cover image 150 Glimpses of the Beatles

150 Glimpses of the Beatles

Craig Brown. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (592p) ISBN 978-0-374-10931-8

The career of the Fab Four is seen from odd angles and reflections in others’ eyes in this off-beat, vibrant group biography. Satirist and critic Brown (1966 and All That) eschews a linear chronicle of the Beatles’ oft-told narrative in favor of loosely connected meditations, reminiscences by associates, found literature, and shaggy-dog anecdotes. These include fan letters (“Dear Beatles, Please call me on the telephone.... If my mother answers, hang up”); the author’s reportage on guided tours of Beatles’ boyhood homes; recollections of the luckless entertainers who had to follow the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show; acid trips and drug busts; Charles Manson’s exegesis of The White Album; a recap of the “Paul Is Dead” conspiracy theory; and the story of how the then-unknown Beatles left a puddle of George’s vomit to fester in their Hamburg digs. These well-chosen vignettes aptly illuminate the Beatles’ personalities along with the cultural chord they struck, and Brown knits them into an interpretation that’s both perceptive and hilariously pithy (“Some have related Yoko’s pursuit of John in terms of a Hammer horror, with her little black-clad figure rearing up out of the fog at any time, day or night”). The result is a fresh and captivating pointillist portrait of the band and its indelible vibe. Photos. (Oct.)