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Book Review: “The Beatles 101: A Pocket Guide in 101 Moments, Songs, People and Places” by Vikki Reilly

Beatles 101 Vikki Reilly

This review is by Amy Hughes

What a primer book on The Beatles should be is a concise, informative chronicle (with natural branching off) that gives a reader the very essence of its subject. Author Vikki Reilly has stumbled upon that magic formula in her book The Beatles 101: A Pocket Guide in 101 Moments, Songs, People and Places (Polaris Publishing, 2020)

Reilly has delved into what is considered a complex web of music history that requires extricating the wheat from the chaff: to that end, the best thing about her tome are the examples put forth of the band in chronological sequence: from origins and upbringing, the band’s embryonic beginnings onto Hamburg and Beatlemania and into the studio years, their companions and cohorts, tons of well-placed facts and beautifully sprinkled with a dose of rarely-seen photos (one showing Ringo, George and John in Wales upon hearing of Brian Epstein’s death was especially stunning) which gives the book a higher edge than most of the paint-by-numbers (read: inaccurate) quickies that attempt this same style.

By all means, this is not a dry reference manual or a zippy thumb-thru that skips the details. In fact, Reilly has portioned out the writing in a factual, easy-to-understand language that by turns has much humor (her enthusiasm and infectious laugh poured forth in a recent podcast with presenter Chris Shaw that only heightens her presence in this book) and a deep understanding of The Beatles that will have ‘serious’ fans appreciative of her studious research. I also took note of her witticisms and use of vernacular that may not be familiar to US readers (the word ‘quicksmart’ for example) and having interspersed the chapter entitled ‘The Fifth Beatle’ throughout, assigning it to inner-circle people from Neil Aspinall to Yoko Ono to Phil Spector.

There are plenty of well-known stories here for readers to digest and a good number of pages are dedicated to ‘Fab Facts’ in regards to their singles and albums (which are handy to have if you’re caught blank in a trivia quiz!). And as a pleasant diversion, Reilly presents a chapter on the always-debatable ‘Beatles vs. Stones’ in a Friends-Rivals breakdown.

The conclusion takes on several chapters of post-Beatles history, the deaths of Lennon & Harrison, ‘Anthology,’ and the digital/streaming era of their music. While there is nothing earth-shattering in these passages, I was happy to see the inclusion of relevant material that completes the story and frames the narrative more wholly.

With the title that pretty much lives up to its’ subject matter and presented in down-to-earth dialogue…

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Society’s Child” by Janis Ian

Society's Child Janis Ian

This is another review of another book I picked up a couple week’s ago at a used book store for $5 – Society’s Child: my autobiography by Janis Ian. Now here’s a strange little twist…I follow Janis on Facebook, but I couldn’t tell you why or when I started. I just do. I don’t own any of her albums, nor have I ever followed her career. She’s just been kinda there…and I do enjoy her posts. So, when I saw this book, I guessed it was about time I got to know her a little better.

You know the story…little Jewish girl from New York makes it big and leads a fabulous, glamorous life filled with the very best of everything? Well, this ain’t that story! This is the story of a young girl from a family where her father was blacklisted during the McCarthy era forcing him to find a new job and move his family every two years. It’s the story of an awkward 15 year old that wrote her first hit song ‘Society’s Child’ in 1966 and had to leave a stage midway through the song to the yells of “Nigger lover!”

What should have been an amazing life, was nothing short of tragic. Only once before have I ever read an autobiography and thought to myself, “Why is this person still alive?”, and that was Danny Bonaduce’s book. Despite her overwhelming success in Japan and Australia, behind the scenes Janis was used and abused by a series of friends, lovers and colleagues. And then in 1975 came her Grammy winning song…At Seventeen…a song that brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. I lived the pain in that song…

By the age of 37, Janis Ian had been robbed, drugged, physically abused by her husband and eventually lost everything she owned to the IRS when her accountant (who was stealing from her) failed to inform her for 7 years about several IRS inquiries. And yet, she endured. This tiny, fragile little woman chose to live on.

