Category Archives: Beatles books

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 30, 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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The Best Beatles Books of 2020

     Apologies to those that participated in last week’s sorry attempt at this poll. There were just too many glitches in the poll to make it a viable way come up  with an accurate count. So we’ve created an online poll that is now based off-site at Survey-Maker.com that allows us to make sure every vote is counted. Thank you for your patience…
     Beatles Freak Reviews doesn’t like to be like every other Beatles fan site. So we’re going to do thing a little differently. Instead of us telling you what our favorite Beatles books published in 2020 are, we want to know your favorites!
     Just fill out our poll by either voting for one that has already been listed or check “Other” & fill in the name and author of the book in the space provided. We’ve listed a couple random books from 2020 to get things started. We’ll post the results in early 2021.
     The book with the most votes will be featured on our homepage for all of 2021!
Click 2020 to go to survey:

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Book Review: “Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics” by Adam Thomas

Lennon vs McCartney The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics Adam ThomasI guess I was browsing around Facebook (or maybe it was on Twitter) a couple weeks ago when I saw the author, Adam Thomas, of Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics post about his book being half price on the publishers website, so I thought I’d give it a go since it seemed like a topic that I hadn’t fully delved into where the Fab Four are concerned.

This book was self-published in November 2014 but is able to withstand the test of time since it starts back at the very beginning of the Beatles career and because there are now only two original Beatles who are still with us here on earth. Paul and Ringo still may write songs about their heydays as Beatles, but most of it is reflective and nostalgic with very little, if any, controversy.

This book is only about 200 pages, but does a great job of pointing out the songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote about each other (both good and bad), both during their time as a writing team and after the split up of the band. The one problem that I found with Adam Thomas’ presentation of this material was that he very rarely quoted the lyrics of the songs and instead would just give his interpretation of what was contained in it. I can only guess that he did to avoid dealing with any copyright issues, but unless you know the words to every Lennon and McCartney song ever written, it can be a little trying. Still, he does do a great job explaining the meaning behind the songs. And…not only does he analyze John and Paul’s hidden messages, he also takes on Ringo and George’s work as well.

The first hundred pages of this book are about the songs in question and the second half of this book is a charted “Relationship Timeline”. I’ll admit that I haven’t read through the time-line yet, but I’ll get to it in the very near future. After reading the first half, I think it’s obvious that Adam Thomas did his homework for this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

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The 50 Greatest Beatles Books…How many do you own?

I found this article this morning through another link I followed. I’m happy to see so many authors that I’ve worked with and that I know personally. I didn’t count how many I of these books I actually own, but I probably have at least half of them on my shelf. I guess I need to get back to reading!

Click the link below and Enjoy!

50 Great Books about The Beatles

 

 

 

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