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The Beatles - All These Years

Volume One: Tune In

Mark Lewisohn

(London Times)

The first of a three-volume biography of The Beatles is an enthralling and comprehensive account of the group's origins.

In the Easter of 1957, in the public toilets of Swiss Cottage Tube station, two men watched each other warily. After a while, the first one left, and the second followed. Each loitered on the street for a time, before finally they talked. Within moments the older of the two revealed himself to be a police officer and arrested Brian Epstein for 'persistently importuning'.

It was one of many desperate incidents of a sad and lonely man, and neither the first nor last time that he considered suicide.

The tale of the Beatles is now so well known that it is easy to forget how astonishing, how unlikely, it all is. In one way or another everyone in their story, even their apparently respectable manager, is an outsider. And yet they succeeded in overturning many of the assumptions of an establishment with which they had had little contact or knowledge.

Tune In is the first volume in a history that Mark Lewisohn - long one of the leading scholars and archivists of the Beatles - intends to be three volumes. It is more than 900 pages long, even though it stops at the end of 1962, before they have recorded their first album. And I may as well tell you now: I think it is a triumph.

Lewisohn faced two different challenges. The first was whether there was anything new to write. Having read so much about the Beatles I have to say that I was sceptical. What on earth could there be to add? And the second was to prove that the Beatles were worthy subjects for such lengthy treatment. So much on a pop group? Really?

He overcomes both by writing something that is not only an enthralling account of the group's origins, far superior to anything that has gone before, but also an essential piece of social history.

Tune In starts in the Liverpool of the 1940s and 50s. It provides an unsentimental account of working-class life, an account of violence and family breakdown, desertion and ethnic strife. The moments of great solidarity always involve large quantities of alcohol. The idea that this was a golden age of respectability and stability is questioned by everything Lewisohn writes.

So the author throws in a quote from Ringo Starr, cheerfully saying that both his parents were alcoholics (one of whom was his stepfather as his real father had absconded), or tells a story about how hard it was for one or other of the group to make it home without being beaten up. Liverpool is scrappy, dangerous and depressed.

The Beatles each emerge from this account seeming harder, tougher characters than they appeared from other popular accounts. The fact that, as Lewisohn records, George Harrison's mum was willing to stay up until two in the morning to help him to practise has appeared elsewhere. That George was an awkward, wayward person who couldn't be bothered with school and had a habit of settling disputes with his fists - sometimes hitting people in the face for no obvious reason - came as more of a surprise.

All four seem on the edge, on the social fringe, failing at school and college, opting out. Even Paul McCartney, outwardly the most respectable, comes across as rebellious and difficult, dumping his A-level exams to play some marginal gigs, and being difficult to deal with if he didn't get his way.

And the very fact of the Beatles seems less inevitable than it does in other books. Tune In is big enough to devote space to periods where little happens, thus revealing that between 1958 and 1960 the group go through periods where they hardly play together. They get the odd gig under the name Japage 3, for instance, but have no drummer. George joins another group. They have an argument and are thrown out of their residency. And for quite a while McCartney stops writing songs.

Then they got lucky. First, in the small way of getting bookings in Hamburg that turned them, through practice, from a chaotic mess into a tight unit. And then in the bigger way of meeting the inspired, brilliant Brian Epstein, an outsider like them - a Jew and a homosexual in Catholic, macho Liverpool - but one with the qualities that they didn't have, an education, polish, and, most important of all, persistence.

It is quite obvious that without this last quality, without the persistence of Epstein, the Beatles would have failed. The whole thing was always fragile. Without him it might quite easily have fallen apart.

If it hadn't been them, might it have been someone else? Tune In is only partly the story of The Beatles. It is also the story of the emergence of rock'n'roll and of teenage consumer culture, in other words of one of the dominant forces of the age.

Lewisohn is surely right in the importance he accords the abolition of National Service. The Beatles each only just avoid being called up. They belonged to the first generation to feel this liberation, this release. And alongside this there is the development of technology, particularly tape (he tells the agonising story of John and Paul's first recording and how it was taped over) and changes in the market for musical instruments. Suddenly with skiffle everyone had a guitar.

So there is a case that the Beatles merely turned up at the right moment, when teenagers had money and freedom and the sheer numbers to mount a challenge to their elders.

