Strange/Unusual Find of the Month

A small local library was having a clear-out. They’d decided that their shelf space was at a premium and so books that they had more than one copy of, those which hadn’t been borrowed in a while, and those that’d been in storage for years, had to go.

Rather than just throw them away they kindly put them all out on tables and invited locals to browse choose whatever they liked – for free.

We scored a couple of Beatle treasures.

The first is Hunter Davies’ iconic early The Beatles – The Authorised Biography dating from 1968. This is a genuine UK first edition. It’s an important book because, despite the glossing over of some aspects of their lives, it is the only authorised biography of the Beatles written during their career.

The cover has that clear plastic film libraries use to protect the dust cover, so it looks a little beaten up – but is really in very good condition for it’s age (click on images for larger versions): The rear cover has those four terrrific Richard Avedon portraits:

Inside are some more pages of great photos:

What we really like is that the library hasn’t remove the old-school borrowing card and date stamp sheet inside the back of the book!

The other title was Peter Brown’s The Love You Make – An Insider’s Story of The Beatles:

Again, some interesting photo pages inside:

And the original borrowing card and date stamp sheet still intact:

This is a UK first edition from 1983. Again, it has lived a good life, but is not in too bad condition for it’s age. Peter Brown was a Beatle insider having been a personal assitant to their manager Brian Epstein and an executive at Apple Corps. Wikipedia says the critics are mixed in their views on this book, with some stating it is not a true representation of the facts as it ncludes recollections of episodes that Brown could not possibly have been witness to. Still, an interesting addition to the collection.

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Lennon ‘Imagine’ Re-Issue Rumours Abound

With a press release and first photos issued earlier this week giving details of a new book about the making of John Lennon’s 1971 LP Imagine – plus a social media marketing blitz for the book getting under way yesterday (coordinated Tweets from @yokoono@johnlennon; and the publishers @thamesandhudson and @GrandCentralPub, not to mention Facebook) – the rumour mill is ripe with talk that the book will also be accompanied by a significant re-issue of the recording.

The book, which looks to be an impressive 320 page hardback, is due in store on October 9th:From the press release: “Imagine tells the story of John & Yoko’s life, work and relationship during this intensely creative period. It transports readers to home and working environments through artfully compiled narrative film stills, Yoko’s closely guarded archive photos and artefacts, and stitched-together panoramas taken from outtake film footage that recreate the interiors in evocative detail. Each chapter and song is introduced with text by John & Yoko compiled from published and unpublished sources and complemented by comments from Yoko today. Fresh insights are provided by musicians, engineers and staff who took part, many of whom feature on the inner sleeve’s enigmatic picture wheel, in which the identities are finally revealed. All the minutiae is examined: the locations, the key players, the music and lyrics, the production techniques and the artworks – including the creative process behind the double exposure Polaroids used on the album cover.”

Even the page edges have been given a special cloud treatment:

Imagine will be published in the USA by Grand Central Publishing, and the UK by Thames and Hudson.

Have to say – the book looks impressive and will no doubt conatin some real treasures, both in information and photographs….

So, what about a re-mixed Imagine CD, vinyl, or deluxe box set to accompany it?

Some weeks back The Beatles Daily blog had this, quoting former Beatle aide and insider Tony Bramwell that a “song and dance” version of the album was in the works, while on the popular Steve Hoffman Music Forums they are talking about a new remix, possible DVD and Blu-Ray, and maybe a box set to be bundled with the book…..

So far it is all speculation. If there’s something in the works expect an offical announcement soon I guess.

One thing is certain: Yoko Ono will be credited for the first time officially as co-writer of the song ‘Imagine’. This is because when “Imagine” received the National Music Publishers Association’s inaugural Centennial Song Award last year, the organisation took on board John Lennon’s statement from 1980 that it really was a co-write – and bestowed the honour upon her at the ceremony. Yoko (and son Sean) were at the awards to receive it and you can watch what happened here:

Interesting, isn’t it.

