Hunter Davies gets back to his Beatles biography
Writer has announced he is about to publish his 99th and 100th books – including an updated edition of his authorised biography of The Beatles
16 August, 2018 — By Gerald Isaaman
The Beatles’ arrival in the US
AT 82 he still runs for a bus, his favourite form of transport, in Kentish Town. He regularly walks on the Heath and dives into the men’s swimming pond when it’s not busy.
He claims he takes no pills whatever, goes on holiday with his new girlfriend, aged 70, and, moreover, continues to tap the keys of his computer writing about finance for the Sunday Times and football for the New Statesman.
Indeed, prolific Hunter Davies has announced with self-acclaim that he is about to publish his 99th and 100th books – to become a truly grand old man of letters, one long ago famed for the only authorised biography of The Beatles, selling untold millions globally.
Now his saga of the Liverpool rock band that changed popular music in the Swinging Sixties has appeared in an updated edition to mark the book’s 50th anniversary
And it just happens to be but one of five of Hunter’s tomes still in print, notably among them The Glory Game, his story of his favourite football team, Spurs, whose Premium Division matches he still attends.
“Yes, of course it’s a great achievement. I’m thrilled and very proud of myself,” he tells me at his home in Boscastle Road, Dartmouth Park, where he now lives alone following the death in 2016 of his wife, the novelist and biographer Margaret Forster.
“The 100th book, the main one, is the third volume of my memoirs and at the moment it’s called Happy Old Me, which roughly covers a year of my life since Margaret died and is about being on my own, coping in this house, cooking, cleaning and everything else,” he explains. “And after a year I decided I wanted a female friend to go on holiday with and do things with. So I’ve now got a girlfriend. I’m not going to get married again, I’m not going to live with anybody. She’s just a chum. And that’s all I want to say about it at the moment.”
Hunter Davies with late wife Margaret Forster
Where did he find romance again?
“I didn’t want to go online to a dating agency,” Hunter replies. “I didn’t want to meet a stranger. Lots of people wrote to me after Margaret died saying how sorry they were.
“And one of them was someone I used to work with 30 years ago. She’s in the media. She’s aged 70, a young woman.”
Meanwhile, in October, Hunter will produce his 99th book, which has its roots in his early life in Carlisle. This will be a collection of the columns he has written regularly over the past decade for the Cumbria Life county magazine, and is due to be called My Cumbria Life.
All of which is a long haul back to his first book, a novel called Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, written when he and Margaret found their first London home in the Vale of Health, on the edge of Hampstead Heath. It was here that she established herself with her 1965 novel, Georgy Girl, which was made into a movie, and also a short-lived Broadway musical.
While he admits he cannot compete with romantic novelists such as the late Barbara Cartland, who wrote books galore, Hunter insists he hasn’t cheated by including in his century books he ghosted – the life stories, for instance, of footballers Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney – provided his name appeared on them as their editor and it has its own ISBN number.
It was in September, 1966, while writing the Atticus column on the Sunday Times, that he approached Paul McCartney for an interview seeking to discover where the poetry of his lyrics came from.
He returned later to ask Paul to write the theme music for his Mulberry Bush movie. “He didn’t, but while I was with him I suggested there should be a proper book about the Beatles who were then the biggest group in the world, household names.
“I said to Paul that if there was a serious hardback book, which covered their music properly, it might stop people asking them the same dopey old questions.”
The task took two years to complete after he finally obtained the permission of the Beatles’ manager, the late Brian Epstein, by writing “a suitable, arse-licking letter” to him.
“They seemed to be into new things, new sounds, new ideas all the time,” Hunter points out, fearing that by the time the biog was published it would be out of date.
Hence subsequent updates and visits still to McCartney’s home in St John’s Wood, not far from the Abbey Road zebra crossing that led to the Beatles’ recording studio. And he still visits him nowadays.
“He invites me to parties and I have met his new wife,” says Hunter. “And I still play the Beatles music at home. It’s the only music I play. I haven’t moved on. I love them all. At Margaret’s funeral I played And I Love Her.”
• The Beatles: The Authorised Biography. By Hunter Davies, Ebury Press, £13