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The long and winding read: A fresh look at the Beatles 50 years after they split

Music: One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time

Craig Brown

Fourth Estate, 656 pages, hardback €24, Kindle £9.99

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All roads lead to Hamburg: Paul, George, John and Ringo in the early days of the Fab Four

All roads lead to Hamburg: Paul, George, John and Ringo in the early days of the Fab Four

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown

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All roads lead to Hamburg: Paul, George, John and Ringo in the early days of the Fab Four

In his 2008 book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claimed to have discovered the secret ingredient that made The Beatles the most successful rock band of all time: put the work in early and you reap the rewards. By 1963, when they released their first album Please Please Me, the band were tight as hell. They could also read each other's musical tones and touches with unconscious and almost telepathic intuition. That formula worked until they split 50 years ago in April 1970.

Gladwell's theory believes that all roads lead back to Hamburg: this subscribes to the idea that the work the band put in early on enabled their later success.

As the British journalist and author Craig Brown points out in One Two Three Four, the band cut their teeth on the Reeperbahn: the notorious red light district in the German city where dope fiends, hookers, hucksters, gangsters and strippers converged nocturnally in a marketplace with only two commodities for sale: sex and drugs.