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Author Topic: Beatle books - Top Five  (Read 6402 times)

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KEROUAC

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Beatle books - Top Five
« on: November 16, 2015, 02:56:28 PM »

If you were going to recommend five Beatle books which ones would you include? Having just got a kindle I've been looking at which books I want to add which got me thinking about which books are considered the best.

I would probably put Tune in volume 1 at No 1 as it is an incredible piece of work. Revolution in the Head would probably be in there as well as Mark's Complete Recording sessions. I also really like "You Never Give Me Your Money" by Peter Doggett. Which ones would you include. You can add more that five if you have other recommendations.
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In My Life

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2015, 03:44:13 PM »

I agree with your #1 choice, Tune In. After that I would say Hunter Davies' The Beatles. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to have a Kindle edition. I thought everything had a Kindle edition! But I felt I had to mention it for anyone interested in this topic without the Kindle part of the request. :)

<a href="http://youtu.be/Y9-k2n1Qq08" target="_blank" class="aeva_link bbc_link new_win">http://youtu.be/Y9-k2n1Qq08</a>
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Kelley

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KEROUAC

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2015, 04:57:08 PM »

Thanks In My Life. Actually I have seen Hunter Davies book as an epub which is convertible for kindle. Don't worry about the format I was just interested in what people think are the top books. You can include regular paper books too.  icon_good
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nimrod

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2015, 09:59:14 PM »

I preferred Phillip Normans 'Shout' to Hunter Davies book

I also like Geoff Emericks book

agree with Tune In being top of the pile, cant wait for the next one
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oldbrownshoe

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2015, 09:20:42 AM »

I've got a really soft spot for Neville Stannard's 'The Long & Winding Road'.

My copy is the revised edition from 1983 and it's really just a U.K. and U.S. discography of The Beatles recordings up to that point, the last entry being the 20th Anniversary reissue of the 'Please Please Me' single in January 1983.

The biggest problem with the book is its refusal to use the TOTP chart positions (i.e. Stannard quotes 'Please Please Me' as their first no. 1 single, not 'From Me To You'), and its obsession with chart statistics of cover versions, information that now looks far more dated than the info on the Beatles releases themselves!
Who cares how long the Carpenters were in the chart with 'Please Mr. Postman'?

However, as I plan to do a personal discography of the group, and the Stones, when I get the time, including important subsequent releases ('Live at the BBC 1 & 2'), I will use Stannard's style almost to the letter, such is its clarity.
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Normandie

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2015, 03:21:14 PM »

I would definitely include Geoff Emerick's Here, There and Everywhere on a Top 5 list.


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zipp

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2015, 04:13:12 PM »

The biggest problem with the book is its refusal to use the TOTP chart positions (i.e. Stannard quotes 'Please Please Me' as their first no. 1 single, not 'From Me To You')

In 1963 Please Please Me was number one on the BBC.

TOTP didn't exist yet but it was number one on its radio equivalent Pick Of The Pops.
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oldbrownshoe

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2015, 07:05:38 PM »

The chart I mean is the one that appears in the Guinness Book of Hit Singles which, rather than the NME et al, is really now the received one.

It certainly informed the picking of what went on '1' - i.e. no 'Please Please Me' or 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.
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zipp

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2015, 10:36:35 PM »

The chart I mean is the one that appears in the Guinness Book of Hit Singles which, rather than the NME et al, is really now the received one.

It certainly informed the picking of what went on '1' - i.e. no 'Please Please Me' or 'Strawberry Fields Forever'.

Yes I know but it's wrong to say that that was the BBC chart in the year 1963.

Incidentally the Guinness Book of Hit Singles uses the NME chart from 1952 to 1960. They then made a misinformed decision to use the Record Retailer chart after 1960 whereas the only chart of real importance was the BBC chart.

Apple then chose to follow Guinness' bad decision. When John Lennon thanked the fans for making Please Please Me the Beatles' first number one on the 1963 Xmas disc he knew what he was talking about.

This has no bearing on Strawberry Fields which was number two on the BBC also and therefore could never be on the '1' compilation.

