This book has the makings of a Greek tragedy. One of the foremost elements of a Greek tragedy as opposed to other tragic traditions is that in a Greek tragedy the tragic fate is known ahead of time and yet despite knowing the tragedy, the characters through some sort of tragic flaw end up bringing the tragedy to pass, without having the comfort of ignorance about what they were about. That is the nature of the solo careers of the Beatles and their continuing money woes and lawsuits. The author seems almost exasperated with the Beatles as they sue each other over and over again and sue others and end up enriching only the lawyers. He manages to quote both Paul and Linda McCartney, multiple times, when it comes to the sort of prep school tuition, pools, and university educations that the Beatles paid for with their frequent legal troubles, but despite the knowledge that their inability to work things out was ruinously wasteful and expensive and of no benefit to anyone except accountants, bureaucrats, and lawyers, the four Beatles and their families seemed unable to be at peace with each other. And by the end of the book, it is not only the author but also the reader who will be frustrated at all the nonstop legal drama.
This book is ten chapters and 350 pages long and it details the breakup of the Beatles and their inability to keep working with each other or to escape the weight and burden of being Beatles in the decades since then. This begins with the fraught relationships within the group which led them to break up rather than keep making music because the strain of working together outweighed the emotional payoff, something that was especially the case for Harrison and Lennon, who felt creatively stifled by the task of managing the egos of everyone else involved. Strikingly, both Starr and McCartney were most at home with hands, which led to McCartney’s autocratic handling of Wings (which did not work out any better with frequent lineup problems) as well as Starr’s endless All Star Bands and occasional help from his friends in terms of strong songs and backing instrument help. But most of this book is about lawsuits, lots of lawsuits and various other sordid personal and legal drama including drug busts, divorces and affairs, as well as the spilling out of personal details in prickly songs that fed the flames of more personal and legal drama.
Despite the futility and inevitability of this book, though, the author does provide compelling reasons as to why the Beatles fell apart and managed to be blind to the damage they were inflicting on others. The author comments on the naivete of the Beatles that led them to trust in unscrupulous people so that they could get around to their creative interests without having to deal with the troubles of the material world. Only McCartney seems to have profited through his alliance with the Eastmans, and even his touch failed him in his marriage with Heather Mills. As for the rest, financial scams and troubles were a huge issue, in the case of Ringo because his own career did not have the same degree of catalog success as the others, which made him more dependent on the living provided from Beatles payouts as well as his own touring. The desire of the Beatles to escape tax liabilities in socialist England as well as their addiction to drugs and the resulting police dangers this placed them in and their poor personal choices and low tolerance for criticism and high amounts of self-deception lead to continued contretemps that this author records over and over again.