The next Uncut Ultimate Music Guide goes on sale on Thursday (January 17), hot on the heels of our special on The Kinks, and is dedicated this time to The Beatles. There’s the usual mix of brand new reviews of all The Beatles albums by our current team of writers alongside some truly remarkable interviews from the archives of Melody Maker and NME, for which the description ‘mind-blowing’ seems barely adequate.
These days even the most half-arsed so-called celebrity is likely to be surrounded by a protective PR phalanx whose sole purpose is to keep the people who employ them at a pampered distance from the pawing demands of the press, which the aforementioned ‘stars’ will entertain only on their own restrictive terms, in circumstances wholly under the control of their simpering PR minions.
Fifty years ago, with the world increasingly in thrall to The Beatles and gripped by the unprecedented hysteria of Beatle-mania, you would have expected the most popular group in the history of popular music to be perhaps as remote as a distant planet from the everyday whirl, denizens of some rare and separate stratosphere, beyond the touch of mere adoring mortals and kept as far as possible from the press and it obsessively inquisitive demands upon them.
This wasn’t quite how I remembered things, however. Growing up with MM and NME in the mid-60s as The Beatles swept all before them, I can barely remember a week when they weren’t on the cover of either one or the other of the main music weeklies, and were often in my memory on the covers of both at the same time. Key writers on MM and NME were virtually embedded in The Beatles’ camp – notable among them Ray Coleman and Chris Hutchins at MM, and Allen Evans and Alan Smith at NME – and enjoyed the most extraordinary access to the band, Brian Epstein cannily fostering a chummy intimacy that guaranteed The Beatles a vast and uninterrupted coverage, the looming bulk of it unseen for years prior to republication in our Ultimate Music Guide.
Some of the stuff we’ve unearthed is gob-smacking – Ray Coleman in the back of John Lennon’s Rolls, surrounded by screaming fans, weekly reports from American tours, nights out on the town with the band, Chris Hutchins hanging out with the Stones on Allen Klein’s yacht before heading off to meet The Beatles in their dressing room at Shea Stadium, a jaw-dropping interview with Epstein just weeks before his death that anticipates a new kind of rock journalism, which is also part of the story.
As John Mulvey neatly puts it in his introduction to the UMG, “The band didn’t just make better and more inventive records than their contemporaries they gave better and more inventive interviews, too. The Beatles didn’t just revolutionise music, they revolutionised the business of stardom, of how celebrities might behave, and how their audience might relate to them.”
The Beatles – The Ultimate Music Guide is on sale from Thursday, priced £6.99. You can also order it online at www.uncut.co.uk/store or download digitally at www.uncut.co.uk/download.
While you’re at www.uncut.co.uk, by the way, you may want to check out the exclusive stream we’re running of the excellent new Arbouretum album, Coming Out Of The Fog, which is out soon on Thrill Jockey. There’s also a track from the record on the next Uncut free CD, so look out for that as well.
Have a great week.