It isn't a case that Lewisohn accepts, however. Tune In shows that, almost from the first moment, there was something special about the Beatles, something incredible, something durable. There were other bands, but only one Beatles. He has set out to do them justice and to write the definitive history. I think he is succeeding.

(NY Times)

Approaches to retelling the Beatles' story slice in two distinct directions: narrow or wide. Some authors choose a single figure and bore down deep, which has brought the count of Paul McCartney life stories to at least 10, with more in the pipeline. Others frame the narrative from more expansive angles, weaving in the era's social texture, politics and cultural context (see Devin McKinney's shrewd 'Magic Circles' from 2003 or Jonathan Gould's peerless 'Can't Buy Me Love' of 2007).

The British scholar Mark Lewisohn nervily combines the two approaches with 'Tune In,' providing the widest possible angle on an extensive and engrossing group biography built on a well-raked mountain of exacting new research. In the first of a projected three-volume work — 803 pages of text that take the story up to the end of 1962 - he retells this epic tale in a manner that, while ambitious, and at times even indulgent, also manages to be expertly controlled and propelling.

Lewisohn's ambition, of course, must be measured against the general audience's appetite. Will the casual boomer fan, no matter how fondly he or she remembers the time between the band's first appearance on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and its breakup six years later, wade through 800 pages before the Beatles even get to America? (Lewisohn has already pared back his original 1,700 pages - available as a deluxe two-volume special edition for superfans and unemployed cover-band guitarists.) Those who never dreamed of pursuing the story further may reconsider, though. This edition has a lean, polished feel that could make the curious itch for more, and Lewisohn's obsessive scholarship offers provocative details, like this one, dropped casually into a footnote: 'Like Penny Lane, Mathew Street is named after a slave-ship captain.'

And what about the 25-year-old with no interest in classic rock and a short attention span? Younger readers will find a profound exploration of how and why rock's aesthetic explosion of the 1960s continues to influence contemporary life in everything from recording production and fashion and celebrity journalism to social mores, gender identities and the internationalization of youth culture.

Here's how Lewisohn describes rock's earliest cross-Continental buzz:

'The Beatles' first night in Hamburg, Aug. 17, 1960, was 20 years ago, to the day, since the Germans launched their first attack on Liverpool, when Nazi planes dropped bombs on the docks at Toxteth, Aug. 17, 1940. Rock and roll music was taken to Hamburg by the children of the survivors, to be heard in turn by children who'd outlived the Allies' revenge blitz of 1943. Scorned by adult society as a force for evil and the work of the devil, black rhythm music out of America - and, before there, of course, out of Africa - was bringing harmony where once had been hatred.'

Lewisohn earned his early stripes in 1986 with 'The Beatles Live!: The Ultimate Reference Book,' which itemized every known live performance and set list then available. Reproducing previously unavailable handbills, posters, contracts and other paraphernalia, 'The Beatles Live!' tracked the band's largely hidden path toward its 1962 EMI recording contract. Lewisohn's exactitude prompted EMI to tap him for 'The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions' (1988), a comprehensive session log of the studio work between 1962 and 1970.

Envied by every Beatles writer before or since, Lewisohn remains the only person outside the band and its producer to ever listen to the group's entire session archives from Abbey Road Studios (and occasionally outside shops like Trident), detailing prolific work schedules, and more important, revealing how the final master versions of well-known songs often combined different takes in postproduction.

Over the years, Lewisohn's insider status has scored him priceless bounty, especially from the Beatles' manager for 30 years, Neil Aspinall. Aspinall, an early Liverpool road manager and later an Apple Records executive, passed on invaluable information and insights before his death in 2008. Lewisohn draws heavily on this previously unavailable material, and on the raw transcripts recorded by the group's first manager, Brian Epstein, for his 1964 memoir, 'A Cellarful of Noise,' as well as Epstein's personal diaries, schedules and business records. In describing Epstein's first encounter with the band onstage at the Cavern Club, Lewisohn writes:

'The Beatles were rocking, smoking, eating, joking, drinking, charming, cussing, laughing, taking requests and answering back; they spoke local, looked Continental and played black and white American music with English color; John and Paul vied and jibed for attention, George smiled quietly to the side and sang from time to time.' The Beatles' drummer at the time, Pete Best, 'drummed and kept his head down.'