This 360 page autobiography published in 2008 is a real page turner. There is honestly never a dull moment throughout, making it hard to put down when it was well past my bedtime because I had to work the next day. (And for those who are concerned about whether this review is on-topic for a Beatles blog, Janis does mention the Beatles twice.)

If you can either beg, borrow or buy a copy of Janis’ story, please do so. It’s going to teach you that everything that shines, isn’t gold, but sometimes it’s not money and fame that matter. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “It’s All In The Mind: Inside The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine Vol. 2” by Robert R. Hieronimus, Ph.D., and Laura Cortner

This review is by Amy HughesIt's all in the mind yellow submarine 2

More often than not, understanding the impact of The Beatles is first formed by our personal experiences and then interactions and collaborations with like-minded individuals. Whether through music or books or films, new and improved impressions help to see what wasn’t available ‘back in the day.’ And as an archaeologist of Beatle-knowledge, I welcome those finds as a breath of fresh air.

Created as a supplemental companion, It’s All In The Mind (Hieronimus & Co., Inc. Publications, 2021) is another deep dive (Volume 1 – ‘Inside The Yellow Submarine’ – having been published in 2002) into one of The Beatles most storied movies: how the animated ‘Yellow Submarine’ was concepted, created and put together in a blindingly fast, short period of time.

Although not known to the general public at the time, there was no finished script, no complete narrative in the timeline for ‘normal’ animation. While those around them struggled to find ways to keep the film on track (chronicled here by impossible deadlines and diminishing budgets), the animators and artists furiously working at their desks at London’s TV Cartoons (TVC) would have little to no idea if a sequence was coherent or how it fit into the grand scheme of the movie. That the film was finished at all (read the passages on the ‘kidnapping’ of the almost-completed footage) is testament to everyone’s emotional commitment to the feature and unwavering dedication to The Beatles.

Historians Robert Hieronimus (affectionately known as “Dr. Bob”) and Laura Cortner have continued the narrative from Vol. 1 and found the people, traveled the avenues and asked the questions that so many of us take for granted when it comes to ‘Yellow Submarine:’ detailing the lives of the creators, animators, their families, the hard-nosed business aspects and the free-wheeling comradery that helped to keep this sub afloat for the 11-month engagement (and for some, beyond). To that end, many of the stories coming from the crew were alternately hysterical (read: “The Distasteful Floating Poop Sign” entry) and touching (an entire chapter devoted to art director Heinz Edelmann from Dr. Bob is revelatory and personal).

In addition, Dr. Bob and Cortner have also included their personal thoughts about the film’s (possible?) hidden messages – were there any and if so, what was the meaning we as an audience should glean from it? Dovetailing into that, there are also passages that showcase alternate storylines and characters that never saw the light of day, providing thought-provoking, what-might-have-been’s had events turned out differently.

Helming all this organized chaos were a group of dedicated visionaries that at the time had no plan or purpose where their ground-breaking work would lead: director George Dunning (unassuming by nature, but determined to push boundaries), animation directors Robert Balser (the creative glue that kept everyone together) and Jack Stokes (a beloved character and one of the few that connected with all four Beatles), special sequences director Charlie Jenkins (his ‘Eleanor Rigby’ segment and the ending scene for ‘It’s All Too Much’ are legendary) and art director Heinz Edelmann (“astonishingly creative” a superlative not uncommon in describing his work.) Among the points to be made crystal clear: Edelmann was the one responsible for the style and feel of the film – from character development to backgrounds – his unique vision and distinctive color palette shaped the flow for all involved. And to be blunt: artist Peter Max (world-renowned in his own right) had ZERO to do with ‘Yellow Submarine.’ The authors make no bones in their opinions about Max’s decades-long fabrications that he invented the ‘look’ or was instrumental in the film’s making. To quote the book “‘Yellow Submarine’ was not his design.”

