Difference between revisions of "The Love You Make"
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The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of The Beatles
by Peter Brown (with Steven Gaines)
First Published by McGraw-Hill (US) and Macmillan (UK), 1983
Both this books's title, and its author's name, represent powerful fragments of Beatles lore. Peter Brown was best man at John Lennon's wedding to Yoko Ono - in fact he also later filled the same role for Paul McCartney - and was immortalised by Lennon, in 'The Ballad of John & Joko', as the man wo "called to say, you can make it ok, you can get married in Gibraltar near Spain". The book's title is taken from the appropriately-named Beatles song 'The End', quoted in the frontispiece:
|“||And in the end
The love you take
—The last lyric from the last song on the last Beatles album
However, nothing is ever simple in Beatles-land. A pedant could argue that 'Abbey Road' wasn't the Beatles' last album, since 'Let it Be', while recorded earlier, was released after it, and in any case 'The End' was not the last song on the finalised running order, being supplanted at the last minute by 'Her Majesty'. Still, great title for a Beatles book, and ‘love’ was always a subject close to the Beatles’ hearts.
Peter Brown, meanwhile, may not have been so much of an 'insider' as either his appearance in Lennon's self-mythologising ballad, or the subtitle of his book, suggest. He certainly can't claim to have been a member of the innermost circle of Beatles intimates - the so-called 'Liverpool Mafia' - such as, say, Neil Aspinall. This has led to some criticism, and it's true that Brown sometimes 'makes up' dialogue or thoughts for events and situations at which he was not a first-hand witness; but he was enough of an insider that he has an immensely interesting story to tell, and lucky for us he tells it in a brisk and entertaining way.
Similarly, this book can't be placed in the top rank of Beatles books, in terms of renown. While not obscure, it's nowhere near as well known as Philip Norman's 'Shout' or Albert Goldman's 'The Lives of John Lennon', for example. This is a pity, because while it may have its faults, this is a hugely enjoyable book, and an essential read for anyone interested in the Beatles.
This is not a conventional biography. Brown doesn't bother the reader with potted personal histories of the various Beatles' forbears, and in fact begins his narrative in May 1968, as Cynthia Lennon returns from holiday to find Yoko Ono sitting in the kitchen of the Lennons' Weybridge mansion, wearing Cynthia's dressing gown, and sporting an expression which is simultaneously inscrutable and unmistakably post-coital. This is a refreshingly grabby way to begin the book, and Brown keeps up this pacy style all the way through.
Brown's approach is anecdotal and episodic. While there are no longueurs, there are some significant lacunae, perhaps the most noticable being the absence of any real discussion, or even sometimes mention, of the music the Beatles made. When we read, towards the end of the book, of Paul McCartney's need to 'get away from it all' for a while on his Scottish farm, and are told that this has been caused by a renewed level of media attention, due to the recent release of 'Abbey Road', we realise with some surprise that this is the first time the album has been mentioned.
Even when Brown does skip back in time a bit, to cover the band's early days and their visits to Germany, he never goes any further back than their teenage years. At the other end of the scale, the narrative peters out a little towards the end, the period between the band's break-up and Lennon's murder taking only 50 pages or so.
Thematically, there's an unmissable imbalance between the large portion of pages given over to John Lennon and Brian Epstein, and the scant amount of space accorded to everyone else. It's natural, however, that Brown devotes so much time to Epstein, because it was through Epstein that Brown became involved with the Beatles and their multi-faceted, haphazardly run Apple organisation. Brown had worked for Epstein in Liverpool and after moving to London became probably his most loyal lieutenant, even cleaning up after Epstein's attempted suicide - and hiding the note he'd left next to the bottle of pills on his bedside table. This book is driven by personalities, with the Beatles being portrayed as owing their success, in large part, to the fact that Epstein fancied Lennon to the point of obsession. So it's apt that Brown takes such a personalised approach to both the structure and content of his narrative.
The book consists of 21 Chapters, each subdivided into several short, numbered sections. Most Chapters are preceded by an apposite quotation, mostly concerning the personalities involved. For instance:
"America is at our feet! Could anything be more important than this?"
- - Brian Epstein in a phone call to Peter Brown
"What's a scruff like me doing with all this lot?"
- - Ringo Starr
Steven Gaines provides a short Introduction, describing how he came to be involved. The revised 2002 edition added a worthwhile foreward by Anthony DeCurtis, a Contents section, and an expanded Index.
One of Brown's main achievements is to maintain a dispassionate, objective tone. He clearly is a fan of Lennon, for instance, but that doesn't stop him detailing John and Yoko's heroin addiction, or poking fun at some of Lennon's less considered political stances. This fits well with his prose style, which is simple and to the point, seldom straining to turn elegant phrases or draw attention to itself. Significantly, both these aspects occassionally break down together, when Brown can't keep his emotions from rippling the otherwise nonchalantly calm surface of his narrative. More often than not, this involves Brian Epstein, who comes across as a thoroughly decent yet perpetually tormented man, and whose tragic early death from a drug overdose affects Brown deeply. Here Brown describes the moment when Allen Klein, who'd been angling after Epstein's role of Beatles manager, hears of Epstein's death:
In New York City, Allen Klein was driving across the George Washington Bridge to his home in New Jersey. Behind him, Manhattan was glittering like a diamond diorama. Just then there was a news flash on the radio: Brian Epstein was dead
Klein snapped his fingers. "I've got 'em!" he said.
Cynthia Lennon provides the opening quotation for Chapter One:
"I managed to observe the whirlpool of events without drowning..."
Well, like many who were close to the Beatles, if she didn't drown, Cynthia certainly got thrown up against a few rocks. And if Brown hasn't written a traditional biography, he hasn't produced a hagiography either. He isn't afraid to show some of the less attractive aspects of the Beatles, and how their wealth and fame affected their behaviour, and their sometimes brutally disdainful treatment of those closest to them.
Lennon, of course, could be bitter and cruel, and there's plenty of evidence of that here. But nobody emerges from these pages with a clean charge sheet. George Harrison forbids his wife Pattie to continue her modelling career, and keeps her a virtual prisoner, "isolated almost continuously in the big gloomy house with all the friar's heads". He exhibits titanic levels of naivety in his dealings with the Maharishi, even insisting - on a flight back from a trip he and Brown took to visit the guru in Sweden, to prevail upon him to cease usung the Beatles' names in his publicity - that the Maharishi just doesn't understand the issues involved because "he is not a modern man". Paul McCartney, often seen as the most level-headed Beatle, seems - in Brown's account - on the verge of a clinical case of satyriasis. In his first flush of fame, McCartney's "already healthy ego exploded". He dumps his childhood sweetheart, telling her frankly that he can't be expected to tie himself down to 'a steady', now that he has so many girls constantly available to him. Even affable drummer Ringo doesn't escape criticism, particularly of his lacklustre solo recordings, disastrous business ventures, and unsophisticated tastes. The "simple and uneducated" Ringo was "still eating egg and chips for his dinner" as late as 1965, and after the Beatles split became "a cameo-part player without a role", a man who "had little daily purpose in life".