Entertainment Weekly awarded it an A rating, calling the book "spectacularly sourced and researched" and concluding: "The saga is clearer and richer here than it's ever been."
Rod Davis was a founding member of the Quarrymen, Lennon's first band (it was Davis' departure from the group that left an opening for McCartney). He recalled meeting Lewisohn nearly 30 years ago at a convention.
Davis was talking to someone about the time when McCartney first came to hear the Quarrymen. "A young man who was within earshot stepped up and said, 'It was the 6th of July, 1957. My name is Mark Lewisohn,' and he started telling us more than we remembered ourselves," said Davis.
Chris Carter, host of "Breakfast With the Beatles," America's longest-running radio show devoted to the Beatles' music, recalled preparing for a visit from Lewisohn once.
"I tried to have some Beatles rarities ready on the turntable, and he said to me, 'You know, you're so into the music. I'm really a document man,'" Carter said. "He's a paper man. The paper trail can be very dry, but what makes him a great writer is being a document guy who knows how to tell a nice story and put it into a fun way to read it."
By way of example, there's the section in "Tune In" about Ivan Vaughan, a chum of Lennon's who invited McCartney to come with him to check out the Quarrymen — a date enshrined in Beatles history as the day Paul met John.
Lewisohn adds detail to the oft-told tale through his own interviews and relentless sifting through documents such as newspaper reports, school records, report cards and other hard data concluding it was anything but random luck that Vaughan transferred to the school that McCartney and later George Harrison attended.
Lewisohn relates that Vaughan's mother refused to send him to Quarry Bank, the school he otherwise would have attended, in an attempt to stop her son from associating with "that Lennon boy."
"Tune In" adds new perspectives and corrects previously accepted inaccuracies about Lennon's childhood being raised by his mother's sister, Mimi, and reframes his rebellious attitude as well as his quick wit and intellectual acumen.
McCartney's well-documented eagerness to please and impress all around him from an early age is fleshed out with multiple examples. His ability to multi-task — watching (and absorbing) what was on television at the same time he was doing homework — points at his later penchant for pulling together disparate musical ideas within the same song.
The prickly side of Harrison's nature and his precociousness as the youngest Beatle also gain new vividness, while the depth of Starr's youthful health struggles and loneliness become more apparent through Lewisohn's telling of the story.
One lesson that comes through loud and clear in this first volume is that regardless of any style pointers manager Brian Epstein brought in once he signed on with the group, the Beatles and their success were in no way simply the product of savvy marketing.
Lewisohn said, "The Beatles we'd see publicly from 1963 and 1964 on, in Britain and the U.S., respectively, existed exactly the same before they were famous: the talent, the originality, the drive, the determination to move on whenever anybody was trying to copy them, the determination to not repeat themselves, to be original.
Gathering string on the band's story has occupied more than half of Lewisohn's life, whose introduction to the Beatles came through hearing their music in 1963 when he was 5, "and just realizing that it was magical," he said. "It made me feel good. It made me feel excited, it made me feel happy.
"I wanted to sing it and I wanted to play it, and I wanted to find out more about who these people were, even then."
[For the record, 8:37 a.m., Nov. 30: Earlier versions of some captions in the photo gallery accompanying this post incorrectly rendered the title of the Beatles biography as "All This Years." The correct title is "All These Years."]