Terry Teachout in Commentary:
The Beatles released Let It Be, the last of their thirteen albums, 36 years ago. Today there is no one musical group or soloist capable of commanding the attention paid to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr between 1964, when they first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, and 1970, when McCartney announced that the group was disbanding. Just as there is no longer a common culture, so there is no longer a common style of music to which most English-speaking people listen. Yet the Beatles and their music continue to fascinate successive generations of music lovers, so much so that more than two dozen books have been published about them, the latest of which is a thousand-page biography by the journalist Bob Spitz.
Written in a straightforwardly journalistic style, The Beatles: The Biography provides an exhaustive and generally reliable account of the bandmembers’ lives and careers up to 1970, and is of no small value as a study in what might be called the sociology of celebrity. But like most pop-music biographies, it has little of interest to say about the Beatles’ work; anyone in search of a thoughtful critical appraisal will find it unhelpful.
Such an appraisal must begin by taking into account the fact that the Beatles were the first rock-and-roll musicians to be written about as musicians.