Language barriers wouldn’t really seem to be a problem between Britain and America, but apparently that’s not the case, as becomes obvious when speaking to Mark Lewisohn, biographer of The Beatles. Sitting down with him to talk about the first installment, published in 2013 under the title The Beatles: All These Years, Volume One — Tune In, it was then that he casually mentioned the fact that the second book wouldn’t be out until 2020 (looking less likely all the time, by the way), describing this as an “intermission” between books. And that’s where the language barrier kicks in.
When you think intermission, you maybe think of classic epic movies that would give you a window of opportunity in the middle to grab a fresh bucket of popcorn and soda before seeing the rest of the flick. Mark’s idea of an intermission is a minimum of seven years, maybe more.
“It’s still an intermission of sorts, just a longer one,” he smiles, unpersuaded by the argument. “I think it means pretty much the same thing in the UK, but I just like the idea of something very long suddenly having a pause in the middle. The truth is, you’ve seen the work that goes into these things. They can’t be done quickly, and shouldn’t be done quickly. That would, I think, damage the integrity of the book.”
To put it into perspective, he began the project when he was 45 and estimates that when it’s all said and done, he will probably be about 70 years old. That will represent 25 years of his life, but, truth be told, he really is crafting a definitive look at The Beatles that surpasses anything that’s come out previously. That’s already obvious, despite the fact that the narrative of volume one only reaches 1962 in the band’s history, building incredible tension — through first-hand interviews and genuinely exhaustive research — as the paths of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr come together.
“I always thought the Beatles story had been told very often, but never very well, and I wanted to tell it in this way, where you’ve got lives running on parallel tracks that occasionally crossover, then eventually do get together,” Mark explains. “And it’s much more of a human story than a book about rock legends. It’s about four war babies from an unlikely place in England [Liverpool] who ended up, through force of personality and originality and talent, changing the world. I decided that I was going to tell the story as faithfully, honestly and as accurately as I can, and any myths that fall away by the wayside will just fall away.”
In many ways, Tune In is a book filled with revelations — plenty of them in the original format’s 944 pages, even more so in the extended edition’s 1,728 — and Mark, who has written a number of comprehensive books on the subject already, had his eyes opened as well (which says a lot). What follows is his guide to some of those revelations, which differ in some cases from established Beatles history.