Having previously finished reading the epic One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, I was looking for a significantly lighter read when I started reading The Beatles and Me On Tour (and hopefully one that wouldn’t take me months to finish). This request was granted with a book that I couldn’t put down – in fact I don’t think that I have ever digested 300 pages so quickly .
The author Ivor Davis, a then young journalist writing as a foreign correspondent for The Express working in America was called up by his boss early one fateful morning in August 1964 and told to head to San Francisco to meet this group who were a sensation in England, but were reasonably unknown in the US, apart from three performances on the Ed Sullivan Show six months before. The group in question is of course The Beatles.
Starting with a Mission Impossible style “your mission Ivor, should you choose to accept it…” gives the opening to the book a real punch, which drives you all the way to the back cover. As somebody who has previously studied The Beatles in a module at university, I can guarantee that unless your surname is Lennon, McCartney, Harrison or Starkey (Starr), there will be something new for you to discover in this book.
Written in retrospect, the author is quite critical of his early efforts as a writer, but as time has gone by and a whole career has taken place, it is clear that the book is written by a very experienced writer who knows how to put something together that will keep the reader turning the page and wanting to know more – a background in journalism rather than novel writing really shows with the sharp copy, short chapters (all of which starting off with quotes from The Beatles and those who knew them best from within the inner circle of the entourage for their first US tour) and well sourced material.
Learning about The Beatles from a primarily UK perspective, the US tours and the role that this had in their career was somewhat overlooked in the brief studies that I undertook about the band, but it is clear from Ivor’s writing that the US definitely had a significant role to play in their career, from their meetings with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a host of other influential figures to the cultural changes across the pond, a plane crash that nearly took their lives and the largest gig that the band ever played (in Shea Stadium).
The author tells the story in an almost fly on the wall way, without trying to oversell any relationship that he had with the band. Instead he provides his unique unbiased journalistic account of what he witnessed on the first US tour in 1964, from the crazed fans hounding the band in their hotel rooms to the role that drugs played in the Beatles lives and the inner politics within the travelling circus that came with the band for the tour.
The book was released late in 2014, marking the 50th anniversary of the tour, and considering the subject of the book (The Beatles) is the most written about topics in music history, Ivor does a fantastic job of adding a new light to an already very well lit stage, revealing far more than I ever thought he could, without selling the band down the river just to sell copies of his book. Garnished with 40 B&W photographs, the book is well structured, easy to read and quite sad to finish – I almost wish that I took longer to read it.
If you have an interest in the band, pop music history, or American musicology this book is a must read and a true pleasure to do so.