Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney

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Howard Sounes, the bestselling author of Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, turns his considerable reporting and storytelling skills to one of the most famous, talented—and wealthiest—men alive: Paul McCartney.

Fab is the first exhaustive biography of the legendary musician; it tells Sir Paul’s whole life story, from childhood to present day, from working-class Liverpool beginnings ...

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Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney

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Howard Sounes, the bestselling author of Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, turns his considerable reporting and storytelling skills to one of the most famous, talented—and wealthiest—men alive: Paul McCartney.

Fab is the first exhaustive biography of the legendary musician; it tells Sir Paul’s whole life story, from childhood to present day, from working-class Liverpool beginnings to the cultural phenomenon that was The Beatles to his many solo incarnations.

Fab is the definitive portrait of McCartney, a man of contradictions and a consummate musician far more ruthless, ambitious, and moody than his relaxed public image implies. Based on original research and more than two hundred new interviews, Fab also reveals for the first time the full story of his two marriages, romances, family feuds, phenomenal wealth, and complex relationships with his fellow ex-Beatles.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In 1999, BBC News Online readers, perhaps with a tinge of chauvinism, named Sir Paul McCartney "the greatest composer of the millennium." (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart finished a distant second.) Even without that honor, there is no denying the popularity and influence of the most successful musician and composer in the history of popular music. Superlatives and fan frenzy have, however, obscured the man himself. This definitive, richly detailed biography by pop culture specialist Howard Sounes (Down the Highway) cuts through that veil with hundreds of new interviews and systematic research. Like its subject, major in every way.

From the Publisher

Booklist, July 2010
“Everyone knows who Paul McCartney is. And everyone can imagine how much in demand this biography will be.”

Kirkus, 9/15/10
“[A] solid addition to the ever-expanding library of books about the Beatle named Paul…More than 200 interviews—and no-nonsense attention to detail…The graceful prose and superb storytelling create a riveting narrative.”

Booklist, 10/15/10 (starred review)
“Sounes has earned a well-deserved reputation for writing thoroughly researched, intricately detailed biographies. This comprehensive biography of McCartney is no exception. Sounes seems to have spoken to every living person with any connection to the former Beatle…Fab covers all the highlights of McCartney’s life and long career…This is by no means a hagiography. On the contrary, Sounes gives criticism when warranted, remarking on McCartney’s flaws both as a musician and as a man. Indeed, Sounes is often brutally honest, offering a full portrait—warts and all—of one of the most famous men of the modern era. A must for Beatles and McCartney fans…In spite of his persistent mega-fame, this is the first comprehensive, candid, and up-to-date portrait of Sir Paul McCartney, making it a magnet for boomers and serious music lovers.”

Library Journal, 10/15/10
“A probing work that examines McCartney’s foibles to a much greater extent than, for example, Barry Miles’s authorized Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now…There is a ton of engrossing, well-documented material here…A worthwhile read for McCartney fans; recommended for all public libraries.”

The Independent, 9/24/10
“Exceedingly thorough…A good read for those seeking a Pauline perspective on the Beatles plus a look at his solo career.”

Stuff.co.nz “Blog on Tracks
,” 9/14/10“
A fantastic tome…Sounes adds a lot to the story and his methodical, meticulous research style means that he's actually bringing new things out…Sounes has, through hundreds of interviews, built a book about McCartney that addresses the myth, understands the legend and is balanced; never getting anywhere near the all too common hagiography that is the bane of reading the  modern music biography/ghost-written-autobiography…I found it the perfect balance of entertainment and education/research—and, as such, it's one of the best biographies I've ever read.”

Blurt Online, 10/18/10
“The portrait painted in Howard Sounes’ Fab is of a man with more to him than meets the eye or ear…Sounes' treatment of Paul is fairly even-handed though. He doesn't shy away from the bad and doesn't overstate the good…There's still a hunger for all things Beatle and Sounes' book has its place.”

Word, November 2010
“[T]he first major unauthorized biography…. Howard Sounes brings to the task the same solid journalistic values he employed in writing his Dylan biography Down the Highway,which succeeded in unearthing troves of new information through the simple expedient of diligent legwork, hunting down the right people, and asking them the right questions.”

Rolling Stone, 11/11/10
“Few Beatle biographies are as exhaustive as this 634-page epic: Sounes paints an unsparing portrait of McCartney…For fans willing to ponder their hero’s flaws, Fab delivers all you need to know—and a lot more.”

