Tag Archives: beatles

Book Review: “Shake it up, Beverley” by Suzan Holder

You know that beach book you’ve been looking for this summer? Well, I think I found it thanks to Roag Best and The Liverpool Beatles Museum!

Over the past week or so, Roag has been posting on Facebook about the first ever book to be launched held at the Beatles Museum in Liverpool. I don’t know why it took me a week to look it up on Amazon, but when I finally did, I immediately ordered myself the Kindle version of Shake it up, Beverley by Suzan Holder. It’s only $2.99 and I didn’t feel like waiting for the paperback edition that’s not deliverable until June 10th (not sure why that is).

I know I should be reading more non-fiction Beatles related books for this blog, put for the past week or so, I’ve really needed a distraction…something I could enjoy without having to actually think about it. It was then that the posts started popping up on Facebook about this book. I knew then that it was meant to be reviewed for my site.

What a fun, relaxing read this was! How could I not love a novel where the protagonist, Beverley Wilson, is a fifty-something year old, mother of three, like myself? I think every middle-aged, female Beatles fan will be able to relate to her mild-manner, ordinary, ‘careful’ life that gets turned upside down when she decides to re-enter the dating world after the death of her husband. Her kids are all grown…what could possibly go wrong?

One of the fantastic elements about this book is that the author mixed in so much Beatles history and plenty of the Fab Four’s Liverpool landmarks into the story, including the McCartney’s home in Speke. And no wonder the book launch party was held at The Liverpool Beatles Museum, when the main character not only visits the museum, but also spends an evening at the Casbah Coffee Club!

I read this book in less than 2 days and the only bad part about it was that it had to end. I thoroughly enjoyed Beverley Wilson’s exploits, adventures and mishaps. Just when you thought you figured out one mystery in this book another one pops up to keep you entertained throughout. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Fab4 Mania: A Beatles obsession and the concert of a lifetime” by Carol Tyler

Fab4 Mania Carol TylerAnother Amazon suggested book that I bought back in February is Fab4 Mania: A Beatles obsession and the concert of a lifetime (Fantagraphics Books, 2018) by Carol Tyler. Don’t know why it took me so long to read…are my readers as tired of my excuses as I am of making them? 😉

It almost seems to go without saying that one of the major trends in Beatles books over the last decade is for mostly women to write their memoirs about their love for the Fab Four. A Date with a Beatle by Judith Kristen, Confessions of a Beatlemaniac by Dee Elias, Diary of a Beatlemaniac by Patricia Gallo-Steadman, Do You Want to Know a Secret by Pat Mancuso, and My Ticket to Ride by Janice Mitchell are just a few of the books that have passed over my desk or been reviewed here on this blog.

And that’s just fine with me…keep them coming!

So what makes Fab4 Mania any different than the rest? Why should you want to read another teenage diary obsessing over John, Paul, George and Ringo? Well…for one reason, it’s filled with fabulous drawings and artwork by the author herself, Carol Tyler, who grew up to be a well known cartoonist. Carol’s work has graced the pages of such publications as: Weirdo, Wimmen’s Comix, Street Music, Zero Zero, Mineshaft Magazine, Prime Cuts, LA Weekly, Drawn & Quarterly, and Tower Records’ Pulse!

Like most memoirs by Beatles fans, Carol’s story comes straight from the pages of the diaries she kept as a teenage girl. The pages are fill with her bubbly stories of her friends and love for the Beatles, and also, teenage angst at the antics of her parents, siblings and teachers. The whole story culminates to her finally attending her first Beatles concert! The whole book is just wonderfully fun! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles: Fab Four Cities: Liverpool – Hamburg – London – New York” by Richard Porter, David Bedford, and Susan Ryan

This review is by Amy Hughes

Fab Four CitiesIt’s not an overstatement to say I was very happy to see not only what one would consider a travel guide about and for The Beatles, but one that is lavishly illustrated and beautifully laid out.

