Category Archives: Beatles books

Book Review: “The Beatles: Fab Four Cities: Liverpool – Hamburg – London – New York” by Richard Porter, David Bedford, and Susan Ryan

This review is by Amy Hughes

Fab Four CitiesIt’s not an overstatement to say I was very happy to see not only what one would consider a travel guide about and for The Beatles, but one that is lavishly illustrated and beautifully laid out.

The Beatles: Fab Four Cities: Liverpool – Hamburg – London – New York (ACC Art Books, 2021) provides not only an up-to-date showcase of major touchpoints within their universe but also includes numerous anecdotes and descriptions of how all four cities provided links and support along the way from childhood to present day.

Compiled and written by historians well-versed in all things Beatles, ‘Fab Four Cities’ is educational and informative, while sidebar callouts showcase Beatle facts that connect all four cities from a historical perspective.

If you’re intimately familiar with Beatle background information, you might not want to simply skim over the text. Each section provides a rich history inside locations that helped push the band forward. Augmented by latter-day photos, it’s a printed walking tour and provides a helpful supplement if you happen to travel to any of these places.

One important note that ties these together is that all four cities have ports. Not to be lost on how significant this is to the band, Liverpool gave them music, Hamburg gave them a sense of self, London gave them worldwide recognition and New York gave them the US.

The voice that the authors use is genuine and personal: Bedford is Liverpudlian and intimately knowledgeable in that environment; Porter has been a tour guide in London and Ryan is a lifelong New Yorker and tour guide who knows landmarks galore.

However, my favorite section from Bedford and Porter concentrated on Hamburg. While much has been journaled in the last 60 years, I found the words rich in detail, the photos fascinating and the city map was a nice addition (all four city maps are colorfully illustrated).

Ryan’s expertise in covering events, landmarks, and areas connected particularly to John Lennon is of importance for those not familiar with his deep-seated love of the city and his fight to stay in NYC in the early ‘70s.

In conclusion, with a nicely constructed design and pertinent prose (and some pretty sweet images!),

I rate this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review – Ringo Starr: The Comic Book

Reviewed by Amy Hughes

Ringo Starr The Comic Book

To be honest, I find the concept of portraying the Fabs in comic book form to be a unique prospect. With the advent of graphic novels, the ability to revisit key points in their lives via illustrative media is an intriguing avenue. While the epitome to match would be ‘Yellow Submarine’ (in of itself it’s own tangled saga), the popularity for their story is ripe for comic form.

Ringo Starr – The Comic Book (Tidalwave Productions, 2022) is the latest in a series of short-form comics (via hardcover, Kindle and comiXology) from their ‘Orbit’ collection: biographical comics of people who have ‘made a difference in the world.’ Starr now has his turn in the Fab spotlight and while it’s a nice addition, there is a message.

The focus for the majority of the 26 pages is on Starr’s childhood and the adversity he overcame with his various health issues. Author David Cromarty and illustrator Victor Moura focus on those passages, shown in dark tones and to-the-point dialogue.

Most of the well-known incidents from his childhood thru the hospitalizations and early adulthood are portrayed very simply and with well-placed urgency. As the story ramps up with his interest in the drums and onto his seat with Rory Storm, his form is shown with humor at these key points. His intro into The Beatles is kept tight and ends with his own words as to how they came to understand the mania of their fame.

To be honest, you will find no deep insight here. Starr’s earnest and down-to-earth personality come through and for the most part, this style of storytelling is best aimed at a younger audience for this brief dip into his early ‘Starr-dom.’

I give this comic 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution, and Social Change” by Kenneth Campbell

Note: Amy Hughes and Jenn are presenting to you another duel review of a recently published Beatles book.


Amy Hughes’ review:
The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution, and Social ChangeWhile the world of academic studies continues past the history of The Beatles’ lifespan, I will never tire of the deep dive (yes, an overused term, I admit) with regards to those whose research and passion go above and beyond the usual biographies and fact-checking in the world they helped to define during those 10 glorious years.

Author Ken Campbell has given an intriguingly personal, yet historical account of the band in that crucial decade with authority and dare I say, love. The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution and Social Change (Bloomsbury, 2021) captures what few volumes are able to do: give those details that are already familiar to the devoted and yet place these memories inside a contextual, readable and relatable narrative, not usual for this style of book.

