first_imgDear Sir or Madame, will you take a look? Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom have given us a fine new little Beatles book. The Beatles (Frances Lincoln Books, 2014) took them years to write and illustrate, but it is a work that justifies the time and effort. Here we have a book every member of the family can enjoy, and come together and read together. We find a wonderfully illustrated fairly ‘compleat’ history of the group for both children and adults.Live For Live Music was able to talk about the new project with author Mick Manning, and he filled us in on the project.1. The style of the drawings works for both children and adults.  Were they styled to work on both levels?I think that good illustration should work well for both adults and children. A good book is a good book – if you think about Sendak or Blake for example their artwork transcends time and age. Brita and I make books; it’s what we do and with a book as important as a biography of The Beatles it had to be done right! I’m pleased you say our book crosses the boundaries between children and adults, that is a great compliment. We visited the ALA (American Library Association) Convention in Philadelphia last month and a large proportion of people we were dedicating the books to were husbands and wives rather than children – that’s very cool for us!2. The text of the book gives a very complete history of the band, from John’s birth in 1940 to the break-up of the Beatles in 1970- and beyond.  How did you decide on which events to cover between those dates?Getting the ingredients right for a good read is very important to us. The research for The Beatles took two years. We amassed far more information and anecdotes than we needed we sat down and asked ourselves what was the tip of our iceberg? What would  people of all ages find new and interesting – what could we bring to the party that wasn’t already out there? For us, the evidence of their genius began in their childhoods. As William Wordsworth wrote, ‘the child is father of the man’: John’s rebellious schooldays and his beloved Aunty Mimi, Paul’s musical relationship with his dad and his early friendship on the bus to school with George Harrison, funny incidents such as John’s harmonica playing on the bus to Edinburgh and the later Hamburg adventures… Detailed research gave us enough material to choose, describe and illustrate the stories and events that brought their incredible journey from Liverpool to 1970 alive for our audience. But we have on principle avoided talking about their girlfriends and wives. Relationship tittle-tattle is not part of our story and not relevant.I read a lot of biographies –  the official one by Hunter Davies was good and Anthology, and others such as A Twist of Lennon by Cynthia and A Hard Day’s Write by Steve Turner. But I also spoke to people who knew them and had met them such as a recent friend of mine called Dud’ Edwards, the 60s Pop Artist who became John, Paul and Ringo’s live-in painter. The piano-paint-job he did for Paul is famous on stage to this day. We were also very lucky to meet Colin Hall – custodian at Mendips. Colin was invaluable. He told us detailed stuff such as the color shirt John was wearing the day he first met Paul. That was gold dust for visual people like us.3. How have children reacted to the book, many who were born after even the Beatles released Anthology?  Any anecdotes from parents who gave the book to their kids on their reactions?A lot of parents we meet at signings or via email tell us they are buying for young people who already into The Beatles’ music. Looking at some of the facebook followers’ postings on our Beatles page shows a bunch of lively and enquiring young people who are rejecting the baby faced boy bands of their day for The Beatles. This isn’t a sign of youthful conservatism … quite the opposite in fact. We have to remember that to younger generations The Beatles represent a distant era – a golden age when youth culture took off in a dynamic and exciting explosion that eclipses even the Punk movement many of us were into in the late 70s. Perhaps if we think of modern youths’ view of The Beatles as the way our generation(s) think about the World War Two era when we hear The Ink Spots for example: A timeless and evocative conjuring of a bygone era, a collective golden memory, reminiscent of Gaugin’s Vision After The Sermon. 4. In the drawings, it is fun to note the incredible changes in style that the band went through during their time together.  What fashion influences that the Beatles had are your favorites?I like them all – visually the hippy period is vivid. But I suppose John and Paul’s late 60s ‘thrift suit’ and tank tops look appeals to me. My own wardrobe is populated with old jackets, suits and Shetland tank tops that I have found in charity / thrift shops over the last 20 years, so I can relate to that.5. As I enjoyed the book, it dawned on me that in a way this is a very good ‘history” book.  