John Lennon book: Beatles info overload?

Music legend and former Beatle John Lennon poses for photographers in Cannes May 17, 1971.
-/AFP/Getty Images

(CBS News) John Lennon would have turned 72 this week, and fans are still fascinated by his life, his music, and the tragedy of his death. But there's a backlash now against the Beatles' official biographer, Hunter Davies. Critics say his new book simply offers too much information.

The book, "The John Lennon Letters," includes nearly 400 pages of just about everything John Lennon ever wrote when he wasn't writing songs -- from angst-ridden personal letters to Paul McCartney, to post cards, and what amount to Post-it notes.

Davies defends the letters, saying they offer "close up and personal" insight into the cultural icon.

"You learn more from a person's letters than you do from a biography. There have been hundreds of biographies of John Lennon, but they get fatter, thicker and they get more removed from John. When you are reading the letters, you feel you were there. And he's not writing for posterity, he's not writing to amuse, but he is amusing himself."

Critics argue the book doesn't tell us anything we haven't already been told countless times in countless books written about the Beatles since the band split up in 1970.

"The further and further we get away from the source, the sense of scraping the bottom of the barrel becomes ever stronger," says music journalist Neil McCormick. "This is the bottom of the barrel. We've reached the bottom of the barrel. This is John Lennon's shopping lists."

Lennon's name always came first on the Beatles' songwriting credits, but he remained insecure about how the world saw his contribution. In one letter to producer George Martin, Lennon wrote, "at least 50 percent of the lyrics for 'Eleanor Rigby' was written by me."

"His first reaction to any emotion -- fury, anger, passion, whatever -- was not just to go to the guitar, or the piano and get rid of it that way, he wrote things down," says Davies.

But McCormick says releasing the personal correspondence of a man who has been dead for almost 32 years is simply going too far. "The only motivation to release something like this is to make money, you know, this is 'flogging a dead Beatle'."

That may be. But if the number of fans who continue to turn a simple crosswalk on London's Abbey Road into a traffic hazard is anything to go by, there's still a lot of Beatle left to flog.

Watch Allen Pizzey's full report in the video above.