Campbell, as a noted scholar and historian, has been able to pluck out the familiar anecdotes and incidents intrinsic to The Beatles intensely devoted fans, yet crucially place all of this into graphic perspective. I didn’t just find this a dry timetable of distant facts and stories, but rather a highly important historical treatise, gathering steam from Kennedy to Kennedy, from Profumo to Paris.

Most importantly, Campbell has woven many interviews from male and female fans who lived through the Beatles in real time, especially as the songs were released then. How they reacted, how they changed as people, what they decided to aspire to in their life… their words are quite honest, insightful and at times humorous when juxtaposed against some of the more serious situations that were rumbling around the world during The Beatles musical lifespan.

While most of their early days were void of political commentary (much of it culled at the behest of manager Brian Epstein), as the decade wore on (and the band’s personal fortunes, both personally and musically changed), the group were able to divulge highly individualistic comments, ranging from Lennon’s famous Christ comment to McCartney’s LSD revelation and Harrison’s stance on Transcendental Meditation and his love of India.

Of course what is most important to The Beatles legacy is the music and how it became the yardstick for which all others were measured. Campbell does a superb job of invoking the “which album is better” debate (‘Revolver’ vs. ‘Sgt. Pepper’) by suggesting that each – only separated by a year’s time – are highly influenced by each of The Beatles contributions and experiences. While the aspect of their stoppage in touring surely impacted the sound of ‘Pepper,’ which had the benefit of time, money and energy, one can see how it can also be viewed as dated, closed and vintage in many respects. Of its time in 1967, it is absolutely certain. Viewed from afar, however (and with Lennon’s pithy recollections of lifting off from newspapers and LSD-inspired laziness juxtaposed to McCartney’s workaholic attitude), it suffers greatly. ‘Revolver’ on the other hand (and near to the ‘White Album’ in a sense) has aged much better.

Taken with the charged and scarred political atmosphere, 1968’s ‘White Album’ and more pointedly The Rolling Stones’ ‘Beggars Banquet’ heralded a coming of age for both bands. But it also signaled the change in personal gain for both fans and the bands themselves. The gap between radicalism and protest coming from Lennon and Jagger seemed somehow removed from reality. And while Campbell’s interviewees were handed a newer version of both, laced with the mature viewpoints, inner soul seeking, and mouthy call-to-arms, one began to wonder if these ‘pop stars’ really understood their audience anymore.

As 1969 came over the horizon, the political juggernaut that was Richard Nixon was coming into play and conservatism on both sides of the Atlantic are covered neatly by Campbell as the 60s come to a close. As is well-documented, The Beatles time in January was taken up with the ‘Get Back/Let It Be’ sessions which segued into separate career pursuits, both musically and personally. McCartney and Lennon’s marriages in March were the focal point of the group’s splintering dynamic, though not entirely the cause of tensions mounting within the band. And while managerial efforts were thumping across the table (also well-documented from those times), the real maelstrom of publicity was whether the group would lash themselves down at Abbey Road and produce an album.

While the namesake studio and album seemed to signal a return to the classic group sound, it was also a foreshadow of life events to come. While Lennon and Ono had used their marriage to cajole world leaders to seek peace and McCartney retreated to home, farm and studio production of others, most of the summer of ‘69 was taken up by other sounds: the Stones’ Brian Jones’ death, Apollo 11, Woodstock, Chappaquiddick, Vietnam and the notorious Manson murders. In short, an upheaval that signaled an end to the ‘Summer of Love’ and yet gave growth to the four members, most pointedly the one soul who had come across as the most troubled and withdrawn Beatle: George Harrison.

His two most poignant (and to this day) most popular compositions – ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ – were the jewels that shimmered on each side of the album. While Lennon’s ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ was a thick chunk of vocals, synthesizers, knotty bass lines with a droning abrupt ending, Side Two’s medley from mostly half-finished songs was brought together beautifully with the support and wisdom of George Martin.

The autumn of 1969 – while ‘Abbey Road’ was showing it’s grandeur – had the curiosity of the ‘Paul Is Dead’ spectre mixed into the fold. As Campbell points out, all the signs were (supposedly) there as he generously gives way to the acres of coverage that were posted by not only fans but serious rock writers. McCartney defiantly stonewalled the entire debacle, only to be tracked down in Scotland and resigned to quote that he was in fact, still alive as Campbell delves into the relationship between fans relationships with a band like The Beatles and their emotional reactions to breakups and death.

