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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 13th May 2016 > THE BALLAD OF PAUL


Beatles chronicler and John Lennon devotee Philip Norman has written a surprisingly surprising and sympathetic biography of Paul McCartney


WHEN PHILIP NORMAN set out to write his new biography of Paul McCartney, the last person he expected to cooperate was the ex-Beatle himself. In his 1981 best-selling book on the Beatles, Shout!, Norman had displayed a clear bias in favor of McCartney’s songwriting partner, John Lennon, even declaring on American TV at the time that “75 percent of the Beatles was Lennon.” McCartney read the book and publicly rechristened it Shite.

In the early, bitter post-Beatles years, a pro-Lennon/anti-McCartney prejudice was common among rock journalists, who generally saw Lennon as an edgy, charismatic genius and McCartney as a bland, pretty egomaniac who, in Lennon’s words, was writing “granny music.” But Norman’s assertion that McCartney was a bit player in the Beatles seemed extreme.

Norman now says he retreated from that position some years ago while writing his 2008 biography of Lennon, John Lennon: The Life. During his research for that book, he had a relatively affable telephone conversation with McCartney, who had called Norman without prior warning, wanting “to see what this fellow who seems to hate me so much is like.” McCartney then agreed to answer several queries by email about the early Beatles days.

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