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Book Review: “All You Need is Ears” by George Martin

There are a lot of authentic reasons why Sir George Martin is referred to as the 5th Beatle…and they’re all contained with the pages of his book, “All You Need Is Ears: The inside personal story of the genius who created The Beatles“. Published in 1979, this book is still a delight to read for any true fan of the Fab Four.

This isn’t a book that’s just about his time working with the Beatles and in the studio. It’s the story of George’s  life along with his thoughts on musical theory, recording and producing. He begins where we would expect George Martin to begin, with when he was born in 1926 and his early days growing up in war torn England and his time in the Fleet Air Army. He spends very little time talking about his private life except to make quick mentions of meeting and marrying his first wife Sheena, the birth of his kids Alexis and Gregory, he impending divorce, his marrying Judy and the birth of his third and fourth children – Lucy and Giles. He talks about his studio engineers more than his own family.

Where he gives an outstanding explanation of the mathematics behind chords (something I’ve heard of but never had it explained to me), at the other end of the spectrum, he gives a wordy and tedious chapter on the ins and outs of mono, stereo, four track, eight track, etc., recording. There is also a rather long and (and I think) unnecessary chapter on becoming a record producer in the 1970’s when the book was written. At times it almost felt like either he, his co-writer Jeremy Hornsby or his editor was attempting to add quantity between the cover pages only to sacrificed the quality. Though, I do know a few people who will find the technical mumbo jumbo very interesting.

For those looking for possibles hints as to why Sir George left his first two children out of his will when he passed away on March 8, 2016, you won’t find any answer in these pages. Even though the whole matter is really none of anyone’s business, the fact that it made headlines can’t help but make one wonder what went so terribly wrong that a man would exclude two of his flesh and blood from enjoying his wealth. I have personally talked with Greg Martin and he’s a lovely man. By day, he’s an actor, but in his spare time he’s a gifted astrologer. He did a live reading of my chart for me via Skype about 4 years ago and he was able to tell me things that did eventually come to be. (In fact, if anyone knows how to get a hold of him, please send him my way. I’d love to have him read for me again).

Anyway…I digress…

This book is a must read for any true Beatles fan, McCartney fan, Lennon fan, etc. He doesn’t pay a whole lot of mind to Ringo and George, but does spend a good deal of time telling of his interactions with Brian Epstein. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Touch the Earth” by Julian Lennon

Imagine my surprise when a book I ordered from Amazon showed up last week with my pre-order for Julian Lennon‘s new children’s book – Touch the EarthAmazon still says the release date is April 11th…so I’m not sure why I got my so soon. But, I’m not going to complain and my granddaughters paid me a visit a couple days later so I was able to read it to them.

This is a beautiful book with amazing artwork and an environmental theme that we can all relate to these days. Julian sets out to teach young children about the need to clean, safe drinking water all over the world, whether it’s for plants, animals or humans. The reader takes a trip around the world via a plane called the White Feather Flier. They help by pressing a small button on each page and tilting the book in the direction the plane needs to go to provide the necessary elements for clean, safe water.

Calla and me enjoying Touch the Earth by Julian Lennon

I so wanted to really be impressed with this book, but though the story is good and teach children well, the concept of pushing buttons and tilting the book just doesn’t fly in the virtual world we live in today. The book would absolutely rock as a computer or phone app for children to play.

Now don’t get me wrong. I plan on giving my copy to my granddaughters….BUT, I did ordered a signed copy from Premier Collections for $20 (they also say the book won’t be released until April 11th). I plan on keeping a pristine copy on my bookshelf all for myself because I have always adored Julian and will always support him and the White Feather Foundation (a portion of the proceeds from this book go to the foundation).

Sorry Julian…but please move to the obvious next step and create a computer version of this terrific story. You’ll go far with it! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 2 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

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Book Review: “I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir”

I really should learn to be more disciplined in my reading. It really doesn’t set me up to write good reviews when I have to spend an entire Saturday reading the second half of a book. It’s usually not the author’s fault. Nothing wrong with the book itself. I just have a bad habit of procrastinating. But I digress…

I pre-ordered I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir months ago when I heard about it’s release. After all my other various reviews of Beach Boys books, movies, documentaries and concerts over the past year, this was a must read for me.

