Category Archives: Beatles books

Book Review: “Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970” by David Browne

Fire and RainA couple weeks ago, while doing research at my county library, I decided to try something a little different to help me find a book to review.  I walked up to the computer and searched “Beatles” in the catalog, hoping to find something I hadn’t heard of to read.  That’s how I found –  Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970 by David Browne.

One of the hardest things to understand about this book is that the way the book starts, is the way if flows until the end.  There really is no climax.  But after several chapters, that becomes alright.

The book gives a brief set up to the creation of extraordinary careers of The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, before telling their musical highs and lows of 1970.  Each of the bands seemed to cross paths along the way, with many of them seeming to mirror what the others were doing, including the dissolution of The Beatles, the break-up of CSNY and the drifting apart of Simon & Garfunkel.  David Browne walks you through it all, season by season, from each artists successful album releases that year, through their feuds and to their final demise.

Author David Browne also provides the political back-drop at the time to help the readers who were too young or not born yet to understand the socio-economic changes that were not only successful musicians of the time, but also influencing the beginning of the new decade, including Vietnam, Nixon and the riot at Kent State.

This book was good, but it did leave me wondering if similar books could be written about 1971, 1972 or 1973?  And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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You can buy a used copy of this book for $0.01 on Amazon!

 

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Book Review: “The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story” by Vivek J. Tiwary

The Fifth BeatleContinuing on my theme – The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story, this week I decided to actually get around to reading the book!  Written by Vivek J. Tiwary with artwork by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker, The Fifth Beatle is a graphic novel about the rise and fall of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein.

For those that haven’t read this book yet, here is the book’s trailer so you can get an idea of what this “adult comic book” looks like on the inside:

 

I purchased my copy at Vivek’s lecture last week at Monmouth University.  He only had collector’s editions (which includes “a unique, textured cover and a section of bonus materials including unique Beatles and Brian Epstein memorabilia, artist sketches, and alternate covers”), so this review is based on this edition.

This book is beautiful.  From the cover to the artwork, it’s a wonderful addition to my collection…even though I’m not a Beatles collector.  But, putting appearances aside…the writing seems to be lacking.  The dialog and story seem to be very. halting. and. static.  It lacks a certain flow.  I want to say it would have been better written with more detail and spread out as a series of books then to cram the entire story into one 139 page book, making it all a bit confusing to those that really don’t know Brian Epstein’s tragic story.

Still, it is a stunning book that I think any true Beatles collector would be proud to add to their collection and display on their shelf.  And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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If you’d like to meet Vivek and get a signed copy of his book, he will be at the Fest for Beatles Fans in Rye, NY in April 2016.

 

 

 

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Book review: “Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll”, by Fred Goodman

(This is a Guest Review by David Thomas.  He’s a retired music teacher and huge Beatles fan that I met a year ago at the Fest for Beatles Fans in New York.  If you love his review, leave a note for him in the comment section and maybe we can make him a regular guest. Enjoy!)


And now for something completely (well, partially) different; a guest review!  I was so pleased to be asked to fill in for Jennifer on her review this week as she tends to very pressing writing matters of a different kind. 
 
Yes – Allan Klein, the man we Beatles fans love to hate!  For a very long time, I’ve had an idea in my mind of what Klein was like.  Unfortunately, it was based solely upon not very flattering anecdotes, and the knowledge that he had caused trouble between the Beatles.  Besides, Paul McCartney, didn’t like him, so that was good enough for me!  But deep down, I knew there had to be more to this man than the stereotypical caricature I had in my mind, so I sought out this book.
 
The book itself is well written, albeit a bit tough to follow in spots where they are discussing the details of Klein’s financial and legal deals.  These spots are numerous but short, and they are really quite integral to the story, because Klein was extremely creative for his time in the way he structured deals for his artists (and himself).  Many of the things he did are commonplace (or in some cases, illegal) today, but back then, they were considered revolutionary and brilliant. 
 
Klein, as you may suspect, was far from a one-dimensional stereotype; in fact, he was a man of many contradictions.  One minute he seems to be the most despicable figure EVER in the entertainment business, and the next there is something about him that evokes your sympathy. He was greedy with some, yet generous with others; he was a fierce negotiator, yet full of insecurities about himself and his abilities.  He worked tirelessly to get a better deal for his clients, while simultaneously almost always getting an even better deal for himself.
 
