One Two Three Four by Craig Brown review – all about the Beatles

Humour and skilful writing bring alive a collection of anecdotes that retell the Beatles story In the build-up to the general election of 1987, Margaret Thatcher agreed to an interview with Smash Hits, the now defunct fortnightly pop magazine that had an estimated readership of 3.3 million. By way of attempting to avoid disaster, a prime ministerial aide called Christine Wall wrote her a briefing note that now reads as if it were intended for a visiting extra-terrestrial. The most surreal passage was about the Beatles. “Probably the two most famous BEATLES songs amongst many hits are YESTERDAY which has been recorded by hundreds of people including FRANK SINATRA AND ELVIS PRESLEY,” Wall wrote, “and ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE which was performed live in front of 640,000,000 people on TV in 1968.” The latter dateline was wrong – the event in question actually happened in 1967. And on the day of the interview, it was clear that Wall’s brief and inaccurate summary had failed to sink in: before it ended and she got back