All You Need is Love: The End of the Beatles by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines

I am delighted to have been able to read this amazing book and review it for the blogtour. Whereas I’m by no means a Beatles completist, I am a huge fan having grown up with them. And yes, I watched all 8 hrs of Peter Jackson’s documentary, Get Back, which compiled the hours and hours of documentary footage filmed during the making of Let It Be, and included the legendary rooftop concert at Apple Corps HQ in 1970. It really caught the tensions in the band, with George threatening to walk, Paul being the peacemaker, but also sergeant major to actually get things done, and Yoko just being there, but it also showed more positive sides and the creative process which is always fascinating to me.

All You Need is Love gives additional context to this period, compiled from never-before released interviews recorded by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines. Brown was there; he was former COO of Apple Corps and had been with the band all the way from Liverpool starting out as Epstein’s assistant. His biog tells how he was custodian of their passports, was John & Yoko’s best man and introduced Paul to Linda. Gaines is an American journalist with a long list of credentials and a great interviewer. The pair conducted these interviews in 1980-81, and had extracted from them for a previous book which caused an uproar when published. They locked the rest in a vault until now! NB: Little would they know but these interviews, except for Yoko’s, took place in the weeks before John was murdered in late 1980.

They managed to talk to nearly all the key characters who were still alive: Beatles roadie Mal Evans died in 1976, Linda McCartney is particularly notable by her absence though, and I was slightly surprised given that their experiences with the Maharishi are covered here that Jane Asher wasn’t included (nor her brother Peter), and of course, they never got to John. After Brown’s scene-setting introduction, the book begins with a short transcript from a commentary recorded earlier (and lodged with his US attorney) by Brian Epstein in 1966 (he died in 1967). He considers whether the band would ever tour again – never say never – but not conventionally he thought, after the interview with Maureen Cleave, (a British journalist who broke the “bigger than Jesus” comment that John made, leading to much upset) – it would be their last tour. Last year I read Epstein’s earlier 1964 memoir A Cellarful of Noise, written with Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor, and the same calm voice comes across in this brief interlude.

After enticing us in with Brian Epstein, Brown and Gaines begin their interviews with the real biggie – Paul. After Epstein’s death, the Beatles were left managerless, and then John went and signed up with Allen Klein, as he had promised to look after Yoko too, and persuaded George and Ringo to do likewise. Only Paul held out, and it became a real elephant in the room and one of the deals that accelerated the break-up. As we learn later reading the other interviews, Klein was a shark, as Mick Jagger would attest too. This is only compounded by Klein’s own interview late in the book where he contradicts everything – but too late – our minds are already made up!

Paul also talks about Linda, Yoko / John and Yoko:

SG: Were the other Beatles anti-Linda?

PMcC: Uh, yeah. I should think so. Like we were anti-Yoko. But you know John and Yoko, you can see it now, the way to get their friendship is to do everything the way they require it. To do anything else is how to not get their friendship. This is still how it is with John and Yoko. I know that if I absolutely lie down on the ground and just do everything like they way and laugh at all their jokes and don’t expect my jokes to ever get laughed at, and don’t expect any of my opinions ever to carry any weight whatsoever, if I’m willing to do all that, then we can be friends.

The next few interviews concentrate on Brian’s death, talking to his mother Queenie, Derek Taylor, and Brown himself reflecting on Epstein. It really marked the beginning of the end so to speak, things would never be the same after Brian died. We move on towards that last tour and the situation that happened in Manila and having to get out fast having unknowingly offended Imelda Marcos.

Next comes George, and we’re taken back a bit to the Maharishi and that falling out, but also his experiences with LSD:

GH: LSD was just such a violent big experience it seemed to have speeded up the process of perception. Normally something which might take a number of years of experience in order to result in some sort of knowledge–happened in ten hours of LSD. I mean that’s how it affected me personally. Before it, I was totally ignorant, and afterward, I knew I was totally ignorant, and I was now on my way to having some sort of knowledge. […] the moment I’d taken LSD, it just made me laugh because I understood it inside–just in a flash. I understood what the whole concept of God or religion was just by seeing it. I could see it in the grass, in the trees, and the energy in between everything. It was just a realization.

