I bought The Beatles Who’s Who by Bill Harry when I was a teenager and bought every book about the Beatles I could find. In 1982 I didn’t care about literary merit and had I done so I might have saved myself the $8.95 I paid for it. In spite of Harry’s background in journalism and his respected place in Beatles history, this collection of short biographies is a mess of mistakes, misspellings, incorrect dates and lack of organization. The back cover sells the book as only hyperbole could. I usually do not include scans of back covers but in this case I will for the eye-roll factor. I do not imagine that Harry had any role in writing the paragraphs on the back cover, but I knew that once I encountered even one factual error I would be lampooning the hagiography status bestowed upon the author.
Who’s Who contained about three hundred short biographies of people who were to varying degrees associated with the Beatles, from intimate relatives like parents and siblings to schoolmates, teachers and then those who passed through their lives when the Beatles became world-famous musicians. These biographies were organized not by any formal chronology or timeline; instead they were all plopped down in some vague historical context. Thus all the biographies about the people who knew the individual Beatles while they were still in school were presented first; those who had a role in the group’s rise to fame came next, and so on until the dissolution of the group. The biographies were not organized alphabetically so I had to refer to the index to find out where a biography was located if I wanted to reread it–that is, if the index listed the name at all. Not everyone profiled in the book was indexed.
I consider myself a Beatles expert, so I expected Bill Harry to get his facts straight. This book however was teeming with errors, with names misspelled within the same short biography and dates inconsistent within same. I couldn’t resist listing two of them. Here are some doozies:
“American singer whose hits ‘Sheila’ and ‘Susie Darlin” led him to co-star on an Arthur Howes promoted tour of Britain in 1963 with fellow American Chris Montez. The Beatles were also on the bill. Tommy next appeared with them at the Coliseum concert in Washington DC on February 11th, 1962, along with The Chiffons and The Caravelles.”
In 1962? The Washington, DC concert took place two years later.
“British journalist-turned-novelist, author of several novels, including Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, as well as non-fiction books, the most famous of which is The Beatles–The Authorised Biography, first published in hardback on September 14th, 1960 with a cover by Alan Aldridge. Davies dedicated the book to Brian Epstein. He has written the obituaries of the individual Beatles for The Times newspaper.”
So his Beatles biography came out in 1960? I think he is ten years premature. And he wrote all of their obituaries? Am I reading that correctly? In 1982 only John Lennon was deceased. I know that news networks and newspapers have obituaries already written for many famous living people should they die unexpectedly. So does this mean that Davies was all ready to submit obits to the press and news networks should Paul, George or Ringo drop dead in 1982?
Singer Mary Hopkin must live her life to this day correcting people that her surname does not end in S. Someone please tell Bill Harry this. The two columns on the group Badfinger were overloaded with mistakes. The most egregious error was that of the group’s four members, Harry got two of their names wrong!
Beatles fans have a wide choice of better biographical reference material. This is a poor example.