You may be interested to know that Billboard put For You Blue at number one with The Long and Winding Road as a double A side. You can check it on their site. For You Blue was not on '1' so that makes it a doubly flawed compilation.
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oldbrownshoe

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2015, 10:57:50 PM »

This is all just statistics, isn't it?

There is a received wisdom, rightly or wrongly, and to introduce all the other charts into the equation just confuses the issue, and is the prime thing that I would change about Stannard's otherwise very easy to access book.
The fact that he goes to incredible lengths about the chart stats of cover versions is an even greater misfire.
Frankly, in 1983 it seemed inconsequential, now it just seems barmy.

As for '1', Charles Shaar Murray got it right with his original review in 'Mojo'.....'think it would be impossible to cock up a Beatles compilation? Think again!'
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zipp

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2015, 05:41:35 PM »

This is all just statistics, isn't it?

There is a received wisdom, rightly or wrongly, and to introduce all the other charts into the equation just confuses the issue, and is the prime thing that I would change about Stannard's otherwise very easy to access book.
The fact that he goes to incredible lengths about the chart stats of cover versions is an even greater misfire.
Frankly, in 1983 it seemed inconsequential, now it just seems barmy.

As for '1', Charles Shaar Murray got it right with his original review in 'Mojo'.....'think it would be impossible to cock up a Beatles compilation? Think again!'

I thought your Stannard book was just that - a book of statistics!

Please Please Me was number one in 1963 on the BBC. That's not 'received wisdom', it's the truth whatever Guinness or Apple think.The BBC was the most important chart in the UK and in 1963 Guinness was just a beer and not a chart guide,right?

Anyway I read somewhere that Stannard's book was superseded by Revolution In The Head.

Myself I don't think Revoultuion In The Head is all that great. It's too subjective. The only thing good about it is the clear presentation of the songs with an easy to follow system.

Myself I'd recommend anything by Lewisohn. There's the well known stuff but also "The Beatles' London" which is essential if ever you're visiting.

"Many Years From Now" is very good and Steve Turner's book "A Hard Day's Write" on the origins of each song is well done and pretty accurate.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2015, 11:00:03 PM by zipp »
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giveawaychord

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2015, 03:38:47 AM »

It's not easy to say what my top five would be because it depends on what you expect of them. There are two kinds of Beatles books: books that make compelling reading, tell you things you didn't know, or entertain or fascinate you for one of several reasons, and books that are indispensable collections of data, a basis for further research or books you frequently return to for fact checking. There are some in the second category that manage to be entertaining as well, and some in the first category contain valuable information you might come back to at a later time. Lewisohn's Tune In is one of those rarer ones in the first category that are fascinating and entertaining, but also a source of precise data in the way of an encyclopedia, while his Recording Sessions is, first of all, a collection of information, dates and facts, but at the same time readable and enjoyable as a book you read from cover to cover.

I've read books of the first category that I enjoyed but take with a pinch of salt, most biographies for example. Many Years from Now is a great book exactly because Miles doesn't edit (correct) Paul's lengthy verbatim passages when Paul doesn't get his facts right. It's nice to see that it's not always those who lived through it who are correct.

Revolution in the Head is another book that straddles categories. Yes, Ian MacDonald is an opinionated author (and may even be hampered by specific likes and dislikes), but he was born just two or three years before the typical Beatle fans of the first generation, and that gives him a superb feeling for musical background and the cultural changes during that time. The long essay that opens his book is particular fascinating for fans from America and other countries because it paints a background of British culture and music that is essential for an understanding of the Beatles. In his analysis of songs he is not always right in who played what and is maybe too critical in his attitude. And yes, he doesn't particularly like George.

A very similar approach that focusses on the Beatles' Britishness but includes invaluable details about American culture at the time is Can't Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould. Definitely makes my top five, exceedingly well written. Sophisticated and intelligent, if you can say that of a book, and quite a relief if you've just read three or four 'personal memoirs' of people who knew someone who once met John Lennon.

Here, There, and Everywhere is great in a way and annoying in another. There's a problem with journalists that 'help' eye witnesses and involved people to phrase their memories. In Emerick's case, some very vague memories take the form of word-by-word conversations. It is quite clear that the book was 'enlivened' and 'peppered' quite a bit and one should be aware of its limitations. And oh yes, he doesn't seem to like George either.

