Sunday, July 31, 2005
Stark's angle on the much-told Beatles story is that of a cultural historian. His main purpose here is to put the Beatles into a historical framework -- to identify the social and political forces that the group tapped into, and sometimes even set into motion, consciously or otherwise. With those larger currents in focus, Stark gives a pretty convincing analysis of why this particular rock quartet was successful beyond anyone's wildest imagination.
What surprises me most about Stark's account, however, is his exquisite treatment of the Beatles as people -- particularly John and Paul, who were the group's obvious leaders. Stark provides a detailed look at the two men's childhoods, which were not particularly happy ones. Both lost their mothers, and much of what both of them did in their careers as musicians was influenced by that sad fact. But John's reaction was very different from Paul's, as the author shows us in incident after telling incident. The book reminded me of something that's easy to forget -- how very young these guys were. But it also revealed something I hadn't ever given much thought to -- how wounded they were as people.