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Staff -- 7/24/00

The Beatles, by the Beatles
A Time for Beatles | Lennon Has His Say | Paul McCartney: Painter

The Beatles, by the Beatles
After years of gathering information and acquiring rights,
The Beatles Anthology is ready for a huge worldwide laydown
Anthology: The end of
a long and winding road.
In May, presses in Hong Kong and Italy began to turn, 24 hours a day, and they'll keep on turning until September, when more than a million and a half volumes of The Beatles Anthology, by the Beatles, published in the U.S. by Chronicle Books, will be shipped out for a worldwide laydown on October 5.
"It's the last word for the first time," said Geoff Baker, press officer for Apple Corps Ltd., summing up in a single phrase the six-and-a-half-lb., 368-page, silver-sheathed volume filled with more than 1300 pictures, many unseen until now. "Over 400 books have been written about the Beatles," he said, "but this is the only one in which they tell the story themselves."

Billed as the Beatles "Autobiography," it was compiled from fresh interviews with the three surviving Beatles and unpublished material from John Lennon, and also contains diary entries, documents and memorabilia from the Beatles' personal archives.

"We had a good time doing it," Paul McCartney told PW in a recent phone interview. "And it brought us closer. In truth, we had healed the wounds already when we decided we wanted to do the book."

"It's a show-stopper," said Chronicle associate publisher Christine Carswell, who was largely responsible for clinching the reported seven-figure hard/soft deal for worldwide rights with Apple last year at the Frankfurt Book fair. "Every spread has color and vivacity, and it's a good read, as you might imagine from the lyrics."

The $60 book is the last element of the Beatles Anthology trilogy, which Apple, under the direction of executive producer Neil Aspinall, previously the Beatles' road manager, launched in 1995 with a TV documentary (aired here on ABC) and a 3-CD set, which sold 45 million copies worldwide. Chronicle first bid for the book in 1996. At the time, it had already been edited and packaged by London-based specialty publisher Genesis, and designed by Wherefore Art. Genesis owner Brian Roylance, a friend of George Harrison, and Jools Holland, pianist for Squeeze, conducted most of the interviews. Working with Genesis, Derek Taylor, the Beatles' spokesperson and original editor of the book, then seamlessly interwove the voices of the Beatles together. Taylor died before the book was completed but his memories of the Fab Four are included in the final product along with reflections from Aspinall and producer George Martin. "Reading it makes you feel at times as though you are listening in on a conversation," said Carswell.

Getting the rights to all the material in the book, however, held up the publishing process. It wasn't until three years after its first bid, in an auction with several large competing publishers, that Chronicle acquired the English-language trade book rights for North America, Australia, New Zealand and other territories. Chronicle also handled world-wide rights, including those for Britain. "This project, in a sense, meant going into the Beatles business," said Apple's Baker, "and Chronicle understood this best. In addition, they have a very good infrastructure for distributing this type of quality illustrated book around the world."
Never-before-published photo of the Beatles
from a 1964 Sergeant Pepper session.
Chronicle soon discovered that going into the Beatles business could be mind-bending. The books are being kept tightly under wraps, with only a handful of pictures released prior to laydown date, and media reviewers must agree not to print reviews prior to October 5. The only prepub taste for the public will be excerpts in several national magazines in September. At BEA, booksellers who had heard about the book were given a quick glimpse, but only after walking some distance to a hidden, locked viewing room and only after signing a nondisclosure release. "The Beatles occupy a special place in our lives; they have a right to protect their domain," explained Carswell.
As the group that topped a recent Rolling Stone poll for the Ten Most Influential Artists, Top Ten Rock Bands of the Century and Best Rock Band Ever, and had three out of the top four albums, the Beatles' appeal has continued through successive generations. Baker points to the news flurry that accompanied the sale of U.K. rights to Cassell & Co. (for a reported near $500,000) in April. "Initially, the print run in the U.K. was 80,000. Then all the media hooha took place, with Reuters, ABC, CNN, the BBC and the AP wire reporting on it, and now there are over 250,000 orders," Baker told PW.

Jack Jensen, publisher of Chronicle, said the numbers game is one of the most challenging aspects of publishing the book. He said orders skyrocket when vendors realized what the book is all about--"often to unrealistic levels," he said, "simply because they're worried they're going to run out of stock. We've had to assure them that we can keep them supplied if they run low."

"I'm worried about the production," said Karen Pennington, of Kepler's Books and Magazines in Menlo Park, Calif., one of the lucky buyers to get a look at the book at BEA. "I'm worried because it's so wonderful. No other Beatles book was ever amazing--but this one, every page is like a scrapbook, crowded. We tripled our order to 60 after we saw it."

Chronicle chose a worldwide laydown date--which is close to both John Lennon's birthday and the 20th anniversary of his death--because, said Carswell, "the Beatles are such a worldwide phenomenon that we wanted to place the books in all markets simultaneously. In this day of globalization, we didn't want the media preempting one market over another." Rights have been sold in France (to Editions du Seuil), Japan, Italy and Germany (reportedly for close to $500,000). All the international editions are exactly the same, with the exception of a limited archive edition from Genesis.

Even though Chronicle has long experience as an illustrated book publisher and has a strong pop-culture list, The Beatles Anthology, with a world press run of more than 500,000 copies and a U.S. press run of 750,000, is a huge undertaking. The marketing campaign will be significant--and expensive. Capitol Records, which has the rights to the Beatles music, is teaming up with Chronicle for publicity projects that combine books and music. The initial push, through the holiday season, will include a button campaign, national radio promotion and reservation boards--and possibly placard holders dressed in Buckingham Palace Guard uniforms in major cities with posters heralding "The Beatles Are Coming." Web marketing plans are in the works.