As mentioned, great lengths are taken to include a dozen or so personnel in Vol. 2 who were involved in the day-to-day creation of the film. Most did not receive screen credit in 1968, yet their contributions were key: Cam Ford (who gives the book added weight from his concise personal recollections and photos from inside TVC), Chris Caunter, Malcolm Draper, Lawrence Moorcroft, Diana Ford, Norm Drew and Ramon Modiano. Their memories – day-to-day activities, inspiration from the co-creators, hijinks, familial gatherings at the local pub The Dog and Duck, visits from notorious producer Al Brodax and their deep love for Edelmann –  are invaluable and insightful, giving new meaning to “hard work” and “fun” over the course of what Drew called “this wonderful graphic banquet.”

As a side note: one group of men who need attention: the voice actors for The Beatles. Despite the Beatles live-action inclusion at the very end, it was John Clive, Paul Angelis, Geoffrey Hughes and Peter Batten (who was later arrested for being AWOL and had his work finished by Angelis) who went almost uncredited for their work. Cleverly disguised for recognition by higher-ups, their talents were “Blue-Meanie-d” at the time and have only become more prominent since anniversary screenings now give them the recognition they deserve.

The film has gained more mileage in the years since it’s release due to the accelerated interest in animation, pre-CGI. To wit: ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ with it’s contributions from animator extraordinaire Bill Sewell’s visuals to Diana Ford’s detailing how she drove the rotoscoping ‘bicycle,’ to the Trace and Paint department’s literal hands-on input is fascinating from a making-of standpoint. With that history, the book makes the argument that a remake or why the almost-happened Robert Zemeckis 3-D motion capture version (which was deep-sixed in 2012) cannot occupy the same space as the original.

Quite honestly, it’s hard to encapsulate in this review all the personalities that saw ‘Yellow Submarine’ through from beginning to end. What is most appreciated from a reader who goes through ‘It’s All In The Mind’ (and Vol 1. ‘Inside The Yellow Submarine’) is the resolve of the talented, global team in making this film something they would be proud of, knowing it was a labor of love for The Beatles first and foremost. Dr. Bob and Cortner should also be given major credit for undertaking this logistical journey, championing the behind-the-scenes innovators, chronicling the imaginative environment and dispelling myths while letting the crewmembers impart their fascinating anecdotes that gave ‘Yellow Submarine’ it’s unmistakable character.

With the appreciation that has grown for ‘Yellow Submarine’ over the past 50 years, plentiful inclusions of color sketches from Edelmann, private snaps from the lens of Cam Ford, stories aplenty in the behind-the-scenes battles (and wins!) and the details of how particular scenes were created…

I’m giving this book: 4 out of 4 beetles

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock-and-Roll Life” by Jonathan Taplin

The Magic Years Jonathan TaplinA couple weeks ago, while performing my side hustle as a publicist, I stumbled upon a website where I can get ARC copies of new books for free in exchange for a review. The site is filled with mostly self-published fiction authors, but a quick search on “music” and “biographies” turned up The Magic Years: Scenes from a Rock and Roll Life by Jonathan Taplin.

Published May 7, 2021, this 286 page memoir is a real page turner…I only wish I had read a hard copy and could have actually turned pages instead of reading a .pdf, but that’s my problem…not the authors! I love a good page turner…literally!

If you’re a Bob Dylan fan, you’re going to love this book. If you’re a fan of The Band, you’re going to love this book. If you’re a fan of folk music, rock and roll, Martin Scorcese, George Harrison, this is the book for you. Jonathan Talpin has worked with all of them one-on-one and so many more famous names.

A lonely child, sent off to boarding to school and pegged by his father to follow in his footsteps and become a lawyer, somehow the universe had other plans for Jonathan when he would take a train into Boston on weekends to go to the folk music clubs. By the time he was in Princeton, he was already working as a tour manager for some of the biggest names in the folk music industry.

Excellent book…but sometimes it can leave you scratching your head as to what was happening in between a lot of the excitement. And then there is the question of how he managed to have $500k to lend to Martin Scorcese to finance a film? I’m sure there is a terrific explanation, but for now we’re all going to have to just keep guessing.

