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Paul McCartney's Life Seldom Less Than Fab

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Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney By Howard Sounes Da Capo Press, 634 pp., $29.95.

While the Beatles and Beatle-related bookshelf is groaning beyond belief, the main thing to know about Fab is this: Howard Sounes has produced the finest, most detailed, and most up-to-date doorstop tome on the life and music of Macca. And that includes the similarly-large near-autobiography Many Years from Now.

Soune, who also penned the fine Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan, conducted more than 200 original interviews, and the effort shows.

And while the nuggets of newness aren't as frequent in the much-rehashed Beatles years, fresh glimpses and incidents from McCartney's youth and solo career abound.

But perhaps the best chapters are the ones that cover Paul's last two decades, in which Sounes shows a man attempting to exist both as a Living Legend but, like the overachieving schoolboy he once was, still wants more accolades, forging into choral and classical music as well as poetry with mixed results. That's also when he gives his rock records less and/or lazier effort than ever before.

The book also shows the many sides of Paul's personality, from generous financial provider of his family to thin-skinned, carping studio musician and all stops in between. Sounes also gives credence to the inherent inanity of the constant "Paul vs. John debate," as if (to Paul's defense) he could ever compete with the public perception of and love for an assassinated martyr.

The book ends on a bang, with an incisive and often hilarious deconstruction of Paul's ill-fated marriage to Heather Mills, portrayed as a greedy, manipulative, and shallow opportunist who was almost universally disliked by McCartney's family and inner circle.

One friend/observer puts the attraction succinctly: The at-the-time sexagenarian was, simply put, "cock happy." All you need is love, indeed.

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