Tag Archives: The Beatles

Guest Book Review: “Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and The 1960s” by John F. Lyons

Joy and Fear The Beatles Chicago The 1960s John F Lyons

This guest review was written by Amy Hughs.

As a die-hard Beatles fan, I know pretty much a ton of their backstory on a global scale. What I appreciated about author John F. Lyons’ newly published ‘Joy and Fear: The Beatles, Chicago and the 1960s’ (Permuted Press, 2021) were the personal reminiscences of those in the Chicagoland area during the time period they played there in 1964, ’65 and ’66.

While there is a good deal of time spent analyzing their impact on culture and the media across the globe, the more insightful passages are those that detail the incidents and people that surrounded the band’s performances. On September 5, 1964, they played the International Amphitheater to a screaming throng of 15,000. From Lyons’ colorful descriptions of their landing at Midway Airport, driving to the Sahara Inn at O’Hara, their standard set amidst the chaos and their immediate departure thereafter, one would believe that the band was not a welcome sight for those in charge. And to a large degree, that was the truth. Chicago and it’s staunch Midwest Christian beliefs, coupled with an older political generation – held in check by the legendary Mayor Richard J. Daley – kept The Beatles at arms’ length. So far at length that Lyons’ recollections via newspaper and media outlets’ reviews seemed confusingly hostile in hindsight.

Lyons goes on to accurately portray that all-too-real generational gap between teens and their elders. He does pepper throughout various chapters revelatory passages on the negative atmosphere in Chicago towards The Beatles. The joyous occasions that one perceives today in regards to the band’s receptions in the US is juxtaposed with hardline beliefs that The Beatles were to be viewed with disdain and be shown the door as quickly as they entered. Surprisingly, a good portion of these chapters reflect the audience that they were targeting: young females who were the objects of their affection.

1965 was by all Beatle-related accounts, a repeat of the previous year. Live performances for the US tour were scaled back in scope, however Chicago was fortunate to host them again, this time at a much larger outdoor venue – White Sox Park – with 2 shows and a combined audience of 62,000. One of the more amusing and detailed accounts in Lyons’ book are the reminisces of the support acts for the tour, including dancer Denise Mourges (who was part of the Discotheque Dancers with the King Curtis Band) and Sounds Incorporated’s Alan Holmes. However once again the prevalent attitudes – despite accounts of Beatlemania being at fever pitch – were now slipping south.

Although the ‘scene’ was in their favor (and city officials and promoters had gotten hipper in allowing the local DJs from WLS radio to be emcees), the prevailing attitude of negativity continued to spiral downward. However prior to the coverage of the 1966 tour, Lyons does spend a good deal of time focused on the Chicagoland groups that were making names for themselves locally: the New Colony Six, the Shadows of Knight, the Amboy Dukes, the Buckinghams, and all-girl groups including Daughters of Eve and Marie Antoinette & The Cool Heads.

1966 brings The Beatles back to the US and the start of their tour in Chicago. But prior to their August 11 arrival, Lennon’s out-of-context remarks on the group’s popularity eclipsing Jesus Christ had taken hold of media outlets. Chicago became the epicenter of the firestorm, with Lennon (in tears before the press conference) apologizing in every form possible to the assembled gathering at the Astor Tower Hotel. The Chicago press were going for blood, found it and trumpeted it. The numbers only proved in lax ticket sales that their time and popularity were waning, despite the two show outings back at the International Amphitheater. As Lyons writes, the last visit left a mixed impression, mostly conjuring up images of the stockyards, hotels and cars and as George Harrison noted “race riots.”

Whether Harrison’s view was accurate, Chicago’s atmosphere was becoming more politically charged. While Lyons goes on to analyze The Beatles’ influence with the release of ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ it’s worth observing that the group’s influence still had a global stronghold, pop culture-wise, as noted in Chicago with the start-up counterculture newspaper The Seed. Lyons devotes several pages to other timely subjects: free love, drugs, psychedelia and then as 1968 comes into play, transcendental meditation and the arrival of Yoko Ono.

