I forget where I acquired The True Story of the Beatles by Billy Shepherd, but I think it was at the Chicago Beatlefest I attended in August of 1984, however there is no mention of this book, or any books at all, among my purchases in my diary entries. I could also have purchased it among other Beatles paperbacks at any of the Toronto record and memorabilia shows I attended in the 1980’s. This was a substantial biography of 224 pages, with small text spanning the page and minimal margins. It was filled with a centre photo spread as well as illustrations from moments in Beatles history. I found the illustrations by Bob Gibson to be anachronisms since all the members of the Beatles had moptop haircuts, even when he depicted events that took place in the 1950’s. Because of these added extras it did not appear to be a flighty biography rushed to press at the height of American Beatlemania (this book came out in June 1964). Shepherd even included a photo of himself interviewing the Beatles, which gave the book added credibility. His interviews seemed new to me and I didn’t get the impression that what he covered was quotable, therefore nothing the Beatles said in his interviews was repeated over and over again in other authors’ books. Nonetheless Shepherd did make several errors, such as always referring to Ringo’s former group’s lead singer as Rory Storme instead of Storm, and by calling Julia and Jacqueline Dykins John Lennon’s step sisters [sic] when they are his half sisters. It was however most irritating to keep on seeing the Beatles erroneously referred to as The Beat Boys instead of the Beat Brothers on their first record as the backing band for Tony Sheridan. Shepherd claimed that “She Loves You”, released in the US in September 1963, “was already doing well in America” by early October. When the song was first released, it was not a hit, and didn’t enter the Billboard chart until January 25, 1964. He also confused the album Beatlemania! With the Beatles as the Canadian version of Please Please Me. It is not; it’s the Canadian title for With the Beatles. I did learn that the first pressings of With the Beatles had a defect; “Roll Over Beethoven” skipped so it had to be repressed.
I had to giggle when I read what George had to say about performing for audiences in Hamburg:
“The German people still seemed to think we were a gang of lunatics. They’d sometimes just stare at us and make us wonder if we’d forgotten our trousers or something.”
Shepherd glossed over two major events in Beatles history, namely the hiring of Brian Epstein as manager and the subsequent firing of Pete Best. He did however cover such events as the Decca recording session and the “Love Me Do” session with great detail.
Aside from some unfortunate doodling over Paul’s face (perhaps the reason this great-condition paperback was up for sale) and slight water damage I find the cover photo so adorable. Am I swooning or what–the early Beatles here look gorgeous. The photos in the centre spread did not document their time in the States, so we were treated to some very early pictures from 1963 and before, including shots on the set of their first movie whose title at the time of publication was still not known. It was always referred to as the “Beatles Film”. It did seem odd, knowing Beatles history and what else happened during 1964, to read such a long book only to have it end before the theatrical release of “A Hard Day’s Night”.