This mindset quickly became apparent as those January 1969 sessions would soon become the band’s swansong. As we have recently witnessed, that time period is covered with misinformation and hazy recollections of sour relationships. In accordance with the publication of this book, Campbell can only cover what was available as far as the film and album, both of which suffered greatly in the wake of the public announcement that the band was no more by May 1970.

The dissolution of the group has – and Campbell quotes Lennon directly – been compared to a divorce. While the tightest pairing of Lennon & McCartney would draw the strongest connotation, the entire band were moving in different directions, both personally and musically. As Campbell notes in Joshua Wolf Shenk’s ‘The Powers of Two’ he quite rightly identifies reasons for a split in partnerships: wedges (where something comes between two people) and stumbles (unable to clear obstacles in the path). No one thing or incident defined the break, not Yoko Ono’s presence or the disagreements on Allen Klein as a business manager. Everyone had simply grown up. As had their fans.

Some fans did not simply care about The Beatles and their influence during the 60s; they came to view them as a cultural phenomenon, one that changed their lives forever. As Campbell concludes, the 1970s began with growing cynicism and doubt. The Beatles would splinter into their solo careers and as we know, Lennon would rage with his ‘Plastic Ono Band’ release, McCartney would be the self-styled DIY with ‘McCartney’, Starr would go nostalgia with ‘Sentimental Journey and Harrison – he would emerge from the ashes and fly the highest at the start with ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘The Concerts for Bangladesh.’

The 1970s would give more of the four – in spurts of grandeur or depths of questioning – but the one overriding question was who would succeed them. Campbell puts forth with some intrigue Steely Dan and of course The Who and The Stones. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd are also a strong consideration and even The Police, Elton John (not thru coincidence I may add!) and even Bruce Springsteen.

However no one person or collection of people or movement or genre would replace The Beatles. As Campbell cannot ignore Lennon’s death in 1980 (and how could that not be ignored), we’ve come to appreciate that short time that they did change us for the better.

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 


Jenn’s review:

When a publisher surprises me with a review copy of a new Beatles book, I try my best to read it. And I did that with The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution, and Social Change by Kenneth L. Campbell. But I have to say, I failed in that task and I’m going to now explain why.

One of the very first things I noticed when I thumbed through the book was the small font. This obviously isn’t an author error but none the less, it did hinder my ability to read for long stretches of time without having to rest my eyes. Maybe they were aiming for the under 50 crowd? Well, that’s not me!

Second thing that became a standout issue…HOWEVER. Yes, the word ‘however’. I was only on page 58 when I realized the word kept appearing again and again. Since Amy had a .pdf copy of the book, I sent her a text and asked her to do a search on the word ‘however’. She shot back with a total of 199 times does the word appear in 226 pages. Eegads! This always makes me wonder…who is editing the book if I’m the one noticing these things? Is this another publisher issue or author issue?

Twelve more pages into the book, I came across the following sentence:

Without the music, it is safe to say Beatlemania would not have existed; if people did not like what they heard on the radio or the Ed Sullivan show, people would have quickly lost interest. – Page 70

I’m just going to leave that there and let you judge for yourself. Needless to say, I didn’t make it much further…only to page 102. It’s not that it’s a bad book…it’s a scholarly study. Not my bag. Ken does a great job of sourcing out his material, and I was actually happy to see a couple friend’s books among those listed in the extensive Notes and Bibliography (they take up 1/6 of the book). I just didn’t feel like I was reading anything new. HOWEVER, a newbie to the Beatles world may find this all very interesting. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever” by Luke Meddings

What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever Luke Meddings

An astounding thought crosses the mind when even thinking about the title of Luke Meddings’ book. The metaphorical and analytical analysis of these three entities has been decades in the making.

In What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever (Weatherglass Books, 2021), Meddings has unfolded a heartfelt dissertation on how the three B’s (and for contextual purposes, he also includes the fourth B – The Byrds), with minute clarity, couched in appreciation with the subjects at hand.

Each set out on their own path, yet within the circumstances of the ‘60s music and art scene, diverged at various points along the way. This isn’t a highbrow, how-the-stars-and-planets -aligned tome. It points to the inevitable for the times: Dylan breaking the barriers of folk and be damned; The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson as the troubled genius who saw beyond the accepted musical norms and finally The Beatles whose presence not only affected the aforementioned but occupied a massive, revered space that neither they nor anyone could have foreseen.

