And the winner is…

Before I disclose the winner, I have to tell you that a funny thing happened on my way to the poll results this a.m. As I’m drinking my coffee and wiping the sand from my eyes, I notice an email with the subject line “Winner?” in my inbox. The email starts off with “Dead Beatles Freak,” Ummm…err…I think they meant “Dear Beatles Freak”, but then again, I could be wrong. After wishing me a happy new year, this person informs me that my poll did not close at 11:59 p.m. and included a snapshot of the results at oo:oo hours! The interesting thing was that the email itself was time stamped at 7:06 p.m.! LOL Sorry, Dead Follower, that’s not how these things work. The poll was set to close, and did close, at 11:59 p.m. (ET).

It was a tight race and a real nail biter over the past several weeks, but here are the results:

A Women's History of the beatles Christine Feldman-BarrettCongratulations to Christine Feldman-Barrett and her book A Women’s History of the Beatles! If you’re curious about this book, Amy Hughes reviewed it earlier this year…you can read it here.

And congratulations to all the authors who put out such fantastic books this year about the Fab Four.

If you’re curious as to what “Other” books were nominated, here’s the list:

The Lyrics by Paul McCartney

Get Back by The Beatles

Mach Schau! : Die Beatles in Hamburg by Thomas Rehwagen

Rivals of the Beatles by Martin Orkin

Little Wing by Paul Salley

It’s All in the Mind: Inside the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine by Robert R Hieronimus

All Things Must Pass Away: Harrison, Clapton, and Other Assorted Love Songs by Kenneth Womack

 

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OT Book Review: “DeadStar: Who the Hell was Garth Tyson?” by Nick Griffiths

Deadstar Who the hell was Garth Tyson Nick GriffithsA couple times a year, I get emails from authors asking me to review their book. Most of the time the book has nothing to do with music, let alone the Beatles and I graciously decline for those reasons. As a part-time publicist, I understand how hard it is to get someone to notice your book, especially if it’s self-published. So when the request came to read DeadStar: Who the Hell was Garth Tyson? by Nick Griffiths, I accepted the opportunity. And hell, the author was very charming…even via email!

This book is due to be released on January 25, 2022 and I really hope it becomes a hit. It’s the oral history of a fictional defunct Punk/New Wave band who’s lead singer/songwriter, Garth Tyson, disappeared decades ago after walking off the stage at the Glastonbury Festival in the mid 1980s. (And just a heads-up: the Beatles are mentioned several times throughout and Garth shares his birthday with George Harrison.) The characters are quite amusing and you can’t help but see a resemblance between some of them to the members of Spinal Tap (Yeah, it’s that funny) as they tell a reporter the band’s history up until Garth’s disappearance.

It took me several pages to get the gist of the way this book is constructed into its conversational format…sometimes getting confused between the reporter’s inner dialog, thoughts, and the conversation with those he’s interviewing. But once you get used to it along with the various British accents and idioms, the story will flow and you’ll have a hard time putting it down until you find out…What happened to Garth Tyson?! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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OT Book Review: “Brat: An ’80s Story” by Andrew McCarthy

Brat an 80s story Andrew McCarthyAgain, while on Amazon, I was taken in by another of their suggestions. I was just a couple years younger than Andrew McCarthy and the rest of the Brat Pack in their heyday! So of course I had to buy a (used) copy of Brat: An ’80s Story by Andrew McCarthy and I also sent a new copy to by my bestie Lisa (we’ve been friends since 8th grade math class!). Who among my generation of young women of the ’80s didn’t have a crush on Andrew?!

This 215 page memoir was released May 2021. It’s takes a bit to get going and I had my doubts about it for the first 40 or so pages. For some people Andrew’s growing up in the burbs of New Jersey may be interesting, but as a former Jersey girl it was a bit of a yawn for me. Dysfunctional family? 🗹 Bad grades? 🗹 Pain in ass the brothers? 🗹 Middle child? 🗹

But Andrew did something I didn’t do…left home for college. Despite his father’s objections, he set out to become an actor…and well, we all know how that turned out. I wouldn’t call his life story dramatic or different in anyway for other famous people. He did the drugs and drinking like many youngsters of the ’80s when everything was BIG and done to excess (I mean seriously, I tell every young person, “It was the best decade. So. Much. Fun!”), but Andrew did it with an aloofness, loneliness and no real desire to ‘fit in’ despite being labelled as one of the Brat Pack. He preferred New York City to Hollywood, but is still able to tell some really amazing insider stories during his time in Tinsel Town and behind the scene info on Pretty in Pink, St. Elmo’s Fire, Less Than Zero and Weekend at Bernie’s. And…of course, as is required of all books by the rich and famous, we get to hear how he lost his virginity! (Has anyone written a book yet with all the lost virginity stories of the rich and famous?)

