Lewisohn’s Beatles Invasion 2013: Late October Bi-Coastal Blitz for Bloomingdale’s Book Signings and Panels in NYC and L.A.
Mark Lewisohn, the world-renowned and respected Beatles expert and author, heads from home in London to America this week on a bi-coastal blitz promoting “The Beatles — All These Years: Volume One: Tune In,” leading up to Crown Archetype/Random House’s U.S. publication of the book on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
“Tune In” is the highly anticipated and long-awaited first installment in Lewisohn’s definitive three-part bio of the band most rock historians believe is the best that ever was.
Bloomingdale’s and Esquire are sponsoring the Lewisohn Beatles bio events in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
New York events include “The Beatles on Film” round table with Lewisohn joined by Henry Grossman, Albert Maysles and John McEwen on Oct. 23; “The Beatles’ Music & Legacy” round table with Allan Kozinn, Walter Everett and Ken Scott on Oct. 24; and book signings at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street store Oct. 25 and 26.
Also on the 25th in New York: “The Beatles Meet America: An Evening with Beatles Historian Mark Lewisohn” at the Paley Center for Media in New York.
Flying to the West Coast, Lewisohn has another pair of book signings at Bloomingdale’s in Sherman Oaks on Sunday, Oct. 27 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and on Monday, Oct. 28 at Bloomingdale’s Century City store from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
At those events, Lewisohn plans to present a slideshow of images from the book, and tell the multi-layered stories behind each. He has invited this author to moderate the slideshow and questions from the audience.
“I want to show photos and talk about them, and talk around them, and have questions spin off from there,” Lewisohn wrote in an email. “I want the event to be fluid not rigid, I want people to be shown great images and have them brought additionally to life by our conversation. Then I’ll sign books.”
Two more events round out Lewisohn’s L.A. blitz — a “Recording The Beatles” round table with John Kurlander, Peter Asher and Brian Kehew on Tuesday, Oct. 29, and a “Collecting The Beatles” panel discussion with Bruce Spizer, Chris Carter and Frank Daniels. Both events at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles are by invitation. Then, Lewisohn’s off to San Francisco for a Bloomingdale’s signing event Nov. 1 before heading back to London.
Tuning in to ‘Tune In’ Beatles Bio with Mark Lewisohn
Lewisohn’s massive 960-page “Tune In” — just out in Britain, with an author’s cut double that length (some 800,000 words) due from Little, Brown Nov. 14 — was 10 years in the researching and writing.
This writer reported on the book’s progress in the Aug. 5, Aug. 12 and Aug. 19, 2011 posts at Peeples Place at KHTS (based on my extensive August 2011 Skype interview with Lewisohn about the project) and more recently on this site last year as he was writing the first volume’s final chapters.
“The whole idea of this is that it’s never been done before, or ever will be done again,” Lewisohn told me in a previously unpublished May 2013 interview. “It’s pretty much the last opportunity to tell the story fully and to get it right. On that basis, I just tell the story to explain who these people are and how it all happened.”
The book’s early reviews from the U.K., Asia and the U.S. have been almost unanimously positive, and after “beavering through” the first half, my early take is all killer, no filler, and I can’t wait to write about it.
In overview, Volume 1 covers the pre-Fab Four years. After a brief introduction, Lewisohn smoothly time-shifts the reader back into the mid-1800s.
“I begin in the middle 19th century because I tell the story of all the family backgrounds,” Lewisohn said. “It’s an attempt to write, to do the ultimate telling of The Beatles’ story, and on that basis, it needs to make sure it covers everything and leaves no stone unturned. That’s really what it is.
“The Beatles didn’t suddenly become interesting when they invaded America, didn’t suddenly become funny when they made ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ didn’t suddenly become progressive when they recorded ‘Rubber Soul,'” he said. “These people were always original and progressive and lived life very fast, and thought originally all the way through. They didn’t just suddenly develop personalities in 1964.”
Most people’s lives are shaped by the way they’re brought up, Lewisohn said. “And once you read about the background of the parents’ lives, for example, you get a very good sense of why these four guys thought and operated the way they did.”
Like millions of Beatlemaniacs around the world, Lewisohn views The Beatles as the “toppermost of the poppermost” (a phrase he explains in the book for those who don’t already know).
“Let’s face it, [The Beatles] are culturally just about the most important people of the 20th century,” he said. “Who else had an impact as great as they did, and still are having such an impact? And there’s really no harm whatsoever in looking at these people’s lives in the fullest way. But I don’t waste any space whatsoever on stuff that isn’t relevant or pertinent to the story, so it stays pretty narrow in the sense of it just goes where it’s interesting, and if it’s not interesting, I don’t write it.
