What else is there left to say about the Beatles?
It’s a question that pops up with somewhat comforting regularity whenever any new minutiae about John, Paul, George and Ringo are unearthed, magnified and immortalized in book form. It’s also a question that’s as practical as it is rhetorical — five decades have passed since the Beatles took the collective consciousness by storm, and yet interest in the contents of those five decades under their influence has hardly waned. And so now we’re at the point where clearer perspective on that storm is gained by looking into the lives of the people who were closest to the point of impact when the Beatles were at their most meteoric.
From Aug. 18, 1964, through the whirlwind month that follows, Ventura resident Ivor Davis — then the 25-year-old West Coast correspondent for the London Daily Express — accompanies the Beatles during their groundbreaking American tour. He presents a side of the band that isn’t always revealed: its effect on the public. The riots and hordes of police dispatched to quell the energies of mass hysteria the likes of which they’d never seen. The injuries: broken bones, trampled fans and the outfits of the band that were annihilated on a regular basis by crazed females. Davis captures this sense of danger and blood extortionately well.
It is the strength of the writing, which is alternately forthright and breezy, that gives the story a uniquely human dimension; ghostwriting a column for George Harrison, Davis develops a rapport with the so-called “Quiet Beatle” in the way that most normal people do: through misunderstanding ameliorated by hard-won trust and honesty. It’s the grit of the human experience that shines here — John, Paul, George and Ringo become gods with feet of clay shod in Beatle Boots.
Davis revisits the Beatles later in life, both near and years after the breakup: Ringo with his 2013 museum retrospective; George in the throes of Eastern enlightenment; John immersed in Ono consciousness; and Paul being so indefatigably Paul. Clearly, it’s not the same later in life as it was on that epic, thrilling 1964 tour, but what else on earth could be?
There is also an unheralded undercurrent running through the narrative of The Beatles and Me on Tour, and it’s a rivulet of a notion that wends its way through the finest Beatle books: that of an implicit trust between Beatle and biographer. Davis has not crafted a tell-all here. Even though he gained the trust of the Beatles, there is another, wider kind of trust that lives behind the revelations of the book: to keep some things secret in exchange for access. There’s a point in the book when Davis stumbles upon Lennon and McCartney working out of a battered suitcase with hastily assembled notes and writings. This was the Lennon-McCartney songwriting soul incarnate — the machine that fueled the seemingly endless pop magic at their disposal — and yet it was revealed to Davis practically accidentally. And what it boils down to, in Davis’ sterling story of The Beatles and Me on Tour, is this: How can you know the soul of one person, let alone four? The Beatles were never about you knowing them. The music of the Fab Four was about you finding the fables in your own life. The magical mystery tour is always about you knowing yourself.