26 January 2017
So I recently finished Hunter Davies’ fine biography of the band. I chose that one because a) it’s official and b) he comes from a town near me, so my Northern patriotism shone through. But my main issue was that the book didn’t mention nearly enough about the music itself. I don’t think it even mentioned the release of Beatles For Sale . So is there another book that goes into comprehensive detail on the songs themselves? I’m not looking for annotated scores or ridiculous amounts of detail, just bits and pieces e.g the anecdote about George and the In My Life piano solo.
27 November 2016
This book was a great read for that purpose (if I’ve remembered the right book)!
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26 January 2017
Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the head. You can read it as a narrative, or browse song by song. Its really brilliant. Some people on here have spotted some factual errors in who he lists as the personnel for each song, but if you can get over that his words and information are awesome. I read it from Joe’s recommendation.
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9 March 2017
I wouldn’t recommend Revolution In The Head, it’s loaded with errors. However, I will recommend these books:
The Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn
The Beatles Gear, Andy Babiuk
Anything by Bruce Spizer
Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney , ghostwritten by Barry Miles
The Beatles Book Monthly, original 77 issues written by Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall
All You Need Is Ears, George Martin
Here, There, And Everywhere, Geoff Emmerick (I know a lot of people seem to hate this book but he is an eyewitness)
That Magic Feeling, John C. Winn
The Beatles As Musicians, Walter Everett
And of course, you should try beatlesebooks and Joe’s very own site and this forum because online sources are often better than books.
By the way, Robert Fontenot is a source that you want to avoid, I can’t say this enough, he is very unreliable and is very shady as well, deleting a lot of his online articles, don’t trust him.
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26 January 2017
29 June 2017
What do you mean by “music specifically”?
If you mean a scholarly analysis of the compositions then I think Revolution in the Head is best. The two Beatles As Musicians books by Walter Everett are also great (better than Twilight of the Gods, Tell Me Why and other similar attempts at this).
If you mean recording the music then The Beatles Recording Sessions but Here, There, And Everywhere by Geoff Emmerick is also a must read for first hand accounts.
All You Need Is Ears by George Martin does a decent approach of combining the two discussing composition when relevant and recording when relevant but doesn’t go into as much details as others. If you don’t have a music theory background this could be a plus. But if you want detailed analysis Martin’s writing is not best.
Can’t Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould does a good job of discussing the music in other contexts, and goes off on lots of interesting non-music tangents that puts the music in context.
29 June 2017
Thinking more about what you said about wanting more like the anecdote about the In My Life piano solo you might be best starting off with A Hard Day’s Write by Steve Turner. It’s not a book like Hunters with conventional chapters but instead it’s structured with a few pages on every original song with all the most relevant stories associated with each. It probably focuses more on the lyrics than the music writing, though it does go into the music writing and arranging when interesting (something like the In My Life piano solo would probably be noted though I can’t remember off the top of my head if it is for sure) without focusing on it in a more academic way like Revolution in the Head, Beatles as Musicians etc and based on your original post that may be what you’re looking for. It also has lots of relevant pictures for the songs such as the Beatles with people the songs are written about, the actual newspaper clippings that inspired some of the songs (ie Day in the Life) etc. I think it was also the first book to publish Julian’s painting that inspired Lucy in the Sky. Now it’s all over the internet, so it’s not a big deal, but when the book was originally published in the ’90s that was special.
So I’d recommend A Hard Day’s Write the most specifically for you. Based on your original post I would still strongly recommend Can’t Buy Me Love if you want something like Hunter’s book but with more on the music and George Martin’s book for an overview of the songs and first hand accounts of work in the studio. He certainly knows about the Beatles music!