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In the most recent part of his major postwar history of Britain, On the Cusp, David Kynaston notes that on Friday, 5th October 1962, (which is, incidentally, not quite two weeks after my tenth birthday) two significant cultural events occurred. “Love Me Do”, the first single by The Beatles, and Dr No, the first film in the James Bond franchise, were both released. Actually, neither of those statements is quite correct. The Beatles, then consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best, had earlier recorded a single, “My Bonnie”, as the backing group for Tony Sheridan while they were in Hamburg, the single was released and largely unnoticed in 1961; and and a television dramatisation of Casino Royale had been broadcast on American television in 1954 with Barry Nelson playing Bond. But in essence it is true: “Love Me Do” was the first Beatles recording with Ringo Starr, and Dr No was the first James Bond feature film.

For Kynaston, the events of 5th October 1962 effectively provide the climax for his book. But for John Higgs, it is the starting point. The full title of Higgs’s book, Love and Let Die: Bond, The Beatles and the British Psyche, pretty well sums up everything in this work. Neither of these beginnings were particularly auspicious. The Beatles had been turned down by most British record labels, and it wasn’t entirely clear whether a band that had a cult following among Liverpool teenagers could turn that popularity into national success, especially when you consider, as one producer told them while rejecting the band, that guitar bands were already a thing of the past. And the James Bond novels had not exactly been setting the literary world alight since Ian Fleming started churning them out in 1953. As one critic rather waspishly but accurately declared, they were about sex, snobbery and sadism, and it was only when President Kennedy declared that he enjoyed them that they began to sell in significant numbers, which is what prompted one film company to take a chance on filming Dr No. If the dice had fallen only slightly differently, 5th October 1962 would have been just another blustery and unmemorable day.

As it was, however, the two works released on that day changed the British cultural landscape forever, and continue to have a profound effect. Consider, 58 years after the death of Bond’s creator, how many column inches are being taken up with arguments about who might take on the role for the next film in the sequence. Consider, 52 years after the Beatles disbanded, how much screen time was taken up showing and reshowing Paul McCartney’s headline performance at last year’s Glastonbury Festival (and, too late for the book, of course, as I write this The Guardian is reporting that the National Portrait Gallery is about to host an exhibition of photographs of the Beatles taken by Paul McCartney in 1963-64). They are still, you might say, in our ears and in our eyes.

Given the subject matter, Higgs inevitably has to deal with the cultural impact of his two subjects. But he does so without much obvious enthusiasm, and nothing much in the way of a critical vocabulary. He tends to deal in broad generalisations: X is now generally regarded as one of the weakest films in the franchise, Y is still loved by fans today. It tells you nothing.

But Higgs has a different subject in mind. He wants to present Bond and the Beatles as representatives of two conflicting aspects of the British psyche. The Beatles represent love, Bond stands for death. It’s okay as far as it goes. There’s an interesting thesis to be wrung out of this, but I don’t think Higgs does the wringing. The book is facile: I kept thinking that’s the kind of thing I might write if I had a thorough knowledge of the Beatles and the James Bond films, and I had done a little dipping into popular books on social history and psychology. It’s readable, it holds together, it keeps hammering home its central idea, but it never feels like you are getting below the surface.

Mostly he wants us to believe that Bond and the Beatles are two sides of the same coin. So there is never a chapter about the Beatles that passes without some reference to Bond; there is never a chapter about Bond that passes without some reference to the Beatles. He makes great and repeated play of the fact that Help! was the Beatles playing at James Bond, and the fact that Paul McCartney recorded the theme of a Bond film. But mostly these cross-references seem like little more than coincidences (Christopher Lee being a Bond villain and appearing on the cover of Band on the Run generates a whole chapter), or the sort of cross-contamination that is probably inevitable in a relatively small cultural pool. All too often I felt that the link he was trying to make between the two was awkward and forced: yes you might suggest that the Beatles doing this echoes Bond doing that, but I can, without effort, think of a dozen other cultural echoes that are clearer and more pertinent.

We are left with a slight popular book that is entertaining in its way, though I doubt that anyone with more than a scanty knowledge of either Bond or the Beatles would be surprised by anything they encountered here. There is something worth exploring here, but it needs a better, deeper, more thoroughly researched book than this one.