I will add a warning that this book does get a bit political leaning in the last couple chapters and is bound to irritate some people. This is the man who wrote Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy Which left me asking, how the hell he got into that field? And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Boys Next Door” by Dan Greenberger

This review is written by Amy McGrath Hughes.

The Boys Next Door Dan GreenbergerIn the surroundings that revolve around The Beatles history, none is more fascinating than their time in Hamburg. Setting off that, author Dan Greenberger immerses his narrator and chief character Alan Levy into an alternate universe where Levy delves into the dirty, foul and fascinating period in those all-to-real hard times.

The Boys Next Door (Appian Way Press, 2020) is a coming-of-age story – albeit one that involves copious amounts of booze, drugs and sex. In this situation, Greenberger lets loose the unhinged, rogue-like characters of 1960 Beatles that we’ve come to know – all very un-PC in language, attitude and social interaction. And with Levy, migrating from the comforts of the US, he quickly realizes his standing here is on shaky ground.

Levy sets out as a post-graduate student from Columbia University with hopes for higher education in Hamburg. Nearly immediately we see him set down in that Beatle-y familiar hellhole: living in squalid conditions in the Bambi Kino, arranged by the thoroughly unlikable Bruno Koschmider and being awoken at night constantly by this band he has yet to meet. By casting Levy as an American Jew, we know right off the bat where this is headed in humor: off-color descriptions from Levy’s first-person account on the German people (and vice versa on the anti-Semitism still prevalent in post WWII Germany), the temptations of the Reeperbahn red-light district and through letters back home, we get an idea that he believes he is ‘all that’ as a poet and serious artist. Until he meets Astrid Kirchherr.

As he becomes smitten with the cooler than cool photographer, he manages to finally meet his next-door neighbors: John (all potty-mouth and pusher-of-buttons), Paul (all touchy-feely-huggy), George (all puppy-eyed and young), Pete (all nothing) and most importantly Stuart, who becomes the object of Astrid’s affection and the thorn in the side of Levy’s pursuit of her.

We get an eye-opening sense of the carnal atmosphere and near lethal encounters that The Beatles endured during that first club run. Author Greenberger weaves well-known scenes: Astrid’s photographing the band, the revolutionary haircut and the introduction of Klaus Voormann and Jurgen Vollmer with the fictionalized characters that showcase Levy’s interaction as a student which makes way for a dive down a rather unexpected path.

As posed here Levy works his way into The Beatles inner circle, hanging with them (in and out of the clubs), fantasizing that he and Astrid are a couple and using this time period to showcase the harsh realities of how life can change so dramatically – from promising student and aspiring poet to beer-guzzling, pill-popping hanger-on willing to throw away a pretty good life and become one of them. For good measure, Greenberger exits the story with Levy hastily leaving via the real-life incidents that led to The Beatles deportation and wondering about his and the band’s future; for good or bad is left up to the reader.

I found the writing style alternatingly engaging and repulsive and by repulsive, I mean the transformation that took place in Levy’s character – not the way he visualized but certainly crafted by his involvement with the group and their lifestyle. Not everyone who orbited around The Beatles in real-life at this time escaped without damage and Greenberger’s take was fairly point on without being overly maudlin or drama filled.

I also found his letter-writing to friends and family back home hysterical. Without giving away a spoiler, a near-to-the-end note composed as a bit of farewell to his best friend back in NYC had me howling at the reveal.

Appreciative of the period narrative, the immersion into the seediness that ultimately was The Beatles real growth as a unit and an unusual perspective that involved clever character dialogue…

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Cornflakes with John Lennon” by Robert Hilburn

Cornflakes with John Lennon Robert HilburnLast month I decided I needed to get out of the house, and while on my adventure, I came across a used bookstore where I stumbled upon a copy of Cornflakes with John Lennon: And other tales from a rock ‘n’ roll life by Robert Hilburn. I kept thinking the author sounded familiar, but it wasn’t until I actually started reading and realized that he was a Los Angeles Times music critic that it occurred to me that I had seen his name while I was doing research on Jim Croce. Hilburn had reviewed a Randy Newman show in 1972 with Jim opening and had given Randy one paragraph and Jim three & a half paragraphs worth of praise. But I digress…

