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In this review, I am looking at the second volume of the Mark Lewisohn two book extended version of Tune In, following on from The Beatles - All These Years - Extended Special Edition: Part One: Volume One: Tune In. The Single Version of Tune In takes the Beatles story from early family history to the end of 1962. Volume 1 of the extended version finished at the end of 1960. This second volume then, only deals with two years, but what momentous years they were - 1961 and 1962. The time period when the Beatles found a manager, lost a bass player, changed drummers, John got married and, most importantly, they secured that all important record contract.
Now, I am reading the kindle version of these books, and page numbers are (sadly) not listed. However, having worked out the amount of text in the differing sections, I would say that this second volume is approximately half as long again as the same section in the original book. That is not counting notes, illustrations, etc, but simply the amount of text in the enlarged and extended chapters.
Volume 1 finished at the end of 1960 and the Beatles had just returned from Hamburg, playing Litherland Town Hall on Tuesday 27th December and the Casbah on New Year's Eve and astounding everyone with their new sound. The endless hours on stage in Hamburg, keeping true to their own code of conduct in never repeating a song throughout the evening, had increased their repertoire; encouragement to "Mach Schau!" had created a dynamic band, with an excellent stage presence and great confidence. They were, from that moment, better than anyone else in Liverpool. Unknown to themselves, they were probably, at that point, the best rock and roll band in the world - and they would stay that way. The top of a small, local scene, but simply better than anyone else.
However, despite these great successes musically, the Beatles had returned from Hamburg broke. Jim McCartney was certainly not impressed and, under pressure, Paul was forced into the first (and last) `proper' job he ever had. Being Paul, he made the best of it, but John was far from impressed. Neither Paul's dad or Aunt Mimi saw a future in music as a career for their charges, but Paul, being younger, was under pressure to "knuckle down" and work for a living. John, being John, immediately attempted to undermine Jim McCartney's authority - later making light of how worried he probably was about the situation, but determined to win Paul back on side. Having forced Paul back into unemployment and, with Stuart having stayed in Hamburg with Astrid, John and Paul became even closer. They were a local success, but felt on a treadmill of constant concert dates and longed to break out. They were rudderless, without a manger or focus, but, if they lacked direction, they made up for it with self belief. As John later said, "You always hope that somebody will come along - we were always waiting for the big man with a cigar." Enter the story, Brian Epstein...
On the 9th November, 1961, Brian Epstein attended a Cavern lunchtime session to ask about the record, "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," which they had recorded in Germany, backing Tony Sheridan, and was instantly smitten with them. Although it was not a path he had previously considered, he immediately considered managing them and New Year's Eve 1961 saw them in London, ready for a New Year's Day audition at Decca, starting 1962 with great optimism.
Epstein did not immediately change the Beatles, but he did bring a certain organisation to them. He worked tirelessly on their behalf, increasing the amount of money they were paid, getting them booked into different venues and tidying up their presentation. Then Decca turned them down - a fact that John, Paul and George notably did not tell Pete Best about for many weeks - and they had to face "the bitter taste of rejection." Sadly, it would become all too familiar. Oddly, as Lewisohn points out, "Decca spent more money treating Brian Epstein to lunch to tell him they weren't signing the Beatles than it would have cost to sign them." It was a low point, but one or other of them always managed to remain positive.
Stuart Sutcliffe had visited Liverpool, looking dreadfully ill. When the Beatles returned to Hamburg that April, they discovered he was dead at the tragically young age of only 21. During that seven week Hamburg trip, John coped badly with the news; he behaved even more wildly than usual and was completely out of control. Two very important events happened though, to help balance this tragic news. Firstly, George later admitted that he "conspired to get Ringo in - I talked to John and Paul until they came round to the idea." As both admired and liked Ringo, they probably did not need to be greatly convinced. Pete Best was side lined and it was obvious that he was going to be replaced, it was just a matter of when and by who. Ringo turned out to be an inspired choice; easy going, gentle, with a great sense of humour, he would eventually be the missing piece of the jigsaw. At this moment, though, it was just talk - however, a decision, in theory, had been taken. The second event was the magical news that Epstein had managed to secure them that elusive record deal at EMI. Leaving Hamburg, "they needed to calm down and step up." Were they capable? Obviously! Plus, as Mark Lewisohn point out, on their first return from Hamburg they had been virtually kicked out, the second time they had lost their bass player and this time, "they returned to organisation, order and promise."
Brian Epstein gave them weekly memo's, with lists of where they would be performing. He was caring, responsible, honest and encouraging of John and Paul's song writing. Immediately, they had to decide which songs they would take to Parlophone. This was an important first meeting with George Martin, who would turn out to be yet another sympathetic and caring adult in their life. If they were lucky to be nurtured by two such men, George Martin would also find his career transformed by the really big chart success that had eluded him so far, but which he would find with the Beatles.
If the Beatles were finding life transformed by Brian Epstein, Ringo was, well, open to offers. He was considering joining Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes when, as Mark Lewisohn so drily puts it, John and Paul embarked on a trip - "The Nerk Twins Go To Lincolnshire." With Paul just having passed his driving test and bravely letting John map read, the two headed to Butlins in the romantic location of Skegness, a 332 mile return road trip. They were on a mission to locate a drummer before Granada television came to film them at the Cavern. Once, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes had been the biggest group in Liverpool. Now they had been long surpassed and the Beatles were going somewhere - they had a new manager, an upcoming television appearance and a recording contract. He would have been crazy to have rejected the offer and he didn't. Lewisohn covers the sacking of Pete Best in minute detail. In hindsight, it seems a cruel move that he was replaced when they were on the brink of stardom. In reality, nobody could have foretold that they would be quite so world changing. Only Brian Epstein firmly believed that `his boys' would be bigger than Elvis.
There is more to come before the year is out. Cynthia's pregnancy, their first recording sessions and, in November, an unwilling return to Hamburg - another place they had outgrown and now did not wish to revisit just when things were happening at home. At least this time they went with Ringo and had the added attraction of Little Richard appearing with them; who also apparently warmed to the Beatles new drummer....
Despite London's disinterest in the Beatles. Despite their snobbery, their laughing at the Liverpudlian accent, their unwillingness to play "Love Me Do" on the radio, the Beatles ended 1962 on the very brink of stardom. They were a breath of fresh air, they were something different, unique and they were about to make the Sixties Swing. I applaud Mark Lewisohn for this monumental work. He is an author who has told the Beatles story (up to 1962 anyway) without any bias towards any particular member of the group and with brutal honesty. He hasn't tried to make them sound better than they were, more perfect or without faults. If you love the Beatles, or are interested in their story, this then is the book to read. However, should you buy the single volume of "Tune In" or the two volume set? If you have a casual interest in the Beatles, then the single book will be more than detailed enough. If, however, you are as obsessive as me, then this is the version that you will want and you will love every page. Plus, the illustrations section is far larger - as if you needed tempting...