I swoon every time he appears on screen…and making me kinda sorry I didn’t get a signed copy of this book at Premier Collectibles, but I think my children would have a “Who the hell is Andrew McCarthy?” moment after I pass I away! He belongs to my generation…it was the ’80s…we were all BRATS!

andrew mccarthy and James Spader pretty in pink | Andrew mccarthy, James spader movies, James spaderMcCarthy has moved on to TV directing in shows such as Orange is the New Black and Blacklist. (The Blacklist connection with his old pal James Spader from Pretty in Pink is interesting because unlike McCarthy, Spader will not talk about that film!) If you’re interested (maybe not?), Andrew McCarthy has actually written two other books (one on travel and one a young adult novel) that were New York Times bestsellers (who knew?!). You can find them on Amazon.

Ya know…who cares about the book…

I rate Andrew McCarthy, 4 Beetles + the Golden Beetle!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “A Cozy Beatles Mystery Series” by Kal Smagh

Another review from Amy Hughes:

A Cozy Beatles Mystery Series Kal Smagh

As Beatles literature goes, one can never fully appreciate the care and for want of a better word research, that goes into what is termed ‘fan fiction.’ All the more surprising that an entire full-length series with a strong, funny and multi-layered female lead can leave The Beatles in a secondary narrative!

Author Kal Smagh has done a fine job integrating a fact-based historical narrative, while weaving a mystery/alternate universe character through A Cozy Beatles Mystery Series (independently published, 2021). What I found most entertaining through this 4-volume series (including a short story) was the completely formed universe that we know, and love of The Beatles wrapped around a 60-year storyline that – to be honest – really encompasses the main character, the down-to-earth, disarmingly charming Helen Spencer.

What begins in 1962 Liverpool as Helen begins her journey with Freda Kelly and Brian Epstein, winds it way through the decades as we come to see her lifelong friendship (and employment) with the band expand worldwide. Smagh’s imaginative storytelling is actually told in flashbacks for the entire series – as an elderly Helen (retired and living in Florida) is recounting her experiences to a character we as readers are not quite sure is entirely forthright in their intentions!

As individual ‘stories,’ each holds its own: Helen’s crime-solving beginnings are told in ‘Larceny in Liverpool,’ and given a short nudge in ‘Punching Up,’ then gather steam in ‘Mayhem for Her Majesty,’ ‘The Beverly Hills Burglary’ and finally conclude in ‘The Beatle Car Bandits.’ Smagh has interwoven timely characters and locations pivotal to the band’s story, while taking liberties with their dialogue and interactions.

I can say I found Helen’s story fascinating as Smagh spends a great deal of time with her and her family – and that is a tentative warning for those of you out there that are hardcore fan-fic readers. His series really hangs on Helen and her sleuthing abilities and how certain real-life elements – from the Cavern Club to London to California to Oxford University – can be stretched to fit nearly the entire history of the band’s lifespan – and beyond.

What is also crucial is to the ability to suspend disbelief in certain situations, yet find Helen’s hilarious observations and determined mindset (which is key in linking this series together) believable in this Beatles AU. What I will say – and this is a little tough with no spoilers – is that the narrative is poignantly written and very sweet as Smagh brings us to the present day. I find that in this age of cynicism and social media bashing, the ability to convey a fictional character’s travails (sometimes not altogether perfect and with hints of self-doubt and a smattering of guts) with the real-life Beatles – without graphic blandishment or judgmental abandonment – is refreshing and to be honest, entertaining and readable.

I recommend getting all 4 books (including the short story) for the complete picture and then giving the series 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution, and Social Change” by Kenneth Campbell

Note: Amy Hughes and Jenn are presenting to you another duel review of a recently published Beatles book.


Amy Hughes’ review:
The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution, and Social ChangeWhile the world of academic studies continues past the history of The Beatles’ lifespan, I will never tire of the deep dive (yes, an overused term, I admit) with regards to those whose research and passion go above and beyond the usual biographies and fact-checking in the world they helped to define during those 10 glorious years.

Author Ken Campbell has given an intriguingly personal, yet historical account of the band in that crucial decade with authority and dare I say, love. The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution and Social Change (Bloomsbury, 2021) captures what few volumes are able to do: give those details that are already familiar to the devoted and yet place these memories inside a contextual, readable and relatable narrative, not usual for this style of book.

