Journalist Larry Kane set to talk Beatles at Huntingdon Valley Library anniversary
By Jarreau Freeman
Published: Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Before the throngs of screaming fans, before selling billions of records, before creating chart-topping hit after hit, before becoming musical icons and before they were known as the Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr “were just boys” who faced many blunders and pitfalls on their journey to superstardom.
This simple truth was what inspired renowned Philadelphia journalist Larry Kane to write his newest book “When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles’ Rise to the Top,” which focuses on the Beatles’ climb to fame from when they first met as teenagers in the 1950s to their historic first appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964.
“[This book] is a page-turning, riveting account of these young boys who grow into young men and who [went] through all this craziness — betrayal, commitment, love, a lot of hate and [who had] a tremendous amount of help along the way,” Kane said. “Some of the things that have happened in this book … are too good to be true.”
The new year marks the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ American invasion; it also marks the 60th anniversary of the Huntingdon Valley Library. Kane will share personal anecdotes, as well as stories from the band’s early years at a special anniversary brunch honoring the library’s 60 years of service Jan. 5 at 11:30 a.m. at the Philmont Country Club, 301 Tomlinson Road, Huntingdon Valley. Tickets are $25 per person.
Kane’s book gives accounts of some of the pivotal moments at the beginning of the band’s career from the death of Lennon’s and McCartney’s mothers, to their excessive use of drugs and alcohol and a physical makeover given to them by their early manager Brain Epstein that transformed the boys from unkempt teenagers to stars.
“Here’s a group that goes to Hamburg, Germany, when they’re very young, and they have to sleep in a bathroom and are hardly fed,” Kane said. “They are living on pills that are keeping them awake and receive beatings from nightclub tycoons so they will play longer and longer. They enlist the help of a guy who turns out to be a convicted killer. They survive Hamburg, although two of them are almost arrested, and when they get back home they are almost ready to give it up.”
Some of the things that happened to the Beatles early on are so “astonishing” it would seem like you were reading a novel, Kane said, but the accounts in the book are all true.
“They had a friend named Bill Harry, who was their high school classmate, who rigs a pole in a newspaper making them No. 1,” he said. “They [also had] family lives that are just too unbelievable. A couple of them have pretty normal families, but Ringo Starr grows up with a mom who works at a bar until late in the morning. [He] lived in a home without bathrooms and without plumbing. Paul McCartney’s mother dies of cancer when he is 14, and John Lennon’s mother is struck and killed by a car when he is 18.”
Kane, who was the only American reporter to travel with the Beatles on every stop of their 1964 and 1965 American tours, wrote “Ticket to Ride” about his life on the road with the band followed by “Lennon Revealed” where he explores the mysteries of Lennon’s life prior to “When They Were Boys,” which was published this summer by Perseus Books Group.
Unlike his other books that focused on personal accounts, Kane said this book proved challenging because it required a lot of research. He began working on the book in 2007 and began writing the book in 2009 and 2010, he said.
Through writing “When They Were Boys,” Kane said he discovered many things about the Beatles he never knew, such as the division between Protestants and Catholics in their hometown of Liverpool, England, the politics of their success, the way they began to write music, some of the risks they took as teenagers trying to forge their way into the music industry, as well as their generosity toward others.
Kane said he hopes people learn from the Beatles’ story, which is one of determination.
“These guys obviously hit the jackpot, but it wasn’t easy,” he said.
To learn more about Larry Kane, visit http://www.larrykane.com.
Larry Kane, who was the only American reporter with the Beatles' on every stop on their 1964 and 1965 American tours, interviews Beatle John Lennon.
Renowned Philadelphia journalist Larry Kane writes about the hardships the Beatles faced on their road to fame in his newest book "When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles' Rise to the Top."