NOTE TO READERS: Thanks to everyone who entered the Beatles giveaway. I’m overwhelmed by the response! I’ll be selecting a winner and compiling a list of Top Five responses later today, so stay tuned.
Has there ever been a band with a style as diverse as that of the Beatles? It’s hard to imagine how a single band could produce a range of songs that includes “She Loves You,” “Yesterday,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “A Day in the Life,” and “Helter Skelter.” How could one band do it? In The Beatles: The Biography, Bob Spitz shares the story behind the Beatles’ successes and failures.
Spitz begins with John Lennon’s early years playing skiffle music (a sort of folk music played on homemade instruments) and follows the Beatles story all the way through the band’s tumultuous break-up. It’s a fairly comprehensive biography, exploring the music, the business, and the Fab Four’s personal lives.
I’ve never been a hard-core fan of the Beatles; I’d describe myself as more of a casual admirer. As a casual admirer, I learned a lot from this book, but I doubt that serious Beatles enthusiasts would find much new information here. As far as I can tell, there were no great revelations—what’s new is the comprehensiveness of the book.
Particularly fascinating were the insights into the music itself. It was a treat to learn more about the creation of the songs, the album cover designs, and the evolution of the band’s sound. For example, as a listener, I already knew that the opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” sounds cool, but I didn’t know what a complex piece of music making that one chord is.
Less interesting to me were the chapters on the Beatles’ early years. They played in clubs, acted as a back-up band, recorded a few tracks, and partied in Hamburg—over and over again. Once Brian Epstein came on the scene and the Beatles started making successful records, my interest in the story picked up.
The gossipy bits about who the Beatles dated and when were only interesting to me when these relationships affected the music (as the introduction of Yoko Ono did). However, a biography of the band would be incomplete without this information, so I’m not sorry it was there—I was just mostly interested in the music.
Although I actually listened to this book on audio, I’ve had a paperback copy sitting on my shelf for ages. So in honor of BAFAB (Buy a Friend a Book) week, I’d like to pass that unread paperback copy on to a Shelf Love reader. If you’d like a chance to win, please comment on this post with a list of your top five favorite Beatles songs by October 7.
I’ll get the ball rolling with my list (in no particular order):
- Eleanor Rigby
- She’s Leaving Home
- Let It Be
- For the Benefit of Mr. Kite
If you ask me tomorrow, you’ll probably get a different list, but those are the ones that strike my fancy today.