Beatles Books

A Brief Review of buying Beatles stuff

I have alluded to several books on this blog and so, with Christmas long gone and books, book tokens, book sales and replacements being favoured activities here are some thoughts about books and buying Beatles stuff in. Mark Lewisohn’s new meisterwerk Tune-In (2013) is now the key text for fans…

Records; Of course I am assuming that you will have already gotten the remasters, a key topic of this blog, and they produce a great narrative of Beatle life, but if not I would recommend the following five albums in order.

1) White Album; “the greatest group in the world at the height of their powers” Marmalade Skies

2) Revolver; when then they learnt to play the studio with Geoff Emerick.

3) Hard Days Night; Merseybeat in excelsis 5th Best British Rock Album according to Q in 2000 and composed entirely of Lennon-McCartney songs

4) Rubber Soul; great folk-rock influenced epic by Dylan & Crosby as they lift off (with one last blast of misogyny)

5) Abbey Road; the most polished and 21st century sounding of their albums; White Album Part 2 meets Love Part 1

Acidheads, mellotron-freaks and prog-revivalists (hello Italy!) should head to the Magical Mystery Tour for a breakfast of semolina pilchards and an English tan. A painless MashUp of all things Beatles for the kids is the wonderful Love! The show in Las Vegas is worth seeing too; it feels just like sitting next to Ringo in Abbey Road studio 2 as the music is from the master tapes :-)

BOOKS

Before I wrote this blog I thought there were only two Beatles book that anyone would ever need and they were both British. Ian McDonald’s “Revolution In The Head” and Mark Lewisohn’s “The Complete Beatles Studio Recording” (now out of print) which both put you at the centre of The Beatles world in the 1960s. Perhaps that is still all that you will ever need to read however recent American scholarship and enthusiasm pretty much trumps those two, in my opinion. Yes I can’t believe it either! So what are the other books worth buying?  Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles Creativity (2) Singles

Beatles Singles 1962-64

Love Me Do

Trevor Horn, who in November 1963 was inspired to become a producer when he noticed the difference between the Beatles “error-strewn” live performance (that turned them into multi–media stars in the UK) on the Royal Variety Show compared to the exuberant polish of their studio songs, observed that there is always one weak member of a group when it comes to recording; which is why he says he never recorded U2 (Mojo June 2010). George Martin thought the same with Pete Best and, sadly, I think that Pete was a live rock n roll drummer and not cut out for all the studio work supporting the song that Ringo delivered at Abbey Road; check this out as The Beatles try to find their recording feet whilst auditioning with Pete Best on Love Me Do. There is a version of this post on the Beatles YouTube Album. To my ears Love Me Do is the transition song between the live rock n roll band Beatles and the first self-contained rock band which had unparalleled domination of the pop singles world during 1963 & 1964. Deni includes it as key live track in The Beatles live show late ’62. They weren’t moptops yet. Read the rest of this entry »

Beatles Creativity (1) Live

The Beatles Live 1957-1963

In the next six posts I will be looking at the Beatles creativity in terms of the six phases identified in Learning from Learning…With The Beatles. In keeping with the social construction of Popular Music I will tell these stories through six Top Tens of Beatles songs. Consequently, as with many of the posts on this blog, there is an accompanying post with videos on a Beatles YouTube Album; specific videos are linked to from the paragraph headers. The first period discussed here is about how John, Paul, George and Ringo became The Beatles and looks at The Beatles Live 1957-1963. This is the same period as that identified by Malcolm Gladwell when The Beatles were unknown unknowns, or Outliers, and in the process of self-creation.

That’ll Be The Day

The pre-Fab Four were feral and provincial, outlawed themselves to Germany and worked in Hamburg’s red light district to make live music for significant periods in the early sixties. Bob Spitz in The Beatles Biography identifies the Litherland Hall Concert in Liverpool on December 27 1960, after the Beatles had returned from Hamburg in Wild Ones black leather, as the point at which they became legends in their own backyard. Nice short film about Litherland made by their manager of the time Allan Williams, which captures this confusion about their provenance. But even legends started small and the craft collective known as The Beatles started as The Quarrymen. Read the rest of this entry »

We’re Leaving Home

1969 – Nothings Gonna Change My World

In 1969 the Art Collective known as The Beatles imploded; more precisely the “Musical Instrument known as The Beatles”, as Brian Eno would characterise them, no longer had Brian Epstein to care of the business. In 1968 they really had taken care of the music and taken care of business, after a fashion. The Beatles had triumphed musically, but it hadn’t really been recognised; Lennon, left fuming at the end of 1968, shared his pain in a lengthy interview to a student, recently published in New Statesman. They had taken care of Business by launching Apple Corps and Apple Records, but they couldn’t hang on to the money they were making. Despite making the music/business equation work in 1968 it was to tear them apart during 1969. Not least because their work as creators of, and commentators on, the sixties was done. They didn’t fully understand how they had achieved that, and we didn’t get it at the time either. Read the rest of this entry »