The Beatles: Fab Four Cities: Liverpool – Hamburg – London – New York (ACC Art Books, 2021) provides not only an up-to-date showcase of major touchpoints within their universe but also includes numerous anecdotes and descriptions of how all four cities provided links and support along the way from childhood to present day.

Compiled and written by historians well-versed in all things Beatles, ‘Fab Four Cities’ is educational and informative, while sidebar callouts showcase Beatle facts that connect all four cities from a historical perspective.

If you’re intimately familiar with Beatle background information, you might not want to simply skim over the text. Each section provides a rich history inside locations that helped push the band forward. Augmented by latter-day photos, it’s a printed walking tour and provides a helpful supplement if you happen to travel to any of these places.

One important note that ties these together is that all four cities have ports. Not to be lost on how significant this is to the band, Liverpool gave them music, Hamburg gave them a sense of self, London gave them worldwide recognition and New York gave them the US.

The voice that the authors use is genuine and personal: Bedford is Liverpudlian and intimately knowledgeable in that environment; Porter has been a tour guide in London and Ryan is a lifelong New Yorker and tour guide who knows landmarks galore.

However, my favorite section from Bedford and Porter concentrated on Hamburg. While much has been journaled in the last 60 years, I found the words rich in detail, the photos fascinating and the city map was a nice addition (all four city maps are colorfully illustrated).

Ryan’s expertise in covering events, landmarks, and areas connected particularly to John Lennon is of importance for those not familiar with his deep-seated love of the city and his fight to stay in NYC in the early ‘70s.

In conclusion, with a nicely constructed design and pertinent prose (and some pretty sweet images!),

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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The New Yorker (magazine): October 18 & 25, 2021

The New Yorker magazine October 18 2021

So this is another post/review that is all about me clearing off the end table next to our couch. It’s where all the to-be-read Beatles books gather and collect dust until I get around to giving them their proper due.

I don’t subscribe to The New Yorker magazine. Nor would I consider picking it up to just peruse in my spare time, but a couple weeks ago, someone on Facebook mentioned that there was an article written by Paul McCartney about how he came about writing the song Eleanor Rigby. Later that day when I got home from work, there was a copy of the October 18th issue of the magazine. It didn’t match the cover that was posted on Facebook and it was addressed to my darling neighbor Janice. Just as I was about to return it, she dropped by to tell me there was a great Beatles article in it, so she passed it on to me. And subsequently, the next issue with the article by Paul!

**Note: If you click on the magazine covers in this post, it will take you straight to the articles themselves. If you want my opinion (LOL) or want to know how to get yourself actual copies keep reading.

The October 18th article is titled, “Let the Record Show: Paul McCartney’s long and winding road” by David Remnick. It opens with a two page picture of the Beatles planning on the roof of Apple and the article spans 10 pages. I think the most interesting part of the article/interview was hearing about the author going to Paul’s house in the Hamptons for a party he was throwing to preview the new Beatles documentary “Get Back“.

The New Yorker magazine October 25 2021The October 25th article is titled, “Writing Eleanor Rigby: Behind the Beatles’ breakthrough” by Paul McCartney. It’s three page article that spends a lot of time straying from the topic. Not that that is a bad thing when you remember the author is Paul, but it does give the impression that the original story may not have been long enough and they needed filler. Lucky for us…Paul has plenty of great stories for filler.

I poked around the internet looking for places to buy copies of these issues if you’d like to add them to your collection. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that The New Yorker or it’s parent company Conde Naste offer back issues on their website. But it you go to Ebay or Amazon (I did the search for you, just click the links), you can find several people selling their copies. I know that I’ll be stashing my copies away!

Thank you, Janice!

 

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Book Review: “Hold On World: The Lasting Impact of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band – 50 Years On” by John Kruth

Hold On World: The Lasting Impact of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band – 50 Years On John Kruth

If for no other reason to obtain this book, I will say with enthusiasm that author John Kruth has given the most extensive read on Yoko Ono and HER version/release of 1970’s ‘Plastic Ono Band.’