I must start out by saying that having seen the movie ‘Love and Mercy‘ really set this book  up for me. I think the movie and this book go hand in hand in explaining the life and mind of founding Beach Boys member, Brian Wilson. In fact, the book is going to fill in a lot of the blanks that the movie left out, including Brian’s first wife, Marilyn, and their two daughters Wendy and Carnie.

One interesting factor in the book is the infamous plane flight to Houston. The movie Love & Mercy opens with the scene of the Beach Boys getting on that flight and Brian having a full blown panic attack almost immediately after take off. This obviously painful memory is brought up over and over throughout the book. It was the turning point in Brian’s life that led to his depression, use of drugs and unfortunate ten years of being held mentally and physically hostage by Dr. Landry. The plane flight would shape Brian’s entire future.

Brian, in his child-like manner, does his best to explain his difficult and tumultuous relationship with his abusive father, but I’m not sure that he ever really gets to the bottom of it. He explains early on in his writing that to talk about his dad, he has to revisit a very painful time in his life. A situation that he really doesn’t want to think about or analyze anymore. He does his best when he does bring up his father, Murry Wilson, to be fair in his assessment.

And for the Beatles connection: Brian gives major props to George Martin and does hope to someday write a song with Paul McCartney.

To truly understand this book, be sure to see Love & Mercy. It’ll explain the child-like way that this book is written. It’s not deep…but one has to believe it was cathartic for Brian to write. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “The Lennon Companion” by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman

First and foremost, I need to apologize to one of my avid readers for the review I’m about to give on this book. She recommended it to me and told me it’s one of the best books about the Beatles/Lennon that she’s read. My other readers may want to keep her opinion in mind while reading my thoughts on this book, because everyone sees (and reads) things differently.

The Lennon Companion by Elizabeth Thomson and David Gutman was first published in 1987 and then revised in 2004. My copy is the 2004 edition that I bought used on Amazon.com for a penny. It’s a collection of articles and thoughts on both the Beatles and John Lennon from various reporters, writers, magazines and newspapers around the world starting in 1963.9780028725956-us-300

Well, for the first time, dear readers, I’m going to admit that I didn’t finish a book. I take my book reviews very seriously and find it insulting to the authors and my readers to not read the book in its entirety before giving my opinion. I managed to get over halfway through the 260 pages after skipping several wordy articles that managed to say nothing as far as I was concerned. Many of the articles seemed to be written by reporters who wanted to jump on the Beatles’ bandwagon to help boost their own popularity and ratings. Page after page of nonsense was written for newspapers and then published again in this book!

This isn’t to say that all the articles were worthless. I did find one piece that was written about a playwright that was being considered to write a third movie for the Beatles. His screenplay was returned to him without ever being told why it was rejected, but it’s easy to figure out from the playwrights own thoughts on the subject. I did find it interesting to hear about the Beatles movie that was never made.8387494._UY200_

Now maybe somewhere in the second half of this book there is another gem of an article that could bring some enlightening new fact to my limited knowledge of the Fab Four. But truth be told, the book literally kept putting me to sleep. I could not keep my eyes open and napped frequently during my quest to finish the book.

Despite my review, and as I’ve already said, one of my readers considers this to be the best book she’s read. You can judge for yourself whether it’s a real page turner or a replacement for your sleeping pills by buying a used copy for yourself for $0.01 on Amazon.

I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “Happiness Is Seeing The Beatles: Beatlemania in St. Louis” by Sara Schmidt

Note: I will not be rating this book since I do know and have met the author.
Happiness is Seeing the Beatles: Beatlemania in St. Louis is written by Sara Schmidt, an elementary school teacher from Alton, IL.  Sara is known in Beatles circles as the owner/editor of the popular website Meet the Beatles for Reala site dedicated to telling the stories of fans who have had up close and personal encounters with the Beatles over the years.