We Are The Beatles

After Learning…With The Beatles

After Geography, their decision to stop touring, and After Math, the necessity to look after their own business affairs, for The Beatles it was also After School; time to be mature and make their own business decisions. They might have appeared like omnipotent masters to their fans, but from late 1967 they had to take all the decisions about their ever-expanding business affairs without Brian Epstein’s support; and work out how to realise their increasingly complex approach to music-making into something marketable. Read the rest of this entry »

Paperback Walrus

Learning from Learning…With The Beatles; from album to artefact

Bookending the Beatles heutagogic period were twin attacks on print formats. In Paperback Writer Paul boasted that if you liked the style he “could turn it round” and in Walrus John delivered a nonsense poem about nonsense poems, containing probably his most visceral attack on the British Establishment. Heutagogy is about playing with form and The Beatles did this explicitly and implicitly within this period which lasted from 13th April 1966 to 27th August 1967. Read the rest of this entry »

We Can Work It Out

Learning from Learning…With The Beatles; from romantic to Romantic

Having proved themselves in the school of hit records, by narrowing their focus and delivering to EMI’s template, The Beatles grew in confidence between the return from their first visit to the USA and the end of their second visit in August 1964. They met Dylan at Delmonico’s, who dismissed their silly love songs and gave them a greater Romantic vision of their possibilities. And so they embarked on the andragogic phase of their learning. Read the rest of this entry »

And In The End

Part 8 of Learning…With The Beatles, The Assessment

This set of posts have been reviewing the The Beatles life story album-by-album, using the Open Context Model of Learning as a framework for evaluating the processes of learning that they went through and how that affected their music. The reason for this is to try and uncover exactly what constituted their enduring creativity and how we might learn from it today. The Open Context Model of Learning is concerned to examine how the education process itself might be structured to enable more creativity to emerge from it naturally rather than being a thing apart uncovered in various culture contexts outside of formal education.

The Beatles themselves, “four underachieving schoolboys” who “changed the world”, seem ideal subjects for such an analysis of how you might learn creativity. Not least as the author is also fan and can bring some additional musical and contextual insights to the analysis. Having written these posts and reflected on the insights provided by them I think there are some real lessons to be drawn out. Most notably in fact that the creative phase of learning is deeply rooted in the collaborative phase. Building meaningful collaborations is the core of creativity. Lets examine how The Beatles work reveals that to us. Read the rest of this entry »

69; In The Court of Abbey Road

Part 7 of Learning…With The Beatles

And in the End their swansong was introduced by a great rock performance as The Beatles did finally Come Together. They returned to their nest at Abbey Road and produced what often sounds like, in the 21st Century, their greatest album, because of the quality of the recordings they captured in Abbey Road Studio 2. Abbey Road was both their spiritual home and their creative playground. It was the very specific place where both their craft in producing music and their accumulated tacit knowledge in playing the studio, produced the universal music we are still listening to today. “Home” had been a key theme of Get Back, for the scousers who had changed the world and had also been our surrogate, provincially English, champions in the class war of the sixties; they needed sanctuary from the forces amassing against them and perhaps became nostalgic for the simple verities of rock n’roll.

Ultimately they did return home; not to Liverpool however but to Abbey Road. They ennobled their prolifically creative craft centre by naming their last album after it. EMI ultimately returned the compliment by renaming their recording studio Abbey Road after the album. It is now simply known as Abbey Road Studios, and remains a key Beatles shrine for their enduring fanbase, a flash mob met there in August 2009 to celebrate the albums 40th anniversary, and the studio has a webcam pointed at the famous crossing where the Fab Four popped outside, as they had done for the rooftop concert, and crossed over into middle age ending their career on a pedestrian crossing. Read the rest of this entry »

69; Been There – Done That!

Get Radical (Part 6 of Learning…With The Beatles)


The Art Collective known as The Beatles had released their masterpiece, now known as the White Album, but tellingly entitled The Beatles. This virginal white release signified their creative rebirth after Epstein’s death and the hat trick of experimentalist cartoon alter-egos they had donned in the mid-sixties. Having gone to India to clear their heads, regrouped unplugged with a broader group dynamic than ever before, they had amassed a huge swathe of songs and then recorded them, often as leader plus backing band. To me, along with opening Apple and signing and recording many other artists, this indicates that musically they had changed states for the third time. But this time we didn’t get it. Read the rest of this entry »

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