During their time together, do you think the band would have imagined being studied in 2014?Yes, the 1960s and The Beatles are studied in history and social science classes and yes, we did know that before we made the book. In fact it helped us sell the idea to our publisher. Libraries and schools are important sales for us and so we were careful to make the book useful for 1960s studies. We presented the finished product The Beatles at the beautiful Liverpool Central Library a few months back to national librarians and we were delighted to hear them say that our book is exactly what they get asked for time and time again all over the UK. Colin Hall (Beatles historian and custodian at Mendips) kindly agreed to act as our consultant on the project because he thought our book was needed to fill a huge hole in the market.6. The major events in the 1960’s seem to stand alongside the changes the band went through. Do any Beatle songs remind you of particular events from the decade of the sixties?Yes without a doubt but small personal things in my life most of all. Many of the books we have made have a personal angle, its how I find my way into a subject. Tail-End Charlie (a book about World War Two) was about my dad’s war as an air-gunner flying B25 Mitchells during the Battle of the Bulge. Taff in the WAAF (about the Women’s role in WW2) was about my mum’s work as a listener for Bletchley Park. The Beatles were the sound track to my childhood and I used those memories to inspire me. I have a very powerful memory of hearing Eleanor Rigby for the first time while gazing across Haworth churchyard (the Bronte churchyard) from a bedroom window in the Black Bull Hotel (Branwell’s favorite pub). My sister’s best friend lived there in the mid 60s and I got taken along. Did it affect my appreciation of that song? Of course it did and there’s no doubt, in my mind it was the creative germ of our book, 40 years before I wrote it.7. Have Paul or Ringo seen the book?Not as far as I know. We have had a retweet from the Ringo fan club! But that’s as good as it’s got so far. But we’re not celebs we don’t move in their interstellar orbit. I’m not going to do the fan-thing and post them a book in the hope it gets past their minders and secretaries. But I hope that perhaps someone will give them a copy and they may take the time to look it through. We would love to hear they liked what we’d done… its been a long hard job to get it right and its been done by both of us with a huge amount of respect for them as individuals. We have treated all of the band (including Pete and Stu’) with the same amount of respect as Darwin and Dickens (Our previous biographies) We are planning to exhibit the artwork from The Beatles in Liverpool to support a lecture by Colin Hall during Beatles week – and perhaps at other venues too. Ideally we’d like to sell the artworks as a complete body of work – either privately or to an institution. They’d look great hung in sequence along a museum or university library wall or even along a corporate corridor!8. When you collaborate with Brita on your books, how do you go about working together?We spend a lot of time on the research and the rough artworks – planning what information goes in the book: what info will be words and what info will be purely visual. Then there are bubbles, comic strips and fact boxes to layer extra information. When it comes to artwork Brita and I collaborate – we are both illustrators. We don’t fight over it though! We decide what would be appropriate and that influences who does what. Brita has done most of The Beatles artwork and she has done it beautifully. None of her artworks copy photographs. Of course they are informed by hours of studying photos but not copying/reproducing them. She has a photographic memory and the talent to draw from life. This informs her work so that she can bring the boys to life as if she had known the band personally. 9. What is your personal favorite Beatle song? Your favorite Beatle album?Very hard question!. I love the moog in I Want You (She’s So Heavy) and the edgy sound of Get Back and as a parent the humanity of track such as She’s Leaving Home and A Day in the Life . But my favourite track would be the Eleanor Rigby/Yellow Submarine single that takes me along the long and winding road back to my childhood and Haworth churchyard. Favourite album would probably be Revolver.10. What subject should we look for in your next project?We’re in the middle of a new biography in the same series and this time it is William Shakespeare. But we made Will wait his turn; he had to wait for us to finish talking to John, Paul, George, Ringo, Pete and Stu – the bards of Liverpool!– BOB WILSONYou can purchase Mick Manning and Greta Granstrom’s The Beatles at Amazon.comlast_img