At first glance this Beatle book looks to be an unlikely coupling of two broad and un-related concepts: the places visited and lectures delivered across seven US states by professional Beatles music scholar Aaron Krerowitcz, all wrapped up as a road-trip journal by a father and son duo (the son being the aforementioned full-time Beatle expert, and his dad John, a retired journalist and keen bird-watcher).
While the overall approach is a touch quirky (birding and Beatles?), as a whole Days in the Life – A Father and Son Beatle Tour hangs together. Not only is it a charming tale of two blokes out on the road, it’s also a vehicle to deliver lots of interesting Beatle facts, observations, history and, importantly, the context of the band’s music and its continuing success – especially around the American experience of the Beatles.
It’s clear that as a former journalist, Aaron Krerowicz’s father John can write. The sections of the book he pens are engaging and relate not only his sometimes humorous bird-watching exploits across the course of their journey, but his ability to put some history into the book. John relates his generation’s first-hand experience of this group from Liverpool which formed such a lasting bond with US teenagers back then. It’s a bond that endures today.
Son Aaron meanwhile has youth and some solid graduate and post-graduate musical scholarship on his side. The fact that he is so young initially confounds some of the folks who come to listen to his library lectures. How could someone who was born fifteen years after the Beatles broke up be so knowledgable? They generally leave impressed.
Of course when you do book reviews it’s good to try to find out more about the author – and a popular chat forum turned up the following un-solicited recommendation from an avid Beatle fan who attended one of Aaron’s library presentations (this time on the Sgt Pepper album): “I came home last Thursday, picked up the paper and saw my local library was having a presentation on The Beatles Sgt. Pepper. I figured I would go – it’s close, it’s free, it’ll be fun. I have to admit, I didn’t expect to learn anything. I’ve been listening to, and reading about the Fabs for over 35 years at this point and this is a free program at the local library – how good is it really going to be? Probably some fan like me, who’s going to just tell you about the sound effects, John’s Mr. Kite poster, A Day In The Life being based on newspaper articles, and the run-out groove.
I was wrong, and very, very impressed. Aaron Krerowicz is a composer and music educator in his late 20s pursuing on-going Beatles study. In November 2011, Aaron won a research grant through the University of Hartford to explore connections between mid-Twentieth Century avant-garde art and the Beatles. His presentation covered most of the obvious stuff any Beatles nut would expect (which was extremely well researched and presented), but he also spoke to the music theory and composition behind the songs, which I found really enlightening. He presented clearly, and never spoke over people’s heads when discussing some of the more esoteric stuff, which is a real gift. He highlighted multi-tracks to isolate certain parts of the songs he was referring to, which was also really illuminating.
You’ve got to admit, that’s high praise.
Best bits from the book Days in the Life? Aaron’s writing on how he, a classical music aficionado, came to get so deeply into the Beatles in the first place. Anyone who can list The Beatles 1 album as a favourite alongside Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ and J.S.Bach’s violin concerti is OK with me. Also, his insights into particular songs – for example the genesis and recording of ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite’, one of John Lennon’s best from Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – make for interesting reading.
As far as the sections written by John Krerowicz, his recollections of witnessing that first, black and white, US TV performance by The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show bring a personal, family-level insight into what the broadcast meant cross-generationally in the United States. That, and his highly descriptive writing about the simple joy of travel and being out on the open highway, were highlights for me.
What didn’t work? The three pages of photographs of (admittedly) over-priced Dallas Cowboy merchandise in the club’s AT&T Stadium gift shop, the three pages of drawings from a family game of Telestrations, and an unnecessary joke about Michael Jackson. Otherwise, this is a great little book.
For more details about Aaron, his lecture schedule and other activities check out his website. Details about his other Beatle books can be found here, and for examples of Aaron’s Beatle scholarship, have a look at his video series Beatles Minute – One Analytical Nugget in One Minute.