Wall Street Journal, 10/29/10
“Provide[s] sound background on Mr. McCartney's working-class roots, the environs of Liverpool, and the bonding of two song-writing youths (Mr. McCartney and John Lennon) who both lost their mothers while still in their teens. The author turns up new details on these early topics.”
San AntonioExpress-News, 10/24/10
“[A] massive, exhaustively researched biography.”
New YorkJournal of Books, 10/26/10
“Delivers on every promise it even thinks about making…McCartney fans will enjoy hearing some of the never-before-told stories about his family…The author handles the rougher topics with a professionalism that attempts to be as unbiased as possible…Sounes’ narrative writing style is easy to read. Instead of feeling like a dry, academic work, the book reads almost like a novel…The 500+ pages do not necessarily fly by, but the tale told is worth the time it takes to tell it.”
The Independent, 9/24/10
“Exceedingly thorough…A good read for those seeking a Pauline perspective on the Beatles plus a look at his solo career.”


Blogcritics.org, 10/29/10
“A compelling read…Since Sounes has dug so deep into McCartney lore, there is bound to be a surprise or two for even for the staunchest admirer…Hard to put down. Sounes' writing style is breezy without being slight. His admiration for his subject is evident, even when he is at his most candid, all of which makes Fab a worthwhile read.”

Desert News
, 10/31/10

“[The] first exhaustive biography of James Paul McCartney.”

Bookviews.com, November 2010

“Will more than satisfy any one of his fans.”

National Post
(Canada), 11/1/10
“Massive…Full of intriguing snapshots.”

CBC News
(Canada), 11/4/10

“A compelling biography.”

Record Collector
(UK), December 2010

“Macca examined in high-def accuracy…Where Sounes scores…is in scything through the wild undergrowth of facts, misinformation and myths to present a level-headed portrait of a musician who, obviously, is still held in fascination by the public…The definitive take on an extraordinary career…Sounes is also admirably responsible in his dissection of the Heather Mills years, sifting through the tabloid salaciousness to outline chains of events with the confident, dispassionate eye of a seasoned and reliable journalist.”

The Onion, 11/11/10
Fab does a credible job of outlining McCartney’s life and habits. So much has been written about The Beatles—and by contrast, so little about McCartney’s far longer (and during the ’70s, nearly as popular) solo career—that Sounes’ equal treatment of the eras is welcome.”

Tucson Citizen
, 11/8/10

“A 634-page epic about Paul McCartney that covers almost every aspect of his life…Sounes has done his homework, his research detailed and meticulous…The result is a rather unsettling portrait of an incredibly creative, complex man who could be petty and nasty, generous and charitable…Revealing, well-crafted, and utterly fascinating.”

Star, 11/5/10
“[An] unauthorized biography of the famous and unimaginably wealthy bassist and composer…A minutely detailed and comprehensive account of the famous musician’s life up to now…On the whole, Sounes renders his subject sympathetically, as a gifted but flawed character.”

Gazette’s “Words & Music” Blog, 11/11/10
“The first book to properly deal with McCartney's career after the Beatles.”

BookPage, December 2010
“Impressively thorough and up-to-date.”

Kirkus Reviews
website, 10/26/10

“Reveal[s] a side of the ‘nice’ Beatle most people never knew existed.”

San Francisco
Book Review, November 2010
“A fascinating and nostalgic trip back to when the Beatles changed the course of music forever.”

InfoDad.com, 11/18/10

“Exhaustively researched…Name-packed, gossipy, interpretative but not judgmental, and very detail-oriented…Fans of McCartney will surely find [it] intriguing if they receive it as a gift.”
BlogTalkRadio’s “Mr. Media”, 11/18/10
“Howard Sounes won’t deny that there have been an awful lot of books about the Beatles and Paul McCartney. But that didn’t give him pause; he just researched and wrote one of the best.”
New York Times Book Review, 12/5/10
Fab lifts off…in 1967, with the introduction of its most interesting character—the rock photographer Linda Eastman, who set her sights on Paul and determined to marry him even before they had met…Sounes’s portrayal of her is complicated, fascinating in its contradictions.”

Miami Herald, 11/28/10
“The first serious biographical attempt to pay as much attention to the 40-year span that followed McCartney’s run in the Beatles as it does to his decade within the Fab Four…Sounes’ reach is commendable.”

Publishers Weekly (web-exclusive), 11/22/10
“An engaging, set-the-record-straight biography…Sounes writes knowledgeably of the Beatles' close relationship with their tortured manager, Brian Epstein, the genius produced by George Martin, and the dismal details of the group's final falling out…Sounes packs in a lot.”

