Saturday, May 5, 2007

Fab Four Facts: Why Everyone Needs Fact Checkers

A while ago I devoured The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz, a wonderful book with 860 pages of text and another hundred pages of footnotes sourcing virtually every quote.

Generally, the book did as promised and wiped away the sins of Albert Goldman's mean-spirited John Lennon biography, and I was sorry when I reached page 860. I wanted more.

Among hundreds of bit of trivia, I learned that I was wrong in thinking that George had tried out for John Lennon's skiffle band by playing Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock." That was Paul. George played "Raunchy" for his audition. I learned that Paul, in writing his song to comfort Julian Lennon (originally "Hey, Jules") got "Jude" from the mean Rod Steiger character in Oklahoma! And I'm embarrassed to say I never knew it was Ringo who says, "I got blisters on my fingers!" at the end of "Helter Skelter." (The group had implored the lovable Ringo to play as hard as he could to get the wild feeling of that song, not knowing it would cause the Manson gang to go on a murder spree.)

So maybe I shouldn't care about a few errors. But who would read a book like this if he or she didn't care that Jackie DeShannon didn't write "Needles and Pins" for the Searchers, as Spitz offhandedly says she did. (The late U.S. Congressman Sonny Bono and Jack Nitzsche wrote that song.)

And then there's the section about George's rising to a new level as a songsmith with "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun," in which Spitz implies that George wrote "Everybody's Trying to Be My Baby." That was Carl Perkins, whose songs the Beatles recorded or performed more of (7) than anyone other than Chuck Berry (9).

I guess a sin of omission falls in a different category. But, on page 499, Spitz quotes Peter Brown saying that George wrote "Something" about his wife, Pattie Boyd, and Eric Clapton wrote "Darling, You Look Wonderful [sic] Tonight" about her. But Spitz fails to mention that Clapton also wrote "Layla" about her. Since Spitz mentions in a note at the bottom of that page that Donovan wrote "Jennifer Juniper" about Pattie's sister Jenny, I say this information is pertinent in placing these sisters in a special Pantheon of Super Muses.

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