No reason to beat around the bush, this book rocks from beginning to end. Published in October 2009, this 270 page tribute to rock ‘n’ roll is a real page turner. Hilburn spent over 30 years as the Los Angeles Times rock critic, so he knows what the rock and roll public want and doesn’t let them down with the stories in this book. He starts off immediately with a story about John Lennon, then fills the rest of the books with personal, inside stories and encounters with the likes of Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Janis Joplin, Ice Cube, etc. (Hell, even I liked Bob Dylan after reading this book!) And Robert lets us get a peak into the world of Curt Cobain, or so it appears…

Robert Hilburn becomes with friends with almost every rock, country and folk star he reviews and interviews along the way, even admitting to giving them advice on their shows which he seems surprised to find they take to heart the next time they hit the stage. He gets phone calls and invitations from rock gods around the world…he had the job we all dreamed of having! There were a few hiccups along the way…George Harrison got miffed and stopped taking his calls and requests for interviews. But all-in-all, Hilburn sure makes it all sound like the ultimate joy ride for the last 3 decades.

I don’t know why I’m still talking. If you’re like me and somehow missed this book when it came out, take my advice and go to Amazon.com where you’ll find plenty of used copies for under $5 and add this book to your collection. The stories about Lennon alone are worth $2! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Last Days of John Lennon” by James Patterson

The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson

Does that title and the author sound familiar? The title you might recognize because it’s the same as the book written by Frederic Seaman in 1991…but I’ll discuss more about him later.

The author of this book, James Patterson, is the world famous author who has written over 200 mostly fiction books since 1976 and sold in excess of 375 million copies. I’m not sure why he chose to write a book about John Lennon. Maybe because he’s a hardcore Beatle fan like the rest of us? I could probably look it up somewhere, but in the end, it’s not really important as to why he wrote this book. He’s a talented writer and maybe he just wanted to break up the monotony of writing all that fiction.

The other thing I can’t explain is why it’s taken me a month and a half to read this book. From the get-go I just couldn’t seem to get into it. You’d think with the subject matter and the author this would be a no brainer that anyone would read in one sitting. It could have been me that was the problem because I knew the ending and didn’t want to deal with reading the (bloody) details again. But, there were a couple other things that didn’t sit right with me.

This book is not the “last days” of John Lennon’s life. In fact, Patterson starts at the very beginning of the Beatles creation when John Lennon met Paul McCartney. Intermixed with the Beatles story is the story of Lennon’s killer starting 2 days before he actually shot Lennon. Maybe that’s what the title is about, but it’s not what 80% of this book is about. And for Beatles fans who know the story of their rise to fame, it’s a bit much to have to rehash the whole thing again. There really are no surprises there.

As for the story of John’s killer’s, it’s a little too detailed..to the point of wondering where Patterson got all this inside information into the killer’s psyche. There are over 90 pages of “Notes” in the back of this book, detailing the sources for every page of the book, but sometimes even the notes don’t explain some of the ‘thoughts’ Patterson includes. I have to wonder if he was slipping in some of that fiction he’s famous for into his text.

And while I’m talking about Patterson’s notes, let’s bring back the subject of Frederic Seaman and James Patterson borrowing(?) the title from his book. Coincidence? Accident? I don’t know if we’ll ever know the truth about that one, but what I can tell you is that Fred Seaman is mentioned three times in this book as having conversations with John Lennon, but not one of those conversations is sourced back to Fred’s book. For those who are heavily into the story of John Lennon, his assistant Fred Seaman, and Yoko Ono, this might leave you scratching your head. Or maybe it’s just me…

All in all, this book is really well written (as to be expected), but I think the title may be a little misleading and the content a little redundant for diehard Beatles fans, but maybe we weren’t the target audience. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles Era – A Quest For The Secret of The Beatles” by Peter Eijgenhuijsen

This review is written by Amy McGrath Hughes

TheBeatlesEra_Peter Eijgenhuijsen

Dutch author Peter Eijgenhuijsen has independently published an intriguingly titled book on The Beatles. As he states, “This book is not about what happened, but about why it happened.”

