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…
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…
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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…
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…
While perusing Facebook this morning, I saw an ad for Great Courses Plus offering a free online course about The Beatles. I decided to save all my readers the hassle of clicking on a Facebook ad (that only encourages more unwanted ads) and look into it myself.
From what I can make out from the website, once you’re registered and give them your credit card information, your 14 Day FREE Trail will begin. But here’s the fine print on the site with how to avoid having to pay for anything:
If you cancel, service access will terminate at the end of the current paid billing period. If you cancel during the free trial, access will remain until the end of the free trial period.
There is no refund for early termination.
I’m not sure how long this course has been offered, but the 26 reviews of it only go back one month, so it appears fairly new. It also appears to be the online Beatles related course on this site.
I feel the need to note that this is not an affiliate article. I get nothing for mentioning this course to you and am only doing to bring attention to something of interest to Beatles fans. So if you need something to do while staying home during the pandemic, you may want to check this out. I know I will be signing up…and then canceling the next day while still enjoying my 14 day free trail!
While searching for Beatles books that were published this year for my Best Beatles Book 2020 Poll, I stumbled upon Beatles, Beatmakers, Merseybeat and Meby Karl Terry. Karl hails from Liverpool and got to not only experience Beatlemania first hand, but he was also in several bands that over the early years considered The Beatles their contemporaries, their competition and eventually the band to emulate.
This 112 page e-book was just published July 4, 2020. And the fascinating thing about it is that it tells the story of what was going on in and around The Beatles during their early years and their heyday. There are plenty of books about The Beatles and other Merseybeat bands, but nothing quite like this one. Karl Terry will give you an inside perspective of what it was like to be one of the other bands in Liverpool in the 1960’s while talking about the other scouser bands he shared the stage and bill with.
But it’s not just about The Beatles and Liverpool. Karl will make you laugh out loud at some of the more outrageous stories and near disastrous happenings of his own band mates and himself as they toured France, Spain and Germany playing to beat loving audiences. How fast can a band get kicked out of a hotel?
If you enjoy traveling back to 1960’s Liverpool and the clubs of Germany, you’ll definitely love reading this short, but thrilling journey. And for that reason…
Kathy calls her book a memoir and talks about her exciting life growing up in New York City and how a series of events, including seeing the Beatles play at Shea Stadium in August of 1965 inspired her to become a musician. But she didn’t just become a multi-instrumental talent, she went on to form her own female rock duo that toured Europe. Not just any rock duo, but the FIRST female rock duo in Britain. Their band, Emily Muff, went on to open for such bands as Yes, Family, Steppenwolf and America and eventually played the Royal Albert Hall in London.
You would think this would be exciting enough to read about, but no. It’s her encounters with the Glimmer Twins – Mick Jagger and Keith Richards that makes her story even more dynamic. She first met Keith, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman when her brother helped sneak her into a bar in NYC when she was just 16. She would have run ins with the Rolling Stones several more times after she moved to London after she dropped out of college. And still, the stories don’t stop there…like when one of her flat mates in London tells her he just joined a new band and they’re going to call themselves…Yes!
The great stories never seem to end in this book. I couldn’t put it down. And I doubt too many other readers won’t have the same reaction. And for that reason…