn or praise certain legal and financial deals with the insight of hindsight. His portrayal of Klein is scathing, arguing that Klein sowed chaos at Apple and among the band members, but his portrayal of Brian is also one of an individual struggling with personal issues that absolutely impacted his capability as Beatles manager. Certainly Brown’s case as the voice of reason would be a lot easier to verify if he’d given us any documentation or sources to go with his version of business events.

      Robert Rodriguez and I had a discussion recently about how you almost need to be either a lawyer or an accountant, or be very knowledgeable in business, to attempt to gain a wholly accurate picture of the legal and business machinations involved in the band’s breakup. In fact, I’ve seen two entirely different legal justifications for why Paul basically won the trial: the first, presented by the majority, including Doggett, was that Klein’s appointment as manager based on the 3-1 vote was legal under British Partnership law, (even if it did violate the previous Beatles code on unanimity) but his actions as manager — esp. signing contracts with the other Beatles that Paul was unaware of but that impacted Paul’s percentages — was a legal violation of his role. But in Mojo’s 10 Years that Shook the World, one of the author’s — its a compilation, so I can’t recall exactly which one, as I don’t have my notes – claims that just Klein’s appointment as manager was illegal under British Partnership Law, because while lesser decisions could be decided by a 3-1 vote, a decision as significant as appointing a manager required unanimity, and that that was one of the court’s conclusions. Then you have Tony Bramwell claiming that the unanimity clause was actually spelled out in the band’s legal paperwork, and that legally there was no way Klein should have been appointed manager by the 3-1 vote, but that everyone just forgot and/or ignored that clause.

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  12. Brit says:

    Does anyone know the real/full story behind the infamous Miles Davis/Jimi Hendrix/Tony Williams telegram?

    I’ve never heard Paul explain why he didn’t go. I know this was during his depression (October ’69) but you’d think he would’ve pulled it together for this particular crew. Right?

    Is there a chance that Peter Brown simply failed to pass along the message to Paul? Looks like Brown basically sent an “out of office” reply.

    https://takefivemusicacademy.com/il-giorno-in-cui-jimi-hendrix-chiese-a-paul-mccartney-di-unirsi-al-suo-supergruppo/

    Like

    • Erin says:

      My understanding, based off of memory, is that Paul was in Scotland and not only in the midst of his depressive period, but also difficult to impossible to communicate with. (In fact, that’s one of the excuses for Klein that Fred Goodman attempts to use in his Klein bio, basically arguing: It’s okay that John, George and Ringo and Klein signed these contracts without talking with/notifying Paul, because it was too difficult to get a hold of Paul in this period. Which, legally, I think, doesn’t hold water). I’m not even 100% positive they had a phone out there, although, with three young kids, I would hope they would have. And even if they did have a phone, I’m not sure if Brown had the number. Physically reaching him was also a journey that took hours over pretty rugged terrain. If Brown didn’t have a number, for whatever reason, his only other option was to send an Apple employee to give the news to Paul in person, or send a telegram to Cambeltown nearby and hope Paul popped by the telegraph office. So it looks like he didn’t make any effort to do either, and Paul didn’t even hear about the telegram from Jimi until decades later. Which is a shame.

      Whether Paul would have pulled himself out of his depression to try and meet up with Jimi and the others is an interesting, if unknowable, what-if. I’m not sure if we know just how long Paul’s depressive period was, and he has always claimed that what got him out of it was Linda’s unflagging support. I think its crucial to note that Linda knew and adored Jimi, and also seemed to realize pretty quickly that work was a coping mechanism to help Paul when he was depressed. I’d guess that she’d have supported the attempt to go to the NY sessions, which would have been crucial.

      Like

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