The Mersey Beat Boys: Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles by Susanna Reich
THAT SPRING BRIAN EPSTEIN KNOCKED ON THE DOOR OF EVERY RECORD COMPANY IN LONDON. THE ANSWER WAS ALWAYS THE SAME--NO ONE WANTED A BUNCH OF SCOUSERS FROM GRIMY OLD LIVERPOOL.
"GUITAR GROUPS ARE ON THE WAY OUT," THE BOYS WERE TOLD.
THEN THE BOYS RECEIVED A TELEGRAM. ONE LAST RECORD PRODUCER WAS WILLING TO HEAR THEM PLAY.
That record producer was George Martin, and the rest is history.
Fabulous fame didn't exactly seem to be a likely fate for the four youngsters who grew up in the bombed-scarred old port city of Liverpool, a bit down at the heels in the austerity of post-war days. Growing up as working-class lads, they had one thing in common, a strong desire to make music. Only Paul McCartney's family was musical and encouraged him, but somehow John Lennon got his hands on a guitar, formed a scruffy skiffle band, and kept banging away at the guitar.
SOME OF THE BOYS WERE READY TO QUIT. NOT JOHN. NOT WHEN THERE WAS ONE MORE GIG COMING UP--THE ST. PETER'S CHURCH FAIR.
PAUL MCCARTNEY HOPED HE'D MEET SOME GIRLS AT THE CHURCH FAIR. BUT WHO WAS THIS BLOKE IN THE BAND, MAKING UP NEW WORDS TO "BE-BOP-A-LULU?"
John met Paul and liked the way he sang and played, and even though they didn't know it, their fate was serendipitously sealed that day. Soon Paul introduced John to his younger friend, George. George knew all the good chords, major and minor, on his guitar, and John quickly saw new possibilities of making music with the two of them. The boys shared a feeling for the American music that was flooding their homeland, with its amalgam of blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, country music, folk songs, and pop tunes, and they tried to sound like their favorites--Buddy Holly's mid-America proto-rockabilly, Little Richard's wailing Southern rooted R and B, Motown's sophisticated sound, and of course the early Elvis.
But the thing was, they were Brit lads, and they couldn't quite sound like the American bands. But what these four fortunate friends sounded like was something different, maybe better, and just right for the times. Teens were growing prosperous enough to buy stacks of 45s, and kids wanted their own music to dance to. Marrying that early rock 'n' roll sound to George's subtle new harmonies, John and Paul's memorable melodies with a feel for the pop tune, and adding Ringo's backbeat to the mix, the Fab Four were ready for fame.
Susanna Reich's forthcoming Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles (Henry Holt and Company, 2015) introduces the fab four one at a time, John, Paul, George, and lastly Ringo, as children and young teens, revealing the individual experiences that made them a unique group and the seeming inevitability of their future when they finally come together. The evocative paintings by notable artist Adam Gustavson capture the period and the energy and optimism of the young four before they were fab. Author Reich also adds impressive Beatle backmatter--an author's note, glossary of Liverpudlian lingo, notes that include many quotations by and about the boys, and a substantial bibliography of books, articles, and web sites.
School Library Journal says this one is "a gorgeous love letter to an unforgettable band," and Kirkus Reviews calls it "a grand and archetypal tale.... the first steps on the long and winding road."
See also Susanna Reich's celebrated previous picture biography, Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat. (Read review here.)