Among the other new material to which Lewisohn gained access are rare letters between Lennon and his hugely influential art school friend Stu Sutcliffe, between Lennon and his Aunt Mimi Stanley (who raised him) and letters from several Cavern fans (these are particularly enjoyable) and from former girlfriends.

Lewisohn doesn't just tell the story fully and entertainingly, however. He also challenges some sacred strands of received wisdom. His revision of an episode from John Lennon's childhood may prove the most controversial. It involves a well-known cataclysmic scene in Blackpool in June 1946, between Lennon's parents, Alfred and Julia. Alfred, a merchant seaman who spent most of World War II at sea, had been largely absent from John's life up to this point, and had spirited the boy away to Blackpool for a first-ever father-son vacation. In Alfred's own account in the 1990 book that is a partial memoir, 'Daddy Come Home,' he claims he planned to decamp with the boy permanently to New Zealand. Lennon's unreliable mother, Julia, chased Alfred and the missing John to Blackpool for a confrontation.

The two adults asked the confused little boy to choose - whom did he want to live with, his father or his mother? After first turning to Alfred, young John panicked and ran after his departing mother. Lennon didn't see his father again until he was famous.

This story has been a foundational tale about Lennon ever since the British journalist Hunter Davies recounted Alfred's version in his authorized group biography of 1968. Lennon - who died on this day 33 years ago - never spoke about the incident in public, but it's clear he talked about it with his first wife, Cynthia (the author of two memoirs, where she describes the incident); his second wife, Yoko Ono; and others. Although none of these intimates has ever rebutted the story, Lewisohn rejects Alfred's account out of hand.

Lewisohn has tracked down Alfred's friend Billy Hall, who waited in his parents' kitchen as John's fate was being decided in the front room. Hall remembers Alfred saying, 'I'm letting Johnny go back with his mother - she's going to look after him properly.' Alfred was resigned, Hall reports, but accepting of the situation. But whether Alfred was resigned to John's choice or made the choice himself remains unclear. One can understand a researcher's temptation to overthrow a key piece of a widely accepted story, but Lewisohn would have been more persuasive if he'd referenced other sources, or proposed any explanation for why Alfred concocted his false version, and why Lennon never refuted it.

In any case, the emotional truth of the episode may supersede the bare facts. If Lennon experienced the Blackpool confrontation as a dramatic moment in his life, what he believed happened surely carries more psychological weight than what may actually have taken place, or what Hall, a bystander in a back room, recollects.

Lewisohn does better with the paper trail surrounding the Beatles' opportune EMI signing in 1962. The producer George Martin has always related the story with his own self-serving bias, remembering that he took a chance on their sound. Lewisohn has discovered a new source, Kim Bennett, who worked as an assistant to Sid Colman, the general manager of Ardmore and Beechwood, EMI's publishing firm. Bennett told Lewisohn that Colman liked the Beatles' demo and wanted publishing rights to three early Lennon-McCartney originals. Colman called in a favor with EMI's managing director, Len (L.G.) Wood, who insisted as part of Martin's 1962 contract renewal negotiations that he sign the Beatles.

Pushing hard for royalties for his work as a producer, Martin threatened to walk rather than accept Wood's terms, Lewisohn reports, but caved in because his broken marriage, and an affair he was carrying on with his secretary, made him too short of cash to quit. The engineer Norman Smith corroborates this, telling Lewisohn, 'L.G. virtually ordered George to record the Beatles.' Among other things, the fact that Lennon and McCartney owed their recording contract to the value of their original songs throws a new light on the battles over the publishing rights - and royalties - that dominated the group's breakup.

With regard to the songs themselves, one of Lewisohn's major contributions is in tracing exactly when some of them entered the band's set lists. Strengthening another fresh argument - that Lennon and McCartney didn't write many songs until they began recording - these early sets map out the inspirations for what would become the Beatles' magic: Lennon's fondness for Chuck Berry, McCartney's for Little Richard, and their united worship of Gerry Goffin and Carole King's songs after the Shirelles released 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' in 1960.

Another Lewisohn theme rescues the younger yet doughty character of George Harrison from oversimplified 'shyness' to fully rounded personality. If not as vocal as Lennon or McCartney, Harrison in Lewisohn's telling proves every bit as steely and vital to their emerging group identity. If nothing else, Lewisohn argues convincingly that Harrison brought Ringo Starr into the band as a replacement for Pete Best, and that Starr felt obligated to Harrison thereafter.

