Author interview: John Higgs on Love and Let Die

Love and Let Die is quite an undertaking, not only telling two concurrent and interconnected stories that span 60 years, but also putting those stories in their wider historical context and mentioning Freud, Putin, Vonnegut, Desmond Dekker and the Queen (to take just a small random sample) along the way. How did you decide what to put in and what to leave out? Was the book meticulously planned out or did it evolve as you wrote it?

The book is about seeing very familiar things in a new light, so the choice of what to put in and what to leave out was largely dependent on that. Most of the things that made it into the book are things that, I hope, help to show a new perspective or give new insights into a subject that we thought we already knew and understood. There is something very exciting in realising that there is more to the thing right under your nose than you realised. It is a reminder that even the most commonplace thing has its secrets to reveal.

And yes, the book absolutely evolved during writing, as they all do. I think if you knew what a book was going to be beforehand, there would be no point in writing it.

The Beatles must be the most written about band of all time, were you daunted by the weight of words already dedicated to them when you decided to write your own book about them?

Yes, definitely! I didn’t write about the Beatles for many years for that very reason. It wasn’t until I mentally put them alongside Bond and viewed them in that context that I felt I had a way to offer up something new. The great library of Beatle books has pretty much nailed down what happened, but there is still room to explore what it all means.

It helps that, because of the nature of the publishing industry, the perspective of the establishment subculture is massively overrepresented in what has previously been written. There’s still a great deal to talk about from outside that bubble.

The coincidental release of the first Beatles record and first Bond film on the same day is quite extraordinary. Do you have a personal favourite among the many surprising connections between Bond and The Beatles you unearthed in your research?

It’s obviously great that it was Ringo of all the people who ended up marrying a Bond Girl. I also like that Ian Fleming’s wife used to refer to him as ThunderBeatle. At the time of writing, rumours in the press claim Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the favourite to become the next Bond. If that came true that would be very pleasing, given his portrayal of John Lennon in Nowhere Boy.

The Beatles are endlessly fascinating, why do you think that is?

That’s a really good question – because they really are endlessly fascinating. With most subjects, there comes a time when you decide you know enough about it, and can move on. But with the Beatles, you never really reach that point – the more you know about them, the more interested you become. I suspect that it might have something to do with just how implausible it is that they could be that good, that popular, and have that big an impact. It doesn’t seem believable, sometimes, that all that actually happened.

Can you remember the first time you heard a Beatles song?

I can’t, and I don’t think many people can either. Their music is so prevalent in our culture that it’s always present – you’re absorbing it as a nipper. In that way it’s become the folk music of our age.

What’s your favourite Beatle song and why?

My favourite album is the White Album, but naming a favourite song is trickier. Part of the appeal of the Beatles is that there is so much good stuff, and it is so varied, that narrowing it down just seems wrong. If you were to force me to just say one, however, I think it would have to be A Day In The Life. That does feel like the pinnacle of their craft.

Who is the best Beatle?

It’s the chemistry between the four of them that matters, to me anyway. Focusing on any one takes away from that. It’s like asking which is your best limb.

Who is the best Bond?

I’m increasingly of the opinion that it is Daniel Craig. But with luck, the best will be the next guy!

What will be the subject of your next book?

I’m working on four different books at the moment, so my head is far too mangled and confused to try to answer that! I don’t advise anyone try this – one book at a time is more than enough.

Love and Let Die by John Higgs

LOVE AND LET DIE by John Higgs published by W&N available in Hardback, eBook and audio £22

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Read an extract from Love and Let Die: 1965: Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts 

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