The book gives an excellent history of Klein the man, and gives the insight I was looking for into what made the man “tick”.  We find out why he spent a good deal of his childhood in an orphanage, and over the course of time, how he transformed an early talent for numbers into a remarkable career….through a combination of hard work, perseverance, luck, and a little (okay, maybe more than a little) deceit thrown in along the way.  

As the title suggests, his dealings with the Beatles are only a part of what is discussed in the book, although from long before his first meeting with John Lennon, Klein made it his ultimate goal to work with them; an achievement which would say to the world, and more importantly to himself, that he had finally succeeded.
Guest Reviewer
 
A great read about a key figure in Beatle history.  I give this book 4 Beetles!
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Book Review: “It’s Sid Bernstein Calling” by Sid Bernstein

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the fact that I started reading this book this week became really surreal when I realized, it’s been two years this week since Sid departed this earth.  And throughout this week, while reading It’s Sid Bernstein Calling, there have been a lot of other coincidences too.  Just as I put the book down for a moment, something will come on TV or someone will bring up a topic that I just read about in this book.  Makes me think Sid’s still with us.

What a wonderful man Sid was.  I had the pleasure of meeting him twice in my lifetime and he was a joy to be around.  And I attended the memorial tribute they had for him in NYC where I ran into the lovely May Pang while standing in line.

May and I at Sid Bernstein tribute show Feb. 2014

May and I at Sid Bernstein tribute show Feb. 2014

Once again, I digress.

This book was a real surprise to me.  I had no idea what an incredible man Sid Bernstein was beyond his dealings with bring the Beatles to America and a few other various artists.  Sid Bernstein was in WW1…in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge.  He started managing musicians when he was just 14 years old and never stopped.  And this book is written, just as if Sid were sitting in front of you, modestly telling it to you himself.  Not only did he represent some of the biggest names in show business, he rejected some of the biggest names in show business (Barbra Streisand!).

Sid’s book is out of print, but you can still buy new and used copies at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Half.com.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

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Book Review: “Wonderful Tonight” by Pattie Boyd

Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me by Pattie Boyd was written in 2007.  This book should be used as a learning tool for all models and teenagers that dream of marrying a rockstar!  Her story is also proof positive that growing up in a rich family doesn’t necessarily mean you had a happy childhood.

At the tender age of 20, Pattie Boyd married George Harrison at the height of Beatlemania.  But after several years, as her marriage started to crumble, Eric Clapton took a fancy to her and from what appears to be a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, Pattie left George and ended up married to Eric.

Throughout this book, Pattie questions just about every romantic decision she’s ever made…even as they were happening to her. She brings us through her two well publicized divorces; her striving to be on her own; George’s death and the tragic death of Eric’s son from an affair he had while married to her, only coming out of the haze in her early 40s realizing she doesn’t know who Pattie Boyd is aside from the ex-Mrs. Harrison and ex-Mrs. Clapton.

Pattie does a great job telling her life story and letting you in on the private lives of both her ex-husbands.  There are a few stories along the way that contradict other people’s versions of the same tales, but she tells you in the beginning of the book that this books tells the stories the way she remembers them.

Oh…and in case you’re wondering (since we are talking about George again!), there is plenty of pot smoking and acid dropping in this book too!

You can buy copies of Wonderful Tonight on Amazon or Half.com for $0.01 or more.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “I, Me, Mine” by George Harrison

Call me a glutton for punishment.  After reading Derek Taylor’s book about his non-stop LSD trips and then seeing Derek’s widow talk about their non-stop LSD trips in “Living in a Material World“, I decide to read George Harrison’s autobiography that he wrote in 1980 with the assistance of …Derek Taylor!  Oh goodie…more acid trips!

Several years ago, I asked a world renowned Beatles expert and radio show host what book he thought was the best book ever written about the Beatles.  His answer was I, Me, Mine by George Harrison, so in realty, this book has been on my list for years.

