Philip Norman (born 13 April 1943) is an English author, novelist, journalist and playwright. He is best known for his critically acclaimed biographies of the Beatles (Shout!), the Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly and Elton John. His other books include similar studies of John Lennon and Mick Jagger. Norman’s biography of Paul McCartney was published in 2016.
Norman was born in London but grew up in Ryde, on the Isle of Wight. He attended Ryde School, and his father, Clive Norman, ran the Seagull Ballroom on Ryde Pier. He describes his childhood in the book Babycham Night. Relatives of his produced the eponymous champagne perry in Shepton Mallet.
Norman began working as a staff writer for The Sunday Times in 1965. In addition to writing the newspaper’s Atticus column, he gained notice during the late 1960s and over the following decade for his profiles of public figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, P.G. Wodehouse and Muammar Gaddafi, and of musical artists, including James Brown, Little Richard, the Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart and the Everly Brothers.
Norman’s first book, Shout!: The Beatles in Their Generation, was published in 1981. An immediate bestseller, it has since sold over 1 million copies. The New York Times described Shout! as “the definitive biography [of the Beatles] – comprehensive, intelligent, sensitively written and exhaustively researched”, while the Chicago Sun-Times admired it as “The best, most detailed, and most serious biography of the Beatles and their time.”
The book portrays Paul McCartney in an unfavourable light, and the former Beatle voiced his objections to Norman’s characterisation of him as “the great manipulator”. In his review of the most popular books about the group, in The Rough Guide to the Beatles, Chris Ingham writes that Norman displays a “clear dislike” for McCartney yet Shout! merits the praise it has received, due to “the rigour of its research and insightful reflection of the times”. Writing in 2005, Beatles biographer Ian MacDonald said that Norman’s book “remains the sharpest account of The Beatles’ career” and suggested that its anti-McCartney sentiments were balanced by the 1997 publication of Barry Miles‘ Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now.
In October 2008 Norman’s 800-page book John Lennon: The Life was released to some controversy. He has also published what the music journalism website Rock’s Backpages describes as “definitive biographies” of Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones and Elton John. Additionally, Norman has authored six works of fiction, and two plays: The Man That Got Away and Words of Love.
Norman’s book on McCartney, titled Paul McCartney: The Biography, has been announced for publication in the UK on 5 May 2016 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.