When I first heard about the book, The Beatles A to Zed: An Alphabetical Mystery Tour, I thought it would be a great idea for Peter Asher to tell some of his personal stories about The Beatles in a well-organized encyclopedia-type format. Sadly, when I started reading the book, I discovered there were few personal stories about The Beatles and the book was presented in an unhelpful design.
Sad news in the Beatles community to hear that Pete Shotton, John Lennon’s best friend growing up, died on March 24, 2017. He was 75 years old, born in 1941 – surprising that he was one year younger than John Lennon, since they were best friends in school.
Pete and John met in Sunday school when they were respectively, 6 and 7 years old. They also lived close to each other in Liverpool. They formed a small rowdy group of boys from the neighborhood which also included Nigel Whalley and Ivan Vaughn, who would play a pivotal role in Beatles history when he introduced Paul McCartney to John Lennon in 1957.
John and Pete’s childhood and teenage friendship, which lasted through high school and adulthood, was depicted in the film, Nowhere Boy, which showed how John was the instigator of the two:
John Lennon insisted on Shotton’s participation as a member of his first band, The Quarrymen skiffle group. Pete was assigned the washboard. It wasn’t so much Shotton’s musical ability (which was lacking) but more having the support of his friend in the band. In fact, without Pete, John may have never pursued starting the group.
According to Pete: “Had I categorically said no, John would almost certainly have shelved the whole idea of forming a group… I don’t mean to imply that there was anything special about me… It’s just that John and I were so inseparable at the time, it would have been inconceivable for either of us to get involved in something the other wasn’t keen on doing.”
Although Pete’s time with Quarrymen only lasted a year, he became an invaluable eyewitness to history. He observed John’s relationship with his birth mother, Julia, for several years before she died when John was 17. Pete was also the one who officially asked a 15-year-old Paul McCartney to join the Quarrymen.
In his insightful book about his friendship with John Lennon, Shotton recounts all the early rock and roll influences that John Lennon experienced. His book is regarded as one of the 10 best Beatles books of all time according to Rolling Stone.
The original title of Shotton’s book was John Lennon In My Life. It first came out in 1983 and was then re-issued a year later as The Beatles, Lennon and Me. It was co-written with Nicholas Schaffner, who was also the author of the great book, The Beatles Forever.
In his book, for example, Shotton offers behind-the-scenes truths of how The Quarrymen members evolved into The Beatles. Since Pete was one of the few people that was extremely close to John, he was able to offer insights into Lennon’s psyche.
“Neither Paul nor George would have lasted very long in John’s band… had John not come to like them so much as people,” . “Most of the other original members were gradually frozen out of the picture, not so much for lack of musical promise, but simply because John found them a bore.”
After Lennon became a superstar, he still maintained his friendship with Shotton, who was also there when John began his relationship with Yoko. Pete describes when the couple spent their first night together in this interview he did in the 1980s:
The last time Pete saw John was in the summer of 1976 when he visited with John and Yoko in New York City.
Reacting to John’s shocking murder in 1980, Shotton wrote in his book, “What a life.” Then on the next page which is the end of the book, he wrote: “What a fucking ending.”
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Editor’s note: In honor of the anniversary this month of “When Elvis met The Beatles” we are posting this review of the book (written by the editor of Daytrippin’) that was released last year which contains many Elvis/Beatles stories.
by Shelley Germeaux,
The John Lennon Examiner
The new book, Elvis, Behind the Legend: Startling Truths About the King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music by Trina Young, reveals many surprising new stories and viewpoints about Elvis Presley’s life, including several about his association with the Beatles. Young does not attempt to re-write Elvis’ biography, but instead focuses on several behind-the-scenes revelations that few know about, even seasoned experts. The stories are sure to alter the reader’s perception of the man behind the title, “The King of Rock and Roll.”
The John Lennon Examiner has received a digital copy of the book from the author, and found it to be incredibly enlightening, enjoyable, and as the subtitle suggests, “startling.” The author wrote, “Often taking a back seat with historians to The Beatles in terms of rock and roll influence, Presley’s legacy has been marred by misconceptions of the man as an entertainer and human being.” As most Beatles fans are aware, Elvis was John Lennon’s biggest hero, the one he emulated, the one he idolized—until Lennon was bemused with Elvis’ career after spending two years in the Army.
At 145 pages, each of the thirty-two chapters brings to life a different story, written chronologically throughout his life. To name just a few, the book begins with a revelation concerning his speech impediment, a fact that is not well-known. The identity of the mystery woman behind the famous 1956 photo called “The Kiss” is revealed, and how Elvis is responsible for making the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor a reality. Readers will learn about the secret girlfriend he was going to see in Washington, when he inevitably met with President Nixon.
Young points out that Elvis developed a private spiritual life, and connected with gurus long before the Beatles made their association with the Maharishi so public. His association with the Beatles is addressed in several chapters, shedding light on various aspects, such as: the difference in earnings from their appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, the day The Beatles met Elvis in 1965 at his home in L.A., and the truth behind his “grudge” against the band. The disparaging statements he made to President Nixon about the Beatles—something fans have been angered by for years– are explained from a different vantage point.
In addition, included in the appendix is a comparison of record sales between Elvis and the Beatles, which may surprise fans of both. The book is well-researched, with a sizable bibliography, and a great read. The John Lennon Examiner recommends this book for Beatles and Elvis fans alike. It is an enjoyable and fun read that will shift readers’ perceptions about “The King of Rock and Roll” for the better.
A key drawback of a biographical film adapted from a book is that it leaves out many important facts and details. In some instances, the film creates new truths to satisfy dramatic effect in order to make the movie more entertaining – what is commonly known as “dramatic license.”
Unfortunately, right off the bat, author Tiwary admits that the truth wasn’t a priority to him in his book in telling Brian Epstein’s story: “Almost everything in the pages you’ve just read actually did happen” Tiwary writes. “But conveying the truth – while important – has never been my primary goal.”
“Elvis has required every moment of my time, and I think he would have suffered had I signed anyone else,” Parker told Epstein, as recounted in Coleman’s biography of Brian Epstein. “But I admire you, Brian, for doing it… But remember, too, that when Presley soared to fame I was 44. When the Beatles happened, you were 28. That helps.”