Asbury Park Press, 11/21/10
“[A] comprehensive biography…The book is in two parts—before and after The Beatles. It will not be surprising that the first part is a real page-turner. Even though a lot of that material has been covered before in countless books and articles, Sounes makes the stories interesting.”

Blogcritics.org, 11/25/10
“A must-read for the Beatles or McCartney fan who thinks he has read it all. Billed as the first complete biography of Paul McCartney's life, Sounes' exhaustively researched book more than lives up to that lofty claim...Through it all, Sounes is both thorough and unflinching in his appraisal of both McCartney's music, and of the man himself.”

TheBookWeb.com, 11/18/10
“[A] fascinating and minutely detailed biography…An illuminating portrait of the most successful Beatle, and unlike many other Beatle biographies, Sounes gives as much time to his post-Beatle life as the Beatle era.”

HistoryWire.com, 12/3/10
“[A] doorstop of a biography of one of the few musicians ever knighted by the Queen.”

 Los AngelesTimes, 12/5/10
“Ambitious, ruthless and charming: A Liverpool lad's journey to music superstardom and icon status. And it's unauthorized, love.”

DetroitMetrotimes, 11/30/10
“Exhaustive… A warts-and-all treatment.”

Salon.com, 12/6/10
“I'm not going to pretend that I've read everything or even most of what has been written about McCartney; from what I have read, Sounes' book is easily the best. For one thing, he can write…For another, Sounes has a proper appreciation of how much sleaze is needed in a book about any pop idol…Sounes is quite good on Paul's childhood years, his Liverpool working-class background, and his early associations with the other future Beatles.”
AustinChronicle, 12/10/10
“Sounes' epic McCartney biography is essential…Sounes is no hagiographer, but in the end, his vivid rendering of McCartney reveals a fundamentally decent chap on balance.”
Metroland, 12/13/10
“Moves smoothly from the familiar coming together and dissolution of the Beatles on to the subsequent bulk of his life as a solo artist, father, husband (including the disastrous second go-round), and knighted man of wealth.”
WaterburySunday Republican, 12/5/10
“Door-stopper thick…Though the Beatles may be the most written about musical act in world history, Sounes’ giant book reminds us that the existence of the ‘Fab Four’ comprised only a thin slice of McCartney’s life.”
Acadiana LifeStyle, December 2010
“Paul’s life, loves and music are fully explored. This is a must for Beatle/McCartney fans.”
WinnipegFree Press (Canada), 12/11/10
“Provid[es] a window into the entirety of the great pop musician's creative and personal journey…Impressive...McCartney's life has been well documented in print, but never with such expanse…In many ways, Fab is as much a recollection of another time as it is a window onto a great artist's accomplishments and, not infrequently, failures.”
Montreal Gazette, 12/11/10
“One might think Paul McCartney's life has already been examined exhaustively, but the post-Beatles years—and that's a lot of years—have always been given short shrift until now…Sounes is a tenacious researcher.”
One of the Best Biographies of 2010.

Booklist, 12/20/10
2010 Adult Editors’ Choice

New York
Times, 12/19/10
“Expand[s] on the myth for insatiable Beatlemaniacs.”

Times, 12/24/10
“[Sounes] writes quite movingly about [Linda McCartney’s] death from cancer.”

WomanAroundTown.com, 12/17/10
“This book…is nearly as fascinating as ‘the cute Beatle’ himself.”
Blog on Books, 12/1/10
“Excellently researched…Sounes has assembled an immensely detailed yet personal look at both halves of the public McCartney era. (Beatles and post-Beatles). The book is the most complete (in terms of time span), interesting and even handed look at the ‘cute’ Beatle to hit the market yet…Attention to detail and a highly readable format…puts this book head and shoulders above many of the more superficial or purely data driven works on the subject.”
Eat Sleep Drink Music, 12/9/10
“A proper biography…Given that Sounes manages to tackle both the highs and the lows of McCartney’s career while neither rhapsodizing nor crucifying the man, it’s no surprise that the reviews for Fab have been, well, fab.”

MelbourneHerald Sun (Australia), 1/8/11
“Howard Sounes has done his homework to turn up so much that even Beatles fans might not have known. These 672 pages mostly demand attention, much more so than 671 pages of McCartney's authorised biography...A compelling re-telling of rock's greatest story.”