This book is three separate parts.  Part one is a conversation between Harrison and Taylor about George’s thoughts on everything and nothing at all.  For the Beatles fans that are looking for secrets into George’s past, you won’t find them here.  What you will find is his thoughts on Beatlemania and his religious beliefs.  And of course, you’re going to get the bonus of a lot of mumbo jumbo from Derek in between!

The second part of the book is page upon page of pictures of George throughout his life.  From childhood, adolescence, Beatlemania, Monty Python and beyond, including snapshots from the family album.  I can’t say there was anything that wow’d me.

Part three of the book is meant for the diehard Beatles and George Harrison fans.  Each of the songs that George wrote are presented in their raw handwritten form, typed form and another page with George’s explanation behind what inspired the song.

This book left me a little disappointed.  I guess I was looking for more about George from George instead of Derek’s edited version.  The book almost seems like it was published as a way to placate the ever hungry fans for more information.

Copies run on Amazon and Half.com from $0.75 up to $200.  I borrowed mine from the local library!

I rate this book: 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “As Time Goes By” by Derek Taylor

By the time this review is scheduled to post,  I’ll be on a 4 day silent retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY.  I considered taking another Beatles book with me to review, but decided to leave work at home while I contemplate world peace.  Enjoy the review.

Derek…Derek…Derek!  Every book I’ve read about the Beatles mentions Derek Taylor.  One author even went so far as to say Derek is the real fifth Beatle!  Derek was Brian Epstein’s personal assistant before becoming the press agent for the Beatles.  Then he quit…then he came back again.  In that time, he wrote two books.  This is a review of his first book, As Time Goes By.

As Time Goes By by Derek Taylor is a 181 page memoir of Derek’s life in the music business from 1968-1971, with a lot of stories before and after those years.  This was Derek’s first memoir, his second was titled – Fifty Years Adrift and a third book, It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, about the anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s album was published in 1987.  He also helped George Harrison write his autobiography, I, Me, Mine.

I don’t know that As Time Goes By is the right title for this book.  After several chapters, I started to think it should be called ‘Everybody Must Get Stoned’ or ‘I Get High With A Little Help From My Friends’ or ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.’  It would seem from what I read in these pages, that Mr. Taylor spent most of his working years in an altered state of consciousness.  He even goes so far as to refer to himself on several occasions as an acid-head or pot-head.  His stories are great, but they come in no real chronological order.  The book seems to just be random memories and anecdotes of him and famous people.

Is it a good book?  Meh.  Is it a fun book?  Yes.  Is it weird as hell?  Oh, hell yeah!  Will I read his other books?  Only time will tell since I’m still trying to figure out what I just read.  What a long strange trip it’s been…

You can find a used copy of As Time Goes By on Amazon for less than $3 if you choose to go down that rabbit hole.

I rate this book: 2 out of 4 Beetles!

You can read more about Derek Taylor on Wikipedia.

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Book Review: “Wings Over New Orleans” by John Taylor

It was a hot time down in New Orleans last weekend…and I mean that literally and figuratively!  My husband, blogger CigarCraig, and I were in New Orleans for the Cigar and Pipe Retailers convention, but that didn’t stop me from finding a way to fit a little Beatles into our trip!

On Sunday morning, Craig and I had the pleasure of meeting up with John and Janet Taylor of Slidell, LA at the Market Café in the French Market.  We had a great time chatting over coffee, bread pudding and grits with a great jazz band playing in the background.  It felt like we were meeting up with old friends as we looked at photos from when John met Paul and Linda McCartney in 1975.  (John is also a part time actor and has had uncredited roles in movies like Dallas Buyers Club and Django Unchained!)

Now, back to my review…

John Taylor is the author of the new book Wings Over New Orleans: Unseen Photos of Paul and Linda McCartney, 1975.  This book is his account and photos of when Paul and Linda McCartney, along with their band Wings, came to New Orleans in the winter of 1975 to record their album Venus and Mars.  Though only 88 pages long, this book was published by Pelican Publishing (ISBN 9781455620340) of New Orleans and contains countless photos and stories by John and several of the other groupies and fans that hung out outside of Sea-Saint Studios for 3 months talking and talking pictures of the McCartneys during their three month stay in the Big Easy.