Again, from the official press release about the forthcoming book: “In 1971, John Lennon and Yoko Ono conceived and recorded the critically acclaimed album Imagine at their Georgian country home, Tittenhurst Park, in Berkshire, England, and in the state-of-the-art studio they built in the grounds and at the Record Plant in New York. The lyrics of its title track were inspired by Yoko Ono’s ‘event scores’ in her 1964 book Grapefruit, and she was officially co-credited as writer in June 2017.

If there is to be a major re-issue later this year (and it’s looking very likely that there will), it’ll become the very first release to carry that new co-writer song credit for the song ‘Imagine”.

Strange/Unusual Find of the Month

“If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.” – Paul McCartney, 1999

Again, this is not rare or expensive, but quite an unexpected find during a visit to the city of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia.

It’s The Fifth Beatle – The Brian Epstein Story, an amazing graphic novel-style book by Vivek Tiwary (with illustrations by Andrew Robinson and Kyle Baker):

We were visiting and had to go to the ubiquitous IKEA store for a few bits and pieces and called into a large shopping centre complex in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. It’s always hard to resist the opportunity to stop by local bookshops too, and when we spied one in this complex (it was part of the Dymocks national chain) we ducked inside and headed straight to the “Music” section.

Now, The Fifth Beatle isn’t exactly a common book, especially in the wilds of Richmond, and even more so to be stocked by a large national chain of bookstores. You’d be more likely find something like this (maybe) in an independent or specialty store – but there it was on the shelf.

(Click on images for larger versions)

As you can see above, this is a very clever telling of the story of the rise of The Beatles, under the direction and tutelage of their clever, ambitious, talented and visionary manager, Brian Epstein. The Fifth Beatle reveals a man who took his charges to the very top of the world and attained what could be regarded as the ultimate in success, but who died painfully young – and tragically alone.

Written in 2013 and originally published in that same year, there have been a number of iterations of the book in the ensuing years. This is the 2016 softcover edition with an expanded sketchbook detailing the development of the project and a Beatles memorabilia section at the rear.

This site has a “Look Inside” feature if you’d like to see more of the story and the sophisticated, often elegant artwork. The official site also has a preview function available.

The Fifth Beatle has been in (and back out) of production for the big screen on more than one occasion. The latest news is that a deal has been cut with Bravo for a TV series based on the book. Let’s wait and see what happens.

This is a book we’d been keen on owning for some time and if you don’t have a copy it is well worth seeking out. It’s great to have it as part of the collection.

New Book: The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 2

As author, recording engineer and musician Jerry Hammack says in the introduction to his book: “If you have read Volume 1 of The Beatles Recording Reference Manual, you will understand that the goal of these books is a straightforward one; to document the creation of The Beatles’ catalogue of recorded work – from first take to final remix. Nothing more, nothing less.”

Now comes the next installment in his impressive series, The Beatles Recording Reference Manual – Volume 2: ‘Help!’ through ‘Revolver’ (1965-1966).

Hammack’s intention here is to fill in the gaps between Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Andy Babuik’s Beatles Gear, and Recording The Beatles by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew. It’s also about how the band’s recording processes evolved as they became more experienced recording artists, as recording technology developed, and as the resources available to them expanded.

Jerry has spent nearly ten years now carefully de-constructing each Beatle recording. He does this by listening to out-takes, bootlegs, and original stems containing isolated solos and vocals (which can be unlocked in the video game RockBand). He pores over studio logs to see exactly where the recording took place, who the engineer was, even what tape machines were being used. Then there’s studio film footage and still photography that can also yield up valuable evidence. These things can all give hints as to how each song must have been created. The information can then be logically worked through to make a near-as-can-be definitive picture of what we now hear on the final mixes. Bear in mind that in arriving at his conclusions Hammack cross referenced some 5,500 tracks!

These reference manuals serve as a terrific listening companion to use as you sit in front of your speakers, or have your headphones on. With them at hand you can clearly identify what is going on with any given track. There are both text explanations and simple diagrams detailing what occurred in the studio as each track became the final mixes we have today, and sometimes these contain fascinating new information. I mean, who knew John Lennon played drums on the George Harrison composition ‘I Need You’ from Help!?

As in Volume 1 there are numerous appendices at the back of the book covering release versions, gear and instruments used, and more.

Gotta say too, just in passing, that the cover image for Volume 2 is super cool!

