Some good news for these dark times: Craig Brown’s biography One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time (Fourth Estate) is out this week and by all accounts is a great cheerful beast that provides a kaleidoscopic overview of the life and times of the group — and, as all the reviews have happily informed us, you don’t even have to like their music to enjoy the book.

As Brown points out, there were many who didn’t think much of the Beatles. Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwork Orange, described their music as “vapid … twanging nonsense”. The conservative commentator William F Buckley Jr claimed they were “not merely awful” but “appallingly unmusical” and “dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art”. Newsweek, similarly tin-eared, declared, “Musically, they are a near disaster … [and their lyrics] a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments”...

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