Back around 2011 or so, I kept hearing about this great new Beatles book called You Never Give Me Your Money. I had no idea what it was about but I was told repeatedly that it was one I absolutely had to read, especially as a serious Beatles fan and scholar. Well, I got a copy and devoured the book; I absolutely loved it and it instantly became one of the best Beatles books ever written, at least in my mind. I lauded it far and wide with other fans and read it multiple times. For some strange reason, though, I recently realized that it had slipped through the cracks insofar as I hadn't yet reviewed it. With that in mind, I gave it yet another fresh re-reading for the purposes of this review.
The premise of this book is that it examines the Beatles' split and the aftermath, as well as how it impacted the four individual Beatles from that fateful day in 1970 through to the present (i.e. the year the book was published). Beginning with the band's cessation of touring in the summer of 1966, Doggett's book follows the creation and triumph of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and marks the final show of unity in the Beatles' career as the Magical Mystery Tour film and album at the end of 1967. From here, he chronicles the well known deterioration of their friendship, working relationship, and business partnership through the formation of Apple Corps, the death of Brian Epstein, the arrival of Yoko Ono, and three of the Beatles choosing Allen Klein to manage the band's affairs. While all of this has certainly been detailed elsewhere, Doggett writes in such a way that I hung on every word because of how impactful and incisive every sentence was, no matter how long or short. He also unravels and introduces numerous small new bits of information and presents them in such context that the overall effect makes the well known story even richer and more fascinating.
While the way Doggett presents the gradual and eventual split of the Beatles in 1970 is unique and richly detailed, it's the way he chronicles the labyrinthine path that happened afterward that really makes this book. He manages to take all of the myriad lawsuits, companies, and business and personal entanglements and weave them into a fascinating, understandable, and gripping narrative. By writing objectively and pulling all of the disparate facts together to form his narrative, the author shows how McCartney was right all along about Allen Klein and how the rush to appoint him manager by the other three tied the four Beatles together long after they ceased to be a band and how it took many years for Harrison, Lennon, and Starr to acknowledge their mistake. Doggett is also unafraid to shatter numerous Beatles myths, including Lennon and Ono's "storybook" marriage, Lennon's flitting from one pet cause to the next, Harrison's general miserliness and perpetually curmudgeonly bitterness after the split, and Starr's often grumpy persona when not in the public eye. This book basically pulls the curtain back on the band during their final years and the decades since April 1970, but never in a salacious or sensationalistic manner.
There are a few quirks unique to this book, chief among them the fact that Doggett always refers to Ringo Starr by his real name of Richard Starkey. This is explained as being done not out of disrespect, but to honor and respect Ringo's statement in a 2009 interview of "don't call me Ringo." Also, as mentioned above, he's not afraid to call facts facts even if they chip away at the Beatles mythology. Lennon in particular comes off pretty badly in spots: Doggett shows how Lennon was the least commercially successful of the solo Beatles, how Yoko was a net negative influence on his relationships (both working and personal), and how his peacenik public persona was directly at odds with his materialistic and often aggressive and violent private life. Harrison also comes off as perpetually grumpy, overly concerned with money, and bitter and spiteful. In neither case, though, does the author come off as biased as he uses facts to bolster both the good and bad qualities of all four Beatles. There are also numerous tantalizing scraps of information showing that had things fell just a little bit differently (or certain people not caught wind of it), two or more of the Beatles very well could have and probably would have gotten back together to make new music together (three guesses as to to which two it would have been and who thwarted it).
The book overall comes off as a real labor of love by Doggett and it stands as the definitive history of Apple Corps from its inception in 1967 to the present. It's extensively researched and has copious endnotes which themselves make for some fascinating reading. This is a book that bears repeat readings not only because it's enjoyable, but because each time some new fact or morsel of information is either rediscovered or comprehended in a different light; something new is always learned. That's certainly been the case with my own multiple readings and I'm sure it will be for those of you who pick this book up. It's one of the best Beatles books in my library and one of the few (along with the Lewisohn books in particular) that I consider to be absolutely indispensable and essential book for any fan of the group, no matter how hardcore or casual you are. I highly recommend this book and consider it a top ten Beatle book of all time...a real triumph for Peter Doggett and for fans of the Fab Four.
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