Jerry Hammack has created a website to support the book series, and you can purchase his book through Amazon.

Additionally, the fab Something About the Beatles podcast, hosted by Robert Rodriguez (with Ben Rowling), recently interviewed author Jerry Hammack. It comes in two parts. Have a listen to both Part One and Part Two. Well worth it.

Looking ahead, Volume 3 will cover off Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour, and then the final book in the series, Volume 4, will take in the LPs The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album), through to Abbey Road (1968-1970). The plan is to release each at  about 6-monthly intervals.

If you are a “gear nerd” or you just want to get the absolute detail, song-by-song, on how each Beatle track was recorded, the instruments and technology used, and who played what, these books are a must.

The Beatles in India

Something of a Beatles and India theme has emerged in 2018, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of the time the band spent six weeks in an ashram in Rishikesh learning about Transcendental Meditation (TM), and along the way writing a prolific amount of fabulous songs.

Last week the George Harrison estate announced the creation of a new record label to mine the rich Harrison archives and re-issue many of George’s musical projects with Indian artists. His visits to that country changed his life and his art forever.

Prior to that announcement there was the release in February of a beautiful book (in three different editions) called The Beatles in India

These books are to be followed up with a documentary film bearing the same name later this year.

There’s also another book called Across the Universe: The Beatles in India by Ajoy Bose:

And a further book, Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru, by Susan Shumsky:Let’s look at each of these releases in some more detail.

The Beatles in India. The books. These are a photographic record of the time a 23 year-old Canadian, Paul Saltzman, traveled to India in search of himself. To his great surprise he discovered that The Beatles were also in India, studying at the same ashram in Rishikesh. Saltzman spent a magical week with them, learning meditation and hanging out with John, Paul, George and Ringo. Fifty years later, the photos he took at the time are being published once again* in a book called The Beatles in India. It is available in three versions: as a standard hardback (see cover image above); as a special limited edition (signed and numbered and only 1968 copies produced): 

And in a larger format super deluxe edition (signed and numbered and only 350 copies produced):

* It should be noted that is is not the first time that Saltzman has published these photographs. He first released them along with his memories in a book called The Beatles in Rishikesh, published by Viking Studio in 2000. So, what you get here isn’t totally new information.

The Beatles in India. The film. This is a documentary also being made by Paul Saltzman, who is now an Emmy Award-winning Toronto-based director-producer of over 300 film and television productions. As we already know from his books, in 1968 he learned meditation at the Maharishi’s ashram in India, an experience that changed his life. There, he photographed The Beatles, Jane Asher, Cynthia Lennon, Pattie Boyd Harrison, Maureen Starkey, Mia Farrow, Donovan, Mal Evans and Mike Love. The film will detail “….Saltzman’s return journey to India, The Beatles stay and the songs they composed at the ashram, as well as meditation as it applies to creativity, the divine inner journey and the healing power of love and music.” No release date has yet been announced. You can read the press release for this one here.

Across the Universe: The Beatles in India. “What we do know is that their stay in Rishikesh resulted in an astonishing creative burst of song-writing – the most prolific in their entire career.”

Ajoy Bose was a teenage fan when The Beatles visited India. His book is an in-depth celebration of what it meant, especially the creative impact their stay had on the band: “I believe that the real reason why they managed to write so many songs in India was because it was the first time since they became the Beatles they were allowed to be individuals and not just a band that needed to perform or record in the studios.”

“So a sabbatical did change the Beatles, at least temporarily, and particularly the songs they wrote in the ashram, because these were all individual pieces and were not created with an album in mind. That is why the ‘White Album’, which contains most of these songs, is considered so unique in the Beatles discography,” says Bose.

Amazon has a ‘Look Inside‘ link for more, and you can read a lovely review of the book here.

Maharishi and Me – Seeking Enlightenment with The Beatles’ Guru. Author Susan Shumsky lived and studied in the Maharishi’s ashrams for 22 years, and she served on his personal staff for seven of those years. Many books have been written about the guru, and (as we’ve seen above) about the time The Beatles travelled to India, but this is the only one to offer an insider’s view of what it was really like to live in Rishikesh. Yes, it includes chapters about the time that John, Paul, George and Ringo came to learn at the feet of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But this book is about much more than that.

