Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: “The Beatles in India” by Paul Saltzman

Beatles in India Paul SaltzmanThe Beatles in India by Paul Saltzman is 104 pages of the author’s unplanned encounter with the Beatles, their wives, girlfriends, Donovan, and Mike Love at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India in 1968. This book was originally published as a limited edition in 2005, but was revised and rereleased on February 13, 2018. I picked this book up while I was at the Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in November. Paul Saltzman was also there and I must admit that I’m sorry I didn’t get him to sign this when I had the chance.

Though mostly a picture book, the first 16 pages of this book are a Foreword by Pattie Boyd (along with a couple of her photos from the same time at the ashram), an Preface by Tim B. Wride (a photography curator for a museum) and an introduction by the author who talks about how he ended up at the ashram with the Beatles. Mr. Saltzman’s story about how he ended up in India and at the ashram at the same time as the Fab Four is actually quite interesting. The author could have chosen to just put out a collection of photographs, but instead invited us into his life and also the life of the Beatles while they were trying to escape the press and pressures of fame. His casual conversations with John, Paul, George, Ringo and their significant others shows us another side of the people we think we know from the stories we’ve read before.

I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t as impressed with the photos as I thought I would be. Don’t get me wrong…they’re beautiful photos, but I’ve seen them before. Now they’re just larger and not on a computer screen. The author/photographer also seemed to spend a lot of time photographing John and Paul, but I guess we need to also cut him some slack because he wasn’t actually a photographer, just a guy who happened to be in the right place at the right time with a camera.

The book ends with the Afterword by Donovan Leitch and anyone who knows me or read my review of Donovan’s autobiography knows I’m not a fan of his and as I suspected he seemed to have a hard time not making the whole thing about himself…again! Paul Saltzman says he was a soft spoken guy, but if you ask Susan Shumsky, the author of Maharishi and Me, she’ll tell you a different story about meeting Donovan during her time at the ashram. But I digress…

All in all, this is a beautiful book with a great story of a heartbroken man with a camera stumbling upon the biggest celebrities in the world in 1968 and becoming their friends for a short time. If you’re a collector of Beatles books, you can buy the special limited edition for $325 on the authors website…or you can buy the super deluxe limited edition for $875. I think I’ll stick to my $35 copy. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Maharishi and Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru” by Susan Shumsky

On September 3rd, I received an email asking if I’d be interesting in being part of a Blog Tour for a new book. The subject line of the email was “NEW BOOK: The Beatles’ India – sex scandals & mental breakdowns (Inside Story)”. As a publicist who works with authors, a book that was released seven months earlier is not considered a new book…but what the hell. Also, I had the pleasure of meeting the author, Susan Shumsky, last week at the Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in New Jersey. I introduced myself and told her I would be reviewing her book. We had a brief conversation, I attended one of her talks and then said our goodbyes at the end of the seminar.

Maharishi & Me: Seeking Enlightenment with the Beatles’ Guru by Susan Shumsky was released on February 13, 2018.  It’s a 300+ page book about the author’s experience with the same Maharishi that the Beatles spent time with in 1968. The book is very well written and an easy read. Of course, you may get tripped up on all the Hindu terminology, but not enough to distract too much from her personal story of following and living at the ashram of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and practicing transcendental meditation for over 20 years.

Now for the more personal side of this review…and strictly my opinion: There are many times throughout Susan’s story that the word ‘cult’ would come to my mind. Even the author herself brings up the topic along the way, but easily finds ways of dismissing it at times. It can become almost disturbing to the reader and I still haven’t come to terms with her justification of some of the things that she brings to light about the Maharishi’s organization. Even after being kicked out of the TM organization, she still supports the Maharishi to the very end.

But was John Lennon correct when he called the Maharishi a fraud? Well, this is also left open to interpretation. Ms. Shumsky spends several chapters in the middle of her book discussing the Beatles involvement and visit to India to meet with Maharishi at his ashram. She draws the stories from other sources since she wasn’t there to obtain any first hand knowledge. She also draws upon stories from people she knows who were there. In a court of law, a lot of this would all be considered hearsay. My thought is to take what she says, along with any other sources you may have read and develop your own opinion. Or…maybe not, because in the end, does any of it really matter? I think it’s up to the reader to decide what’s right for them when it comes to their personal religious beliefs and not be influenced by celebrity endorsements…or condemnations. Even Susan says in her book that you have to find the right guru for you, so you’ll either find her story about TM impressive or disturbing.

Susan Shumsky does a great job of opening the readers eyes to the making (and life) of a guru by someone who was actually there to witness it. She tells both the good and bad. The stories of her experiences are heartwarming, funny, disturbing and told with a lot of strength. Yes, I would highly recommend that you read this book if you’re a true Beatles fans or just someone considering TM or just wants a first hand experience of what it’s like inside the ashram. It’s a book that can create a lot of discussions about gurus, religion and God. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

***For more information on Susan Shumsky, go to www.DivineRevelations.org

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Book Review: “TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking” by Chris Anderson

TED Talks The official ted guide to public speaking Chris AndersonSo, your first question is: Why isn’t this listed as a “Bonus Book Review”? Obviously, it has nothing to do with the Beatles! True, but TEDTalks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking does mention Pete Best and the Beatles, and if you hang with me through this review, you’ll understand how I’ll tie this book into something very Beatle-y!

