Peter Brown called to say

It’s a measure of the extent to which The Love You Make is a careless hack job that the book manages to misquote the one line in a Beatles song that means anybody has ever heard of its co-author. “Peter Brown called to say,” it reads, “You can made it okay, you can get married in Gibraltar near Spain.”

A typo, nothing more, but such a typo. The one line.

Although The Love You Make is blessed with many five-star reviews on the Amazon, it reads like a carelessly cobbled together cash-in, published close enough to John Lennon’s death to catch the wave, and completely bereft of any sense that the entity behind it is a real person in the world. In fact, it reads exactly like a busy-and-important executive sat down for a couple of meetings with a ghost writer (co-author and professional biographer Steven Gaines) before sending him off to read everybody else’s books about the Beatles by way of research. 

All of this, I have to say, is based on the edition I just read, which came out in 1983. So it’s entirely possible that the reprinted version from 2002 fixed a lot of these problems. But I doubt it. I wonder if any of the reviewers even read it. This, from the blurb, is hard to believe:

Here is the national bestseller that Newsday called “the most authoritative and candid look yet at the personal lives…of the oft-scrutinized group.” In The Love You Make, Peter Brown, a close friend of and business manager for the band—and the best man at John and Yoko’s wedding—presents a complete look at the dramatic offstage odyssey of the four lads from Liverpool who established the greatest music phenomenon of the twentieth century.

I don’t recognise that description. The first third of the book consists of a rehashing of other biographies, notably Cynthia Lennon’s. The last few chapters feature summaries of the lives of the ex-Beatles, which any competent professional could have gleaned from the public record. It’s not until page 152 before you can be certain that something Peter Brown might have personally witnessed is being recounted. The truth is that I could have written most of this.

It’s careless not just with typos but with the timeline. Spoiled by the meticulous narrative of Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In, I was irritated by the way Brown’s telling drifted back and forth with only a vague sense of the actual order of events. An example: one of the inserted glossy photos features a caption explaining that the “surviving Beatles” attended Ringo’s wedding to Barbara Bach. There they all were: Paul, George, Ringo, and their respective spouses. But the caption also says that the wedding took place in 1980. Well. Lennon was still alive for most of 1980, and Ringo’s wedding was actually in April of 1981. So again, probably just a typo, but an example of the kind of confusion that results from carelessness.

Apart from all that, there’s the nasty tone. Surely none of the Beatles who “gave full co-operation” were expecting to be portrayed in such a negative light. The little sketch of Lennon and Ono that opens the book could have been written by that other hatchet man, Albert Goldman. The other three don’t fare better and only the spouses are spared the liberally spread acid. Patty Boyd comes across as practically saint-like, and it’s hilarious to read the bit about how she’s been with Eric ever since and they lived happily ever after.

As an antidote to all this, Derek Taylor’s memoir As Time Goes By was recently reissued by Faber, and it oozes his brilliant, easygoing writing style and candid honesty — especially about his own faults. Perhaps Peter Brown thought nobody would be interested in him, but his absence from his own memoir leaves a great glaring hole. A missed opportunity. He could have made it okay.


One response to “Peter Brown called to say”

%d bloggers like this: