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Classic review: The Beatles

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The first third of this opus is a treasure chest of revelation. Author Bob Spitz demonstrates his deep research and writing chops by transporting us to the place where it all began, decades before the Beatle boys were born. We peek in on the O'Leannains (later changed to Lennon to bridge the sectarian divide) and McCartneys, two Irish families among the tens of thousands fleeing the ravages of the Great Potato Famine in the 1840s, casting their lots in the then boom-town of Liverpool. By the time the Beatles were born, smack- dab in the middle of World War II, Liverpool was a rusting, decaying husk of what had been a proud and thriving seaport. "To the rest of the country, Liverpool was an anglicized Siberia: out of sight, out of mind."

But the "scousers" (slang for local residents) were proud and hard-working folks. Spitz writes, "The people living within these confines saw the seaport as a threshold on the horizon. Beyond it, an invisible world beckoned."

In the late 1950s the unknown horizon being scanned by four Liverpool lads came in with a good deal of static. It arrived via Radio Luxembourg, a dim signal from a "pirate" radio station that carried the exotic sound of rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues hits from America to the living-room radios of John Lennon, James Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Richard Starkey.

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