The decline of their popularity thru the remainder of the late sixties (with the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy), the Manson murders and of course for this book, the Democratic National Convention is recalled vividly with anecdotes from Chicagoland teens, media outlets and political observers. The volatile atmosphere – partially charged by Mayor Daley and his conservative viewpoints – was not without incident for those in the music business. Venues such as The Kinetic Playground (a popular target of police activity) did their best to give the city notoriety – and as the owners of Head Imports discovered, when they were arrested on obscenity charges for selling ‘Two Virgins’ – Chicago and The Beatles were not on the best speaking terms.

Lyons goes on to chronicle their break-up and gives mention to the post-Beatles visits in Chicago, most shockingly how a frozen Lake Michigan influenced Yoko Ono’s ‘Walking On Thin Ice’ (the last recording of John Lennon) and McCartney’s several shows since 1976. Lyons gives a great overview of the time period covered and Chicago in detail. His global Beatles history (while known to someone who has details galore would find more of a retread), I found to be helpful for those who need a refresh to contextualize the time period. For these reasons and more…

I rate this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

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Guest Review: “A Women’s History of The Beatles” by Christine Feldman-Barrett

This is a guest review by Amy McGrath Hughes for a new Beatles book that is being released today – February 11, 2021.

A Women's History of the beatles Christine Feldman-Barrett

For all the terminology associated with being a female fan of The Beatles, I’m happy to say that “aca-fan” is one I believe needs more press. Accordingly, Dr. Christine Feldman-Barrett’s newly published ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ (Bloomsbury, 2021) seeks to inform a wide, multi-generational audience that may not wholly understand the role of women in ‘Beatlefandom.’

The definition of “aca-fan” or academic fan stems from Feldman-Barrett’s research into how we define the span of women (either first generation or beyond) who were deeply affected by The Beatles impact on their lives. Through countless interviews that range from women who saw the band during their brief lifespan or who discovered them through recordings and film or from family members, Feldman-Barrett brings into focus the multi-layered emotions felt by each discovery and life-changing course of action.

However, Feldman-Barrett begins by discussing The Beatles unique understanding of the female fan, especially those they befriended in Liverpool. These girls were their stalwart supporters at a time when ‘young women’ were still expected to finish school, get married and raise a family. Although many did go down that avenue, so too did many seek to break out of the norm, establish an identity and pursue a career. The Beatles in many respects, through their performances or correspondences, helped them to achieve what was considered a fairly lofty, nearly unattainable goal. In return, these working girls from Liverpool (who the group considered friends) set the pattern for years to come: whether they were fan club secretaries (like Liverpudlian Freda Kelly) or journalists (such as the Evening Standard’s Maureen Cleave), these smart women were there from the start and stayed the course helping to spread The Word.

The Beatles also broke rank with how they chose to interact with an audience and the choices of songs they played. While there is considerable knowledge about their upbringing and how their generation viewed women’s role in society (as noted above), the stage presence they achieved through showcasing ‘girl group’ songs (The Shirelles, The Cookies, The Marvelettes) gave them a devoted female following amidst the perception of the rough and tumble atmosphere of club-going, heretofore thought to be a taboo ritual. Although these perceptions proved to be barrier-breaking, Feldman-Barrett ironically notes that although The Beatles showcased these songs to a wide audience, their eventual stratospheric rise in effect caused the demise of this genre.

Another interesting angle that Feldman-Barrett explores is the internal relationships of The Beatles: most notably with Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg and then their early pairings (Cynthia Powell, Maureen Cox, Pattie Boyd, Jane Asher) and consequently as the band starts to disintegrate, the rise of the two most prominent partners: Yoko Ono and Linda Eastman. How these two strong female personalities become inextricably tied to their spouses’ outlook on women’s role in society as the 70s begin is examined in detail. Ono in particular was and has been unfairly portrayed in the media and Feldman-Barrett seeks to rectify that trope in these pages.

The dominant narrative that permeates this history though, are the multi-generational women who Feldman-Barrett interviewed; as either a first generation fan (one who was there during The Beatles lifespan) or into later years and even past the death of John Lennon, what comes across is the same passionate involvement they all have: whether they became professional musicians during the 60s (such as the all-girl Nursery Rhymes and The Pleasure Seekers who fought against stereotypical male-dominated ‘rock bands’) or parlayed their interest in The Beatles into a professional vocation (as tour guides in Hamburg, Liverpool and New York City) or as Feldman-Barrett points out, pursued higher education in the actual study of The Beatles, via university courses devoted to their cultural impact on society, and pop culture in particular.

