Can't Buy Me Love: Post-Breakup Beatles In A Tangled Web

You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup By Peter Doggett

It says something about the market for books about the Fabs that this is one of many dedicated to the group's breakup, financial story and legal battles. However, Doggett (Are You Ready for the Country?) not only presents a story that could be drier than Ringo's list of recent hits with informative panache, he offers new tidbits on the band's interpersonal relationships, especially since the 1980 death of John Lennon.

Most of the story has to do with money and not music, as Doggett attempts to unravel the tangled web of Beatles contracts and companies. After all, this is a band that broke up in 1969, but didn't formally dissolve their partnership until 1975.

Their squabbles, suits, and countersuits against others and each other at one time required the full-time attention of no less than five different law firms. Doggett also provides new details and anecdotes on the demise of Apple and its explosion of sub-companies, an almost doomed-from-the-start endeavor.

Perhaps the most interesting character to emerge in the story is Allen Klein, the pugnacious, street-wise lawyer who went from being the group's deliverer to demon for real and imagined indiscretions. And while other books treat him as an almost cartoonish character - all pudge, turtlenecks, and greasy hair - You Never Give Me Your Money has a more nuanced (and probably realistic) portrayal.

The narrative is sprinkled throughout with courtroom testimony, sniping interview clips, and stories. Thus, the Smart One, Cute One, Quiet One and Funny One in the '70s became the Zoned-Out One, the Cloying One, the Bitter One and the Drunk One.

Tantalizingly, Doggett notates numerous times when the band might have gotten back together in the '70s, save for the ill feelings created by business and not musical matters: none of the members wanted to close the door, but none wanted to open it first either.

This includes the planned 1975 meeting of Lennon and McCartney to try and hammer out some tunes in New Orleans, a visit squashed by the former's scurrying back to Mother Yoko after "The Lost Weekend" - proving that, apparently, Lennon could only have room for one partner in his life.

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When the "Threetles" finally did come together for the Anthology film, CDs and book, the result was less-than earth-shaking. Doggett also reveals it came at a fortuitous time for Ringo and George, both nearing financial collapse despite being two of the most famous musicians on the planet.

But could anything have satisfied fans and the expectations built up over a quarter century since the breakup? In their early days of touring, handicapped children would be brought backstage as if the Touch of a Beatle could cure them.

After the breakup, the band was inundated with pleas to reunite for dozens of charity causes, as if the burden of saving the world could be achieved by putting four middle-aged Liverpudlians on stage.

Of course, the Beatles brand never dies. Just in the past few years we've seen the runaway success of the 1 compilation, the Love Cirque du Soleil show, the remastered CDs, and their own edition of Rock Band. And at Target, you can buy "Yellow Submarine" outfits for newborn babies.

In the end, no matter what their audience might think, the Beatles couldn't save rock music, the world or themselves. But for less than a decade, they made some amazing and lasting music together. So maybe when the four occupied the same room for the last time on September 15, 1969, it was the right move to just let it be.

HarperStudio, 400 pp., $24.99.

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