Campbell, as a noted scholar and historian, has been able to pluck out the familiar anecdotes and incidents intrinsic to The Beatles intensely devoted fans, yet crucially place all of this into graphic perspective. I didn’t just find this a dry timetable of distant facts and stories, but rather a highly important historical treatise, gathering steam from Kennedy to Kennedy, from Profumo to Paris.

Most importantly, Campbell has woven many interviews from male and female fans who lived through the Beatles in real time, especially as the songs were released then. How they reacted, how they changed as people, what they decided to aspire to in their life… their words are quite honest, insightful and at times humorous when juxtaposed against some of the more serious situations that were rumbling around the world during The Beatles musical lifespan.

While most of their early days were void of political commentary (much of it culled at the behest of manager Brian Epstein), as the decade wore on (and the band’s personal fortunes, both personally and musically changed), the group were able to divulge highly individualistic comments, ranging from Lennon’s famous Christ comment to McCartney’s LSD revelation and Harrison’s stance on Transcendental Meditation and his love of India.

Of course what is most important to The Beatles legacy is the music and how it became the yardstick for which all others were measured. Campbell does a superb job of invoking the “which album is better” debate (‘Revolver’ vs. ‘Sgt. Pepper’) by suggesting that each – only separated by a year’s time – are highly influenced by each of The Beatles contributions and experiences. While the aspect of their stoppage in touring surely impacted the sound of ‘Pepper,’ which had the benefit of time, money and energy, one can see how it can also be viewed as dated, closed and vintage in many respects. Of its time in 1967, it is absolutely certain. Viewed from afar, however (and with Lennon’s pithy recollections of lifting off from newspapers and LSD-inspired laziness juxtaposed to McCartney’s workaholic attitude), it suffers greatly. ‘Revolver’ on the other hand (and near to the ‘White Album’ in a sense) has aged much better.

Taken with the charged and scarred political atmosphere, 1968’s ‘White Album’ and more pointedly The Rolling Stones’ ‘Beggars Banquet’ heralded a coming of age for both bands. But it also signaled the change in personal gain for both fans and the bands themselves. The gap between radicalism and protest coming from Lennon and Jagger seemed somehow removed from reality. And while Campbell’s interviewees were handed a newer version of both, laced with the mature viewpoints, inner soul seeking, and mouthy call-to-arms, one began to wonder if these ‘pop stars’ really understood their audience anymore.

As 1969 came over the horizon, the political juggernaut that was Richard Nixon was coming into play and conservatism on both sides of the Atlantic are covered neatly by Campbell as the 60s come to a close. As is well-documented, The Beatles time in January was taken up with the ‘Get Back/Let It Be’ sessions which segued into separate career pursuits, both musically and personally. McCartney and Lennon’s marriages in March were the focal point of the group’s splintering dynamic, though not entirely the cause of tensions mounting within the band. And while managerial efforts were thumping across the table (also well-documented from those times), the real maelstrom of publicity was whether the group would lash themselves down at Abbey Road and produce an album.

While the namesake studio and album seemed to signal a return to the classic group sound, it was also a foreshadow of life events to come. While Lennon and Ono had used their marriage to cajole world leaders to seek peace and McCartney retreated to home, farm and studio production of others, most of the summer of ‘69 was taken up by other sounds: the Stones’ Brian Jones’ death, Apollo 11, Woodstock, Chappaquiddick, Vietnam and the notorious Manson murders. In short, an upheaval that signaled an end to the ‘Summer of Love’ and yet gave growth to the four members, most pointedly the one soul who had come across as the most troubled and withdrawn Beatle: George Harrison.

His two most poignant (and to this day) most popular compositions – ‘Something’ and ‘Here Comes The Sun’ – were the jewels that shimmered on each side of the album. While Lennon’s ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ was a thick chunk of vocals, synthesizers, knotty bass lines with a droning abrupt ending, Side Two’s medley from mostly half-finished songs was brought together beautifully with the support and wisdom of George Martin.

The autumn of 1969 – while ‘Abbey Road’ was showing it’s grandeur – had the curiosity of the ‘Paul Is Dead’ spectre mixed into the fold. As Campbell points out, all the signs were (supposedly) there as he generously gives way to the acres of coverage that were posted by not only fans but serious rock writers. McCartney defiantly stonewalled the entire debacle, only to be tracked down in Scotland and resigned to quote that he was in fact, still alive as Campbell delves into the relationship between fans relationships with a band like The Beatles and their emotional reactions to breakups and death.

