Over the past twenty-odd years I’ve read a lot of Beatles books. My studies have ranged from Mark Lewisohn’s books on their recordings to biographies of the band like Philip Norman’s Shout! and Bob Spitz’s The Beatles to analysis of the music in Mark Hertzgaard’s A Day in the Life and Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head. I’ve read John Lennon’s books, I’ve read Lennon biographies from Goldman to Coleman to Norman, I’ve read McCartney’s official biography. I’ve even read novels and short stories such as Stephen Baxter’s “The Twelfth Album” and Mark Shipper’s “Paperback Writer.” Suffice it to say, I’ve filled much of my brain with Beatles knowledge, trivia, and ephemera.
Last week I found something new — Peter Doggett’s You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, a biography of the Beatles that begins as the band breaks apart in 1969 and follows their lives and careers as ex-Beatles and how their moves individually related to the other three over the next four decades.
Naturally, this was of interest to me; whether creating a hypothetical 1970 Beatles album I called Hot As Sun or listening to the documentary The Beatles: One More Album on public radio, I’ve devoted some thought in the past to what happened with the band in 1969 and 1970.
The first half of Doggett’s book covers the story to the Concert for Bangla Desh in 1972; the latter half covers the next twenty-five years. The reason for the apparent imbalance in obvious — the band was dissolving and the four Beatles were forging their new paths in 1969 through 1972, while once the story reaches 1972 their paths diverge to greater degrees and their influence on one another lessens.
Some Beatles fans will be curious about how close the band came to reforming, and Doggett documents the near-misses from the summer of 1970 to the beginning of 1975 — and had Lennon not been killed, there might have been something in early 1981. What’s interesting in reading Doggett’s book is that the interest in reforming the Beatles over the years seems to come more from Lennon than from any of the others, with Harrison being the least interested. While Doggett avoids laying responsibility on any one person for the band’s dissolution, McCartney takes the blame for the permanence of the breakup.
It’s a fascinating book. The nature and purpose of all the lawsuits between the Beatles in the 1970s and 1980s had eluded me over the years, and Doggett explains arcane matters like royalty rates and Allen Klein’s involvement. Doggett has an engaging prose style, and the pages turn quickly. The book could be longer, but it is informative and it illuminates an era of Beatles history that has hitherto gone undocumented. You Never Give Me Your Money is a worthy addition to any Beatles fan’s library.