Tight, factual retelling of the Paul McCartney career that never veers into celebrity bio gush or hyperbole. According to the Guinness Book of Records, McCartney is the most successful composer who ever lived, holds the greatest number of gold discs, and is the world's most successful recording artist--a man infinitely rich and famous. His ever-expanding income reaches fabulous proportions--an estimated 400 million pounds--and he is the sixth richest man in the British Empire. Salewicz focuses on McCartney's family, his early years and his Beattle years. Only one chapter of 16 is devoted to his past 15 years since the split-up. Unfortunately, McCartney's cloying performances and recordings--aside from 1973's delightfully many-voiced but mostly solo album Band on the Run and 1983's Tug of War--don't warrant more than this, nor do his varied arrests for pot. In 1980, trying to pass a half-pound stash through Japanese customs and finding himself in jail for 11 days, Paul ""attempted to explain to his inquisitors that smoking pot was better than smoking 'ciggies.' This wonderful example of what can only be seen as a slight reality-perception problem was not appreciated. ""McCartney never forgot his profound love of his mother Mary, who died of cancer when he was in his early teens and was later immortalized in his lyrics for ""Let It Be."" As a child he was a scene-stealer, always entertaining his mates with his guitar, joining the Boy Scouts and never shirking scout work, learning piano from his father and appropriating his brother's drums. Even so, he made a clumsy joke about his mother's death (""What are we going to do without her money?"") that haunted him for years, as did his later remark over the death of John Lennon: ""It's a drag, isn't it?"" Both occasions found him shattered and hiding in flippancy. Nearly half the book densely details McCartney's (and Lennon's) pre-success years, until their arrival at spine-tingling ""street credibility"" with ""Please Please Me""; the years of greatest artistic production and final triumph in Abbey Road are slighted. Even so, the charm is here, despite the sadness of Paul's graying hair.