Some samples for those clamoring, a small part by no means all.
Ian's book is actually thought highly of pretty universally, as an inersting read, but as you can see, musically speaking it has too many incorrect notions:
The question posed by Robert Seely, regarding the revised edition of
Revolution In The Head, was roughly:
"I do recall some complaints about the first edition, matters of
accuracy I think, but I cannot remember what those complaints
Moving to the first pair of significant Beatle songs, MacDonald has
on page 54:
McCartney's gift as a melodist is obvious in the bold range of his
line. Whereas Lennon's lazy irony is reflected in his inclination
towards the minimal intervals of everyday speech, McCartney's
sentimental optimism emerges in the bold rise and fall of his tunes
P.S. I Love You, for instance, covers more than an octave -- yet,
in its middle-eight, which doubles as its intro, Lennon OBSTINATELY
harmonises on one note..." [my caps].
The relevant facts about P.S. I Love You are simple: The main tune of
the verse covers about a fifth. The cadence, which looks more like
Lennon's hand, covers an octave. There is one leap of a third and one
Yes, Lennon harmonises on a single note in the bridge and intro. But
why not: the melody part is basically a one note part as well! Does
that make it "lazy... minimal... everyday speech"?
Now, take the next song in the book, Please Please Me. Lennon's tune,
has three leaps of a third, and one enormous leap of an octave to a
high B, which then falls down various chord tones.
The problem with MacDonald's theory about Lennon's one-note-itis is
that it is simply not supported in fact. Lennon makes a habit of these
high, dramatic leaps: From Me To You, second clause in the verse,
Help!, "please please help me", Ticket To Ride -- there are many more.
(And probably the octave leap in the bridge of McCartney's I Saw Her
Standing There: "in mi-ine".)
McCartney on the other hand is more tuneful simply because he usually
moves by single steps (think of All My Loving). It is Lennon who often
sings the unsingable -- think of the opening drop of a fourth in the
opening line of It Won't Be Long.
Lennon is also much more likely to use chordal melodies. Think of "and
I'll send it along" in From Me To You, or the similiar passages in
Glass Onion ("strawberry fields") or the bridge of I'm So Tired
("putting you on").
In the early period Lennon is also much more likely to start or land
on non-chord tones at the start of a bar. All I Gotta Do or Not A
Second Time are good examples.
Now, to MacDonald's observation that Lennon sings a lazy one-note
harmony in the bridge of P.S. I Love You. What does he say to the
prominent, one-note harmony McCartney sings in the verse of Please
Please Me? Nothing. But this harmony is crucial to their first #1 hit.
And so it goes on. Almost every musical observation he makes is
questionable (and we are only on his song number 3).
Yes, there is a difference between the melodic, harmonic, lyric and
arrangement styles of Lennon and McCartney, and yes there even some
easy rules -- but more about that some other time.
On the other hand, his non-musical stuff is fine and I refer to the
book often in that regard.
---Ian Hammond (Ozzie musicologist)
There were too many musical errors in the book for me to let slip, but
I do think that it's section on the Sixties (was it the Preface?) was
---Tom Hartman (of the Aerovans)
I found the non-musical stuff thought provoking.
It got a huge reception in the U.K., but I think there are some
particular local conditions there. There's a school of thought over
there that says that (popular) music is inextricably linked to the
social environment at the time of its creation. I think they take the
angle too far, and, in particular, I think it leads to a lot of
unsupported wishful thinking masquerading as psudeo-science. What it
does do, however, is provide an excellent vehicle for the literate,
verbal and largely non-musical commentator -- and that encompasses
many rock critics.
I remember once getting stuck out in the desert on a fiercely hot day.
I had to get back to camp without perishing, so I rolled about in one
or two small pools of water on the way. They were in fact just liquid
mud and supported a small, nasty biting life form. So, I'd roll about,
happy to be getting cooler, but my joy was often interrupted by these
painful nips I was receiving. Reading REVOLUTION IN THE HEAD was a bit
I guess I've knocked it as hard as anyone else has for the factual
errors. At a musical technical level he's obviously way out of his
depth, just repeating what others have told him without any clear
That said, I've always rated it as one of the most important Beatle
books so far. His all-over summary is the best available and he does
understand the soul of the machine.
A paradox? Nope, he just needed a better musical sub-editor.
Regarding their art/aeshetics:
The most popular has been Ian MacDonald's REVOLUTION IN THE HEAD,
however he seems to get *every* musical example wrong. I recently read
his "Beatles" entry contibution to the huge Grove dictionary of music
where he assigns the reason for the Beatles' success down to McCartney
His cultural stuff was good. His song technology was ludicrous.
All quotes obtained from rec.music.beatles newsgroup