Hollywood Reporter

‘All You Need Is Love’ Authors Talk John, Paul, More Fsalinks

Forty-one years ago, they published the biggest Beatles biography of all time — The Love You Make, which spent three months in 1983 atop The New York Times best-seller list. The book would make its co-authors — former Circus magazine editor and author of 13 bestsellers Steven Gaines and one-time Brian Epstein protégé and Fab Four confidante Peter Brown — into the most famous Beatle-ologists on the planet. 

Also, two of the most reviled, at least by some guy named Paul McCartney, who was said to have been so outraged by the tome’s gossipy reportage that he set his copy on fire.

As it happens, Gaines and Brown aren’t quite finished with The Beatles yet. Last month, after decades of steering clear of the subject, they released All You Need Is Love: The Beatles in Their Own Words, an oral history of the Mop Tops based on hundreds of hours of old taped interviews Gaines and Brown conducted while researching their original history, including conversations with McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Yoko Ono, Cynthia Lennon and scores of others.

The Hollywood Reporter sat down with the two old friends and colleagues for a long and winding discussion about their new book (which hovered on top of Amazon’s best-seller list for a month even before it was published), about how they dealt with the criticism of their old one and about their theory explaining why McCartney hated it so much (something involving venereal disease and sheep).

You’re first book was a huge success — it’s considered the definitive Beatle book. Why, 40 years later, write a follow-up?

STEVEN GAINES Well, I mean, there’s so much interest in The Beatles. It never ended. And I realized that although The Love You Make is the biggest-selling book about The Beatles ever — it sold over 500,000 copies — there was still more to the story. And we had all these tapes of all the interviews we had from the first book. We tried to decide what to do. Can we let people hear them? But it turned out it’s against the law to play somebody’s recorded voice [without permission]. So, we couldn’t do that. And so I came up with the idea of maybe it would be OK if we just transcribe the tapes and turn the transcriptions into a book.

You two have been friends for a long time…

GAINES We’ve been seeing each other 40 years. Wait, it’s been 40 years since we wrote the book together. It’s 50 years since Peter and I met.

Peter, you were involved with The Beatles from the beginning, when you worked for Brian Epstein. You even went on tour with them in the 1960s, right? What was that like?

PETER BROWN When we were going around the world doing gigs, we still got on commercial planes. Nobody in that era had their own private planes.

Wait, The Beatles flew on commercial jets? Along with regular passengers?

GAINES Amazing, huh?

Did they get mobbed on these planes or did people keep their distance?

BROWN Not on the plane. But there would be crowds of girls and boys waiting for the plane. Thousands and thousands of kids waiting for them to get off the plane. It was just crazy. That had never happened before.

GAINES Tell him about Manila. Weren’t you beaten up by Imelda Marcos’ goons during that tour?

BROWN No, what happened was that The Beatles were invited to attend a party at her palace before one of their concerts. But The Beatles never did that sort of thing. They never accepted those sorts of invitations. Never. Brian realized that they couldn’t be subjected to those sorts of crowds. People got too frantic and crazy around them. And we told Marcos’ person that no, we weren’t going to go to that event at her palace. And he said we had to do it and we just said no. So we didn’t go but then when we got back to the hotel from the concert that night the television was showing the palace with all these children waiting for The Beatles …

GAINES They called them “orphans” and “disabled kids” …

BROWN And the news was all about how rude The Beatles had been to these children and to the president’s wife by not showing up at this party. So, the next day, when we woke up, all our hotel facilities had been cut off. There was no breakfast, no maid service. We were just told to go to the airport. And when we got to the airport, there were all these angry people. And all these police. And they just kept checking our passports and keeping us from boarding the plane. We didn’t think we’d be able to leave Manila. But we finally got onto the plane and got away.

That’s a crazy story. So, why do you think, all these years later, there’s still so much interest in The Beatles? What was it about them that was so special?

GAINES First of all, it was the music. The music caught on. It was joyous. It was fun. At first they were just a pop group. But the way they dressed, their thoughts, their ideas … 

BROWN You’re too young to know this, but the thing is that in the Western world, particularly in the United States [in the early 1960s], there wasn’t anything new and cool. There were the Black artists, but they weren’t acceptable. And then you had a lot of white people who were not very interesting. And that was not just in the United States. It was everywhere. And somehow or other, The Beatles came along. 

GAINES They were really pathfinders in the world. We were very, very open in the 1960s, peace, flowers, LSD, the Hippie Movement, the anti-War movement. A new generation was coming into power. The class system in England was dissolving, falling apart. The whole middle class, lower class was rising up. And all that I think affected The Beatles. And then also [the world] got to know them. They were great characters. They were interesting people. 

The Love You Make was obviously a huge best-seller, but you also took a lot of heat for it, a lot of criticism for supposedly betraying The Beatles. 