CharlestonPost and Courier, 1/9/11
“This comprehensive text is billed as ‘the first exhaustive biography of Sir Paul,’ and it lives up to that billing. The book is well-researched and finely detailed, with many pages of source documentation provided…The book is stuffed with fascinating anecdotes and previously unpublished incidents…An excellent resource.”

Ellsworth American, 1/13/11
“An insightful and human look at the cute (and nice) Beatle from his early life in Liverpool up to the present day.”
MidwestBook Review, January 2011
“A 'must’ for any library seeking a definitive representation of the Beatles.”

Houston Press Rocks Off Blog,1/26/11
“Howard Sounes has produced the finest, most detailed, and most up-to-date doorstop tome on the life and music of Macca. And that includes the similarly-large near-autobiography Many Years from Now…[He] conducted more than 200 original interviews, and the effort shows…Fresh glimpses and incidents from McCartney's youth and solo career abound.”

Reference & Research Book News
, February 2011
“The author's lively style makes his book an interesting read.”
Internet Review of Books, 1/4/11
“A solid, exhaustively researched, and very readable account…The portrait of ‘Sir Paul’ is a balanced and honest one.”

Magill Book Reviews“Sounes makes a convincing case that McCartney needed to play off the strong-willed Lennon to do good work…Well written, with Sounes providing lively accounts of concerts he has attended.”
LosingToday.com, 5/22/11
“The author does a more than commendable job of detailing McCartney's activities in both the public and personal domain…A very detailed and very human portrait that can just as easily be enjoyed by casual fans as devotees.”

Booklist, Top Ten Biographies: 2011, 6/1/11
“This is the first comprehensive, candid, and up-to-date portrait of Sir Paul McCartney.”
Curled Up with a Good Book, 9/25/11
“Sounes is not afraid to call out McCartney on some of his less than stellar work…Fab is a good book for learning who McCartney was and who he became.”
HudsonValleyNews, 12/21/11“The Beatles did, indeed, change the course of music forever. Read all about it, fans.”

PortlandBook Review, March/April Issue“This book takes readers beyond the success of the Beatles—the pop culture icons and classic musicians—and sheds light upon their life before stardom. The author writes with so much heart he makes readers feel as though they’re walking with Paul McCartney through his life…Fab is an essential piece to add to any Beatles fan collection.”

VancouverColumbian, 6/24/12
“A well-researched extremely detailed biography…If you’re a fan of ‘the cute Beatle’ and want more than the tidbits you might find in People magazine, this is the biography for you.”

Joseph’s Reviews blog, 8/27/12
“Provides details that are not found in any of the band bios of The Beatles…This intimate biography is a model for future rock biographers. Highly recommended.”

Library Journal
Biographer Sounes (Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan) conducted hundreds of new interviews and utilized various published sources to tackle perhaps the most commercially successful musician of the rock era. Because the focus is on McCartney's life, there is relatively little analysis of his songs and albums. As a biography, however, it is a probing work that examines McCartney's foibles to a much greater extent than, for example, Barry Miles's authorized Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. That is not to say that Sounes focuses solely on the negative. He provides examples of little-known acts of generosity by the musician. Sounes is a strongly opinionated writer, and some aspects of McCartney's life receive less attention than perhaps they should as a result. For example, despite McCartney's practice of transcendental meditation, Sounes somewhat flippantly dismisses it as a spiritual practice. Likewise, in his discussion of sources, the author disregards every other biography of McCartney, save the Miles book. VERDICT There is a ton of engrossing, well-documented material here, but sometimes the casual style makes the book seem less authoritative than it may be. A worthwhile read for McCartney fans; recommended for all public libraries.—James E. Perone, Univ. of Mount Union, Alliance, OH
Kirkus Reviews

Solid addition to the ever-expanding library of books about the Beatle named Paul.