In terms of look-up books and sources I must mention John C. Winn's two-volume The Beatles' Legacy that collects all video and audio sources known today and dates and describes them. It's not without flaws, in my opinion, but is a great resource. Whenever I read something -- in a forum, for instance -- that I want to check, I use Winn and, of course, Lewisohn's Recording Sessions (and his Chronicle, if it's important, because it includes a few corrections of details mentioned in Sessions.

As for songs, a book I regularly check when I have consulted Ian MacDonald, is Tim Riley's Tell Me Why.

And, of course, there are many valuable internet sources. Not to mention all those books that I have not read!
(Kerouac, I hope this didn't overstretch your topic!)
« Last Edit: November 20, 2015, 03:22:13 AM by giveawaychord »
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oldbrownshoe

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2015, 08:28:45 AM »

What on earth is your problem, Zipp.
If the 'received wisdom' was that 'Please Please Me' was a no. 1, why then wasn't it on '1'?

Answer: Because the received wisdom is that 'Please Please Me' WASN'T a no. 1.

And, anyway, life's too f----- short to worry about it!!!!

Yes, Stannard's book is a discography but, as anyone who has ever read a discography at the end of a book will tell you, they are often very user-unfriendly.
Stannard's book is very user-friendly and easily the best set out of any of the similar books I have seen.
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zipp

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2015, 10:46:39 PM »

What on earth is your problem, Zipp.
If the 'received wisdom' was that 'Please Please Me' was a no. 1, why then wasn't it on '1'?

Answer: Because the received wisdom is that 'Please Please Me' WASN'T a no. 1.

And, anyway, life's too f----- short to worry about it!!!

It wasn't on '1' because '1' got it wrong.

'Received wisdom' is a meaningless phrase which is not based on any evidence.

Please Please Me was number one in the Uk in 1963. Number one on the BBC chart and on every chart except for Record Retailer which nobody read.

You quoted Charles Shaar Murray's comment on '1' but you don't seem to understand what he was saying.

And using swear words when you answer doesn't endear me to your argument. Quite the opposite.

But to get back to the books, giveawaychord's answer was much more interesting and thoughtful. I'll look out for the books he mentioned.

Then again I don't understand the comment about Ian McDonald.

He was born in 1948 which seems to me the ideal time to be born to appreciate the Beatles. In 1963 he was 15 and in 1970 he was 22. If he had been born two or three years later he would have been like me and deemed too young to go and see the Beatles' concerts.
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nimrod

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2015, 11:04:44 PM »

Quote
Here, There, and Everywhere is great in a way and annoying in another. There's a problem with journalists that 'help' eye witnesses and involved people to phrase their memories. In Emerick's case, some very vague memories take the form of word-by-word conversations. It is quite clear that the book was 'enlivened' and 'peppered' quite a bit and one should be aware of its limitations. And oh yes, he doesn't seem to like George either.

I thought the biggest problem with this book was that Geoff favours Paul in a big way, George John & Ringo are very 2nd class Beatles

I still enjoyed reading it though

Thats how I judge a book, on my enjoyment of it.
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giveawaychord

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2015, 05:01:00 AM »

Quote
Then again I don't understand the comment about Ian McDonald.

He was born in 1948 which seems to me the ideal time to be born to appreciate the Beatles. In 1963 he was 15 and in 1970 he was 22. If he had been born two or three years later he would have been like me and deemed too young to go and see the Beatles' concerts.