The hindsight for this book proves entirely relevant as Meddings intersects the creative influences of that time with the development of his own understanding of musical composition and theory. Translated: he gets us to the core of why we love those unexpected chord changes, why we hear something different every time we listen to every song. And why getting a handle on a note from ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ to ‘Good Vibrations’  to ‘Paperback Writer’ leaves us more confused than ever.

One overall aspect here are the underdogs in this character study: the members of The Byrds. The scattershot pickings when viewed from afar (covering Dylan, influencing George Harrison, conflicting integrations and genres that were amplified by Wilson) is indeed intriguing. I found entire backstories on the individual members enhanced the merit of their music and needed to be brought forth in the context of this narrative.

But while Meddings sets the needle into the groove of where this all began – the very late 50s to be fair – the crux of this book really centers on Wilson. He is living and breathing music. Not content to play in a band and wear the stereotype facade of the perceived groovy  ‘California lifestyle,’ Wilson reaches for stratospheric goals that as we see moved his mind far beyond what Lennon & Co. were tripping to with recreational drug use.

Wilson and the magnum opus of ‘Pet Sounds’ has of course been acknowledged by McCartney as the trigger for ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ start. Dylan on the other hand – in an oblique way – had already pushed the buttons and pissed off the folk purists with his jump into electric-land. Meddings gives us a view that while there had to be changes coming, the face of folk’s movement didn’t have to be nice or polite or meek. And if Wilson placed his Moog-minded, choral-vocal beauty out there, musicians like McCartney had to step out or be run over.

Meddings does conclude ‘What They Heard’ on what I would consider a downturn. As he ruefully reminisces that the paths of the book’s subjects did not cross over much past their heyday and obviously with the loss of Lennon in 1980, that was put to pasture. He does however lend a bit of spark for Dylan in recent years. While McCartney and Wilson have in varying degrees struggled vocally as they age, Meddings puts forth the fact (and I agree wholeheartedly) that Dylan is the one who has aged the best; growing into his voice – the nasal growl – and his learned historical and extensive references for 2020’s epic 17-minute ‘Murder Most Foul.’ Dylan with all his work is still a hard act to categorize to this day.

Charting the course from 1961-68 gives the reader a concise snapshot of where they all stood – eyeing each other through music, personal connection and as this book notes, how all of those ingredients combined gave us what we have today, most importantly for the better.

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

 

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Who will win our Best Beatles Book of 2021 poll?

Let’s do it again, Fab Four fans….

It’s that time of year again, Beatles freaks! What was your favorite Beatles related book published this year? Time for all of you to vote in our Best Beatles Book of 2021. The winning book will be featured on our homepage for the entirety of 2022.
If you don’t see your favorite Beatles book from 2021, click on ‘Other’ and add the name and author to our list!
Poll ends on December 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

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Book Review: “Rememberings” by Sinead O’Connor

rememberings sinead oconnor On May 18th, I was browsing through Facebook when I saw a post by Elaine Schock (wife of Mikael Gilmore and former publicist of Sinead O’Connor) with a link to a NY Times article about the upcoming release of Sinead O’Connor‘s autobiography – Rememberings. I immediately headed over to Amazon to pre-order a copy for it’s release on June 1st.

I’m guessing that most people have a pretty good idea of how the rise and fall of Sinead’s career occurred back in the early 1990’s, but to make it really, really brief for those that don’t know…she rose to international fame with the song “Nothing Compares 2 U” that was written by Prince…and then on an episode of Saturday Night Live in 1992, she tore up a photo of the Pope on live TV and her career crashed. Then to make matters even worse, it was reported that she refused to perform if the national anthem was played before any of her concerts in the U.S. She became a publicity nightmare!

So…that’s the story…that’s what I remember…and pretty much all I knew about Sinead for a couple decades. Just like everyone else in the word, I have always loved the song Nothing Compares 2 U, but never paid her any mind after she seem to fall off the face of the earth. That is until she showed up on social media in the early 2000s when I started following her…and what a ride that was! She was brutally honest and severely messed up…at one point asking her fans to find her a husband! And they did…and she married him in Las Vegas, but like everything else in her life that crashed. It wasn’t long before she was on social media pleading with her followers to get her help immediately…she was holed up in some motel in New Jersey and was suicidal. I lost track of her  and her craziness after that…until now…

Sinead begins her story by letting her readers know that the book is written in two different voices. Of course, the first thing one thinks upon hearing this is…how many voices does she hear? Are these different people living inside her? She gives no really good explanation and the book begins as if it’s written by a child as she tells the story of her troubled upbringing in Dublin. The grammar police would have a field day with her over the way it’s written. Some of the stories are nothing short of bizarre and sickening as she tells of the abuse of her and her siblings at the hands of a mentally ill mother and an emotionally distant father. It’s nothing short of weird and it’s not something I could just speed read through. I had to put the book down and pick it up over several days.