This mindset quickly became apparent as those January 1969 sessions would soon become the band’s swansong. As we have recently witnessed, that time period is covered with misinformation and hazy recollections of sour relationships. In accordance with the publication of this book, Campbell can only cover what was available as far as the film and album, both of which suffered greatly in the wake of the public announcement that the band was no more by May 1970.

The dissolution of the group has – and Campbell quotes Lennon directly – been compared to a divorce. While the tightest pairing of Lennon & McCartney would draw the strongest connotation, the entire band were moving in different directions, both personally and musically. As Campbell notes in Joshua Wolf Shenk’s ‘The Powers of Two’ he quite rightly identifies reasons for a split in partnerships: wedges (where something comes between two people) and stumbles (unable to clear obstacles in the path). No one thing or incident defined the break, not Yoko Ono’s presence or the disagreements on Allen Klein as a business manager. Everyone had simply grown up. As had their fans.

Some fans did not simply care about The Beatles and their influence during the 60s; they came to view them as a cultural phenomenon, one that changed their lives forever. As Campbell concludes, the 1970s began with growing cynicism and doubt. The Beatles would splinter into their solo careers and as we know, Lennon would rage with his ‘Plastic Ono Band’ release, McCartney would be the self-styled DIY with ‘McCartney’, Starr would go nostalgia with ‘Sentimental Journey and Harrison – he would emerge from the ashes and fly the highest at the start with ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘The Concerts for Bangladesh.’

The 1970s would give more of the four – in spurts of grandeur or depths of questioning – but the one overriding question was who would succeed them. Campbell puts forth with some intrigue Steely Dan and of course The Who and The Stones. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd are also a strong consideration and even The Police, Elton John (not thru coincidence I may add!) and even Bruce Springsteen.

However no one person or collection of people or movement or genre would replace The Beatles. As Campbell cannot ignore Lennon’s death in 1980 (and how could that not be ignored), we’ve come to appreciate that short time that they did change us for the better.

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 


Jenn’s review:

When a publisher surprises me with a review copy of a new Beatles book, I try my best to read it. And I did that with The Beatles and the 1960s: Reception, Revolution, and Social Change by Kenneth L. Campbell. But I have to say, I failed in that task and I’m going to now explain why.

One of the very first things I noticed when I thumbed through the book was the small font. This obviously isn’t an author error but none the less, it did hinder my ability to read for long stretches of time without having to rest my eyes. Maybe they were aiming for the under 50 crowd? Well, that’s not me!

Second thing that became a standout issue…HOWEVER. Yes, the word ‘however’. I was only on page 58 when I realized the word kept appearing again and again. Since Amy had a .pdf copy of the book, I sent her a text and asked her to do a search on the word ‘however’. She shot back with a total of 199 times does the word appear in 226 pages. Eegads! This always makes me wonder…who is editing the book if I’m the one noticing these things? Is this another publisher issue or author issue?

Twelve more pages into the book, I came across the following sentence:

Without the music, it is safe to say Beatlemania would not have existed; if people did not like what they heard on the radio or the Ed Sullivan show, people would have quickly lost interest. – Page 70

I’m just going to leave that there and let you judge for yourself. Needless to say, I didn’t make it much further…only to page 102. It’s not that it’s a bad book…it’s a scholarly study. Not my bag. Ken does a great job of sourcing out his material, and I was actually happy to see a couple friend’s books among those listed in the extensive Notes and Bibliography (they take up 1/6 of the book). I just didn’t feel like I was reading anything new. HOWEVER, a newbie to the Beatles world may find this all very interesting. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

 

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OT Book Review: “A Quiet Madness: A Biographical Novel of Edgar Allan Poe” by John Isaac Jones

A Quiet Madness: A Biographical Novel of Edgar Allan Poe" by John Isaac Jones

It’s been a while since I did a Beatles related review, but I just couldn’t resist buying and reading A Quiet Madness: A Biographical Novel of Edgar Allan Poe by John Isaac Jones when I heard about it! I had to put down my Beatles book and dive into this.

If I haven’t said it before (and I’m sure I have), I have a strange addiction to biographical fiction written about Edgar Allan Poe. At the end of this review, I’ll list the books I’ve read in case any of you are interested. And if any of you know of any good ones, I’d love to hear about them.

Unlike a lot of the novels about Poe, this one is more focused on Poe himself. The others have mostly been stories that fit his life into their fictitious story. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. While keeping 99% of the dates correct for major occurrences, it leaves the reader to guess what’s fact and what’s fiction. Obviously, the conversations are conjecture, but how about the characters?