When I first received my copy of this book, I was surprised by it’s size.  I had been expecting a traditional 6″ x 9″ paperback, so I was taken aback when a 160 page, 8.5″ x 11″ shiny paperback that was filled with not only extensive details, but also with B&W and color photos, showed up in my mailbox.  Schmidt not only tells the stories behind the Beatles’ (both as a band and as solo performers) shows in and around St. Louis, she also gives the history and, when possible, the set lists of the opening acts.

Author Sara Schmidt

Author Sara Schmidt

Sara knows and has researched her Beatles history for this book, but this going to present a ‘glass half full or glass half empty’ situation for her readers.  Some are going to find all the extra details about the Beatles and their tours as a bonus, while others are going to find it straying too far off topic from the title of this book ‘Beatlemania in St. Louis’.  It’s all going to depend on the reader and their preferences.  But this book really does come alive in the last three chapters when the author tells the stories behind the solo Fab Four returning to St. Louis right up to Ringo’s most recent show in 2014.

FYI – I do love the concept of books being written about the Fab Four playing in individual cities through the years and I hope to read others.  Or maybe Sara could write more?

You can purchase your own copy of Sara’s book at Amazon.com.  Or you can buy an autographed copy through her website.  You’ll also find a list of her upcoming appearances there.

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Book Review: “Daddy, Come Home: the true story of John Lennon and his father” by Pauline Lennon

Daddy Come Home: True Story of John Lennon and His Father by Pauline Lennon was a suggested read from Amazon.  Pauline Jones became John Lennon‘s step-mother in 1966 when she eloped with John’s father Alfred Lennon.  She was 20 and “Freddie” was 56.

Pauline met Freddie soon after John and his estranged father had reconciled in 1964 and even spent some time living and working at Kenwood for Cynthia and John as a nanny and doing secretarial work.

Pauline and AlfredI loved this book.  It really brought about a new light on an old subject of who Alfred Lennon was and why he acted in the way he did when it came to his first wife Julia and his son John.  Most of the book is taken from an autobiography that Alfred wrote in hopes of setting the record straight about his life and behavior, but the book never saw the light of day, because after a falling out with John (during his primal scream days), John forbade him to ever publish it.  The manuscript for the book was sent to John the week his father died.

Pauline also acts as a eye witness to several interactions between the on again, off again relationship between father and son and helps to tell Alfred’s story in his later years and after his death.

Whether you believe Alfred and Pauline’s stories or not, this is book is an easy and enjoyable read.  I burned through their wonderful love story and telling of their ups and downs as the most famous Beatles’ parents.  And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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Unfortunately, this book is out of print, so finding an inexpensive copy is difficult.  They’re currently selling for over $17.00 on Amazon.

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Book Review: “The One After 909: A Mystery with a Backbeat” by Tony Broadbent

I’d like to thank author Tony Broadbent for sending me a copy of his latest book, The One After 9:09: A Mystery With A Backbeat.  Tony is a Brit, born and raised, who now lives in North Carolina, USA.

This book is incredibly well written.  Even with over 400 pages, a reader can easily read through it without feeling like it’s never going to end.  The book contains, what I believe, to be three stories revolving around the early days of the Beatles career in the Liverpool and Hamburg days.

The first story is that of Raymond “Spike” Jones, the young man who apparently was the first Beatles fan to walk into NEMS record store and request a copy of “My Bonnie” with the Beatles singing back-up.  This particular storyline is fictitious, even though Raymond is said to have been a real person.  The second story is that of the mysterious private life of Brian Epstein and his (illegal) gay lifestyle.  The third story is that of the Beatles in their early days of getting to the toppermost of the poppermost.  Included in the all of the stories are Sam Leach, Mal Evans, Bob Wooler and many other well known Liverpool personalities.

All these tales and characters’ lives intertwine and overlap throughout the book, but at the same time, each holds it own.  The problem comes, though, when the reader isn’t sure which story is the main focus of the book.  And in the end, the storyline I had thought would figure prominently and close out the book wasn’t the one.  It was as if there was one train of thought that never came to the dramatic conclusion that I was looking for in the end.

Still, this book was a nice light read and the author says that except for the Raymond Jones story, the book is factual and he even provides sources at the end.  And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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