These women gained tremendous insight into what had been up to that time (and even into the 70s, 80s and 90s) a love of The Beatles that moved past the mislabeling of ‘hysterical screaming teenager’ or ‘obsessed fan’ and have turned it into their life’s work. ‘A Women’s History of The Beatles’ is a deep dive scholarly approach that is informative, thought-provoking and should create more open dialogue not only for academia-minded individuals, but also for those who seek unique perspectives on how The Beatles shaped their (and our) generation.

I rate this book: 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “BEATLES, BEATMAKERS, MERSEYBEAT, AND ME” by Karl Terry

BEATLES, BEATMAKERS, MERSEYBEAT, AND ME - Kindle edition by Terry, Karl. Arts & Photography Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.While searching for Beatles books that were published this year for my Best Beatles Book 2020 Poll, I stumbled upon Beatles, Beatmakers, Merseybeat and Me by Karl TerryKarl 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…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “My Private Lennon” by Sibbie O’Sullivan

I need to be honest, I really wasn’t expecting much when I bought a copy of My Private Lennon: Explorations from a Fan Who Never Screamed by Sibbie O’Sullivan. I believe the book came up as a recommendation on Amazon while I was perusing other books. “Another fan book…”, I thought. But, it was only 165 pages long and was published February 17, 2020, making it current. Why not…I need to start reading and reviewing more books.

Reading this wasn’t like reading just another fan book. Yes, she and her friends talked endlessly about the Beatles. Yes, she had teen magazines about the Fab Four. And yes, she did see the Beatles during a dress rehearsal at the Ed Sullivan theater in August 1965, an event she has barely any memory of except for the photo she took of John Lennon on stage. And YES, this book is so much more than just another fan book.

Sibbie O’Sullivan weaves her personal life in with the stories of the Beatles, their wives and their own personal life choices. And she does it in a brutally honest way. She tells stories of the innocence of being a teenager to becoming sexually promiscuous, a shotgun wedding, divorce, friends, family, etc. She ties her stories in with the feelings of Cynthia, John & Yoko, but in a way to show how she can relate to what they must have been feeling at the time. Her stories are told so much deeper, more emotional and grown-up than other Beatle fan books that’s I’ve read. Honestly, and maybe it’s the voyeur in me, but I couldn’t put this books down. I even believe that if she had left the Beatles out of it, it still would be a great read. By the time I finish, I thought, “I hope she feels better now”. It’s a beautifully written memoir. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Dear Prudence: The Story Behind The Song” by Prudence Farrow Bruns

Dear Prudence: The Story Behind the Song: Bruns, Prudence Farrow ...I’m a person who loves numbers and statistics. Every morning I check various stats on several of my websites. I like to know that my efforts aren’t going unnoticed and that I’m not wasting my time doing all this reading and writing. One of my stat pages likes to tell me keywords that I should be using to attract more readers. One of them was “prudence bury”. Not sure where the “bury” came from, but I decided to look on Amazon to see if Prudence Farrow Bruns had written a book. Sure enough, I found Dear Prudence: The Story Behind The Song, a self-published book by Prudence Farrow Bruns put out in July 2015.

Anyone that reads this blog on a regular basis knows by now that I’m not a fan of spending a lot of money on some of the books I read. Unless they are a signed first edition, I usually find a cheap used copy somewhere. In this case, there were no inexpensive used copies of this book, so I had to devise another plan. Turns out, Amazon is offering free trials of their Kindle Unlimited plan. I believe I get the first two weeks (or months) free before I have to cancel to avoid being charged, but I decided this was the best way to read a book that I wasn’t sure I was going to like.

For those that don’t know, The Beatles wrote the song Dear Prudence about Prudence Farrow after meeting her in India in 1968…

Turns out, the dramatic stories that I had heard about why the Beatles wrote this song for Prudence aren’t quite true…at least not according to Prudence herself. Or was she holding back in this book? Well, she kind of leaves it all up to the reader to interpret.