“So, you need to read about their formative years if you really want to know why these people did what they did and how they were capable of it,” he said. “Volume 1 is where it all comes together.”
The often amusing facts about early Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starkey family history include assorted mixed-religion relatives and children born out of wedlock. Lewisohn details John, Paul, George and Richy’s (the Ringo nickname came later) births and post-war childhoods, and how each of them — especially John, Paul and George, but even the sickly Richy — were fiercely independent, anti-authority and remarkably creative almost from the cradle.
Lewisohn writes about grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, best mates and first girlfriends, classmates and more, interviewing many of them himself, and quoting others from trusted and verified sources. He describes how John, Paul, George and Richy were exposed to American R&B and rock, particularly Little Richard, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent and, most significantly, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly & The Crickets.
Through their fascination with this music, the four principals’ paths finally converged, and Lewisohn masterfully weaves them together.
Through the Pre-Fabs’ emulation of Holly and his band, they saw their blueprint: original rock songs, played and sung by the writers. It’s what got Lennon and McCartney started as songwriters, and we read about that and Holly’s influence on John and Paul’s first solo and duo attempts at originals.
The author goes on to cover the first local Quarrymen and Beatles gigs, first tours of the U.K. and stints Hamburg (initially with Pete Best on drums and Stu Sutcliffe on bass, finally with Ringo), their first studio recordings while in Germany, and connecting with manager Brian Epstein.
We read about the switch from black leather Teddy boy outfits to sharp matching suits, the failed January 1962 Decca audition, the band’s first sessions for EMI/Parlophone A&R exec/producer George Martin that summer, Best’s subsequent sacking, Ringo’s completion of the soon-to-be Fab Four lineup, and the resulting debut single, “Love Me Do.”
“Tune In” ends on the last day of 1962, as the band headed back to Britain after their last trip to Hamburg (above, Paul, George, John and Ringo are soon to leave for Germany). The marathon session for their first No. 1 single and album, “Please Please Me,” was just a couple months ahead, and their release sparked Beatlemania’s worldwide explosion during 1963-64 — half a century ago.
‘Tune In’ is Far More than ‘Just Another Beatles Book’
Lewisohn’s sources are prodigious, deep and well-documented in around 100 pages of attributions, reference notes and acknowledgements at the back of the book. He spoke with many of the usual suspects, but also many more participants and observers, family members and childhood friends whose voices are heard for the first time in “Tune In.” Many of the 50-plus photos are rare, even among Beatles aficionados.
More than just a bio about a band, “Tune In” puts The Beatles squarely in the middle of the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll revolution that spread from America to Britain, and poises them to create a musical revolution of their own to send back to the Yanks. In that context, Lewisohn connects historical dots that have never been connected before. While other Beatles books have presented pieces of the puzzle, “Tune In” verifies and re-assembles all the pieces into the most complete picture ever published.
Speaking of connecting the dots, you can get a taste in an exclusive piece Lewisohn previewed in The Telegraph about what The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan were doing on Oct. 5, 1962, and why Lewisohn writes the ’60s were kicked off that day.
“Tune In” is completely indexed, and the Kindle version is also searchable, depending on the digital reader used.
Like Lewisohn’s previous meticulously researched and highly entertaining Beatles books — “The Beatles Live,” “The Beatles: Recording Sessions,” “The Complete Beatles Chronicle,” “Twenty-Five Years in the Life” and “The Beatles’ London” — “Tune In” is essential reading for Beatles fans, and an immediately indispensable resource for major aficionados.
I”ll have more on “Tune In” including some exclusive new interview with Lewisohn in future posts at http://www.stephenkpeeples.com. Stay tuned.
Photos: Top by Stephen K. Peeples; book cover and family photos courtesy Crown Archetype/Random House; bookshelf courtesy Mark Lewisohn.
Stephen K. Peeples was the original, award-winning producer of “The Lost Lennon Tapes” radio series for Westwood One from 1988-1990, and Mark Lewisohn was the series’ invaluable Research Consultant. Today, Peeples is a features writer for KHTS News (www.hometownstation.com) and SCVNews.com, and host, writer and co-producer of the weekly “House Blend” music and interview television show on SCVTV, community television for the Santa Clarita Valley. He also writes the “Peeples Place at KHTS” blog. A former SCV music and entertainment columnist for The Santa Clarita Valley Signal (2004-2011), Peeples is a Grammy-nominated record producer (“Monterey International Pop Festival,” MIPF/Rhino, 1992) and an award-winning online editor (The Signal website, 2007-2011). For more information, email skp (at) stephenkpeeples.com or visit http://www.stephenkpeeples.com.