In that context, I was introduced to The Beatles Era – A Quest For The Secret of The Beatles (2021). Coming from a historical standpoint, much of this book draws on familiar anecdotes and facts that Eijgenhuijsen cites thoroughly. His reasoning for this publication was a conversation with a friend who made a point of dissecting the band’s career into several distinct sections, which is analyzed in detail in these pages.

Most of the publication is taken with the discussion of how the band revolved around these sections/eras. There are several chronological off-shoots that Eijgenhuijsen heads down and that makes for a somewhat disjointed rendering. The tone is skewed with personal recollections that have a more European slant (and granted, it is coming from his upbringing in the Netherlands), which doesn’t get a lot of attention in say, a global Beatles biography.

While I found this aspect interesting, what I have come away with would be more suited as a ‘primer’ in Beatles lore. While he is very thorough in speaking to his personal likes of particular songs or periods in any given point in their history (which does include the solo years), I would have expected more factual passages instead of a re-tread of well-known stories.

Two entries that felt off-kilter were the introduction of a fictional interview (where The Beatles had not made the impact they did) and another conversational story spinning in an alternate universe Beatles. While well-written, I honestly felt it didn’t have a place within the context of this book.

One standout chapter however holds some weight: The Reduced Solo Years. Here Eijgenhuijsen takes on each Beatle in more recent times (with Lennon referenced since 1980 by the other three). Being able to ascertain each of the three’s ‘later’ musical contributions is always a tricky outing in any Beatles landscape: comparisons are inevitable. But I appreciated Eijgenhuijsen’s dive into Harrison/McCartney/Starr releases/collaborations that critique releases right up the present day. I admit: it’s tough in an epilogue to sum up ‘McCartney III’ so that a reader understands it’s place in history. But he gives it the best summations for a generation that may not be familiar with say, ‘Chaos and Creation In The Backyard.’

‘The Beatles Era’ is certainly not a hefty tome and I would likely recommend this to someone who would want a brief read-through with a sprinkling of symbolistic fandom. I definitely think that Eijgenhuijsen could have a second career in the fictionalized world of The Beatles… perhaps that will be a second book! In the meantime…

I will give this book 3 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

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Guest Book Review: “Fab Fools” by Jem Roberts

Thank you Amy McGrath Hughes for taking the time to write another fine book review…

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Fab Fools by Jem RobertsThis book is available to pre-order and will be released April 29, 2021.

Right off the top, let me remind everyone that the Beatles were British. From the north of England. With a very different sense of humor.

Plunging into the long-awaited Fab Fools (Candy Jar Books, 2020), I was immediately struck with what can only be described as a ‘new’ take on The Beatles. The term ‘comedians’ doesn’t pop up with regularity when describing their contribution to entertainment, but that is precisely what author Jem Roberts intends to rectify. And I must say, he’s done a very convincing job.

But let me backtrack a bit here: there is a lot of story to cover when going thru the history of The Beatles (hello, Mark Lewisohn). What Roberts has undertaken is an entirely different approach: within the context of their lives, he has placed the band in line with numerous examples (in studious detail) of how their wit and witticisms served them not only during the early years of moptop giddiness and awkward ‘comic’ appearances but gave them a voice – collective and solo – in shaping their character, their travels and their ability to find the silliness in almost every conceivable situation.

(I want to briefly interject that what is referenced in this granular study is heavily reliant on understanding British humor and British comic ancestry. While a casual Beatle fan may know names such as Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore, a more thoroughly invested fan will no doubt appreciate the intricacies of English show biz as Roberts gives over to the voices that shaped ‘Beyond The Fringe,’ the Temperance Seven and the very early noises of members of Monty Python.)

