17 December 2012
This is a book which promised much, “The Definitive Encyclopaedia” it announces on the back cover, but unfortunately it disappoints in so many ways.
A choice has been made to concentrate this book on the Beatles Years. This means that, when it suits, it uses 1970 as a cut-off point, but not always. For instance, in the “People” section, you will find an entry for Mark Lewisohn, obviously the pre-eminent Beatles historian of our times, but definitely a post-1970 figure if ever there was one, while you won’t find an entry for Free As A Bird in the “Songs” section because it is after 1970, and the songs section doesn’t include anything that was released after 1970.
The “Songs” section is perhaps the most bizarre to my mind so far. It ignores everything from the BBC and Anthology releases. Not content with excluding all those entries they would have had to written, they go further and exclude all the cover versions they released in the ’60s. No entries for Twist And Shout or Long Tall Sally or Roll Over Beethoven or Boys . The “Songs” section, therefore, is an A-Z of short entries for just the original songs released between 1962 and 1970.
To not give due attention to the fact that many of their most popular songs were covers is to misrepresent them as a band. It’s as if Hunter used a copy of his own The Beatles Lyrics to decide what should make up the “Songs” section in this book.
The much fanfared inclusion of items from Hunter’s collection of “personal artefacts and memorabilia” is another damp squib. Just a few documents that have been seen before, and the type of pictures you see of mass-produced
tat memorabilia along with rarer items that you find in so many books. The only item that made me go, Ooo! was a picture of the “Little Richard at the Tower Ballroom” program which John had got Richard to autograph, with Richard including his home address and telling John to drop by if he was ever out that way.
The inclusion of little, and not-so little, side boxes allow for the inclusion of some interesting side topics. However, some weird choices about their placement within the book. For instance, there is a “Film Locations” box for each of the films. Now, you might think these side boxes would be found in the “Broadcast & Cinema” section of the book, punctuating the articles about the films. No, they appear in the “Songs” section, along articles on their UK albums (or, in the case of MMT, EP).
As some of you will know, my biggest complaints about Hunter’s last two books (Lennon Letters and Beatles Lyrics) were the obvious mistakes and typos that got through the editing and proofing process of each.
The idea of bringing in the other three writers was to get the detail right, with Hunter happily admitting he gets things wrong, but that these three were meticulous on the detail.
Now, obviously, I have read very little so far having had the book for about thirty-six hours, but how’s it looking for obvious mistakes and typos this time around?
Not good, I’m afraid.
For instance, there is this paragraph in the entry on John:
The end of ‘John Beatle’ came with the release of the 1970 album John Lennon /Plastic Ono Band and the no-holds-barred Rolling Stone interview the following year. John had screamed before, notably in ‘Twist And Shout ‘, but never like this. He faced his childhood traumas in ‘Mother ‘, and in the stark ‘God ‘ he sang, ‘I don’t believe in Beatles’. He sniped at McCartney in ‘How Do You Sleep’, and the dream was over.
Now, you’d think one of them might have mentioned that How Do You Sleep is not on Plastic Ono Band. You’d think just one of them might have spotted that.
I’ve also noted misdated quotes. There’s a sidebox that includes extracts from Allen Evans’ review of Sgt. Pepper for Melody Maker. It includes Evans’ comments on Lucy in the Sky, Within You and… Tomorrow Never Knows ?
At the moment it’s a 6 out of 10 from me. That may go up a little when I’ve had more time to read more of it, but not by much I don’t expect.
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