Review: 'All You Need is Love: The Beatles in Their Own Words' Finds Gaines and Brown Still Mired in Muck

I must be more of an optimist than I give myself credit for, because I had high hopes for "All You Need is Love," the new compilation of Beatles and Beatles insiders interviews from Peter Brown and Steven Gaines.

These collected transcripts were the source material for Brown and Gaines' sleazy, best-selling 1983 book, "The Love You Make." My hope was that, stripped of that title's tabloid-style narrative, the interviews might provide some real insights into the Beatles' story from firsthand participants. 

Disappointingly, however, the transcripts in "All You Need is Love" indicate Brown and Gaines were digging for dirt from the get go. Nearly every question posed to the interviewees is pitched toward the tawdry. 

The authors aren't looking for insights into the Beatles' music and activities, or how they influenced and were influenced by their times. They are merely seeking the sensational. As a result, just like its predecessor, we get a book that's full of drugs, sex and no rock'n'roll. Reading it, you'd hardly know that the Beatles were musicians. They might as well be social media influencers or Kardashians, since all that's revealed about them is gossip.

To what end? Sales of course. This book, like "The Love You Make" is doing pretty well in that department. But as something that's enjoyable to read and useful to learn from, it's practically worthless.

The transcripts show Gaines asking nearly all of the questions with barely any participation with Brown who, you'd think, would have some interesting questions to ask and context to provide, given that he was Beatle manager Brian Epstein's righthand man. And the questions that Gaines asks tend to be repetitive and superficial.

Gaines is relentless about the details of Epstein's death. Was it an accidental overdose or a suicide, he wants to know. The 1967 inquest said it was an accidental overdose and nearly all of the interviewees concur, although Epstein was subject to depression. But that doesn't satisfy Gaines' fixation, as is demonstrated by this markedly insensitive exchange he and Brown have with Epstein's mother, Queenie:

    Gaines: Do you think it was suicide, or do you think it was accidental?

    Queenie Epstein: I'll never know.

    Brown: I don't have any doubt that particular occasion was a mistake.

    Gaines: Freud says there are no mistakes.

Curiously, all of the interviewees, including Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (John Lennon was murdered before the authors got the chance to visit him), come across as willing participants, although we don't learn much of interest from any of them. Yes, there was drug use, they say, yes there were groupies. But none of this was new information even in 1981 and, beyond simple confirmation that, yes, shocker, young men in the 1960s used drugs and took advantage of their fame to sleep with women, there are no details, if we wanted them.

I found George's interview the most interesting, because he didn't succumb to Gaines' line of questioning and focused on his own interests and narrative, talking about his spirituality. Paul, meanwhile, revealed lingering tensions with John that undermine his current day narrative that the pair had patched everything up before John's death. But we already knew that was the case, anyway. Ringo mentioned that, at the time of the interview, Paul wasn't speaking to him. Why? We never learn. Gaines is good at posing sensational questions and bad on follow-up.

Along with Epstein's death, Gaines also is fixated on whether John and Brian had sex during their visit to Spain in 1963. The interviewees asked about it say either that they don't know, or that they doubt it. Again, big deal. The only two people who ever knew were Brian and John, and neither was available to ask.

Cavern Club emcee Bob Wooler, who famously got beaten up by Lennon for making smug remarks about the Spain trip being a "honeymoon" for John and Brian, doesn't play along with Gaines during his own interview, calling out the author for his sensational intent:

    Gaines: Tell me about this famous incident where John Lennon punched you in the nose.

    Wooler: Now, I've been asked many, many times and the answer has always been no, no I'm going to have to disappoint you on this. I'm not going to talk about it.

    Gaines: Can I tell you what I've heard?

    Wooler: Oh, well, no, I don't wish to know really, because I'm only interested in my account, okay? Now, you're doing this rather provocatively. Pity you.

    Gaines: I'm going to write about it, and I would prefer if you could make it factual and set the record straight. I don't want to be incorrect.

    Wooler: You're writing about it, are you? Do you feel it's important?

    Gaines: It's not of crucial importance, but as long as it happened and there was a settlement --

    Wooler: There was a settlement? Is this what your book is all about? Some people feel that they can get  extra mileage out of this from a money point of view, but at the same time, they open themselves to litigation. You know, I'm wondering how the Beatles are going to view this finished book. Peter, do you think you will still be friends with the Beatles?

    Brown: I don't know. I might be.

As an aside, Paul McCartney reportedly burned his copy of "The Love You Make."

Does this new book have any value? Well, like the previous one, it does contain primary source material that's of some value to anyone writing about or researching the Beatles. The pity is that both books could've been so much more. 

The truth, even its seamier side, is important to history. But when the muck become the primary focus, what's most important about the story becomes eclipsed and diminished. The Beatles' history, and the band's music, is joyful. But this book is utterly devoid of happiness.

For anyone wanting to learn about what's important about the band and what they did, nearly any other book about them is a better choice than this one. 

- John Firehammer


  1. Spot on review, John. I too had high hopes for these transcripts compiled in this new book. What a let down and what a blown opportunity by Gaines and Brown back in 1980 and 1981.
    One small correction - 'The Love You Make' was published in 1983, not 1981.


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