As we move on we begin to see some differences of opinions – such as that between Cynthia Lennon Twist, John’s first wife, and Yoko. Cynthia being subjected to an awful divorce meeting on her return from Italy, to find John and Yoko ensconced in their home. She says Yoko wouldn’t stay out of it. Yoko later diplomatically refuses to get into any argument, but acknowledges the hurt their relationship must have caused. I was surprised to learn that John and Yoko’s relationship was platonic for a long time before they became lovers. I wasn’t aware of Yoko’s miscarriages either, and the stillborn baby that was born at seven months, named John Ono Lennon; your heart goes out to her. Reading her transcript I warmed to her more than before, realising that the band were primed to implode before she came along, but she is undoubtedly a strong woman. She also seemed a little blasé about the drugs they did, including heroin.

If Allen Klein comes out as the villain of the piece and Epstein the god-figure, one other character crops up throughout, who is not remembered fondly by anyone, sprouting mischief wherever he went and having the ear of John in particular. That’s ‘Magic’ Alex Mardas, a Greek electronics engineer, whom they first encountered in London exhibiting his ‘kinetic light sculptures’ at a gallery. John gave him his nickname, and once Apple was set up, he was able to get mountains of cash from them for his so-called projects, and was always pandering to John. He was a serious stirrer in their time with the Maharishi, and in John and Cynthia’s divorce. He was also responsible for installing the recording studio at Savile Row, having upset George Martin saying Abbey Road wasn’t good enough. He promised a 72-track recording machine … never to materialise. This project was a disaster.

The last interview in the book is of Ringo, who concludes:

SG: Did you want the group to break up?
RS: It broke up anyway.
SG: What does that mean?
RS: It was time for everybody. Still the best band that ever was. Still the best band.

As Brown concludes too in his Afterword, everything leads to the consensus that “the time had come, an annoyingly philosophical answer yet accurate.” Also included are a section of photographs, a mixture of slightly blurry informal snaps and some more sharp photos. There’s a particular nice one of Epstein with Brown standing behind him protectively. A full index allows you to refer back to things easily.

I found this book absolutely riveting! It was so interesting to get all the different points of view, from those who worked for them in particular. I would go as far to say it is essential reading for any Beatles fan – I highly recommend it. It has already found its space on my Beatles shelf, alongside Ian MacDonald’s wonderful Revolution in the Head about their music and a handful of other great Beatles books (Hunter Davies, Philip Norman, Mark Lewisohn etc). I’m off to put on a CD now… (probably Abbey Road, if you’re wondering).

Source: Review copy – Thank you! Monoray/Octopus hardback, 342 pages, + plates.

BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.

8 thoughts on “All You Need is Love: The End of the Beatles by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines

  1. Lory says:

    I find that books weaving together interviews from various points of view can be so effective when well done, and useful in trying to understand a complicated situation. Too bad they couldn’t get to John.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Endlessly fascinating to get the different viewpoints. You could see how John and Paul had grown out of each other, but Paul kept trying. I think Allen Klein really set the break in action though from these interviews, using Yoko as a catalyst – the damage done to Paul when Klein moved the release date of Let It Be forward to the same day as Paul planned to release his first solo album McCartney was immense for instance.

  2. Bellezza says:

    My Summer of ‘77 was defined by Abbey Road. I’ve never been a huge Beatles fan, but they surely had some good songs…and a strong place in history.

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      If pushed I’d probably say the solid earthiness of the Stones just wins over the Beatles for me, but the Beatles musical evolution and creativity was truly fab as well as the influence they had worldwide.

  3. Calmgrove says:

    Yes, I too watched the Get Back documentary in its entirety and wonderfully informative it was, as well as nostalgic. Your review is extremely detailed and although you say you’re not a completist your fascination comes through very strongly. Excellent! 🙂

    • AnnaBookBel says:

      Thank you for your kind words Chris. When push comes to shove I do love Mick & Keef a little more than the Beatles as personalities, but the Fab Four were the news, inspiring more pages written about them than anyone else. I find books about the history of music particularly fascinating, including its politics and personalities, which these interviews brought so totally to life.

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