First and foremost, I need to apologize to one of my avid readers for the review I’m about to give on this book. She recommended it to me and told me it’s one of the best books about the Beatles/Lennon that she’s read. My other readers may want to keep her opinion in mind while reading my thoughts on this book, because everyone sees (and reads) things differently.
The Lennon Companion by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman was first published in 1987 and then revised in 2004. My copy is the 2004 edition that I bought used on Amazon.com for a penny. It’s a collection of articles and thoughts on both the Beatles and John Lennon from various reporters, writers, magazines and newspapers around the world starting in 1963.
Well, for the first time, dear readers, I’m going to admit that I didn’t finish a book. I take my book reviews very seriously and find it insulting to the authors and my readers to not read the book in its entirety before giving my opinion. I managed to get over halfway through the 260 pages after skipping several wordy articles that managed to say nothing as far as I was concerned. Many of the articles seemed to be written by reporters who wanted to jump on the Beatles’ bandwagon to help boost their own popularity and ratings. Page after page of nonsense was written for newspapers and then published again in this book!
This isn’t to say that all the articles were worthless. I did find one piece that was written about a playwright that was being considered to write a third movie for the Beatles. His screenplay was returned to him without ever being told why it was rejected, but it’s easy to figure out from the playwrights own thoughts on the subject. I did find it interesting to hear about the Beatles movie that was never made.
Now maybe somewhere in the second half of this book there is another gem of an article that could bring some enlightening new fact to my limited knowledge of the Fab Four. But truth be told, the book literally kept putting me to sleep. I could not keep my eyes open and napped frequently during my quest to finish the book.
Despite my review, and as I’ve already said, one of my readers considers this to be the best book she’s read. You can judge for yourself whether it’s a real page turner or a replacement for your sleeping pills by buying a used copy for yourself for $0.01 on Amazon.
I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!
The book that I had originally planned to review this week was late showing up in my mail. In the meantime, I had finished reading a book that a friend of mine wrote. I make it a point not to review friend’s works because it’s not fair to them or to my readers if I feel I can’t be honest. So, in this case, I’m going to tell you about the story behind this book and a quick synopsis, but I’m not going to rate it.
From Me To You by Garry Berman and Kelly Marie Thompson is the second published work by these writers. This book is listed as a coming-of-age story, but I believe it would be of more interest to the Young Adult sector.
The story is about two penpals, one in New Jersey and one in Liverpool, UK, who begin writing to each other as part of a high school project. Maggie, living in Liverpool, introduces Ricky, in New Jersey, to the music of the Beatles by sending him 45 rpms before anyone in the U.S. has even heard of the band. As Beatlemania grows, so does their friendship. The book takes you through their ever growing friendship up until the day it’s announced that the Beatles are splitting up in 1970. But will their friendship last? That’s the big question!
What makes this story even more interesting is that the two authors, Garry Berman and Kelly Thompson, met on the internet in a writer’s group. They both like each other’s style of writing so much that they soon started co-writing projects via email, including their original hilarious six episode sitcom Barkers Upon Tyne (currently available as an ebook).
As I said, I think this would be a great book for a young teen girl, but for adults I would recommend getting the $2.99 Kindle version.
A 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!
You can buy a used copy of this book for $0.01 on Amazon!
Continuing 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!
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.
(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.
A great read about a key figure in Beatle history. I give this book 4 Beetles!
Ever since I finished Miss O’Dell: Hard Days and Long Nights with The Beatles, The Stones, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton two days ago, I’ve been arguing with myself about how to write this review. I know several people who are still very close to Chris O’Dell and they’re really not going to like what I’m about to say. But hey, it’s my website…
This book is very well written, though it became quite obvious where the co-author decided to add filler…or as I like to put it “too many words”. That’s the good news about this book.
The only real word I can use to describe this book is ‘pathetic.’ This women is the most self-absorbed person I’ve ever read about! She not only spends most of her life as the houseguest that overstays her welcome (Ringo, George and Eric Clapton all wanted her out!), she then refers to their wanting her to leave as them rejecting her. Really?! She justifies sleeping with married men by saying she didn’t expect it to last anyway. And then, BOOHOO, she decides that when Maureen Cox tells her to keep an eye on Ringo in L.A., that’s her invitation to sleep with him. OH NO…she’s lost her friend Maureen! Whatever will she do? Wah wah…
When she finally nabs an aristocrat with a British title, she decides her knight in shining armor has finally arrived after all she’s been through. Needless to say, that marriage only lasted long enough to produce a child to inherit his father’s title.
This is woman who, when she realized Pattie and George & Maureen and Ringo where splitting up, rambles on about not knowing where she’ll stay when she’s in London if their marriages collapse. Nothing like being there for your friends, Miss O’Dell!
Now maybe this Miss O’Dell is a nice lady and I have her all wrong. Then again, maybe she should read the book she wrote and the way she portrayed her narcissistic life. And for that reason…
I rate this book: 1 out of 4 Beetles!
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
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!
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!
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!
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.