The Beatles look in envy at the mirror

Written by By Steve Carlin, CNN

The story of how one of the world’s greatest music acts came to “get back” isn’t just the story of a band that really could have been kicked off the stage for half their lifetime. It’s the tale of the rise and fall of naivete and ambition.

While the rest of the charts were flying high and stars were born, the Beatles were sent reeling.

In their books “Till There Was You,” David Puttnam and Martin Lewis have chronicled everything from their ostracization by the public to what fate, or good fortune, finally lifted from their sorry shoulders. They have also documented Beatlemania in all its demented intensity: swarms of screaming girls; the sight of John Lennon out dancing the screaming girls; Paul McCartney shouting “one or two more takes, ma’am” on Capitol Records.

The book chronicles the Beatles’ world tour of late 1966 and early 1967, dealing with their isolation, consternation, rumination, ennui, love and fame. It’s a book filled with still-troubling insights, some from acid head Peter Gabriel, who, when asked if he ever wished he’d found drugs, replied: “I felt happy doing [acid] because I was looking through a telescope at a star, being guided along the same path. In a different way … if you had the chance to stop it the first time, would you?”

Had the Beatles fully appreciated the soaring musical and cultural success in front of them, would they have stayed in Birmingham, the picture of awkwardness painted in My Fair Lady , surely the most famous show tune about onstage blindness? Without reading about the Beatles, any visual person might assume an inner monologue may have been alive and well. Given the number of hit songs that the Beatles write, were they trying to find out what it feels like to run away?

The book also demonstrates their undeniable genius. Lennon called himself the Paul McCartney of his day, referring to their voice: “His sweet, falsetto voice seemed in itself like a piece of artistic brilliance.” Paul McCartney was no less on the mark when he said, on meeting Harrison: “They’re like brothers to me.”

Perhaps the most magical moment of the two books is a photograph of the Beatles, in their loft loft of late 1967 in Munich, staring in envy at a full-length mirror. It could be their own personal surrealist masterpiece — yet, for such a noble blurring of reality and metaphor, it’s shot painfully from within.

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