In the summer of 2009, I re-discovered The Beatles after reading Larry Kane’s book Lennon Revealed. I then moved on to Bob Gruen’s John Lennon: The New York Years, later journeying to New York to meet Mr. Gruen in person, and soon after to a Beatles event in Philadelphia where I met Larry Kane. I then read George Harrison’s autobiography I, Me, Mine, as well as a few other books about Harrison authored by people who knew him personally.
When I picked up Peter Ames Carlin’s book Paul McCartney: A Life, it was not only the first book I read specifically about Paul McCartney, but the first Beatle book written by an author who didn’t know the subject of the book personally. It was my first “unauthorized” biography on The Beatles.
I finished Carlin’s book yesterday, and I must say I liked it. It was a good read.
I spent some time reading other reviews of Carlin’s McCartney biography, and although many of them weren’t favorable, I think that Mr. Carlin did as good a job as could have been done considering that Paul wouldn’t grant him an interview. As in any instance of an author writing a book, Carlin certainly injected a bit of his own opinion into the mix, but I think he did a fairly good job of keeping his bias to a minimum.
I know I would have been more biased had I been the author.
As coincidence has it, Carlin pulled upon a few of the sources I have (Gruen, Kane), who I found more than willing to talk, but less knowledgeable when it came to Sir Paul McCartney. His interviews with people like Tony Bramwell and some of the former members of Wings probably proved more fruitful. The Beatles circle is no easy one to infiltrate, I give him credit for the immense amount of time and energy that it must have taken both to track all of those people down, and to convince them to agree to speak with him.
One of the things that Peter Ames Carlin’s book was able to accomplish (in my humble opinion), was to establish motive as to why Paul McCartney is often perceived the way he is. Notice I said “perceived”. As I expected from reading The Beatles Anthology, as well as almost a dozen other Beatles tomes, McCartney’s story reads almost like a Shakespearean tragedy. Ironically – in McCartney’s case – the line “I get by with a little help from my friends” doesn’t apply to Paul’s ongoing struggle to preserve but his own integrity as well as that of The Beatles, where his fellow bandmates left him to fend for himself.
Paul McCartney: A Life is overall an enjoyable story, and contains some interesting insights into the career of the most beatle-y Beatle. From the beginnings in Liverpool, to the glory of his time with The Beatles, to his marriage to Linda and re-birth as Wings (essentially McCartney) and subsequent solo and collaborative projects. I think especially for someone completely unfamiliar with McCartney’s career this book is a great introduction to a man who may very well be one of the greatest performers of the twentieth century.