Along the way in Lewisohn's scrupulous and capacious narrative, an early name for the band ('Japage 3,' a rough mashing of John, Paul and George's first names), a lost Hamburg recording (backing the bass guitarist and singer Lu Walters) and other stray bulbs illuminate the whole. Many, many other books will be written about the Beatles. But 'Tune In,' despite its bland title, will always hold an honored place among them.

"I declare that the Beatles are mutants," the LSD evangelist Timothy Leary once said: "prototypes of evolutionary agents sent by God, endowed with a mysterious power to create a new human species, a young race of laughing freemen." In the frazzled mind of Charles Manson, the Beatles were equally supernatural, but sent to Earth with rather darker intentions: they were seeding their songs with messages of apocalypse.


Where did these four incredibly talented people actually come from, and how did they find each other? There are so many of us, forever fascinated by the story, who still cannot quite fathom how the band managed to make music so endlessly full of interest, while also embodying the idea that as the world was changing at an unprecedented rate, they were always ahead of everyone else.

The Beatles themselves, in order to stay halfway sane, always denied that anything out-of-the-ordinary had gone on. Paul McCartney still talks of them as "a good little band". When they went their separate ways at the end of the 1960s, John Lennon had stern words for anyone who thought their demise was tragic, or even significant. "People talk about it as if it was the end of the world," he said. "It's just a rock group that split up. It's nothing important."

But it was, and still is - so much so that they are now surely the most analysed musicians in history. The books written about the Beatles cover every aspect of their story - and they keep coming, from unwieldy works of culture studies, to the drab memoirs of fans, aides and hangers-on. The story as told by the group themselves is collected in a misnamed, door-stopping oral history called Anthology; in terms of prose style, the best all-purpose biography has long been Philip Norman's Shout!, first published in 1981. In an age as nostalgia-soaked as ours, and in the case of a group so dissected and deconstructed, the one really pertinent question remains: is there anything left to add?

Mark Lewisohn's new book Tune in is the best part of 1000 pages long. The product of at least eight years' writing and research, and full of information sourced even before that, it runs from the band members' family prehistories to the release of their first proper single in 1962. Two further volumes will appear, all under the umbrella title "All These Years". Should you have £120 to spare, each book will also be published in an extended special edition which includes "hundreds of thousands of words of extra material, as well as many extra photographs". This is the story told in Proustian detail: we will presumably at last know what Lennon actually shouts at the start of "It's All Too Much", the history of a company owned by Ringo Starr called Bricky Builders and the full life-story of McCartney's sheepdog Martha. I have been a Beatles obsessive since the age of seven, but even for people like me, this all sounds as if it might be a little unnecessary.

The first edited-down volume, though, is largely a delight, and the story is told so definitively that, after this, that really should be it. Secondary sources are comprehensively mined; letters, public records and business documents have been found in places no one else ever thought to look; friends, associates and acquaintances have been interviewed over what seems to be a quarter-century. All that is lacking is substantial new testimony from the Beatles themselves, a point to which there are two responses: first, that the two most candid and iconoclastic Beatles have been dead for a number of years; and second, that the last people you should ask about the detailed history of the Beatles are the Beatles themselves.

McCartney, for example, remains of the immovable opinion that they refused to entertain the idea of visiting the US until they had a number one record on the Billboard charts: a nice story, but he should try booking Carnegie Hall at 10 days' notice. His own accounts of his life have long been blurred and rose-tinted: a good biographer, by contrast, has to avoid the pull of legend, and be prepared to coldly debunk as much as they lionise and celebrate. But it is a token of how astonishing the story of the Beatles remains that even a telling as particular as this one dispels none of the magic.

Any account of the band members' lives before fame and success will be as much social history as musical biography. The roots of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison are tangled up with migration to Liverpool from Ireland. All four Beatles were war babies, and blessed by two strokes of luck: their fathers were either in reserved occupations or, in the case of Jim McCartney, excused the call-up owing to impaired hearing. And they escaped the dreaded national service, which was phased out from 1957. All, apart from Starr, were grammar school boys, educated in institutions holding fast to tradition, but from 1956 on, at least some of that tradition was undermined by a seditious noise pressed into black vinyl.

