Finally, long after all the chauffeurs and chefs, groupies and hangers-on have cashed in on their memories, here is the story of the greatest entertainment phenomenon of the 20th Century--as told by John, Paul, George and Ringo themselves. More than simply soundtracking the Swinging 60s, The Beatles have entered into legend, becoming the yardstick against which every other band is measured. But back at the beginning they were just a bunch of Liverpool lads who struck it lucky and this is their rather sweet account of times gone by. There are breathless reports of meeting Elvis, being mesmerised by his TV remote control, and of discovering the joys of double-tracking at Abbey Road...
Most people already know the Beatles story by heart, but Anthology fills the gaps nicely: John, convinced he was "too old" to make it at 21; George remembering their first stage make-up ("we looked like Outspan oranges!"); and Ringo: "We were flying from London to Glasgow once, and there were only three seats left on the plane, and in my naivety I said 'I'll stand!'" Perhaps most revealing are the first-hand accounts of the early years: their two-up, two-down childhoods, playing around in bomb-scarred Liverpool during the years of post-war austerity; dumping Pete Best and then turning to "a guy ... who had a beard and was grown-up and was known to have a Zephyr Zodiac!" (George: "Pete would never hang out with us ... with Ringo, it felt rocking.") With Ringo, Brian Epstein and George Martin on board, the pieces fell into place and by 1964 America too had succumbed. Paul: "I remember getting into the limo and hearing a running commentary, "They have just left the airport..." It was like a dream. The greatest fantasy ever." The transitional Rubber Soul is revealed as "the pot album" and George's favourite. Bob Dylan, as ever, put his finger on it immediately: "Oh I get it, you don't want to be cute anymore!"
There are few revelations here--the story is, after all, the best-known in pop history; but this is a truly handsome volume, beautifully designed and lavishly illustrated with rare photos from private collections and a wealth of fascinating detail and illuminating quotes to lend colour and depth to this fresh perspective. As the four individuals at the epicentre of a world gone mad, The Beatles were in no position to appreciate the seismic changes they were setting in motion, but writers like Philip Norman, Michael Braun, Hunter Davies and Mark Lewisohn have long since set their achievements in context. Here, for the first time, is the Fab story as seen from the inside--by The Beatles themselves. --Patrick Humphries