The Beatles were the “apotheosis of inanity”, their Magical Mystery Tour TV film was “appalling”. After the band split, Paul McCartney was “resolute upon being as inconsequential as The Carpenters”. Fabs books, a cottage industry unto themselves, are almost always fawning and celebratory, so a healthy dose of emperor’s new clothes makes for a refreshing read.
To be fair, dismissals along the lines of the above are in the minority in this weighty compendium of archive journalism, but they’re afforded space (in a chapter called “The Dissenters”) in the interests of painting as complete a picture as possible. Landmark newspaper articles are presented in full, including the John Lennon Evening Standard interview that sparked the “bigger than Jesus” controversy, Kenneth Tynan’s syntax-defying review of Help!, and a Daily Mail editorial on “the menace of The Beatles”.
Gaps in the narrative are filled by fresh writing from Egan himself and historians such as John Tobler and Paul Gambaccinni. The period pieces are of most interest, however, be it articulate praise from Hunter Davies, or Daily Mirror displeasure at MBEs awarded to inhabitants of a “freak world nourished by stunts, sustained by gimmicks”.