The story continues through the beginning and height of her career and the eventually fall from grace after the SNL episode. Then Sinead takes a weird turn…she starts breaking down each of her albums and telling about the meanings behind each song. WAIT! What happened to how she ended up with four children? What about the husband she married in Las Vegas and the breakdown in the hotel in NJ? Is she really going to skip over all the CRAZY parts?!

Actually…no. And in a different voice from the rest of the book (that actually started with the stories behind the songs), Sinead starts getting brutally honest about adulthood, her children, and much of her time dealing with her mental health. It’s not a complete story…but what she does remember is as honest as can be. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “After Abbey Road: The Solo Hits of The Beatles” by Gary Fearon

I’ve been a little slow these days in getting my books reviewed. Once again, it’s not because I’m not reading. It’s just that I’m mixing in Beatles books with other books as you may have noticed from my last several posts.

I bought this book a little over a month ago and it’s been sitting on the stack of books next to the couch waiting for me to post my praises of it to my audience. Well, today is the day…

After Abbey Road: The Solo Hits of The Beatles by Gary Fearon was published on May 18, 2020. It’s a 240 page reference guide to all the hit songs that were released by the individual members of the Beatles after their breakup in 1970. There are a couple songs that predate the break-up, but you get the gist. There are 220 songs in all up until the November 2019 release of In A Hurry by Paul McCartney.

There are several things I really love about this book. The first being that Fearon lists all the songs in the table of contents in the front of the book. The second thing I love about this book is that the song titles are in chronological order according to their date of release. And last, but not least, is that Fearon is very brief but concise about the history and meaning of each song limiting them to one page that includes: title, which Beatles recorded it, written by, recording date, release date and title of the album it appeared on. Also listed at the bottom of each page are the other musicians who played on the song.

This isn’t a book that you would sit down to read cover to cover (unless you’re caught in lockdown during a pandemic), but it is a great reference book that I think every true Beatles fan should have on their shelf! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

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Guest Book Review: “Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and The 1960s” by John F. Lyons

Joy and Fear The Beatles Chicago The 1960s John F Lyons

This guest review was written by Amy Hughs.

As a die-hard Beatles fan, I know pretty much a ton of their backstory on a global scale. What I appreciated about author John F. Lyons’ newly published ‘Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and the 1960s’ (Permuted Press, 2021) were the personal reminiscences of those in the Chicagoland area during the time period they played there in 1964, ’65 and ’66.

While there is a good deal of time spent analyzing their impact on culture and the media across the globe, the more insightful passages are those that detail the incidents and people that surrounded the band’s performances. On September 5, 1964, they played the International Amphitheater to a screaming throng of 15,000. From Lyons’ colorful descriptions of their landing at Midway Airport, driving to the Sahara Inn at O’Hara, their standard set amidst the chaos and their immediate departure thereafter, one would believe that the band was not a welcome sight for those in charge. And to a large degree, that was the truth. Chicago and it’s staunch Midwest Christian beliefs, coupled with an older political generation – held in check by the legendary Mayor Richard J. Daley – kept The Beatles at arms’ length. So far at length that Lyons’ recollections via newspaper and media outlets’ reviews seemed confusingly hostile in hindsight.

Lyons goes on to accurately portray that all-too-real generational gap between teens and their elders. He does pepper throughout various chapters revelatory passages on the negative atmosphere in Chicago towards The Beatles. The joyous occasions that one perceives today in regards to the band’s receptions in the US is juxtaposed with hardline beliefs that The Beatles were to be viewed with disdain and be shown the door as quickly as they entered. Surprisingly, a good portion of these chapters reflect the audience that they were targeting: young females who were the objects of their affection.

