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It was Bob Spitz’s ’71 first day of English 101, freshman year. The assignment: to write an essay on what he wanted to accomplish. Professor James Reppert collected the essays, picked one out of the pile and began to read it to the class. The class roared with laughter, but Reppert wasn’t as amused.

“What do we know from this essay?” the stern professor asked.

“We know that this person will never be a writer.”

That person was Bob Spitz ’71, author of The New York Times’ bestseller The Beatles: The Biography, and four other books including The Making of Superstars, Dylan: A Biography, Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969 and Shoot Out the Lights: The Amazing, Improbable Exhilarating Saga of the 1969-70 New York Knicks.

Although Spitz respected Reppert greatly for his “amazing intellect, he scared the hell out of me,” says Spitz, who decided, at least temporarily, to trade in his pen and head to New York City after graduation for a career in the entertainment industry.

Spitz went to work for the television show“The Partridge Family.” One day, a co-worker told Spitz that he had a musician friend he wanted him to hear. This “completely unknown” musician came into the studio. “I listened and nearly fell off my chair,” says Spitz, who also plays guitar and piano. The musician was Bruce Springsteen.

“We quit our jobs the next day to manage Bruce. We signed a record contract with Columbia, worked our butts off for four years on the road playing every gig we could until he hit with ‘Born to Run.’ Nothing was ever the same after that.”

But being on the road was hard, says Spitz. In 1976 he left Springsteen and went on to manage Elton John until 1979, when at the mere age of 29, he decided to retire from the music industry. “I was bored,” he says. “I had been on the road for eight years. I had no friends. I had no life. I had no foundation. I wanted something quieter in my life.”

Spitz decided to give his pen another try.

He wrote his first published article for The New York Times Book Review. “Instead of doing the article in a day, which it should have taken me, it took me three weeks,” he says. “I had a lot to teach myself.”

As a freelance writer he wrote articles about Hollywood, politics, sports, travel and wine forLife Magazine, Esquire, GQ, Conde Nast Traveler, In Style, Men’s Journal, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest and The New York Times Magazine, among others.

But in 1997, as he was interviewing Paul McCartney for The New York Times Magazine, he stumbled upon a secret; a secret that led to“the book that changed everything” for Spitz,The Beatles: The Biography.

During the interview, McCartney dropped a bombshell, Spitz says. “He admitted to me that about 50 percent of the Beatles’ biography, the official one told to Hunter Davies in 1967, was made up. It was done to protect their wives and families from some of the darker parts of the Beatles.” And, every biography since then, as many as 1,000, he says, stemmed from the same myth that was told originally.

That’s all Spitz needed to hear.

“I felt someone had to set the record straight,” he says. And the timing couldn’t have been better.

“Linda [McCartney] was dying, Paul was about to turn 60. He was sensing his own mortality and I made him feel guilty as hell that his legacy after he was gone would be a fabrication,” Spitz says.

McCartney decided to cooperate.

Spitz talked with people who hadn’t been available to the press in 40 years – McCartney’s aunts, Ringo Starr’s aunts and uncles, George Harrison’s family, their teachers from school. He even spoke to Dot Rhone, McCartney’s first girlfriend. A very private person, Rhone had maintained silence for 40 years until she was interviewed for this book, he says.

Spitz was permitted access to private papers, diaries, the notebook that Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager, kept from the time he was 15-years-old. “It was all so valuable to me. I knew with that kind of trove of material that I was going to be the Beatles’ biographer.” He also knew that he wouldn’t let anything interfere with the job…not even near bankruptcy.

“I knew with that kind of trove of material that I was going to be the
Beatles’ biographer.”

A project that was supposed to take two years — one to research and one to write — ended up taking eight and a half. “I knew the story was there and I was going to take my time. I wasn’t going to write a pop-biography and a piece of junk. I realized that this was the project of my life.”

Six-hundred interviews, 80,000 pages of research, and an original manuscript of 2,800 pages later, The Beatles was born. The final book, which Spitz calls “the Cliff Notes version,” is 983 pages.

It was reviewed nearly 400 times and lauded by critics.

Rolling Stone said: “In the 35 years following the breakup of the Beatles, there have been many ‘definitive’ versions of their story. But The Beatles: The Biography makes a strong claim to that crown, with vivid prose, new interviews and a level of factual rigor that will educate many hard-core Beatleologists.”

The Boston Globe said: “Bob Spitz’s The Beatles is a startlingly well-reported and consistently engaging revisionist biography of the most familiar and arguably the best, pop group in history. Even though the Beatles story is well known, Spitz has fleshed it out fully, revealing the flawed, singularly creative human beings behind the lovable mop-top image.”

The New York Times Book Review said: “Bob Spitz’s beautifully written chronicle breathes new life into the familiar story of the Liverpool boys....The author’s passion for his subject, and for every nuance of every scene, electrifies even the most familiar moments in the legend.”

“If I could read that to Jim Reppert,” says Spitz, “it would be the fulfillment of my Albright experience.”


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