Mark Lewisohn was born on 16 June 1958 in London NW9, to parents Jo and Philip. He went to Glebe Primary School in nearby Kenton, and – after his family relocated in 1969 – to Pinner Grammar School. He worked in several admin posts at the BBC 1974–81, was appointed to the newly-created position of research manager at trade magazine Music Week (when temporarily called Music & Video Week), and then, in 1983, went freelance as a writer-researcher-historian, intent on turning his lifelong interest in the Beatles (and much else) into his profession. He's never returned to a normal job since, having now passed 36 years of living off his wits.
Involved in many interesting creative projects right through the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and now 2010s, Mark's full CV would extend to plenty of pages. He wrote for the BBC's weekly programme journal Radio Times for fifteen years, which led to his backbreaking encyclopedia Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy (two editions, 1998 and 2003).
More than anything, Mark is renowned as a Beatles historian, a reputation that began in his years as researcher for other writers and was confirmed in 1986 when he made his debut as a published author with The Beatles Live! – a diary-like account of the group as stage performers.
This method of writing history as reference continued with The Beatles Recording Sessions. For this, EMI Records paid Mark to go into Abbey Road Studios to listen to all of the Beatles' tapes – the original, unheard recordings that led to their completed masters – and write a book about them. The essence of this tome was then folded into the Live! text and newly-researched knowledge of all the group's radio, TV and film activities to make The Complete Beatles Chronicle, published in 1992, which some Beatles have called the bible. After this, Mark was one of three authors of capital guidebook The Beatles' London, a constantly enjoyable side project.
Mark was employed in all aspects of The Beatles Anthology, their own official history – working as researcher and consultant to the Apple Corps TV series (and subsequent video and DVD releases), and as right-hand-man to producer George Martin on the three double-CD audio releases, and finally as a contributing editor on the book.
He also did plenty of interesting work for Paul McCartney from 1987 to 2002, being for seven years editor-writer of Paul and Linda's fine quarterly newspaper Club Sandwich.
After the 1998 publication of Mark's Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy, his literary agent took him to lunch and posed a telling question: 'Instead of spending eight years working on a book for two years' money, why don't you write something that better rewards the effort you put in?' In other words, 'You're 40 years old, it's time to make a change.'
“freshly, comprehensively, colourfully,
accurately and even-handedly”
The new way was biography. There'd been invitations before, but Mark didn't yet know if he had the necessary skill-set. As the Comedy Guide was newly out, the obvious step was to pick a comedian, and the consensus from several publishers was that he should write the life story of Benny Hill. It was certainly a rich one – Hill's career encompassed many elements of 20th century performing arts, he was an odd individual (Mark titled the book Funny, Peculiar), and when somehow Hill clicked into an unlikely huge global fame, he suffered simultaneously a disastrous collapse in popularity at home, becoming publicly reviled.
Published in 2002, the book sold strongly, won great acclaim and confirmed to Mark not only that he could write biography, but that this long-form narrative lark was a strong vehicle for weaving his research inside an engaging storyline. With that clear in his head, he knew what he had to do.
The Beatles: All These Years got underway in 2003, and Mark signed publishing contracts in 2004. It remains now what it was from the outset: a trilogy, in which the Beatles' story will be told freshly, comprehensively, colourfully, accurately and even-handedly, with no corners cut and no research stone left unturned.
TUNE IN is the first of them, published at the end of 2013, a New York Times bestseller, and winner in 2015 of the inaugural Penderyn Prize for music book of the year. Volume 2, to be at least as substantial as volume 1, is in preparation, but no publication date has been set yet.