1965 was by all Beatle-related accounts, a repeat of the previous year. Live performances for the US tour were scaled back in scope, however Chicago was fortunate to host them again, this time at a much larger outdoor venue – White Sox Park – with 2 shows and a combined audience of 62,000. One of the more amusing and detailed accounts in Lyons’ book are the reminisces of the support acts for the tour, including dancer Denise Mourges (who was part of the Discotheque Dancers with the King Curtis Band) and Sounds Incorporated’s Alan Holmes. However once again the prevalent attitudes – despite accounts of Beatlemania being at fever pitch – were now slipping south.

Although the ‘scene’ was in their favor (and city officials and promoters had gotten hipper in allowing the local DJs from WLS radio to be emcees), the prevailing attitude of negativity continued to spiral downward. However prior to the coverage of the 1966 tour, Lyons does spend a good deal of time focused on the Chicagoland groups that were making names for themselves locally: the New Colony Six, the Shadows of Knight, the Amboy Dukes, the Buckinghams, and all-girl groups including Daughters of Eve and Marie Antoinette & The Cool Heads.

1966 brings The Beatles back to the US and the start of their tour in Chicago. But prior to their August 11 arrival, Lennon’s out-of-context remarks on the group’s popularity eclipsing Jesus Christ had taken hold of media outlets. Chicago became the epicenter of the firestorm, with Lennon (in tears before the press conference) apologizing in every form possible to the assembled gathering at the Astor Tower Hotel. The Chicago press were going for blood, found it and trumpeted it. The numbers only proved in lax ticket sales that their time and popularity were waning, despite the two show outings back at the International Amphitheater. As Lyons writes, the last visit left a mixed impression, mostly conjuring up images of the stockyards, hotels and cars and as George Harrison noted “race riots.”

Whether Harrison’s view was accurate, Chicago’s atmosphere was becoming more politically charged. While Lyons goes on to analyze The Beatles’ influence with the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ it’s worth observing that the group’s influence still had a global stronghold, pop culture-wise, as noted in Chicago with the start-up counterculture newspaper The Seed. Lyons devotes several pages to other timely subjects: free love, drugs, psychedelia and then as 1968 comes into play, transcendental meditation and the arrival of Yoko Ono.

The decline of their popularity thru the remainder of the late sixties (with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy), the Manson murders and of course for this book, the Democratic National Convention is recalled vividly with anecdotes from Chicagoland teens, media outlets and political observers. The volatile atmosphere – partially charged by Mayor Daley and his conservative viewpoints – was not without incident for those in the music business. Venues such as The Kinetic Playground (a popular target of police activity) did their best to give the city notoriety – and as the owners of Head Imports discovered, when they were arrested on obscenity charges for selling ‘Two Virgins’ – Chicago and The Beatles were not on the best speaking terms.

Lyons goes on to chronicle their break-up and gives mention to the post-Beatles visits in Chicago, most shockingly how a frozen Lake Michigan influenced Yoko Ono’s ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ (the last recording of John Lennon) and McCartney’s several shows since 1976. Lyons gives a great overview of the time period covered and Chicago in detail. His global Beatles history (while known to someone who has details galore would find more of a retread), I found to be helpful for those who need a refresh to contextualize the time period. For these reasons and more…

I rate this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story” by Paul Ferrante

30 Minutes in Memphis Paul FerranteMy followers all know how much I don’t like fan-fiction when it comes to my Beatles books, so it takes a pretty special book to safely make it to my review blog without getting ripped to shreds. Lucky for author/writer Paul Ferrante, he’s written just such a book!

I met Paul online a couple weeks ago through a Beatles book group on Facebook. I had never heard of him or his books, but he had seen one of my posts and was inquiring about my PR serves for another book he’s writing that is not Beatles related. That’s when I saw this book – 30 Minutes in Memphis: A Beatles Story listed on his page. I questioned him extensively about it, reiterating over and over again about my dislike for fan fiction and authors who claim their fan fiction is just an ‘alternative history’. HA! Paul promised that it is fiction, but…it’s not fan fiction.