Author John Isaac Jones portrays Virginia Poe as a healthy and happy girl while others have said she was a gangly, sickly girl. He kills off Edgar’s friend/colleague Rufus Griswold before Poe dies, even though history tells us that Rufus wrote a scathing obituary of after Edgar’s death. When you change history, misinformation and rumors are spread.

Note: this book is also self-published and could have used a really good editor to fix the typos!

Even though I couldn’t put this book down because I’m such a Poe addict, it did leave me scratching my head a bit. I’m all for historical fiction, until you change history. Then it becomes fan fiction…of which I’m no fan! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

Edgar Allan Poe historical fiction books that I would recommend:

The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

For Edgar by Sheldon Rusch

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2021 Beatles Freak Holiday Wish List…

Tis the season…

The reviewers at Beatles Freak Reviews thought we’d try something new for the season of giving! We’ve thought long and hard and come up with our own Bealtely lists of Want, Need, Wear, Read – the idea being that you limit your giving to just four items from each category: Something you Want, Something you Need, Something you Wear and Something you Read. Here are my and Amy’s lists…

…and if you leave your own Want, Need, Wear, Read list in the comments, you’ll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card and a Beatles Freak Reviews t-shirt! Winner will be chosen at 7 a.m. (et) Wednesday, December 15, 2021. One entry per person.


Jenn’s list:

Want: A Paul McCartney signature tattoo. (This could actually fit into all four categories!) This is a rare item now that Paul has decided that he’s no longer giving autographs, but before I die, I’d really love to have him sign me!

Need: To go to Liverpool! How can I really consider myself a Beatles aficionado when I haven’t been to Liverpool. But right now, between the pandemic and the price to fly into John Lennon Airport, it’s really not feasible.

Wear: I’m all about being cozy-comfy. And what better way to spend my leisure time than in a pair of Beatles themed loungewear pants! And I just love the placement of the Fab Four on these Sgt. Pepper pants! And there is a matching image place appropriately on the arse too!

Read: I actually tend to avoid the obvious books that everyone else feels the need to buy, read and review. I like to find older books or lesser known authors to read. But The Lyrics by Paul McCartney is absolutely the exception to this rule. I can’t wait to get my hands on my own copy to display proudly with my Beatles book collection!


Amy’s List:

WantPaul McCartney to tour in support of ‘The Lyrics’. Sure these books weigh more than 2 planets combined, but to have these volumes of work (from a perspective that is all HIS own), is definitely worth a want.

Need – More hours in the day to read all the Beatles and Beatles-related books that are published! I never foresaw how many authors pour out the fabness since I started reviewing. It’s a labor of love for everybody and every word that goes out to the page. I truly appreciate all the work – when I can find another couple of days to make it happen – that would be a miracle and need.

Wear – John Lennon’s rainbow-striped shirt from the ‘Get Back’ docuseries. Since Peter Jackson upped the vibrancy, every single frame jumps out. Lennon’s shirt was literally the first thing I became addicted to from the ‘Get Back’ series.
***Note from Jenn: Someone created a replica of it…here!

 

Read – Every single Beatles and Beatles-related book publishing in 2022! Yep, another wish list I could just kick back with for another 365 days. I have no qualms with length or depth. Just that ole time factor… I’d love to wring out every second if I could!
***A note from Jenn: Well Amy…here’s a list of Beatles books that you and everyone else can look forward to reading in 2022 according to Amazon!

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OT Book Review: “These Five Words Are Mine” by Jennifer Lynne Croneberger

These five words are mine jennifer cronebergerA little over a month ago, I attended a local women’s event called Lifting Your V.O.I.C.E. (don’t ask me what the acronym stands for…I don’t know). I had heard about this event for a couple of years and in fact, I worked through a temp agency as a server at the country club where the event was held in previous years. I had hoped that I would be called up to work the event, but that never happened, so this year, I decided to cough up the money and go it alone. The event is hosted by local news anchor Tracy Davidson and motivational speaker Jennifer Croneberger. I decided to get a copy of Jenn’s book –  These Five Words Are Mine: Conversations With Life. My Journey to Awareness . . . Five Words at a Time after spending the morning listening to her speak.

It’s taken me a couple days of thought to figure out how I want to approach reviewing this book. That’s not a bad thing…and it’s not necessarily a good thing. I can’t even think of what category to put this book in…autobiography? self-help? enlightenment? Let’s just go with ‘all of the above.’