The excitement of early rock'n'roll records - not least in a city still smattered with bombsites - can only begin to be imagined. When Lennon heard Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel", "it just broke me up. I mean, that was the end. My whole life changed from then on, I was just completely shaken by it." Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally", he said, was "so great I couldn't speak". McCartney's first record was Gene Vincent's "Be Bop A-Lula", all nonsense-words and space-age echo. "The whole song is purple in my mind because of the purple Capitol label," he said.

Their world was quickly moving out of monochrome: mere records were enough to revolutionise their lives. Mid-50s Britain was hit by two pop-cultural waves: the boom in skiffle, which drew on country, blues and folk music, and emphasised home-made instruments and enthusiasm rather than technique; and rock'n'roll, which was much more transcendent. Aged 16 when he formed the Quarrymen - or Quarry Men: he and his fellow band members never seemed sure - in late 1956, Lennon started using skiffle's modus operandi to deliver an approximation of rock, and he was off. McCartney joined him six months later, after their famous meeting at a church fete, and Harrison was recruited in early 1958 - he was just short of his 15th birthday. "It took me years to come round to him, to start considering him as an equal," Lennon later admitted, but the chemistry was obviously right: after a spell in 1960 as the Silver Beatles (regularly spelled "Beetles"), by the summer of that year, they were the Beatles, for keeps.

Ordinary tragedies are magnified into unrivalled dramas by the knowledge of how they feed into the Beatles' myth - most notably in the case of John Lennon's mother, Julia. She was an untamed spirit whose maternal role in his life was soon taken by her sister Mimi; Julia's relationship with her son was rekindled in his adolescence, and given extra spark by a sense of oedipal attraction. She was, Lewisohn says, "very much the girl of John's dreams ... the kicker of convention and bucker of trends ... an older version of himself ... irreverent, iconoclastic, uninhibited, witty, with a huge personality". By the time Lennon was five, Julia's partner was a waiter called John Dykins, an alcoholic. For the first time, a Beatles book goes deep into her death in the summer of 1958: a year-long driving ban for Dykins that led her to walk to a bus-stop near Mimi's house, where she was run over by an off-duty policeman. "To my mind, she'd been killed instantly," said Lennon associate Nigel Walley. "I can still see her gingery hair fluttering in the breeze, blowing across her face."

Nine years later, Lennon wrote the beautiful song "Julia": "Her hair of floating sky is shimmering/Glimmering, in the sun." As Lewisohn says, he had always been silent about her death, but when he finally voiced his feelings via music, it was obvious that, for his entire adult life, the bereavement had been at the core of who he was.

There are other tragedies, more than would perhaps usually afflict four young lives. The death of McCartney's mother, Mary - from breast cancer, when he was 14 - doesn't get nearly the same level of attention here as Julia Lennon's, which is surprising given its likely profound effect on him, hinted at but not explored. He remains someone with a carefully cultivated exterior, who tends to talk about his personal history in soundbites, and rarely gives the sense of someone who is troubled. But "Paul was far more affected by Mum's death than any of us imagined," said his younger brother, Mike. "His very character seemed to change, and for a while he seemed like a hermit." McCartney said he quickly "learned to put a shell around me", which is telling. "Paul was so 'nice' you couldn't get close. He was like a diplomat," one of their early associates tells Lewisohn.

The sadnesses go on. The talented painter Stuart Sutcliffe, who became the band's less-than-brilliant bass player, died of a brain haemorrhage at 21, leaving McCartney feeling guilty about his habitual digs at Sutcliffe's musical abilities (in the wake of his death, Lewisohn reveals, Lennon and Harrison made a point of visiting his photographer fiancee, Astrid Kirchherr; McCartney stayed away). By this point, one gets the sense that losing people close to him had become for Lennon a kind of inexplicable curse (his Uncle George, Mimi's husband and his de facto father, had also died). Richy Starkey, later Ringo Starr, faced his own challenges - a 10-week coma and a year in hospital after he contracted peritonitis (when he was six); and, just to test him, a further long spell in hospital after pleurisy turned into tuberculosis, when he first resolved to play the drums. The idea of talent flowering as if to avenge past suffering is a cliche, but here feels undeniable.

As the story goes on, there are further revelations, both minor and major. Starr's later problems with drink are implicitly traced to his family: "My parents were alcoholics and I didn't realise it," he says. George Harrison's lifelong distrust of anyone prying into his business might have originated in the behaviour of his maternal grandparents, who had seven children but were secretly unmarried.

