Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Beatles, The Beatles, The Beatles and more The Beatles

The Beatles – The BBC Archives: 1962 – 1970 – Kevin Howlett  (Harper Design)

The Beatles: Solo – The Illustrated Chronicles of John, Paul, George, and Ringo After The Beatles  -  Mat Snow (Race Point Books)
Standing In The Wings: The Beatles, Brian Epstein and Me – Joe Flannery (The History Press)
When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles’ Rise To the Top – Larry Kane (Running Press)

Just when you thought that everything that could ever be written, spoken, recorded or graphically depicted about The Beatles had already been released, we are treated to yet another overwhelming round of books detailing another slice of the Fab Four’s life.
One of the more ambitious and beautiful entries into the new batch of Beatles books comes from longtime BBC producer Kevin Howlett in the form of  The Beatles – The BBC Archives. This lavish, heavy collection comes housed in sturdy box that features the design and look of a classic reel to reel tape box complete with a printing motif that makes it appear to be a vintage piece straight from the dusty vaults of the BBC.

2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Please, Please Me, The Beatles first album and this set truly showcases just how influential both the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) Radio and television were in promulgating the band’s wild success. Howlett’s brings a true loving historians approach to recounting the band’s work with the BBC. While so much has been written and so many recordings released, it seems clear based on what’s included here, that much more material has been lost, destroyed, stolen or recorded over.

I have always been a fan of books that include reproductions of unique materials that can transport fans back to another era and this collection certainly does not disappoint. The transcripts of the BBC sessions offer amazing insight into the behind the scenes, inter-workings of these sessions. This is an incredibly well done package and make a perfect gift for a Beatles fan.

It is post-Beatles, that is the focus of the book The Beatles: Solo – The Illustrated Chronicles of John, Paul, George, and Ringo After The Beatles from author Mat Snow. A couple of things seem pretty clear early on; the word illustrated in the title should be taken in bold print; this collection is loaded with tons of images, most of which have been published widely in other offerings and much of the writing may disappoint long time Beatle collectors.

This isn’t to say that the writing is off the mark, it’s just not the kind of in depth writing that Beatle fanatics may be expecting from a collection that comes housed in a very cool slip cover and carries a pretty healthy price tag. This would be a nice addition to a newbie fan of the Beatles who are looking to explore their post Beatles output. It’s a good starter set, although I will admit to having some difficulty negotiating the electronic version the publisher sent me…where are my Excedrin migraine at?!

A couple of the new entries in the Beatles book derby focus on the band’s earliest days. Joe Flannery made a career out of managing a variety of musical acts including the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. While many folks have been handed or taken Beatle related monikers, Flannery was dubbed the “Secret Beatle” and his new book, Standing In The Wings: The Beatles, Brian Epstein and Me offers some unique perspective not only on the band, but on his working relationship with Epstein, the man widely credited with guiding the Beatles to massive success.

Standing In The Wings is also an interesting recounting of the era when the Beatles first came to prominence. His insights into the band’s early evolution and some of the folks involved in that development offer to the best of my knowledge never before published accounts of that process. Flannery’s take on the impact of playing at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany and insider’s perspective on one of the band’s early, pivotal moments; the dismissal of drummer Pete Best are very intriguing.

Long time news reporter/anchor Larry Kane was there at the beginning of the Beatles U.S. success, reporting on the band’s first tour of the States in 194, when he was a mere lad of 21 himself. Kane was also along for the ride in 1965 and then again in 1966 on what would become a very ill-fated tour. Kane’s latest Beatles book is, When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles’ Rise To the Top.

Kane sets out to trace back the band’s Liverpool roots and tell the tale of how the Beatles became the Beatles. Clearly Kane spent some time and effort tracking down folks for new interviews to recount and era and a story that has been covered eight ways to Sunday. And therein lies the rub. So much has been written about the bands earliest days from musical historians, family members and friends that a mountain of contradictory information exists.

Even some of Kane’s off hand comments have been challenged. His claim that John Lennon’s oft-written about Aunt Mimi dodging air raids to visit the hospital the night John was born is easily disproven by quick check of history. While that isn’t the only instance, and it may seem nitpicky, diehard Beatles fans literally eat, sleep and breathe this stuff and will shoot you down very quickly. In the end, I am not certain that Kane doesn’t over-reach with his claim that this is the “true story.”  


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