This book is basically a memoir of her life from start to finish. And there were moments while reading it that the words, “spoiled brat”, “poor little rich girl” and “first world problems” all went through my mind as she proceeded to destroy her life throughout her teenage years. But upon closer examination, where were her parents? Both  actors/directors, her parents spent vast amounts of time away on location while Prudence and her FIVE siblings were left with governesses and maids. Finally deciding she needed to pull her life together after a bad acid trip, she discovered meditation and yoga and heard of a guru in India that she desperately wanted to meet.

Prudence finally sets foot at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with her famous sister Mia on page 199 of this 224 page book. That leaves just 1/5 of the book for her to meet the Beatles and have a song written about her (John and George arrive on page 204). And as predicted, the whole actual story behind the song is uneventful and there isn’t really a whole lot to tell about John, Paul, George and Ringo except small talk or to say they told her they wrote a song about her and that she didn’t actually hear it until the White Album came out.

I guess I came out of this book thinking, “If she wanted to write her memoir, why didn’t she just do that?!” Why hide it behind a song? Because…then she couldn’t cash in on the Beatles link and sell more books! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “The Beatles from A to ZED” by Peter Asher

I’ve been slacking…I know. Summer seemed to be going along just fine, but somehow I lost control of my time to read when fall hit! During this time, though, I’ve been reading an Advance Reader’s Edition (that I got in July) of The Beatles from A to ZED by Peter Asher. I thought I would have this review out months ago and I must apologize to not only my readers, but also the publisher – Henry Holt and Company for my tardiness. The book will be released on October 29, 2019, but you can pre-order it now through Amazon where it’s currently ranked at #8 in Beatles books!

Most of my readers are familiar with Peter Asher, either because he’s the brother of Paul’s ex-girlfriend, actress Jane Asher, or because he worked for Apple Records, or because he was a member of the famous duo Peter and Gordon. Now a days, you can find him hosting his own radio show on Sirius XM’s Beatles’ station called “Peter Asher: From Me to You“.

Peter came up with the idea of using letters from the alphabet as a fun and interesting way to organize topics for his radio show and was inspired to write the book using this same format. The book, about 250 pages long, is filled with not only Beatles’ song titles to represent each letter, but also people, places and things that start with the corresponding letters that were a part of Beatles’ history. And Peter came up with some dozy subjects to discuss in each chapter and you’ll find yourself almost playing a game in your head as you read as to which songs and subjects he’ll cover.

This book is an easy and fun read. It might take a little getting used to, though, since it’s written almost like a script to his radio show. It reads as if your listening to Peter on Sirius XM or if you’ve ever heard him speak or sing in his lovely English accent, completely freestyle! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 BEETLES!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics” by Adam Thomas

Lennon vs McCartney The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics Adam ThomasI guess I was browsing around Facebook (or maybe it was on Twitter) a couple weeks ago when I saw the author, Adam Thomas, of Lennon vs. McCartney: The Beatles, inter-band relationships and the hidden messages to each other in their song lyrics post about his book being half price on the publishers website, so I thought I’d give it a go since it seemed like a topic that I hadn’t fully delved into where the Fab Four are concerned.

This book was self-published in November 2014 but is able to withstand the test of time since it starts back at the very beginning of the Beatles career and because there are now only two original Beatles who are still with us here on earth. Paul and Ringo still may write songs about their heydays as Beatles, but most of it is reflective and nostalgic with very little, if any, controversy.

This book is only about 200 pages, but does a great job of pointing out the songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote about each other (both good and bad), both during their time as a writing team and after the split up of the band. The one problem that I found with Adam Thomas’ presentation of this material was that he very rarely quoted the lyrics of the songs and instead would just give his interpretation of what was contained in it. I can only guess that he did to avoid dealing with any copyright issues, but unless you know the words to every Lennon and McCartney song ever written, it can be a little trying. Still, he does do a great job explaining the meaning behind the songs. And…not only does he analyze John and Paul’s hidden messages, he also takes on Ringo and George’s work as well.

The first hundred pages of this book are about the songs in question and the second half of this book is a charted “Relationship Timeline”. I’ll admit that I haven’t read through the time-line yet, but I’ll get to it in the very near future. After reading the first half, I think it’s obvious that Adam Thomas did his homework for this book. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!