It's just an observation ... People that age reached their puberty without the Beatles and, if musically inclined, liked Elvis and classic rock'n'roll. For those only two or three years younger, life began with the Beatles (and, of course, the appearance of 'beat music' in general). They were 12 or 13 years of age and the Beatles provided the soundtrack for their growing up. They might believe that there had been no music at all before the Beatles appeared on the scene -- a very romantic and self-serving bias that youngsters only a couple of years older were less likely to share. People born in, say, 1945-8 had a broader frame of reference and watched the development of pop music from the mid-sixties on with greater reservation. People like Nik Cohn (born 1946), for example, had an understanding of music that could accomodate the Stones and early Beatles but regarded Sgt. Pepper as the death knell for 'true' rock and pop music (in his famous book Awop-bop-a-loo-la ... -- don't ask me to spell it correctly). And Ian MacDonald shows a great understanding of the scenery into which the Beatles erupted (younger people lacked that background). And while younger people embraced the music of the seventies, people like Cohn and MacDonald saw the seventies as a phase of decay. You can't prove anything by citing two people (especially if they are as different in their approaches as Cohn and MacDonald). Still, I believe there is a certain gap between those born in the late forties and those born early in the fifties. It's not a law, obviously, and there may be overlaps between those two groups. But the general tendency is there. When the Beatles started, they played for their peers, and the very first generation of (local) fans is as old as they themselves were (Cavern, Hamburg). When they conquered Britain, their fans were a bit younger than them, and when Beatlemania erupted as a worldwide epidemic, most fans were 13 or 14 years old.

I also believe that being old enough to be allowed to see the Beatles in concert does not play a part in this. The concerts were not the source of enthusiasm for the Beatles; you didn't go there to get to know them. The concerts were the symptoms of an enthusiasm that had its origin in records, radio, and journalism. People who went to concerts went there to express an enthusiasm they had already developed at home.

I know that it would require more than I can offer here if you want to get a truly convincing thesis out of this; as it is, it's more of a sentiment than hard science.


PS.: I also enjoyed reading Geoff Emerick's book, no doubt about that, but I remain sceptical. I agree that he favours (and flatters) Paul in no uncertain terms, but it's not too difficult to see why. Paul is a producer's Beatle, so to speak.
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In My Life

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #16 on: November 20, 2015, 06:50:05 AM »


Myself I'd recommend anything by Lewisohn. There's the well known stuff but also "The Beatles' London" which is essential if ever you're visiting.


I'm glad you mentioned that title zipp. Was it out of print for a while? I'm quite sure it's that one that a friend mentioned to me about a year ago but when I went looking for it there was some problem that prevented me from buying it. My chances of making it across the pond don't seem too promising but this is still something I'd love to have.
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Kelley

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KEROUAC

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2015, 01:14:47 PM »

You are right Giveawaychord it is difficult to compile a top five without categorising into Biography, Reference, Song analysis etc.

I had forgotten about John C Winn's books which from what I've heard deserve high praise. I didn't know about the inaccuracies in The Complete Recording Sessions but I was reading an old  interview with Mark Lewisohn last night where he mentioned it. He said he was given a deadline to complete the book and wasn't given the time he needed to give it his best effort and that John C Winn had corrected the errors.

Others I might include would be Keith Badman's After the Breakup. I've heard Michael Braun's "Love Me Do" is really good and that Lennon said it was the best or most honest things written about The Beatles.

I just bought "The Beatles and Me On Tour" by Ivor Davis on Amazon. Anyone read it? It sounds like an interesting Fly on the wall account.

Another one I want to get in hardback format is Kevin Howlett's "The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970"
« Last Edit: November 20, 2015, 01:20:42 PM by KEROUAC »
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Moogmodule

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #18 on: November 20, 2015, 01:33:07 PM »

I went through a stage of reading a lot of the song analysis types of books of the Beatles.

My favourites are The Songwroting Secrets of the Beatles by Dominic Pedler and the two volume The Beatles as Musicians by Walter Everett.

All three get a but technical in music analysis terms but I think even with a basic music knowledge you can get a lot out of them. It's easy to skip the more arcane descriptions.

I also liked Tell Me Why by Tim Riley in that vein.
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Moogmodule

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Re: Beatle books - Top Five
« Reply #19 on: November 20, 2015, 01:37:05 PM »

I found Ken Scott's book Abbey Road to Ziggy Stardust a bit of an antidote to Emericks book. He liked George a lot. Less so Paul although he acknowledged his talent and abilities.  Apparently he and Emerick had a bit of an Internet argument over Emericks attitude to George. Scott's book goes beyond the Beatles (as the title makes obvious) but is a pleasant easy read.
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