Like Peter Carlin's Paul McCartney: A Life (2009) and unlike Barry Miles' Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, this biography by Sounes (The Wicked Game: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and the Story of Modern Golf, 2004, etc.), a Londoner who has also written bios of Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski, was neither sanctioned nor supported by McCartney. It includes interviews with friends, family, business associates and even groupies to round out the reliance on secondary material. Fabis nearly twice as long as Carlin's book, though it covers roughly the same period and events: McCartney's mostly happy childhood in working-class Liverpool, rapid rise to iconic stature as a rock star, bitter divorce from Heather Mills and triumphant return to a Liverpool stage during the city's reign as European Capital of Culture in 2008. The extra volume may be due to Sounes's obsessive research—more than 200 interviews—and no-nonsense attention to detail. The portrait of McCartney that emerges is not only that of a talented and occasionally visionary musician but of a brilliant and often lucky businessman. On the negative side, McCartney comes across as arrogant, controlling, intolerant of dissent, a mean and stingy boss, humorless when challenged or criticized, and too much of a pothead to care. Sounes doesn't hide his low opinion of McCartney's post-Beatles repertoire, particularly in the lyric department. His sources agree: McCartney was at his best given a partner who gave as good as he (or she) got—someone like John Lennon or George Martin. The result of being Lennonless was the indecisive overproduction and sappy songs of Wings and the solo period during the '80s. Family-centric living and superhuman wealth probably also inhibited the ex-Beatle's genius, but the pain of losing Lennon, his dear wife Linda and George Harrison—not to mention the humiliation of the Mills affair—seems to have reawakened the bard and decent bloke within.

Despite covering well-trodden ground, the graceful prose and superb storytelling create a riveting narrative.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306820472
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Pages: 656
  • Sales rank: 457,517
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Sounes is the bestselling author of meticulously researched and revelatory books including Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life. He lives in London.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 With The Beatles

1 A Liverpool Family 3

2 John 16

3 Hamburg 34

4 London 52

5 The Mania 71

6 America 90

7 Yesterday 108

8 First Finale 127

9 Linda 148

10 Hello, Goodbye 168

11 Paul Takes Charge 183

12 Weird Vibes 197

13 Wedding Bells 214

14 Creative Differences 236

Part 2 After The Beatles

15 He's Not A Beatle Any More! 255

16 The New Band 271

17 In The Heart Of The Country 286

18 The Good Life 305

19 Go To Jail 327

20 Into The Eighties 347

21 Trival Pursuits 363

22 The Next Best Thing 382

23 Music Is Music 400

24 A Three-Quarters Reunion 419

25 Passing Through The Dream Of Love 435

26 Run Devil Run 451

27 That Difficult Second Marriage 474

28 When Paul Was Sixty-Four 491

29 The Ever-Present Past 506

Acknowledgements 529

Source Notes 533

Bibliography 567

Index 571

Picture Credits 601

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 31, 2010

    A Fabulous Prtrait ...

    The lives of the Beatles as a band and as solo artists has been well documented over the years, yet die-hard fans (like myself) savor "all things Beatles" and this account will be one of them. First, let me say that Mr. Sounes book is greatly detailed. Due to his comprehensive research and countless interviews the reader learns a bit more about young McCartney's relationship with the McCartney clan and the influence that they have had on him throughout his life. As a young man or as a married man it seems that family is at his core. His marriage to Linda and their commitment to their children was/is a grounding and needed force and we learn about the dynamics of that relationship. The author writes honestly about Paul the man. Amidst great talent & fame, he has faced personal & professional ups & downs filled with egotistical moments or great self-doubt. He has faced the loss of his parents, his band, his wife and his two very good mates. This portrait of Paul is sprinkled with wonderful moments and memories and perhaps that is what makes this book so rich.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    Ronnie loves it

    To worthwhile but not outstanding.........i f****** care for opinions but,yours is f****** not nesisere...............i sorry for bad languge : ( i hope we become friends............somehow............sometime..............

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

    A good read. Although the story has been written many times befo

    A good read. Although the story has been written many times before there are additional details and insights that makes it interesting. Recommended for any Beatle fan.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Liverpool Lad makes a name for himself.

    Where most Beatleology texts wrap up in the early 70s here it's only the first half of the story. Comprehensively pulled together we find the details behind antecdotes only covered in some biographies and articles. Here we have the most up to date coverage of what becomes "for better or worse", and better again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Paul McCartney Fab

    I live in the books that I read - I ususally highlight with a yellow pen my favoriate parts.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2011

    Worthwhile but not outstanding

    Interesting insights and interviews with members of Paul's family. But laden wtih factual inaccuracies and inconsistencies that proper editing should have detected. Also drags in places. Not a bad read but unexceptional.

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Fab: An intimate life of Paul McCartney, is a great book, it explains the life of Sir Paul McCartney, it tells you all the little details that you never thought you would know about the icon of rock & roll. It tells you the story of The Beatles, from the beginning when Paul met John, until the end when they released their last album "Let it Be". If you are a Paul McCartney fan, a Beatles fan or you just want to know more about the greatest band ever, I highly recommend you this book.

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    Posted November 2, 2011

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    Posted December 5, 2010

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