The preview of Hold On World: The Lasting Impact of John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band – 50 Years On (Backbeat Books, 2021) had my eyesight focused on the recording, release and retrospective narrative of Lennon’s ‘Plastic Ono Band,’ released in 1970. The cathartic nature, stark production and legacy of this watershed album cannot be lost on those who know Lennon and this soul-baring work.

However, I cannot tread too heavily on how Kruth chose to structure the chapters in regards to context and explanation of influences – past and present. While showcasing a view of Lennon and Ono in that time period, he also dives around in many corners, explaining and expanding on various historical incidents – both in The Beatles and solo Lennon that defies sequencing – and also wades into a good portion of the times that propelled ‘POB,’ some political and some personal. It makes for a challenging, non-chronological read.

Kruth’s own voice is quite unique in that he opines on how various family, ‘characters’ and associates influenced the Lennons’ life story and how and why it drove them to extremes, most notably the time spent with Arthur Janov with his Primal Scream therapy. The narrative here is primitive and raw but what most benefits the reader in “Hold On World”’ is not John Lennon’s transformation from his years in one of the most influential bands of the 1960s to stomach-churning, searing early-70s provocateur. It’s the insightful and haunting life of Ono and how her version of ‘POB’ came to fruition.

Most listeners know that an album takes months to conceive and record. Ono’s ‘POB’ was done in one day. You read it right. Recorded and mixed with the same musicians – Lennon, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman and George Harrison – Ono’s shrieking “like a giant radioactive insect from a 1950s horror movie” had the desired effect: it one fell swoop she was able to stand alongside Lennon as both a collaborator and artist… and also managed to sustain the pure energy needed to keep up with Lennon as a musical supernova.

Ono’s unconventional upbringing – bookended by World War II and her meeting with Lennon – is ripe for dissertation within these pages. As Lennon was channeling his painful past (the abandonment issues brought on by his parents’ separation) into a commercially-acceptable package, Ono was dealing with her private demons, most notably the miscarriages she suffered which were couched in the standout song from ‘POB,’ ‘Greenfield Morning I Pushed An Empty Baby Carriage All Over The City.’

Moved at a 180-degree angle from her accepted distorted keening, ‘Greenfield’ has a haunting, mesmerizing backbeat (enhanced by Harrison’s sitar contribution), while Ono’s mono-symbolic vocals give way to iridescent bird calls – not unlike Lennon’s ‘Across The Universe.’ Kruth also gives over several pages to the performance of trumpeter Ornette Coleman and Ono’s collaboration ‘AOS,’ recorded in 1968. While Coleman had already embraced free-form jazz, the inclusion of Ono’s vocals helped propel this style beyond what would be musically and culturally ‘acceptable.’

What remains is a final critique on the “Lennon Remembers” interview, first published in Rolling Stone in 1971. The caustic wit, the deep-seated pain he levied against McCartney and producer George Martin and the circus atmosphere known as The Beatles came down like a sledgehammer. While Wenner published the interview in book form (costing him his friendship with the Lennons), the myth-busting conversation contained contradictions that Lennon later regretted. The dovetailing into more political ground with the release of ‘Sometime In New York City,’ a loose collaboration with Frank Zappa, the continuing paranoia and battles with immigration effectively eroded the Lennons high profile prophesying.

Lennon/Ono shared a great love and however their messages came across to the public during Lennon’s lifetime was both unifying and divisive. Kruth has painted a rich mural, which can be a little demanding on the senses, given the textural background that this complex couple projected. While I highly recommend this read for those who would appreciate a deeper delve into Ono, I will say that overall it can be a tricky read.

I tentatively give this book 4 out of 4 beetles.

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History” by John M. Borack

This review is by Amy Hughes…

The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History John M. Borack

One of the first 100 things you’ll ask about John Borack’s book The Beatles 100: One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History (Rarebird Books, 2021): are they actually pivotal? Do they carry that weight, to coin a lyric.

On one hand, any narrative that hinges on The Beatles’ most important moments can be considered subjective. I’m more than sure that while perusing each chapter, you as the reader/Beatles factoid gatherer/historian could compile your own list and match it to author Borack’s condensed history.

