Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, by Barry Miles
This book is about as close to an autobiography that one could expect of Paul McCartney’s life, and though it only covers the period up to the breakup of the Beatles, it is certainly a book that is necessary to account for when it comes to looking at the career of Paul McCartney. There are at least three levels of biography, and this one is an official and authorized biography that featured a lot of personal involvement on the part of McCartney. Other biographies have been given tacit permission that allowed people to talk freely with the biographer even if the subject himself did not. And still other biographies are unauthorized ones. The fact that this is an authorized biography is a bit of a double-edged sword, in that the author is beholden to write something that is favorable to its author, though one gets the feeling that the author would have done this anyway. What is a bit baffling is that this book stops so abruptly as it does when it comes to ending with the Beatles, especially given the length of this book. This is a book that could very easily be the first of a two-part set, but the volume is pretty sizable and that is likely to deter many potential readers.
This book is about 600 pages and is divided into fourteen chapters. The book begins with acknowledgements and then the author talks about the Liverpool upbringing of Paul and the other Beatles and what this means (1). This is followed by a look at the experience of the Beatles in Hamburg and the Cavern (2) as well as their move to London to go big (3). After this comes a look at the Beatles for Sales period (4) and its recording, as well as the songwriting partnership between Lennon and McCartney (5). The author tries to help Paul regain his indie cred as part of the avant garde scene in London in the 60’s (6) before talking about the making of more Beatles albums (7), including Sergeant Pepper (8). There is a talk about the movie-making efforts of the Beatles (9) before a chapter on the experience of the Beatles with the maharishi and how it could have gone better (10). This is then followed by a look at Apple records (11) and the recording of the White Album (12). The book then ends with a discussion of Abbey Road and Let It Be (13), Paul’s relationship with John as the Beatles broke up (14), and an afterword, bibliography, and index.
By and large this is a good book. It is not a great book, because it lacks focus and is perhaps more than a bit bloated. As is often the case with a book this size, a bit of judicious editing would have made the book far more manageable. Yet it is easy to see why more edits to this book were not made. Do you want to be the one who trims the reminisces of Paul McCartney and other people into a more reasonable length? I would not volunteer for that job, and it appears that no one else wanted to do that either. Given that fact, this book is probably as good as it could have been, and it gives a lot of details about the career of the Beatles and about some of the struggles and tensions that existed within the band. There are definitely some fascinating aspects to this book when it comes to the way that the author tries to deal with the personalities at the heart of the Beatles, with John Lennon’s fragile macho posing, with George Harrison’s frustrations at the limits the band placed on his own creative efforts, and at the financial shenanigans that divided the band towards the end.