Oddly imperial prose limns the music of the Fab Four, concentrating on the band rather than individual personalities. Journalist and author Hertsgaard (On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan PresMency, 1988, etc.) delivers a narrative focused mostly on the Beatles' music rather than their often outrageous personal lives. He chronicles with vivid color and exacting detail the recording sessions that produced the group's albums, providing considerable insight into the thought processes of John, Paul, George, and Ringo as they created. He lets readers in on the arguments, the thrilling moments when they found just the right touch to make a good song great, and the collaboration between Paul McCartney and John Lennon, which generally involved one of them coming up with some words and some music and the other taking it to new heights. Though Hertsgaard draws on his familiarity with the 400 hours of tapes made during the recording sessions at the Abbey Road studios (which ordinary Beatles fans would give anything to hear), footnotes reveal that he also relies heavily on the works of others. His early promise that facts will predominate in his account is repeatedly violated; he almost always tells readers particular songs are masterpieces, rather than simply showing how the process of writing and recording made them great. Most people who would be interested in this book don't need to be convinced that ""Hey Jude"" is a wonderful piece of work. Lots of interesting facts, figures, and anecdotes, though Hertsgaard's insistence on making the Beatles' the musical equivalent of Picasso or Faulkner wears pretty thin.