Roberts’ right reading of their producer George Martin (who had his pulse on British comedy long before he began his tenure with The Beatles) is another eye-opener for those only familiar with his steadfast, laidback approach and laconic observations. His ability to not only see the group from a musical perspective but be able to stand back and appreciate their shared humor (see numerous outtakes from any session at EMI Studios), was of course solidified for history when George Harrison responded with the legendary “Well for a start, I don’t like your tie,” in answer to Martin asking if there was anything they didn’t like at their very first recording session.

One must also recall from this far in the future that The Beatles were breaking new ground. As has been said many times, they were making it up as they went along and for the most part, their in-jokes become part of their DNA repartee. One of the first large scale exhibitions (and here we’re treading into the quicksand of 21st century PC-ness) was John Lennon’s ‘cripple’ impersonations. I’m fairly certain that anyone who has seen his claw-hands, tongue-pushing-out-bottom-lip, flailing foot-stomping renditions from the stage (and a few skewered passages from ‘In His Own Write’) knows exactly what I’m talking about. While there is no fair excuse today, suffice to say this was what humor was about back then and farther back to his childhood. And it did indeed become shouted shorthand when they wanted any loathsome individual out of their dressing rooms during the height of Beatlemania: “Crips, Mal!”

If you’re asking how deep can Roberts go and in what direction did comedy take them: the answers are numerous. He ruminates on everything from the band’s early Morecambe & Wise UK appearances, to winning over ‘serious’ journalists in the burgeoning London newspaper scene known as ‘music reporting,’ to ‘Big Night Out,’ ‘Juke Box Jury’ and of course (for those in the know) the king of Scouse humor, Ken Dodd.

As The Beatles moved on to the world at large, so did their witty style in winning over… everybody outside Britain. The JFK press conference, the multi-year Christmas flexi-disc for fan club members, more press conferences and then – ultimately – the highest tribute: a Saturday morning cartoon. Detested (and protested), this indignation to their respective images actually helped launch one of the best-known pieces of (apparent) Liverpool humor: 1968’s ‘Yellow Submarine.’

While not an outright obvious, ‘Yellow Submarine’’s dialogue was brought more into the forefront of in-jokes and Scouse dialect by The Scaffold’s Roger McGough. Being a native Liverpudlian (and 1/3 of the heralded comedy troop with John Gorman and Paul’s brother Mike), the film – with its tale of The Beatles thwarting Blue Meanies in their travels to Pepperland – was filled with the uncredited contributions of McGough, including the oft-used rhyme-y “de do doe don’t de doe?” The Beatles themselves however only appeared in a slightly stilted live epilogue, though none the worse for wear.

While there are several avenues that branch off into the solo years, a large portion of the book has Roberts espousing on the birth of Monty Python – via ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ – and into the 70s with the ultimate tribute/pastiche – The Rutles.

The brainchild of Python’s Eric Idle, the real and long-lasting prankster was ad hoc Python Neil Innes. Innes supplied the music to Idle’s first scripted shorts for the faux group known as the ‘Pre-Fab Four.’ What began as a rudimentary trip down memory lane with a few ‘laffs’ and spot-on impersonations, grew once Idle expanded his vision and Innes formed a band to make the mockumentary what it has become today: a not-serious/hysterical/musical/legendarily quotable/believable/alternate world known as The Rutles. After the 1978 film ‘All You Need Is Cash’ (which tanked in the US despite the inclusion of several ‘Saturday Night Live’ cast members and the heavily disguised cameo of George Harrison), The Rutles took on a life of its’ own. Suffice to say, if you believed in a Beatles afterlife, Innes was your crossing guard into that world. Sadly, he passed in December 2019.

As the book moves to its conclusion (with fascinating passages ranging from Starr’s Mr. Conductor persona in ‘Shining Time Station’ to McCartney’s ill-advised foray into film via ‘Give My Regards To Broad Street,’ Harrison’s work in HandMade Films and Lennon’s last few interviews talking up ‘Fawlty Towers’), The Beatles and the people and industry they inspired along the way is nothing short of fascinating. The education one can absorb from Roberts’ tome and lyrical style of writing is reader-worthy.

For everything above and more, I give 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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Filed under Beatles books, Book Review