Shumsky says that it’s “….a way of sharing a few glimpses into my spiritual journey, and hopefully will help you make your own spiritual connection.” There’s a lot more information here about TM, what it actually is, and it’s impact not only on The Beatles but on people seeking spiritual enlightenment across the west.

Shumsky has some very good detail about how The Beatles found out about the Maharishi, how they first got into TM in London and Wales, and how as a result of a Beatle connection the rest of the world found out about TM too. She also writes in detail, across a number of chapters, about the India visit in early 1968. Here we discover what the day-to-day life and activities for the band would have been like.

On the way to the ashram, George Harrison told a reporter, “A lot of people think we’ve gone of our heads. Well, they can think that—or anything they like. We’ve discovered a new way of living.” But, as we know, it all ended badly, with The Beatles leaving the ashram disillusioned – especially with the Maharishi. Shumsky has a theory as to why this occurred, and devotes a chapter to the falling out. It makes for interesting reading.

If you’d like to get a taste of Susan’s story there’s also a ‘Look Inside‘ link on the Amazon site. Marharishi and Me is published by Skyhorse Publishing.

Brilliant New Beatle Book – Visualizing The Beatles

They say there are four basic types of learners: those who like to listen (auditory); those who like to take notes and read (reading/writing); those who like to be hands-on (kinaesthetic); and those who prefer to see the information in order to visualise the relationships between ideas (visual).

Well, if you fall into the visual camp, then you’re going to love this new Beatle book because on each of its 276 pages it packs a huge amount of data told in a truly unique way: using fantastic infographics.

Even if you’re not a “visual” person you’ll love this book for the breadth of the information it contains, and the fun, innovative way it tells the Beatle story anew. There’s really nothing else like it on the market:

The book is called Visualizing The Beatles – A Complete Graphic History of the World’s Favorite Band. Not only does it mange to squeeze three US spellings into it’s title, it crams a truly amazing amount of facts, figures, maps, history, stories and information between it’s covers – all told using infographics. Because of this the book forces you to think about the band we all know so well in very different ways, often bringing new understanding to how four young musicians from Liverpool had such an impact on the world.

Authors John Pring and Rob Thomas organise their information in a fairly standard fashion – each album in the order it was released, starting with Please Please Me and ending with Let It Be – but the way they go about deconstructing each has a unique telling. As they say in their introductory note: “It is by no means a definitive history of The Beatles. Instead, it is an attempt to create something beautiful, vibrant, and original from the data their music left behind. It is an attempt to present the facts in a way you haven’t seen them before, so you can spot, in an instant, the patterns, anomalies and changes.”

There are infographic pages for each LP detailing (amongst many other things):

  • An album overview
  • A song lyrics “word map”
  • Composer
  • What keys the songs were in
  • Instruments used
  • Album design details
  • Track lengths + original work v. covers
  • Who took lead vocals?
  • Success of the album – and any singles released

By way of example, here are a couple of pages. The first visually represents the many instruments used – and who played what – on Abbey Road, released in September, 1969:

As usual, click on these images to see larger versions. This next page covers off songwriting duties for the 1967 album Magical Mystery Tour

And this page shows the song titles – and the musical keys for each – on Rubber Soul from 1965:

Slowly, as you flip through the book, these images build to reveal a unique way of looking at the band’s output. Additionally, there are pages graphically representing things like all their US releases and the chart positions each achieved; a Beatle filmography; there are timelines detailing what else was happening in the world at the time of each album release; what the Beatles were wearing and their hairstyles through each phase of their career; where each album was recorded; tour maps; and key places of interest in the cities they lived in and visited, and much, much more.

One particularly interesting map page shows the city of Liverpool with flags dotted across it marking where the band lived in relation to each other; the locations of places like Strawberry Field and Penny Lane; schools and key performance venues from the early days. It is simple, but instantly gives a whole new context by visually representing basic facts from the Beatle story in a brand new way.

Visualizing The Beatles by John Pring and Rob Thomas is published by Dey Street Books. It goes on sale in the USA on May 1st. [FYI the book was originally published as Visualising the Beatles in the UK in 2016].