GAINES On Peter’s behalf, they say in journalism, if you lived it, you own it. And Peter lived it. Peter lived every single second of this. I mean, he was part of it. And he deserved to tell the story as much as anybody did. So the criticism was very unfair. None of them have any right to say that Peter betrayed them. He absolutely did not. It’s his life too.

Was there a point, Peter, while you were doing that book, when you realized some of these people were going to be mad at you? 

BROWN No, I don’t think I did at all. I mean, the thing is these are famous people. They’ve been around a long time. They’re grown-up people, and they survived very, very well. I thought that what we were doing was telling the truth.

And yet Paul responded by allegedly burning the book.

BROWN Paul was always a drama queen. I don’t know. I can’t remember the details of it. He didn’t make a big fuss about it until later. I mean, he was a close friend of mine. I introduced him — although he says this is not true — to his wife Linda. She was a friend of mine and she wanted to be a photographer. She came to see me and showed me her portfolio of the pictures that she’d been taking. There was a lot of pictures of the Rolling Stones, really beautiful pictures.

GAINES I can only make a guess about why Paul was so upset, but this is just a guess. When he went to Scotland with Linda, he had venereal crabs. This was in the book. And he sent an assistant to the drugstore and to get something, and it had to be in a hurry because he didn’t want Linda to know. But all they had was sheep dip, which when the sheep get it you put it on them. So, he made do with the sheep dip. That’s the only thing that he might be upset about. But otherwise, I don’t understand why Paul was angry.

John Lennon, though, would not have been angry. John Lennon didn’t have any secrets. He lived his life very, very openly. When he had trouble with heroin, he wrote a song called “Cold Turkey.” There were no secrets in John’s life. Paul lived in a kind of bubble and wanted everybody to love him, and he is lovable and wonderful and all the rest. But John wouldn’t have cared at all. And I bet you that if John was alive, he wouldn’t have been angry at all. 

Even about the part where you talk about his supposed sexual affair with Brian Epstein, you don’t think he would’ve been upset about that?

GAINES Yeah, sure. I bet you he would’ve been upset back in Liverpool. He got into a fist fight with another guy [over the rumors of a bisexual tryst with Epstein]. But now, this year, I mean, believe you me, he wouldn’t have been the least bitter. But here’s the thing, when we published that book back in 1984, there still wasn’t the openness and understanding and education. So, it was a very explosive thing to write. But I’m sure if we had published this for the first time now, people would kind of just shrug.

So are there things in the new book that are going to shock or offend anyone? Are you bracing for a second round of controversy?

BROWN I think we put together the truth, this is what it is. And I don’t think for a minute that any sensible, grown-up person will think that’s inappropriate.

GAINES I don’t think most people are going to be upset. I think people are going to be thrilled and astonished. The early reviews I’ve seen have all been terrific. People really enjoy it. I’m very proud of it. I hope Peter is, as well.

BROWN I feel very strongly that there’s nothing inappropriate about what we’ve done. We have, in fact, tried very carefully to tell a story, which millions of people in different parts of the world are fascinated about. They’re all fascinated by The Beatles and by the details of their lives. But this book is not going to offend any sensible person. I think that it’s rather unique and we’ve done our best. We’ve tried to make sure that everything we’ve written is accurate.

GAINES Everything that they did or said, what meal they ate on a certain day, has become part of history. Everything is so important about them. And it isn’t just a small cult. There’s millions and millions of fans who know everything. So, I think for some of those to find out the things people disagreed about the way things happened and the order that they happened in, I think that will be fascinating to them. I think when they hear how Paul, George and Ringo really felt about John Lennon, that will be fascinating. So, I don’t think the book is going to be without controversy, but it’s certainly not because of anything Peter and I wrote or did.

When you say how they felt about Lennon — how did they feel?

GAINES I think George calls him a shit. I’m not sure. You’d have to check the manuscript. And Paul also had his problems with John, obviously. By the way, they all cared desperately what John thought. Like when George says, “I sent him a copy of my book. I wonder if he read it. Maybe he’s angry because I didn’t mention him.” And then Paul goes on and on about unsuccessfully trying to get in touch with John. You can see the longing in these people. It was John’s group. John started The Beatles. He was the leader, and they all longed and wanted him to come back to them, at least even as a friend.

But he was a leader who turned his back on them, right?

GAINES It all fell apart. You can’t blame anybody. Everything was happening. Yoko came into it. John and Paul weren’t getting along. Brian had died. He was really the glue that kept them together. So, it was nobody’s fault, it really wasn’t. As Ringo says, “It was time for it to end.”

Ringo and Paul have announced they’re going to go on tour together. Good or bad idea?

GAINES What do you think, Peter?

BROWN I think it’s rather sweet. It’s probably because they’re rather fond of each other.


GAINES I think they should leave it alone. I honestly think that they should leave it alone. People will have fun. They’ll be entertaining and everything. But as far as the legend goes, it is a legend.

A rare moment of disagreement between the authors.

GAINES Trust me, darling, not so rare.

Books,George Harrison,John Lennon,Paul McCartney,Ringo Starr,The Beatles

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