After 35 years in storage, John finally brought his photos out of their box in hopes that other fans might like to read and see his story of meeting his idol (John used to play bass in a Beatles tribute band called the Blue Meanies!).

This book is definitely a must have for all McCartney and Wings fans for their collection.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 Beetles!

You can order Wings Over New Orleans at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.  You can also find Wings Over New Orleans in bookstores.

You can find John Taylor on Facebook

Jennifer w/ author John Taylor in New Orleans (July 2015)

Jennifer w/ author John Taylor in New Orleans (July 2015)

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Book Review: “Nights Inside The Vault” by Sharon Richards

Good morning, Beatles Freaks!  This morning’s review is coming to you live from hot and steamy New Orleans.  This is not the review I had intended to post, but thankfully, I had this e-book loaded into my iPad’s Kindle app before I left home.  I had intended to rent a movie from iTunes to watch on the plane ride here, but due to technical difficulties beyond my control (the movie is no longer available on iTunes!), I decided to read this book  during my down time here in the Big Easy.

Nights Inside The Vault by Sharon L. Richards is the story of her short, but important time working the Hard Rock’s Vault in Orlando, FL from 2002-2004.  Sharon worked as a tour guide for the museum that housed many important and rare pieces of music history within it’s walls, including a section dedicated to the Beatles….a band Sharon was very familiar with and has spoken about at Beatles festivals across the country.

I have to applaud Ms. Richards’ work ethic and integrity as she demonstrates throughout this book her unwavering dedication to not only the Beatles, but to all the other bands represented at The Vault.  What started out as her dream job slowly became an illusion as she and the other guides took on the task of providing provenance to the various pieces of memorabilia.  Needless to say, the reader of this book will also loose faith in the machine that is the Hard Rock after reading Sharon’s accounts that came straight from her daily journals.

Though this self-published e-book could have used a good editor for the typos and flow, I think it is a necessary read for those that dabble in collecting music memorabilia.  It was quite the eye opener for me.

You can download a copy of Nights Inside The Vault at Amazon.com.

I rate this book: 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

Bonus!  Here’s a video of Sharon’s former Beatles tribute band – Luv Me Do. I once referred to them as the only female Beatles tribute band that I could listen to.

 

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Book Review: “When They Were Boys” by Larry Kane

Larry Kane has been a household name for as long as my family has lived in southeastern PA (40 years!).  And though I have never read his book Ticket to Ride, I was present and accounted for at a local book signing he had for his book Lennon Revealed in 2005…a very good book.  Over the years, Larry and I would meet up once in a blue moon and, once I to him mentioned our mutual acquaintances, he would remember who I am…which was as it should be when you’re Larry Kane.

Enough of the background noise.  Just wanted to clear the air before jumping into my review of Larry Kane’s 2013 release: When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles’ Rise to the Top.  Larry delves into his old interviews with John, Paul, George and Ringo from his days on tour with them in 1964, 1965 and 1966.  And don’t worry about remembering those years, because Larry is going to remind you throughout the book that he was on tour with them in 1964, 1965 and 1966.

Along with sharing with his readers from his early interviews with “the boys” (as he calls them throughout the book and even warns you in the early pages that he will be referring  to them as “the boys”), Mr. Kane interviewed many of the people that were involved in the making, and sometimes breaking, of The Beatles.  He does shed light on a lot of new background information from their humble beginnings to their early days of fame, but he doesn’t do it without consistently repeating the old info over and over again.

I really did enjoy reading the new information from the new sources he sought out, but it was a battle to finish this book because of the small issues I found irritating.  Like…when Larry quotes people it seems that Larry is mentioned in the beginning of all of the first sentences.  “You know, Larry,….”, “Well, Larry…”, “You see, Larry…”  We get it!  Where was the editor for this book?  And sorry, Larry, but I don’t consider Yoko a good source to talk about Stu Sutcliffe.

Read this book for the wonderful new information and interviews, but do it with patience…

You can get a hardcover copy for about $0.75 at Half.com.

At Amazon.com you can get a hardcover or Kindle version.

I rate this book: 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

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