domingo, 22 de septiembre de 2013
The Beatles: interview with biographer Mark Lewisohn
The dead hand of the heritage industry has now claimed the beery, religious, working-class, war-battered, red-bricked Victorian city where the Beatles grew up. In modern Liverpool, there’s a John Lennon airport, a Paul McCartney Way, a George Harrison Close, a Ringo Starr Drive, even an Epstein Theatre commemorating manager Brian Epstein.
But in Tune In, the first volume of Mark Lewisohn’s monumental Beatles trilogy, the old Liverpool –where in the Fifties their home-made music flickered, caught and then spread in a great conflagration across the world – is a consuming presence. In an age accustomed to deference and received pronunciation, the fledgling Beatles were nourished by Liverpool’s defiant provincialism and constant recourse to a “laff and a shout”, as Lewisohn phrases it.
The lineaments of their story are as familiar to many of us as the progress of our own lives, but never previously have the Beatles’ formative years been recounted in such masterly detail. It’s all here, in joyful, often hilarious abundance: John, their restless dynamo, is both horrible and horribly funny; Paul, a melodic prodigy, no innocent either – he would have been a schoolboy father but for a timely miscarriage. George and especially Ringo finally escape the long shadows of their band-mates: George, the youngest and stroppiest, studious only with guitar in hand, and “Richy”, the triumphant survivor of awful childhood traumas, arguably the real hero of Tune In.
Although this first volume ends only on the last day of 1962, as Love Me Do heralds the first, faint stirrings of fame, it is close to 1,000 pages long. It has taken a decade to research and write, and Lewisohn, who is now 55, and busy with book two, fully expects to be in his seventies before completion. In its close focus and historical ambition, the trilogy may be compared to Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, or John Richardson’s Life of Picasso; it is unlikely to be surpassed as factual record.
Once anointed “Beatle Brain of Britain” while working in accounts at BBC Radio, Lewisohn amasses and investigates facts without sacrificing an iota of the excitement. The Beatles have preoccupied him ever since hearing She Loves You when he was five: “There was something very, very true about the Beatles, and that truth has not dissipated,” he says. “From the very beginning, before they ever became famous, they kept moving on, and no one could catch up with them.”