What I considered relevant were that the moments were not in chronological order, nor was the book confined to The Beatles’ inner orbit. Several passages at length called out the solo years and in that context, how each contributed to the canon of post-Beatles history.

Borack addresses the better known episodes in Beatledom: Hamburg, Love Me Do, Pete Best, Ed Sullivan, Shea Stadium, MBE’s, the Paul Is Dead hoax and even the Mono LP Box Set release. However, he also ruminates over numerous chapters concerning their solo careers and lives: Paul losing Linda tying into Run Devil Run; John and Yoko’s Double Fantasy leading into John’s death; George’s marital issues with first wife Pattie running into his 1974 Dark Horse album and subsequent tour and Ringo forming his All-Starr Band. Each chapter is headed by a quotation from a random Beatle or associate applicable to the subject matter.

While the events showcased are familiar, the narrative is casual and readable. I would not consider this a “list” so to speak, nor is it a perfunctory bulleted style treatise, pointing the reader in any certain direction. Choosing what moments to delve into is probably the most important note for anyone engaged in learning something more than superficial facts.

I will state that Borack does spend considerable time and effort in stating where most of the stories come from: mostly interviews with the press and such. A good load of quotes are coming directly from The Beatles Anthology and from Paul, his book by Barry Miles. There are also a number of rock press quotes as well, especially in context to the time of album releases from the group or in the solo years.

Overall, I found the book a good reference read and for a nice epilogue, Borack gives us his opinion on solo tracks, cover versions, and soundalikes. With all that said and sung…

I’m giving this book 4 out of 4 beetles

 

 

 

 

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Book Review and Interview: “My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964)” by Janice Mitchell

Book reviewed by Amy Hughes.

My Ticket to Ride Janice Mitchell

Intrepid believer. Not the usual description to hang onto a 16-year-old female fan of The Beatles, circa 1964. But one that aptly fits the life events surrounding author Janice Mitchell who has now come forward with the mind-blowing circumstances surrounding the title of her book.

My Ticket to Ride: How I Ran Away to England to Meet the Beatles and Got Rock and Roll Banned in Cleveland (A True Story from 1964) (Gray & Company Publishers, 2021) hinges on Mitchell’s September 1964 whirlwind account of seeing The Beatles at Cleveland’s Public Auditorium and the very next day, jetting off to the UK with her best friend Marty, nearly all their belongings and holding onto the belief that no one would care where they ended up or if they would be found.

Be that as it may, the sum of the story doesn’t rely on the anecdotes or hard-to-believe storyline. What is documented clear and simple is Mitchell caught in the middle of a life not of her choosing and the desperate attempts to find meaning and reasoning beyond her grim upbringing. While winding the reader through the lifelines that gave her hope, one comes away with an understanding of why she needed to turn this adventure into something real, and travel to somewhere she could be happy for essentially the rest of her life.

Mitchell describes a harrowing childhood in an all-too-brief summary, riveting in it’s narrative and strikingly honest from her viewpoint. Her birth parents’ abandonment of her and her siblings forced her to live singularly with an aunt, uncle and cousin that at first glance seemed a more idyllic setting than anything she could have dreamed. But with the sudden death of uncle Mac, the closed environment of being with aunt “Toots” and older cousin Margie, coupled with a strict Catholic school atmosphere propelled her to seek out avenues of enlightenment.

From the first guitar janglings of The Beatles on Cleveland radio station WHK at Christmastime 1963, Mitchell’s world opened up. In her words, she “had something to live for.” Constructing the framework that would lead to her independence was in some way, more than she bargained for. Her alliance with KYW DJ Harry Martin – innocent on the surface from her perspective, but which proved fortuitous in just a few short months – paved the way for her first meeting with another up-and-coming British band: The Rolling Stones.

