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
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
“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
“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
“I knew with that kind
of trove of material that
I was going to be the
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
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