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Brisk business for Beatles by themselves
LONDON, England -- The first book ever written by the members of the Beatles about the most famous rock band in the world has gone on sale around the world.
Thirty years after the Fab Four split up, fans in Japan were the first of an anticipated 20 million people to buy The Beatles Anthology.
The 370-page autobiography is being released globally in 13 languages at midnight in major cities around the world.
More than 1.5 million advance orders have been placed for the lavishly illustrated book, which is encyclopaedic in size and contains 1,200 photographs.
The book will sell for about £35 ($50), generating profits of about £1 billion for the three collaborators -- Paul McCartney, 57, George Harrison, 57, and Ringo Starr, 59 -- and Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon, the Beatle shot dead in New York in 1980.
The band members' assurances that they had not done it for the money are credible given Sir Paul has an estimated fortune of £550 million ($800 million), Harrison £90 million ($130 million) and Starr more than £70 million ($100 million).
Geoff Baker, the Beatles' press officer, said "The truth is more important to them than the money."
The surviving Beatles met secretly over a period of six years to compile the material for the book, which is said to be the fullest and most candid account yet of the group's story.
McCartney, the driving force behind the memoir who persuaded Starr and Harrison to participate in its writing, recently told The Telegraph newspaper in Britain: "It dispels some of the myths and puts the record straight, as every Tom, Dick and uncle of a friend of the milkman has been writing books on the Beatles since 1963."
Among the many revelations in the tome, is a claim that their first manager, Brian Epstein, tried to persuade them to settle for a weekly wage while he siphoned off the millions of pounds their records were earning.
According to George Harrison "Epstein tried to get us to sign a deal saying he would guarantee us 50 pounds a week forever and keep the rest. We thought, 'No, we'll risk it, Brian, we'll risk earning a bit more than 50 pounds a week."
Under the deal, the Beatles would by now have earned barely £100,000 pounds ($160,000).
But the book also reveals the band did not have flawless foresight, detailing how the record company ensured they paid the band just one old penny between them for each single record sold during the early 1960s and 10 pence for every album.
It also reveals how band members had very different memories of the myriad sensational events surrounding them.
More poignantly, the threesome confess that even now, years after going their separate ways and carving out careers as solo artists, they find it impossible to throw off the sensation of being, for all time, a "Beatle".
For Starr it has been "impossible to turn the page and say, I'm no longer a Beatle. To this day, and for everyone, that's all I am."
Harrison shares the sense of being a prisoner of their past: "It was a one-way love affair. People gave us their love and their hysteria, but the Beatles lost their mental health."
The book's other highlights include a definitive account of the band's early days, the Beatles' use of drugs and -- most controversially -- their decision to split up in 1970.
The Beatles international renown was evident in the massive demand for the book when it went on sale in Tokyo overnight.
Due to the difference in time zones, Japan's launch is nearly half a day ahead of Europe and the United States.
Accompanied by a Japanese band playing a string of famous Beatles songs, the 1,000 copies displayed on sale at the HMV shop in Tokyo's trendy Shibuya district vanished within the hour, despite a price tag of 6,800 yen ($62).
We would not feel safe
Twenty-year old Beatle fan Naoyuki Kamiyama said that, although he had never listened to the Beatles during their heyday, he had to buy the book because he believed the band's music was classic. "In the classic world, it's Mozart," Kamiyama said. "And like Mozart, I strongly believe the Beatles will survive time and fashion."
"I am definitely a Beatle-maniac," said 50-year-old Takashi Kaneko who attended the Tokyo launch with his wife. "We grew up with them."
The release of the Beatles Anthology preceeds next week's opening of Japan's first museum officially dedicated to John Lennon.
The museum has been built in a corner of a huge sports arena in the unfashionable Town of Yono, some 25 km (15 miles) north of Tokyo and at the heart of the urban sprawl that forms Japan's biggest metropolis.
Mark David Chapman, the assassin who gunned down the music legend outside his New York apartment almost 20 years ago, was denied parole on Tuesday. Chapman, who is serving a life sentence, was ordered held for at least two more years until his next hearing in 2002.
Ono had written a letter to the authorities appealing for Chapman's continued imprisonment, saying that if he were released, she and John's two sons, Sean and Julian, would "not feel safe for the rest of our lives."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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