30 Minutes in Memphis is the story of 15 year old Beatles fan Marnie Culpepper. Marnie finds herself in possession of a ticket to see the Beatles in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee with her best friend Myles in 1966. Unfortunately, John Lennon’s comments about being more popular than Jesus has the city in an uproar with boycotts, album burnings and protests planned for the day of concert. Not to mention, Marnie has been grounded for two weeks and prohibited to attend the concert by her former marine dad who is a sergeant with the city police force. So, what’s Marnie to do when she finds out there may be attempt to snuff out the Beatles? Read the book and find out…

Paul Ferrante did a great job in telling his fictitious story while staying true to the Beatles story. Writing most of the book with alternating chapters between his story of Marnie Culpepper and the story of the Beatles’ 1966 tour, this 257 page book is not only fun to read, but educational. And rumor has it…that John Lennon’s sister Julia Baird read it in one sitting and called the author all the way from Liverpool to tell him so! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

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Guest Review: “A Women’s History of The Beatles” by Christine Feldman-Barrett

This is a guest review by Amy McGrath Hughes for a new Beatles book that is being released today – February 11, 2021.

A Women's History of the beatles Christine Feldman-Barrett

For all the terminology associated with being a female fan of The Beatles, I’m happy to say that “aca-fan” is one I believe needs more press. Accordingly, Dr. Christine Feldman-Barrett’s newly published ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ (Bloomsbury, 2021) seeks to inform a wide, multi-generational audience that may not wholly understand the role of women in ‘Beatlefandom.’

The definition of “aca-fan” or academic fan stems from Feldman-Barrett’s research into how we define the span of women (either first generation or beyond) who were deeply affected by The Beatles impact on their lives. Through countless interviews that range from women who saw the band during their brief lifespan or who discovered them through recordings and film or from family members, Feldman-Barrett brings into focus the multi-layered emotions felt by each discovery and life-changing course of action.

However, Feldman-Barrett begins by discussing The Beatles unique understanding of the female fan, especially those they befriended in Liverpool. These girls were their stalwart supporters at a time when ‘young women’ were still expected to finish school, get married and raise a family. Although many did go down that avenue, so too did many seek to break out of the norm, establish an identity and pursue a career. The Beatles in many respects, through their performances or correspondences, helped them to achieve what was considered a fairly lofty, nearly unattainable goal. In return, these working girls from Liverpool (who the group considered friends) set the pattern for years to come: whether they were fan club secretaries (like Liverpudlian Freda Kelly) or journalists (such as the Evening Standard’s Maureen Cleave), these smart women were there from the start and stayed the course helping to spread The Word.

The Beatles also broke rank with how they chose to interact with an audience and the choices of songs they played. While there is considerable knowledge about their upbringing and how their generation viewed women’s role in society (as noted above), the stage presence they achieved through showcasing ‘girl group’ songs (The Shirelles, The Cookies, The Marvelettes) gave them a devoted female following amidst the perception of the rough and tumble atmosphere of club-going, heretofore thought to be a taboo ritual. Although these perceptions proved to be barrier-breaking, Feldman-Barrett ironically notes that although The Beatles showcased these songs to a wide audience, their eventual stratospheric rise in effect caused the demise of this genre.

Another interesting angle that Feldman-Barrett explores is the internal relationships of The Beatles: most notably with Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg and then their early pairings (Cynthia Powell, Maureen Cox, Pattie Boyd, Jane Asher) and consequently as the band starts to disintegrate, the rise of the two most prominent partners: Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman. How these two strong female personalities become inextricably tied to their spouses’ outlook on women’s role in society as the 70s begin is examined in detail. Ono in particular was and has been unfairly portrayed in the media and Feldman-Barrett seeks to rectify that trope in these pages.

The dominant narrative that permeates this history though, are the multi-generational women who Feldman-Barrett interviewed; as either a first generation fan (one who was there during The Beatles lifespan) or into later years and even past the death of John Lennon, what comes across is the same passionate involvement they all have: whether they became professional musicians during the 60s (such as the all-girl Nursery Rhymes and The Pleasure Seekers who fought against stereotypical male-dominated ‘rock bands’) or parlayed their interest in The Beatles into a professional vocation (as tour guides in Hamburg, Liverpool and New York City) or as Feldman-Barrett points out, pursued higher education in the actual study of The Beatles, via university courses devoted to their cultural impact on society, and pop culture in particular.

These women gained tremendous insight into what had been up to that time (and even into the 70s, 80s and 90s) a love of The Beatles that moved past the mislabeling of ‘hysterical screaming teenager’ or ‘obsessed fan’ and have turned it into their life’s work. ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ is a deep dive scholarly approach that is informative, thought-provoking and should create more open dialogue not only for academia-minded individuals, but also for those who seek unique perspectives on how The Beatles shaped their (and our) generation.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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