During an early phase of their band's progress, Lennon, McCartney and Harrison were billed as "Japage 3" - a reference to their first names, and pronounced "Jay-page". When they first played in Hamburg, Lennon, Harrison and Sutcliffe slept in one squalid backroom, while McCartney was billeted with their drummer, Pete Best, and thereby relegated to the bottom of the hierarchy. A letter home written by Sutcliffe acknowledged this with brutal simplicity: "Paul has turned out the real black sheep of the trip. Everyone hates him and I only feel sorry for him." Two years later, they were signed by George Martin's Parlophone label, not because - as previous accounts have suggested - he fell hopelessly in love with their irreverent northern wit, but thanks to a convoluted set of agreements that climaxed with Martin being handed them merely as a sort of punishment for having an affair with his secretary (soon to be his second wife). There is a great deal of such happenstance.

Best, the drummer sacked just as the Beatles began to break big, was always at one remove from the rest of them. He apparently shared little of their humour, was kept away from some of their closest friends - and, just to seal his fate, the other three combed their hair forward, while he stubbornly retained his Tony Curtis quiff. During 1961, Lewisohn says, he had settled "into a role he hardly ever varied ... night after night - playing with his head down, avoiding eye contact, not smiling, projecting the study in moody shyness he knew would win girls' hearts. Fine, but it was bound to wear thin for the other Beatles. Sometimes they wanted to see a spark when they turned around, some vibrancy, emotion, an engagement of eyes or mind."

By far the most compelling sections of the book detail the time the Beatles spent in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962 – Starr was there, too, as the drummer with a Liverpool troupe called Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Tales of shared intimacy (as Harrison lost his virginity in a backstage bunk, they all applauded), petty crime, and drinking and drugging are explored, and either confirmed, or debunked: contrary to legend, Lennon never peed on a party of churchgoing nuns. The picture section includes an image of them gurning as they hold up silver tubes of Preludin, the German diet drug that allowed them to play punishingly long sets at the Indra, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten and other clubs, and which the ever-marginal Best always refused to touch. After their second trip to Hamburg, Lewisohn says, they were "bursting with the experience that only another 503 extraordinary hours on the Hamburg stage could have given them"; in a footnote, he calculates that the total time spent onstage on their first two German visits was 918 hours: "the equivalent of 612 90-minute shows in just 27 weeks." As he points out, this probably made them the most seasoned rock'n'roll group in the world, even before most people had heard of them.

Lewisohn is a Beatles oracle: he is the author of such exhaustive reference books as The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions and The Complete Beatles Chronicle, as well as reams of sleeve notes. He had a cameo in Shout!, not only as the self-styled Beatle Brain of Britain, but as a seven-year-old in his native Middlesex, so taken with Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that he "stood in the garden as it played, shaking his head wildly while trying not to dislodge the cardboard moustache lodged under his nose". Some of his prose betrays a slightly Pooterish sensibility: two non-white characters in the story are described as "swarthy" and "dusky-skinned"; and their manager and mentor Brian Epstein, whose closeted life provides the story with another fascinating strand of social history, is constantly described as "homosexual". Here and elsewhere, perhaps you miss the flights of critical fancy of a pop-cultural theorist such as Greil Marcus, the sturm und drang of Elvis's definitive biographer Peter Guralnick, or the grasp of rock music's romance possessed by the Rolling Stones's greatest biographer, Stanley Booth. Yet it takes a certain kind of person to write a history as thorough as this - and Tune in is only the start.

It ends as Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and, at last, Starr play their final club performances in Hamburg, recorded by another Liverpudlian musician and eventually put out as a double album - before the Beatles' legal representatives thrust it into the realm of bootleggers. It is a shame this music has never been given an official release: despite its low-fi quality, it showcases exactly what you'd hope to hear: four people evidently delighted to have found each other, playing supercharged versions of Chan Romero's "Hippy Hippy Shake", Chuck Berry's "I'm Talkin' About You" and "Twist and Shout", as the nightly German bacchanal swirls around them. On occasion, the recordings sound like an early variety of punk rock - vivid, muscular music, made by a quartet who are simply on fire: four laughing freemen, as Leary would have it, on their way to something incredible.

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