Solid addition to the ever-expanding library of books about the Beatle named Paul.
Like Peter Carlin’s Paul McCartney: A Life (2009) and unlike Barry Miles’ Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, this biography by Sounes (The Wicked Game: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and the Story of Modern Golf, 2004, etc.), a Londoner who has also written bios of Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski, was neither sanctioned nor supported by McCartney. It includes interviews with friends, family, business associates and even groupies to round out the reliance on secondary material. Fab is nearly twice as long as Carlin’s book, though it covers roughly the same period and events: McCartney’s mostly happy childhood in working-class Liverpool, rapid rise to iconic stature as a rock star, bitter divorce from Heather Mills and triumphant return to a Liverpool stage during the city’s reign as European Capital of Culture in 2008. The extra volume may be due to Sounes’s obsessive research—more than 200 interviews—and no-nonsense attention to detail. The portrait of McCartney that emerges is not only that of a talented and occasionally visionary musician but of a brilliant and often lucky businessman. On the negative side, McCartney comes across as arrogant, controlling, intolerant of dissent, a mean and stingy boss, humorless when challenged or criticized, and too much of a pothead to care. Sounes doesn’t hide his low opinion of McCartney’s post-Beatles repertoire, particularly in the lyric department. His sources agree: McCartney was at his best given a partner who gave as good as he (or she) got—someone like John Lennon or George Martin. The result of being Lennonless was the indecisive overproduction and sappy songs of Wings and the solo period during the ’80s. Family-centric living and superhuman wealth probably also inhibited the ex-Beatle’s genius, but the pain of losing Lennon, his dear wife Linda and George Harrison—not to mention the humiliation of the Mills affair—seems to have reawakened the bard and decent bloke within.
Despite covering well-trodden ground, the graceful prose and superb storytelling create a riveting narrative.