You will definitely learn things you didn’t know about the Beatles. Highly recommended.

New George Martin Biography – Maximum Volume

We have reviewed author Ken Womack’s work previously on beatlesblogger.com

He’s a recognised authority on The Beatles and their enduring cultural influence. His latest work is the first in what will become a two-volume biography devoted to Beatle producer, Sir George Martin.

First published last year in the United States, then quickly followed by a UK edition, the first installment is called Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Early Years: 1926-1966).

Here’s the US jacket:

And here’s the somewhat more tame UK cover

This book is long-overdue. There have been surprisingly few in-depth studies of the life of one of the most influential figures in popular music, a career spanning more than 60 years.

In Womack’s book we learn that George Martin scored his first real job in the music industry pretty much by accident when he joined the recording giant EMI as an A&R man for Parlophone Records and that in the 1950s being in A&R (or Artist and Repetoire) didn’t mean you were a producer – it was more about talent scouting and the artistic and commercial development of the artists signed to your label.

Martin had a natural musical talent and great training, and he’d had some success with comedy and novelty records for Parlophone. But he needed more than that. By the early 1960s to keep his label afloat George Martin needed to hit it big with a pop group – and soon.

Though he had tons of creativity, drive, and a solid musical background, Martin’s main handicap was that he had little knowledge or experience of the world of Rock & Roll.

Then, into his life walks a young, four-piece outfit from Liverpool.

These guys knew a lot about Rock & Roll, but had no knowledge about studios and how to record their music. The pairing of the two was a marriage made in heaven. What George Martin was able to bring to the table fitted perfectly with what the Beatles needed – and together they went on to make magic.

It wasn’t always plain sailing though, and Martin often had to be tough and give as good as he got because the Beatles were hard task masters. They were ambitious, confident, and didn’t suffer fools lightly. But George Martin had the chutzpah and the musical knowledge and ability to carry it off:

Martin: “Let’s have one more go at the backing, then we’ll record your voices separately. This time, we’ll get it exactly right.”

McCartney: “Why—what was exactly wrong?”

Martin: “The tuning sounded wrong. And you, George, should be coming in on the second beat every time instead of every fourth beat.”

Harrison: “Oh, I see.”

In its essence, this brief exchange demonstrated what people in the Beatles’ inner circle understood implicitly: namely, that George was possibly the single most influential person in their world, really the only one who could impinge upon the nature of their music. Even Brian [Epstein], whom they held in extraordinarily high esteem, held little, if any, sway in terms of influencing the direction of their creative lives. At one point, when Brian dared to offer an opinion about their efforts in the studio, John coolly replied, “You look after your percentages, Brian. We’ll take care of the music.” (pg. 252)

In Maximum Volume Womack candidly – and comprehensively – tells the story of George Martin from his very humble childhood and early adulthood, through to the heights of success he and the Beatles enjoyed globally. It’s a great read, a real page-turner in fact as the detail behind that enormous success unfolds.

As one reviewer put it, the book contains enough fresh information and informed insight about the group’s early years to satisfy [even] the most devout Beatlemaniac.

Maximum Volume takes a similar approach to that of Mark Lewisohn’s well-researched and highly regarded multi-volume telling of the Beatles story: there are footnotes detailing where Womack is getting his information and where his quotes come from; there’s an extensive bibliography; and there’s a comprehensive index. All these things point to the thorough research undertaken by Ken Womack and the efforts he’s gone to put the life and work of George Martin into a context that can be supported by facts.

The importance of this approach to writing about the Beatles, or any subject or person for that matter where so much has been written over many years, is imperative. Sifting through the mass of it to find those kernels of truth about your subject before forming it into an accurate and entertaining narrative is paramount – and Womack pulls it off. For a great reflection on this subject it’s worth a listen to the Something About the Beatles podcast episode called “The Beatles and the Historians“. See too the show’s interview with Ken Womack himself: “George Martin – Maximum Volume“.

Womack’s second and final volume on the life and work of Sir George Martin will be published in September this year. It’s to be called Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Later Years: 1966-2016).

In the meantime, enjoy Volume One – Maximum Volume. It is highly recommended.