You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle for the Soul of the Beatles by Peter Doggett

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You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle for the Soul of the Beatles by Peter Doggett

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Category: Entertainment
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Van der Kiste
Reviewed by John Van der Kiste
Summary: An exhaustive, thorough look at the Beatles as individuals and businessmen from the late 1960s to the present day, a saga all too often marked by litigation.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099532361

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When four young Liverpudlians got together to make music in the early 1960s, they can have had no idea of their future impact on the world around them. Likewise they would surely not have had an inkling of the extraordinary business minefield which their existence as a group would create, and which would leave the scars long after they had gone their separate ways, even after two of them had died. As at least one of them ruefully commented, they must have provided several lawyers' children with a very expensive education.

While their original manager Brian Epstein displayed some naivety in his early dealings and was increasingly a spent force by the time of his unexpected death in 1967, he and his assistants had proved relatively astute in masterminding their affairs. After he had gone, the floodgates opened. The Beatles tried to look after themselves as well as make their own artistic decisions, and with John Lennon beginning to lose interest, Paul McCartney effectively became the driving force in more senses than the musical one. Lennon's very public partnership with Yoko Ono and increasingly bizarre behaviour, plus the mixed critical reception for their TV film 'Magical Mystery Tour' and the 'White Album', started to alienate them from public affection. By the time Lee Eastman, shortly to become McCartney's father-in-law, and Allen Klein both entered the managerial frame, the group were about to disintegrate. George Harrison and Ringo Starr had already walked out, though each returned within a few days. Lennon decided to leave for good in September 1969, but was persuaded by Klein to remain silent as contractual negotiations with EMI were at a critical stage and it was important to maintain a façade of unity.

Early the following year, any spirit of togetherness was gone. Having tried to keep the group together, McCartney announced that he had left and the Beatles no longer existed as a unit. What was left was a labyrinth of unfinished business which ensured that EMI Records, the Beatles' Apple Corps and all four members would be locked into litigation for a very long time.

Doggett has done wonders in telling the whole convoluted story so readably. While he deals briefly with the musical landmarks in turn, from Harrison's triple album 'All Things Must Pass' in 1970 and the others' competing solo releases to the long-awaited reissue of the group's remastered back catalogue and the Beatles Rockband computer game in 2009, he tells us little of their music, which can be read about elsewhere. His main focus is on the legal shenanigans between them, the managers and the record companies. Who was suing who, and when, and who was feathering their nest at everyone else's expense? Although Klein was regarded by Lennon, Harrison and Starr as their saviour, for a while at least, the verdict of Mr Justice Stamp in court when giving judgment in favour of McCartney's high court action seeking a dissolution of the group, likening one of his statements to the irresponsible patter of a second-rate salesman, is significant.

Yet he never loses sight of the human faces around whom the courtroom sagas were played out. The portrait of Lennon is a stark one, from his angry lengthy and oft-quoted interview with 'Rolling Stone' in 1970 when he later admitted he was completely stoned, to his temporary split with Yoko Ono and subsequent affair with May Pang, when friends thought he had suddenly become much more his old self, and his murder in 1980. McCartney emerges as the ever-creative one, always ready to chance his arm at composing classical music or painting as well as delivering new albums with ease, yet sensitive to criticism, insecure and calculating, even to the extent of rehearsing his apparently spontaneous patter on stage beforehand. Starr comes across as a likeable, unpretentious soul, but too ready to succumb to drink and drugs in the long days when he could find no other diversions. Harrison was an enigma, fiercely guarding his privacy, warm and approachable one moment, ultra-defensive and hostile the next. His involvement with the film industry threatened him with bankruptcy by the early 1990s, a vital factor in persuading him to take part in the massively successful 'Anthology' series of recordings and TV documentaries.

By the mid-1990s, age and illness were removing several of those closest to the group, with Starr's ex-wife Maureen and then Linda McCartney succumbing to cancer. Even sadder was the ultimate fate of Harrison, who had apparently conquered the disease, only to be left seriously weakened when he narrowly escaped with his life at the hands of an intruder, dying two years later.

As has been said many times before, the music is timeless, and the Beatles undoubtedly had an immeasurable impact on the 1960s when they were at their peak. But as this book shows, everybody involved – with the possible exception of their producer and arranger Sir George Martin, long since settled into well-earned retirement - would pay dearly for it, in more ways than one, for many years afterwards. It was indeed a long and winding road.

Shelves throughout libraries and bookshops have for years positively groaned under the weight of books about the Fab Four. I doubt if very few of them tell the story of the darker side, the fruit of such intensive research, totally free from any kind of sensationalism, as comprehensively as this one. If you want to own or read no more than half a dozen books about the group, this ought to be one of them.

Our thanks to Vintage for sending a review copy to Bookbag.

If you enjoyed this, may we also recommend the memoirs of Harrison's first wife, Wonderful Today by Pattie Boyd. An acquired taste, but of linked interest, is Vintage Lennon by John Lennon, an omnibus edition of his comic writings and drawings from 1964-65.

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