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Wednesday, January 25, 1967

Hunter Davies sign contract with Brian Epstein to write the first authorised biography of The Beatles

Last updated on May 6, 2024

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In 1966, Hunter Davies, a journalist for the Sunday Times, had already authored two books, including the novel “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” Moved by the Beatles’ song “Eleanor Rigby,” Davies visited Paul McCartney in September 1966, intending to feature the song prominently in his newspaper column. During a subsequent meeting at Paul’s residence, Davies sought to persuade Paul to compose the theme song for the film adaptation of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” While this idea did not materialize, their conversation sparked the possibility of an official Beatles biography.

Recalling their discussion in a 2002 interview for MOJO Magazine, Davies noted that there had been only two previous books about the band, “both paperbacks and neither substantial.” He suggested to Paul that an official history would prevent the Beatles from constantly answering the same questions posed by the media.

Through Paul’s introduction, Davies met with Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager. Epstein granted Davies full access to the band members and exclusive rights over any other writer seeking to write a similar biography within the next two years. Their contract, signed on January 25, 1967, stipulated that the Beatles had the authority to revise the submitted manuscript.

The Beatles – The Authorised Biography” was published in September 1968.

Everything started the day I met Paul. I’d interviewed him once, as a journalist, and got on OK. I went back later, in a different capacity, to ask him to do the music for a film I was involved in. It was through chatting about that — he said no to the film — that I got to know him and put the question: once and for all, wouldn’t it be best if someone got it all down before they forgot about it? He said great, but he was just one of the four. I would have to ask Brian, but he would tell me what sort of letter to write to him.

Little did I know that if by chance I’d become friendly with one of the others, it might not have worked. Paul has always been the keeny, the one who can be bothered, and most of all, the one who goes on to make things happen. I also didn’t know at the time that Brian always went to great lengths to please Paul most of all. The reasons for this are subtle and complicated. (And all in the book, hurrah.)

After a bit of chat, I signed a contract with Nems to do the book. It is my book, written as I wanted to do it, but they had to read it and make any “reasonable suggestions”. Clever wording, that.

Hunter Davies – From the Beatles Monthly Book, N°60, July 1968

In 1966, I was working at The Sunday Times when ‘Eleanor Rigby’ came out. I interviewed Paul about it because I thought the words and the music to the song were absolutely brilliant. I wrote a big piece in the paper saying, ‘I thought these were the best lyrics and the best poetry written in the Sixties.’ A few months later, I had written a novel, called Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, and that was being turned into a film, and I was the screenplay writer. And because Paul had written the soundtrack to The Family Way, I went to see Paul again, this time with the director of Mulberry Bush, a bloke called Clive Donner, at his house in Cavendish Avenue. But, this time I went to see Paul with a different hat on. Rather than being a journalist, I was there as a screenplay writer. We discussed with Paul whether he would do the music. In the end he didn’t. But, it was during that discussion with Paul, that I said, ‘There should be a proper biography on The Beatles.’ At that stage, I had written three books, and I was actually in the middle of another. What I said to Paul was, ‘You should have a proper hardback serious book, which gets you from A to Z and, for the rest of your life, when people ask you the same boring questions, such as, ‘Where do you get your hair cut?’ or whatever, you can say, ‘It’s all in the book.’ At this stage, there were only two books about The Beatles, Love Me Do, The Beatles Progress (1964), by Michael Braun, and The True Story of The Beatles, which was a fan club paperback. So Paul, there and then, said, ‘What a brilliant idea! Yes, you can do it. I’ll back it, but you’ve got to talk to Brian.’ So, he helped me write a creepy letter to Brian, asking, ‘Can I do the book?’ I had a meeting with Brian, and he cancelled three of four times. At the time, I didn’t know why he was cancelling, but I finally went to see Brian, and I took my agent and we signed the contract. I got a contract from Brian to be the official Beatles biographer, and, on the contract, it actually said that, ‘The Beatles can’t give interviews for another book for two years.’ Brian had never seen a literary contract before, so that was the most amazing clause to put in.

I came back to my publisher and told him that I had the exclusive contract to be The Beatles’ biographer, and he said, despondently, ‘Oh … the bubble’s going to burst. This is 1967, we know everything that we possibly want to know about The Beatles, and they’ll disappear soon.’ There was a book on Cliff Richard that had just come out, and nobody had bought it. So, I said, ‘This is more than pop music. This is social history.’ He said, ‘Sociology? Who needs sociology?’ My contract for the book was just £3,000. This was my total advance for doing it. I got my contract and I thought that I would spend the first few months not interviewing The Beatles, I would just simply hang around them.

Hunter Davies – From “The Beatles: Off the Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."

We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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