The other day I was hanging out at the town library, visiting my Mom (she works there), and scanning the shelves, and happened across a remarkable little book titled Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff Edgers- part of a young readers-geared "Who were/was..." series. The simplistic, yet adequate and even clever in their way illustrations are by Jeremy Tugeau. See the samples below- first, of young George with his Mom and his first guitar, and next, a scene most likely meant to be from the White Album sessions, when Yoko first started insinuating herself into the Beatles' studio.
Since it's aimed at preteens, much of the Fabs' convoluted, sometimes odd, sometimes messy history is omitted- but given how much that is written about them these days adopts two postures: cynical or fawning, it has a refreshing lack of both as it assays their history that I found charming.
Which is not to say that uncomfortable topics aren't included: John's murder, his "lost weekend", George's chafing at being the odd man out, the breakup of the group and why, John and Paul's sniping at each other in the papers- all are there.
For example, here's the description of John's lost weekend:
By the mid-1970's, John Lennon was still one of the most famous people in the world, more so than the other Beatles. Was he happy? No.
He was still a young man- only in his thirties. Yet he'd spent so much time in the spotlight. He never seemed at ease with himself, even at home. His marriage to Yoko Ono was breaking up. John was afraid it would end up in divorce, just as his first marriage had. Eventually, Yoko asked John to move out. He agreed, though he didn't want to. John began to drink too much. He also took drugs. He started hanging out with people who only wanted to go to parties. He got into fights. His music suffered.
Of course, this is © Edgers. I'd take issue with that last statement, but see what I mean? Even though it's not 100% accurate (no mention of Harry Nilsson or May Pang, which would muddy the picture, I suppose), the lack of snark, hipper-than-thou posturing and mean-spiritedness won me over completely.
I've read a lot of books about the Fabs over the years, but very few of them left me with a good feeling about them. This one did. I guess, in these troubled times, that that is a hell of a thing.
(Reposted from a 2007 entry on my LiveJournal. I figured that many didn't see this over there, and I'm thinking I might put a few more LJ posts up over here, just for the sake of keeping this blog active.)