The Stones were embarking on their first American tour and were stopping by ‘The Mike Douglas Show’ (then broadcasting from Cleveland) on June 18. Invited remotely by Martin, Mitchell arrived only to be told she couldn’t enter. As was her luck, she managed to enter into The Stones dressing room, watched from the side of the stage and after, was propositioned by bassist Bill Wyman (who kissed her). Little did Mitchell know that this episode in her life would circle back around to highlight her escapade in only three months time.

Mitchell chronicles the hysteria (after she managed to get front row seats with Marty) surrounding the now well-known Beatles gig in Cleveland on September 15: the show was stopped after the third song. The Cleveland police demanded The Beatles leave the stage until the crowd was brought under control. The chaos and screaming abated with the help of DJs Martin and Specs Howard and the Beatles returned and finished the set. For all that, the thought went through Mitchell’s mind as she walked amongst the broken chairs and shredded signs: she and Marty were leaving for London at 8am the next morning for “Beatleland.”

While the ensuing days there were a mix of finding living accommodations (a flat in Notting Hill), possible job opportunities for the two (Mitchell had sent letters to both The Stones’ fan club and Brian Epstein in hopes of finding employment), Mitchell nonetheless spins an air of innocence that to some could seem incomprehensible in its lack of forethought for the future. She had secured money from her savings, as well as Marty’s college fund and the duo appeared to have it all under control, living in Soho, going to clubs nightly and even meeting young musicians – the latter with circumstances that were not wholly explained to them in detail, lest Mitchell and her friend were questioned as to their real motives.

Meanwhile… back in Cleveland Heights, the law enforcement community were actively seeking their whereabouts, circulating flyers with their likenesses and as days wore on, involving the US State Department. The flimsiest thread to their location came back: Mitchell’s letter to the Stones fan club (calling out Wyman) and Epstein had been discovered. Both girls were “somewhere” in England.

Jumping from clubs to Tube stations, roaming the streets of London and even managing to meet with their musician friends and hitchhike to Liverpool,where Mitchell was crushed in not being able to enter the Cavern Club due to time constraints… it all seemed to be working out. There had been no communication with their families back in Ohio and both were oblivious to the havoc they had caused with their departure.

As with all the good things that came of this adventure, it did eventually end. As Mitchell and her musician friend walked along Oxford Street, she was spotted by a bobby. It was over. Mitchell and Marty – handled by her account very well by the British system – were speedily jettisoned back to the US. While Mitchell continually wondered what was going on, Marty in the ensuing timeframe during the transit froze her out. Both were hauled into the county juvenile system rather brutally and Mitchell in her innocence could not comprehend what they had done wrong. Through the harrowing ordeal, she remained stoic but scarred from the experience. Remanded back to her aunt, she felt the isolation suffocating.

While she recovered, rock and roll was moving on. Mitchell’s high profile shenanigans lifted her presence to a level that she didn’t expect: while facing the judicial system in tandem with her London exploits, a judge ruled that her and Marty’s actions directly affected live performances in the Cleveland area. Such music was condemned (including a return appearance of The Rolling Stones) and effectively, rock ‘n’ roll was banned in Cleveland.

As Mitchell stewed over the insanity of the ruling, she coped with daily life. She managed one last phone call to the musician who she befriended in London. But Marty – her Beatle cohort – had moved with her family from Cleveland Heights and their last communication was in 1968.

Mitchell also moved on, married, became a journalist, then a capital case investigator in New York City. She left after the trauma of 9/11 and moved back to her hometown. And while compiling and reliving all the moments of this lifetime ago escapade, Mitchell learned that Paul McCartney had been on the precipice of seeing them off at Heathrow back in October of 1964. However, the US Embassy nixed that plan. She did end up visiting Liverpool more extensively in 2018 and again nearly came in contact with McCartney during his ‘Carpool Karaoke’ segment on the Albert Dock. She was not lost thinking about the ironic twists of her life.

Stories from first generation Beatles fans such as Mitchell’s are very rare and her insightful perceptions, coupled with her 16-year-old gumption make this memoir colorful and poignant.

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

 

 

 

Listen to Jenn’s interview with author Janice Mitchell…

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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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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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