... riveting ... This quirky, irreverent book, written in the manner of Mr. Brown’s bestselling Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret (2017), is a kaleidoscope of essays, anecdotes, party lists and personal reminiscence. You might think there was nothing more to be said about the Beatles, but Mr. Brown, a perceptive writer and a gifted satirist, makes familiar stories fresh. Along the way he unearths many fascinating tidbits ... a fascinating study of the cultural and social upheaval created by the band ... Mr. Brown has a keen eye for absurdist detail ... After reading this book I was inspired to listen to them again. I felt just as I had the first time: sheer joy.
...often witty ... For the younger reader who’s heard the music and now wants to know the stories behind it, good news, because they’re only clichés if you’ve heard them a hundred times ... For this reader, when Brown tells one of the Beatle stories I’ve heard many times and now adds information I didn’t know — or the telling detail that was missing for 50 years — the book is an utter delight ... 150 Glimpses is best when Brown poignantly chronicles the toll that being a Beatle took on these four still-young men in the 1960s — the photos of them that went from smiling to unsmiling.
Time-play and what-ifs are part of Brown’s formidable bag of tricks, deployed to add emotional range and a poignant twist to his comic vignettes. His biographical method — combining fragments, lists, excerpts, quotes and flights of whimsy — is executed as brilliantly here as in 2017’s glittering Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret ... Brown’s book is an idiosyncratic cocktail of oral history, personal memoir, tourism and biography ... [a] riotous, hilarious book, which achieves depth through Brown’s strong feeling for both the quiet and the noisy devastations wrought by ambition, fame, personal tragedy and time.
Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four: The Beatles In Time is equal parts social history, oral history, memoir and conventional pop biography. Its scope is kaleidoscopic ... Brown is a veteran journalist and prolific author, but it’s his irreverent wit, honed over years of working at Private Eye, that distinguishes this book ... One Two Three Four: The Beatles In Time is, at 650 pages, a hugely entertaining, gloriously unpretentious, sprawling mosaic of a book.
One Two Three Four is such a ridiculously enjoyable treat ... Despite Brown’s reputation as a supremely funny writer, One Two Three Four is often surprisingly poignant. Almost alone among Beatles books, it devotes considerable attention to the people damaged by the band’s success: the losers, the people left behind ... Too many writers take the Beatles, and themselves, far too seriously. Brown does neither ... at a time when, like everybody else, I was feeling not entirely thrilled about the news, I loved every word of it.
...he prises the basic story away from its standard telling, and delights in a motley supporting cast united by their brushes with Beatledom ... Most of what is here is sourced from other books, and much of it feels familiar. But when Brown alights on less well-trodden material, his panache as a writer and understanding of the Beatles’ significance rarely let him down.
One Two Three Four begins and ends with Paul McCartney counting in the band on stage at the Cavern Club in 1961. In between is a brilliantly executed study of cultural time, social space and the madness of fame ... All the episodes of the sacred biography are here, and most are devastated by Brown’s expert shuffling of perspectives ... The exceptional strangeness of The Beatles reflects the ordinary oddity of real life. One Two Three Four, by putting The Beatles in their place as well as their time, is by far the best book anyone has written about them and the closest we can get to the truth.
One Two Three Four, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary, on 10 April, of the break-up of The Beatles, is an exploded biography of the band. It is a critical appreciation, a personal history, a miscellany, a work of scholarship and speculation, and a tribute ... Like Ma’am Darling, and like life itself, One Two Three Four is a tragicomedy. Both dark and sunny, like a Lennon/McCartney song.
In this enthralling, impressionistic biography, Craig Brown examines the immense cultural impact of the Beatles 50 years on from their split. Rather than a linear retelling, he reflects and refracts the sometimes disputed legend of the Fab Four through external characters and incidental details, “what if” chapters and personal reminiscences ... It is Brown’s feeling for the revolutionary time and his beady eye for the quirks of the story that make the material sing.
Even at 600-plus pages this is a condensed version of a uniquely fascinating story. It’s characterised by a nicely British dryness ... If you want a one-volume primer that explains the fuss and what it was all about, this does the job. It hits the appropriate notes of wonder, tragedy and, particularly in the Apple days, farce ... Brown’s book is a diverting reminder of seven years that will never be matched and what they did to the people who lived through them.
Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four, the latest to enter the crowded library of Beatles books, is not a biography so much as a group portrait in vignettes, a rearrangement of stories and legends whose trick is to make them gleam anew ... The book is a social history as well as a musical one ... Brown is an able memoirist.
The short form is Brown’s strong suit so these post-biographies (or postcard biographies: chapters are divided into even smaller fragments) are mosaics, like a portrait made up of many photos ... The benefits of the approach are manifold: the short attention span is rewarded and much of the boring stuff may be omitted ... If Ma’am Darling was a royal biography for those who didn’t want to read one, then this intermittently brilliant commonplace book will certainly succeed on that same level for people exhibiting only the mildest symptoms of Beatlemania.
... a magical mystery tour that ends where it began — with Brian Epstein making his way down the 18 steps that led into the Cavern to hear John, Paul, George and — er Pete (yet to be replaced by Ringo) for the first time ... Brown seems to have invented a wholly new biographical form. In a polychromatic cavalcade of chapters of varying length, the man with kaleidoscope eyes conveys what it was like to live through those extraordinary Beatles years, with the odd glance at what came before ... Curiously in a book so plump with quirky details, Brown doesn’t mention that the album With the Beatles was released on the very day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated ... Hunter Davies and Mark Lewisohn remain their great biographers, but if you want to know what it was like to live those extraordinary Beatles years in real time, read this book.
Over the past 50 years, there has been a vast outpouring of Beatles books ... Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four is its latest addition ... Brown tells his anecdotes well, with a good choice of quotes and an easy prose style. His book is a useful digest, snapping up trifles from the voluminous Beatles bibliography. But its lack of analysis or original insight is exposed over the course of more than 600 pages.
... wildly imaginative and tremendously entertaining ... With nearly 200 books previously published on the Beatles and its four members, Brown delights in sorting through conflicting versions of band folklore ... Even fans who have read numerous books on the Beatles will enjoy Brown's sharp eye for fresh details and sharp tongue in his retelling ... compulsively readable, and Brown's love and admiration of the band shines on every page. His perceptive take on a treasure trove of stories creates an indelible, full-bodied biography of one of the most important bands in music history.
... overstuffed ... poor Ringo, as ever, mostly an afterthought ... Brown is not an uncritical worshipper, but when he does criticize, it’s seldom fresh ... Still, there are some little-known moments here ... Collectors of all things Beatles will relish Brown’s description of their first time getting high ... The author sometimes second-guesses ... Light on brand-new news but a pleasure for Fab Four completists.
There are many twists and turns in this addictive, immersive, funny, bizarre, silly, poignant, weird, and amazing mix of biography and cultural history ... Many 'glimpses' will be familiar to Beatles aficionados, but there are plenty of fresh takes, so that even the most knowledgeable fans will revel in the stories that Brown shares ... A must for everyone interested in music and pop culture and a true treasure for Beatles fans.
[It's] easy to wonder if there is a place for another book about the Beatles. In this case the answer is an emphatic yeah, yeah, yeah ... Brown offers a series of vignettes rather than a straightforward biography ... Brown presents a fresh take on a seemingly inexhaustible subject.
These well-chosen vignettes aptly illuminate the Beatles’ personalities along with the cultural chord they struck, and Brown knits them into an interpretation that’s both perceptive and hilariously pithy ... a fresh and captivating pointillist portrait of the band and its indelible vibe.