"A lot of this book has to do with surprise, and we want to keep that element in the campaign," said Carswell.

"Even for us, it was surprising to talk about the past--because you don't do that in the band," said McCartney. "The early memories in the book are to me the most exciting--the parts about John especially. Because I love him, and still do."
--Roxane Farmanfarmaian

A Time for Beatles
Much attention is coming to the Fab Four this fall--from the John Lennon exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to a number of new Beatles-related books.
    Paul McCartney: I Saw Him Standing There
    (Watson-Guptill) by Jorie B. Gracen. A photographic history of the musician.
    Paul McCartney: Paintings(Little, Brown) by Paul McCartney features McCartney's artwork and photographs by the late Linda McCartney.

    The Beatles Anthology
    (Chronicle) by The Beatles; the "granddaddy" of Beatles books.
    Lennon Remembers: The Famous Rolling Stone Interviews (Verso), edited by Jann S. Wenner, contains the repackaged and complete 1970 Lennon interview.
    In His Own Write (S&S) by John Lennon, with a new introduction by Yoko Ono. Reprint of 1964 book of Lennon's writings and line drawings.
    Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings by Yoko Ono (S&S), with a new introduction by the author reprints the 1970 title with various Ono narratives.
    Yes Yoko Ono (Abrams) by Alexandra Munr with Jon Hendricks. This book-with-CD coincides with various museum showings of Ono's artwork.

    In My Life: the Brian Epstein Story
    (St. Martin's) by Debbie Geller. Biography of the Beatles' manager.

Lennon Has His Say

Lennon in 1970.
Unabashedly riding the coattails of The Beatles Anthology extravaganza, Verso will publish Lennon Remembers: The Famous Rolling Stone Interviews,editedby Jann S. Wenner, on October 9--what would have been Lennon's 60th birthday. The book is a late edition to the fall list, because, said Verso managing editor Colin Robinson, the press did not even consider publishing the full transcript of Wenner's 1970 interviews with Lennon until late in the spring. "Then it caught our imagination, and we decided to go ahead and do it," Robinson told PW.
With a 75,000 first printing, Verso is doing it big. "It's the biggest first printing that we've ever done," said Robinson. "It's nervewracking." An understandable reaction, considering it is about 10 times the average run for a Verso title.

Robinson said that in the book readers will see for the first time the full text of the legendary interview in which "John really bares his soul" to Wenner, founder, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone. The book includes "substantial bits" that Robinson said were edited from the magazine text because they were "too sensitive." For instance, Lennon seems more ambiguous about the nature of his relationship with Beatles manager Brian Epstein and discusses Epstein's suicide more fully. The details about life on the road are less restrained. "Some of it is very painful," said Robinson. "He was a complex guy."

In light of the larger Anthology, Robinson assured PW that Verso would be engaging in "guerrilla marketing" tactics with its Lennon title, distributed to the trade by W.W. Norton. Rolling Stone Press editor Holly George-Warren told PW that Rolling Stone will help with marketing any way it can, both in print and on the Web. Although it is not yet determined which issue, an excerpt from Lennon Remembers will run in Rolling Stone this fall. One difference between the book's version and the original magazine version of the interview is the presence of Yoko Ono. Though she was there for the original interviews, Ono's comments were not included in the magazine article, but are restored in the book. Wenner sent a complete transcript of the interview for Ono to review and, although she is busy with her own publishing projects (see above), she has expressed an interest in writing the foreword.

Also featured in the book are reproductions of the original lyric manuscripts for two Lennon titles: "Working Class Hero" and "God," provided by Ono. "Yoko wouldn't give those until she was happy with the book," said Robinson.

Robinson also has a personal connection to this project. "I'm from Liverpool," he said, exaggerating his accent. "It's really great to be doing this."
--Bridget Kinsella

Paul McCartney: Painter

The artist with his work.
Paul McCartney's voice resonates with passion when he speaks about his paintings, which he began creating seriously 17 years ago at the age of 40. "I think there are similar elements to my music and my painting, a spontaneity and a freedom," he said. "But I was very worried about the crossover--that people would say, 'Oh, he's a famous musician just trying to be a painter.' And so I kept my painting very private."
That is changing with the publication of Paul McCartney: Paintings, due from Little, Brown (which has published all of Linda McCartney's books) in September. The more than 80 abstract expressionist paintings are drawn mostly from an exhibition of the same name in Siegen, Germany, last year. "The curator, Wolfgang Suttner, was genuinely interested in the work, rather than in the fact that I had done them," explained McCartney. "I had a good time doing it, and it was very successful for him." Complementing McCartney's paintings are 16 black-and-white photographs by his wife, to whom he dedicates the book.

A central part of the book is a long and revealing interview with McCartney by Suttner, which provides background on the paintings, as well as on McCartney's thinking. "People who have read the interview were surprised I was so candid," McCartney told PW. "But maybe it was time to be open."

McCartney said that he'd had the urge to be a painter for years, "but at the age of 40, I realized I had a block going, even though that was quite stupid." A conversation with the painter Willem de Kooning, a friend of Linda's, dissolved his inhibitions. In September, an exhibition of McCartney's paintings will open in Bristol, England, at the Arnolfini Gallery, and in November, he will have his first exhibit in the U.S. at the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York City.

Little, Brown publicist Holly Wilkinson said she expects McCartney will be featured in the national media closer to pub date. Of course, it d sn't hurt that Paintings is coming out a month before the biggest Beatles book ever, Anthology, hits the stores with a worldwide laydown of 1.5 million copies. Without divulging an exact figure, Wilkinson said the print run for Paintings was somewhat less than that.
--Roxane Farmanfarmaian
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