 

 

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Documentary Review: “Tony Palmer’s Mighty Good – The Beatles”

Tony Palmer’s All You Need Is Love series episode 13 is Mighty Good: The Beatles. Don’t ask me what the first 12 or the last 4 episodes in this series are about because I have no idea. I was trying to spend some points I had earned on one of my credit cards and that’s how I got this DVD for free. 

I’m not really sure where to begin in telling about this video. I don’t know that it’s worth too many words or my time to type them! It’s approximately 1 hour long and spends the first half talking about the Beatles. Actually, it’s mostly a stoned and/or drunk Derek Taylor talking about the Beatles (and if you follow this blog for any length of time, you’ll know how I feel about Derek!). They have bits of film with John, Paul and Ringo talking and a whole lot of Murray the K. But after about a half hour, the video turns into something else with Roger McGuinn talking about The Byrds and video clips of The Animals. Eventually, it does get back to the Fab Four, but then drifts off again.

I will admit that some of the interview clips about our boys I have never seen before, but I can’t say it’s worth the wasted hour of time and the recycled clips of girls screaming, crying and fainting to invest. And for that reason…

I rate this DVD, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Beatles Yellow Submarine (Graphic Novel) – by Bill Morrison

The Beatles Yellow Submarine is a new graphic novel that was just released this past Tuesday, August 28, 2018. It was put out by Titan Comics and illustrated by Bill Morrison – the co-founder of Bongo Comics and editor of MAD magazine.

I admit that it’s been a very long time since I’ve watched the movie Yellow Submarine. In fact, I actually wasn’t sure if we owned it and I had to go out into the garage to look through our old box of DVD’s to find it. So by now you all realize that mine is the 1999 version and not the beautifully restored 2012 version. This brings me to my second confession that after getting about 20 pages into this 112 page hardcover, graphic novel, I slipped the movie into my player to see how the book compared to the original story.

Picture yourself…in your favorite chair, with your favorite small child (be it your own kid, niece, nephew, or kid you babysit) curled up next to you as you read them the story of the Yellow Submarine. The book follows the movie as best it can without all the great psychedelic animation or well-known songs as background music. But if you’re a true Beatles’ fan, chances are your kids already know the title and other songs. Where the movie may be a bit much for young minds to absorb, this graphic novel is a great way to introduce your children to reading while at the same time making sure that they are future Beatles freaks like their parents or guardians.

The book isn’t an exact replica of the film and does skip tiny bits of the movie’s dialog here, there and everywhere, while adding tiny snippets to make it all make sense on paper, while at same time staying true to the story. The illustrations are adapted from the movie, but once again, the dialog isn’t going to exactly match up with the movie’s animation. Still, it’s a very, very good adaption with Mr. Morrison fitting in as much of the movie’s background graphics as he can on every colorful page. If you’re a Beatles book collector or the parent of a little Beatle fan, then this book belongs on your shelf. Just be sure to put the soundtrack on your stereo before indulging. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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The Beatles’ The White Album: An International Symposium – November 8-11, 2018

Here’s a little something to put on your calendar to attend in November…The Beatles’ The White Album: An International Symposium to be held on November 8-11, 2018 at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ. The keynote speaker will be Beatles historian and author Mark Lewisohn. Other speakers will include Geoff Emerick, Chris Thomas, Walter Everett, Bruce Spizer, and Tim Riley.  The conference them will be:  “Producing an Enigma for the Ages” .

If you plan to attend, on the first night of the conference (November 8th), be sure to buy tickets to see The Weeklings in concert. You may remember my review of their last album back in November 2016. If not, you can read more about them and their Beatlesque sound here.

Currently, host Kenneth Womack is still in the process of accepting abstracts for any Beatles experts and authors that wish to speak at this event, but the deadline is drawing near (August 20, 2018), so if you’re interested in presenting at this symposium, you can find the information about how to submit a paper for consideration at: https://www.monmouth.edu/mca/whitealbum/.

For all the Beatles fans and freaks that want to attend, keep your eyes and ears up for more information on tickets to this grand event!

https://www.monmouth.edu/mca/whitealbum/

See you there!

 

 

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