A couple months ago, I noticed that there will be a TEDx event in Delaware. TEDx events (with the x at the end), are off-shoots of the original TEDTalks. I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring and try for a spot to speak at this event in November. I submitted my speech proposal and 1 minute video…and got the rejection email like thousands of others. But one of the things they suggested, should we wish to try again, was to read their book on how to give an official 15-18 minute TED talk.

TED was founded in 1984 by Harry Marks and Richard Sullivan and is an annual conference that is held as a way to spread ideas about Technology, Entertainment and Design. The founders believed that these three fields are actually all intertwined and they wanted a new way for people to help spread the innovative and ground breaking work they were doing. It costs $10,000 a ticket to attend a conference, but you will get to see notable speakers like Bono, Bill Clinton, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, etc. (It was never my intention to speak at the main conference, but a satellite TEDx would be cool.) There is so much to these events that it would take up too much room here, so if you want to know more about TED, click here.

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking was published in 2016 by Chris Anderson, the new owner of TED. The book is only about 252 pages and a quick read. But it’s filled with a lot of powerful information for anyone that needs or wants to speak in public. It covers just about any topic you can think of, right down to what to wear. Should you stand or sit? Should you use a slide presentation, props or just speak? Rehearse the speech ahead of time or read from a script? Podium or walk the stage? How to fend off stage fright?

Even though I’ve given speeches and lectures before (nothing major or mind-blowing), there was still a lot for me to learn from this book. It really is a must read for anyone who needs to get up in front of a crowd and talk, whether solo or on a panel. Anyone…no matter how confident you are, could learn something new. In fact, I would say that anyone speaking at a Beatles festival, conference or symposium, could enhance their stage presence really quickly. Which brings me to the next reason I read this book…

On Sunday, November 11th, I will be speaking at The Beatles’ White Album Symposium at Monmouth University in Long Branch, NJ. It’s a three day event (four days if you could the concert the night before) and some of the great keynote speakers include: Mark Lewisohn, Ken Mansfield, Mark Lapidos, Scott Frieman, Robert Rodriguez and Bruce Spizer. There are really too many to list, so just go to the website to check it out! It’s hosted by Kenneth Womack, author of the two book series on George Martin. Tickets for the general public cost $75 for each day and includes keynotes, films and meals.

And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography” by Eric Idle

Always look on the bright side of life eric idleAlways Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle is due to be released on October 2, 2018, but I was lucky enough to get an advanced ebook copy from FirstToRead.com.

Knowing that Eric was very close friends with George Harrison made choosing to read and review this book a no-brainer! The sub-title of this book could actually be “and a semi-autobiography of George Harrison” because from the very beginning Eric Idle talks about their life long friendship. Even in stories that George isn’t in, Idle will end with, “As George Harrison always said….”

But this book isn’t just about Eric Idle, George Harrison and the Pythons. The names of all the notable people Eric has worked and socialized with is outstanding (and take way too much band with to list)! I actually got tired of the name dropping at one point, but that is the way his life has evolved. And every name he drops has a story. From getting Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher drunk the night before a filming a major scene in The Empire Strikes Back (he says you can tell they’re hungover in the scene), to having dinner at Billy Connolly’s house with Robin William and Prince Charles all at the table!

Unfortunately, the ebook copy that I received from Crown Publishing is an unedited proof, so there are some typos and some really rough paragraphs that could use some cleaning up, not to mention one badly placed photo with the wrong caption. Oh…and speaking of the photos! There are photos from so many of Eric Idles stories that you’d think he had them taken just so he could prove that the outrageousness of some of his stories are true.

This book is an absolute must read for everyone…especially George Harrison and Beatles fans…and of course Monty Python fans. And even though they swore they’ll never tour again, Palin, Cleese, Idle, Jones and Gilliam have broken that promise several times already. Let’s hope for another reunion. In the meantime, pre-order this book (https://amzn.to/2wVqOIh). It’ll really make you laugh….and for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Beatles Yellow Submarine (Graphic Novel) – by Bill Morrison

The Beatles Yellow Submarine is a new graphic novel that was just released this past Tuesday, August 28, 2018. It was put out by Titan Comics and illustrated by Bill Morrison – the co-founder of Bongo Comics and editor of MAD magazine.

I admit that it’s been a very long time since I’ve watched the movie Yellow Submarine. In fact, I actually wasn’t sure if we owned it and I had to go out into the garage to look through our old box of DVD’s to find it. So by now you all realize that mine is the 1999 version and not the beautifully restored 2012 version. This brings me to my second confession that after getting about 20 pages into this 112 page hardcover, graphic novel, I slipped the movie into my player to see how the book compared to the original story.

