The cute Beatle may not have been quite so cuddly.

The cute Beatle may not have been quite so cuddly.

Christopher Sandford ("Keith Richards: Satisfaction," 2004, etc.) rejects the idea that among the Beatles, John Lennon was the caustic poet of depth and insight while Paul, though he may have had a knack for good tunes, was more interested in commerce than art. Sandford's by-the-numbers bio comes up with plenty of evidence to support the idea that McCartney was much more of an innovator than generally credited: He basically invented the concept album, he was an early acolyte of John Cage and he pioneered the use of found sound, tape loops and other avant-garde standards. This insight alone, however, isn't sufficient to justify yet another McCartney book. Starting off, rather oddly, with the musician's 1980 bust for pot in Japan, Sandford then hops back to Liverpool in the 1930s, where Jim McCartney was a local hit as the head of a rollicking dancehall band. Jim's son Paul quickly caught the bug, and Sandford dutifully follows the flowering of the teenager's musical partnership with John, from the Cavern in Liverpool to the Hamburg dives, and to the whirlwind of hit singles and psychotic fans that followed. It's all well-trammeled ground, and the author at times seems more interested in detailing Paul's prodigious drug use and legendarily lengthy list of bedmates. Once the Beatles fall apart, Sandford maroons readers in the wasteland of pointless solo albums. Ticking off how many millions were earned with each tour, glossing over the mediocrity of McCartney's more recent output, he builds little foundation for his conclusion that "we don't want less of him. We want more."

Initially thrilling but finally artless, with little for the casual fan.