Jen Croneberger knew from a very young age that she wanted to write and publish a book and finally in her 30s she got around to achieving that goal. The book is a collection of 60 posts from her personal blog where she explores and examines her life experiences from the past and present.

Is this a feel good book? Yes, but it also made me angry at times. I’d put it down for days and eventually pick it back up again and only to find another beautiful story from her life’s journey.  The book will make you reflect on your own life choices and how you approach various situations in your own life.

Confused? I can’t find the right words to tell you about Jen and what she stands for, so here is a video of her giving one of her TEDx talks:

These Five Words Are Mine is a book you will read and then want your friends to read and probably like me, you won’t know why…but you’ll just know that more people need to connect with Jennifer Croneberger and her work. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever” by Luke Meddings

What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever Luke Meddings

An astounding thought crosses the mind when even thinking about the title of Luke Meddings’ book. The metaphorical and analytical analysis of these three entities has been decades in the making.

In What They Heard: How The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan Listened To Each Other and Changed Music Forever (Weatherglass Books, 2021), Meddings has unfolded a heartfelt dissertation on how the three B’s (and for contextual purposes, he also includes the fourth B – The Byrds), with minute clarity, couched in appreciation with the subjects at hand.

Each set out on their own path, yet within the circumstances of the ‘60s music and art scene, diverged at various points along the way. This isn’t a highbrow, how-the-stars-and-planets -aligned tome. It points to the inevitable for the times: Dylan breaking the barriers of folk and be damned; The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson as the troubled genius who saw beyond the accepted musical norms and finally The Beatles whose presence not only affected the aforementioned but occupied a massive, revered space that neither they nor anyone could have foreseen.

The hindsight for this book proves entirely relevant as Meddings intersects the creative influences of that time with the development of his own understanding of musical composition and theory. Translated: he gets us to the core of why we love those unexpected chord changes, why we hear something different every time we listen to every song. And why getting a handle on a note from ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ to ‘Good Vibrations’  to ‘Paperback Writer’ leaves us more confused than ever.

One overall aspect here are the underdogs in this character study: the members of The Byrds. The scattershot pickings when viewed from afar (covering Dylan, influencing George Harrison, conflicting integrations and genres that were amplified by Wilson) is indeed intriguing. I found entire backstories on the individual members enhanced the merit of their music and needed to be brought forth in the context of this narrative.

But while Meddings sets the needle into the groove of where this all began – the very late 50s to be fair – the crux of this book really centers on Wilson. He is living and breathing music. Not content to play in a band and wear the stereotype facade of the perceived groovy  ‘California lifestyle,’ Wilson reaches for stratospheric goals that as we see moved his mind far beyond what Lennon & Co. were tripping to with recreational drug use.

Wilson and the magnum opus of ‘Pet Sounds’ has of course been acknowledged by McCartney as the trigger for ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ start. Dylan on the other hand – in an oblique way – had already pushed the buttons and pissed off the folk purists with his jump into electric-land. Meddings gives us a view that while there had to be changes coming, the face of folk’s movement didn’t have to be nice or polite or meek. And if Wilson placed his Moog-minded, choral-vocal beauty out there, musicians like McCartney had to step out or be run over.

Meddings does conclude ‘What They Heard’ on what I would consider a downturn. As he ruefully reminisces that the paths of the book’s subjects did not cross over much past their heyday and obviously with the loss of Lennon in 1980, that was put to pasture. He does however lend a bit of spark for Dylan in recent years. While McCartney and Wilson have in varying degrees struggled vocally as they age, Meddings puts forth the fact (and I agree wholeheartedly) that Dylan is the one who has aged the best; growing into his voice – the nasal growl – and his learned historical and extensive references for 2020’s epic 17-minute ‘Murder Most Foul.’ Dylan with all his work is still a hard act to categorize to this day.

Charting the course from 1961-68 gives the reader a concise snapshot of where they all stood – eyeing each other through music, personal connection and as this book notes, how all of those ingredients combined gave us what we have today, most importantly for the better.

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

 

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Who will win our Best Beatles Book of 2021 poll?

Let’s do it again, Fab Four fans….

It’s that time of year again, Beatles freaks! What was your favorite Beatles related book published this year? Time for all of you to vote in our Best Beatles Book of 2021. The winning book will be featured on our homepage for the entirety of 2022.
If you don’t see your favorite Beatles book from 2021, click on ‘Other’ and add the name and author to our list!
Poll ends on December 31, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.

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