Picture yourself…in your favorite chair, with your favorite small child (be it your own kid, niece, nephew, or kid you babysit) curled up next to you as you read them the story of the Yellow Submarine. The book follows the movie as best it can without all the great psychedelic animation or well-known songs as background music. But if you’re a true Beatles’ fan, chances are your kids already know the title and other songs. Where the movie may be a bit much for young minds to absorb, this graphic novel is a great way to introduce your children to reading while at the same time making sure that they are future Beatles freaks like their parents or guardians.

The book isn’t an exact replica of the film and does skip tiny bits of the movie’s dialog here, there and everywhere, while adding tiny snippets to make it all make sense on paper, while at same time staying true to the story. The illustrations are adapted from the movie, but once again, the dialog isn’t going to exactly match up with the movie’s animation. Still, it’s a very, very good adaption with Mr. Morrison fitting in as much of the movie’s background graphics as he can on every colorful page. If you’re a Beatles book collector or the parent of a little Beatle fan, then this book belongs on your shelf. Just be sure to put the soundtrack on your stereo before indulging. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Flower Power Fatality” by Sally Carpenter

Flower Power Fatality Psychodelic Spy Mystery Sally CarpenterFlower Power Fatality: A Psychedelic Spy Mystery is the third book I’ve read by Sally Carpenter and reviewed on this blog. Sandy writes the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series of mysteries and now she’s branched out with a new series. She’s a huge Beatles fan and whenever possible, she’ll mention them in her books. In fact, her first novel, The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper is about a mysterious murder at a Beatles convention.

Flower Power Fatality is based in 1967. The lead character Noelle McNabb finds herself knee deep in helping to solve the mysterious murder of a man who knocks at her door on a cold rainy night and falls to her floor from a gunshot wound when she answers. It isn’t long before a secret spy organization shows up looking for information about the dead man that she doesn’t have. Or does she?

I love the way Sally can write a great story that’s so easy to sit back and relax to. These are the books that are true beach books or books for when you just need to escape into another world. There’s not a lot of gore, swearing, sex or nudity. Just simply good writing in a whodunit. Throughout this book, she names some of the chapters after Beatles songs and at least twice, the Beatles are mentioned, whether it’s Noelle putting their album on her turntable to chill out to or some other small incident. No matter where you go, there’s always room for more Beatles. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Tune In: The Beatles – All These Years” by Mark Lewisohn

Tune In The Beatles All These Years Mark LewisohnPublished in 2013, Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years comes in at a whooping 932 pages (803 without the bibliography and index). One would think that’s a lot of pages for the first of three books that author Mark Lewisohn has planned for this series, until you realize that Tune In: The Beatles – All These Years – Unedited/Extended Special Edition has 1728 pages! So…why did I wait so long to read this book? Well, over the past 5 years I’ve probably said at least 5 times, “I will never read that book. It’s just too long!” And what changed my mind? Well, it was you, dear readers. The guilt of not posting anything of real substance over the past several months finally made me take this book down from my bookshelf.

I thought I could sit down and read the entire book in a weekend, but it proved to be just too much information coming at me all at once. And even though I’ve read dozens of books about the Fab Four, Mark Lewisohn’s in-depth research left me with so many more questions that I actually wonder if I should pick up the unedited edition some day. Eegads folks…what kind of introverted, anti-social monster has he turned me into? So many details and yet so much more to learn, Lewisohn turns his readers into Fab Four junkies before hitting the halfway mark in this book. The Beatles are my sugar of choice and Mark Lewisohn is my candy man!

One thing about the book that left me scratching my head, though, was that throughout, Lewisohn goes into great detail to describe pictures that were taken during the early stages of the Beatles career, yet these pictures are not contained within the book. Some of them are, but the majority is not. Whether or not they’re in the extended edition, I don’t know. Hopefully, one of my readers can enlighten me on that fact. Also, the author really did his homework when it comes to the women that John, Paul, George, Pete and Ringo dated in their pre-fame days, mentioning so many of them by name and even providing details and quotes from them. Yet, Cynthia Powell seems to not be as prominent even though by the end of the book she’s 4 months pregnant and living with John’s aunt Mimi. I’m not sure if Lewisohn is just downplaying her part in John’s life (since it is a book about The Beatles and not John), or maybe so much has already been written about her, or maybe no one close to Cynthia (including Cynthia) would talk to Lewisohn during his research. It’s a question I’d love to ask him.

Still, I can’t blame Mark for the faults in this book when I obviously took the easy way out and read the shorter version. Maybe all of my questions would be answered in the unedited edition. Maybe someday I’ll read it! LOL More likely, I’ll buy the audio version (if it’s ever made available). Never the less, this book is the bible for all Beatles fans and leaves me with one final question…why would anyone need to read another book about the Beatles after reading this one? And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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