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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Mark Lewisohn's All These Years: 10.5/10.

(I've pretty much finished the trade edition of Mr Lewisohn's tome, and so here are a few mercifully brief thoughts. Before I begin, I should state that Mark is a mate, and a good one, so don't take this as a review, but rather a recommendation.)

It's been called The World At War of rock biographies, in that this is an enormous work of layered history, but what it puts me most in mind of is War and Peace. Obviously, Tolstoy's "whoppa" is historical fiction, and Mark's "bewk" has been written specifically to counteract the various and manifold fictions that have crept in to endless re-tellings of "the 20th century's greatest romance". Yet the structure of the thing, with multiple personal histories unfolding in parallel against the backdrop of a rapidly changing society, really reminds me of Lev's "big-boy". And these books are both, of course, very big-boys indeed.

All These Years is a magnificent piece of work, dense and detailed, but fast moving and, usefully, written free from hindsight-based comment, thus allowing the story to unfold as it happened. Mark's prose is clear, clever and highly readable. The big events are fully explained for the first time, and the small ones are, in many cases also for the first time, err...also explained. I haven't read another book which manages to convey the atmosphere and gathering excitement of those times as well as this.

I only have one real criticism, and, funnily enough, the very same one I'd level at War and Peace: it's too short. (Luckily, this will be rectified next month.)

If you are entertaining any doubts about reading yet another book about the Beatles, then cast these aside immediately, buy a copy and prepare to learn a lot (including why a sandwich would be the best symbol for John Lennon International Airport in Liverpool).

Roll on Volume 2 (no bread based punnery intended).


  1. Last week in Waterstones...I held it, I smelled (smelt?) it. I flicked its pages in a slightly pervy way but I could not buy it because its my birthday present from the family and I have to wait for another 5 weeks ! Mein Gott I might have to buy it this weekend and keep it in my desk at work and......no !

  2. these will certainly be THE three major books of my lifetime (the nuns at my catholic school would all faint if they read this...) - i'll "drink" each word with delight! hope i'm still around for the 3rd one... (says the person who has been trying to write a book for - what - 30 years???). congratulations mark!

    1. yes Lizzie - Hurry up. I want to read your book, too (and it has to come out so that Mark could use it)

  3. John used to spit in the cheese sandwiches when made them, he used to work at the airport. He told Derek Taylor not to eat them because of this..

  4. I hope part 3 goes into the 70s a bit....

  5. Got my copy today! It's heavy as a bible. I bet they're still more popular than Jesus.
    Looking forward to reading it, and the sequels.