Dreaming The Beatles – Book Review

We’ve been reading a terrific Beatle book called Dreaming The Beatles – The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield. It’s not new. The hardcover first edition was released last year – and won great accolades then. It has though just been re-issued as a  paperback, and it’s recommended that you go get yourself a copy:

Rob Sheffield is a columnist for Rolling Stone magazine and has been writing about music, TV and popular culture since 1997. He’s written a number of other books on music including works on David Bowie and Duran Duran.

Sheffield has a delightful and refreshing writing style and delivers some truly unique insights and observations into The Beatles: as a band, as individuals, as musicians, and as a world-wide pop phenomenon involved in a love affair that persists up to today (and will do well in the future).

The big difference here is that Sheffield’s take on it all is a decidedly fresh one. Given the huge number of words written about this band over many, many years, that is really saying something.

The basic premise of Dreaming The Beatles is to examine why they have remained so loved and so central – not only in the Sixties, but right up to the present day. Sheffield writes: “The Beatles didn’t plan it this way – they couldn’t have. In 1964, their publicist Derek Taylor wrote liner notes for one of their albums predicting it would still sound fine to “the kids of AD 2000”, a bold claim that looks hilariously small potatoes now…..Taylor upped the ante with his 1995 liner notes for Anthology, calling the Beatles’ story “the twentieth century’s greatest romance.” How was he supposed to know that the romance was just beginning?”

The world, it seems, just keeps on falling in love with The Beatles. Sheffield again: “They tried to break the spell they’d cast and were genuinely surprised when they failed. When John Lennon sang “The dream is over” in 1970, he wanted to free his listeners and himself from the dream. But it didn’t work, because the group didn’t belong to these four men anymore. The dream wasn’t theirs to break.” As four individuals they each tried to end it, pursue new paths, and get on with the rest of their lives. Sheffield observes that the world just smiled politely and said, “I think I disagree.”

Through a series of short vignettes and essays Sheffield examines how this came to be and (with lots of detours along the way) picks apart various significant albums, songs and transitional moments and connections in their career to gradually build up a picture of why it all mattered – and why it continues to matter.

Dreaming the Beatles is often funny too, and is always an engrossing read frequently offering up interesting and entertaining opinions. Take for instance the chapter ‘Beatles or Stones?’ where the traditional rivalry between the two bands is delightfully unpacked. “The Stones flourished during the all-to-brief phase when Mick Jagger thought he was Paul McCartney.”, writes Sheffield. “‘Dandelion’ is easily the best faux-McCartney song of the Sixties. Alas, this phase has been underrated through the years, for the admittedly excellent reason that as soon as Mick gave up trying to be Paul he got ten times better at being Mick, which is when the Stones hit their prime.”

If you feel jaded about reading yet another Beatle book, pluck up the courage and seek this one out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by an author who knows his stuff, can look at the time-worn tale in new ways, understands why the story continues on, and in the end just loves the music. Like he says: “Being born on the same planet as the Beatles is one of the 10 best things that’s ever happened to me.”

Dreaming The Beatles – The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World is published by Dey Street Books (Harper Collins)

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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.

A Little More Info on the Recording of ‘Egypt Station’

“I love that he’s pushing the boundaries in his songwriting harmonically and   lyrically. … I would see him bringing in new chord progressions that I still haven’t heard.”

So says producer extraordinaire, Greg Kurstin, who worked with Paul McCartney for over two years on Egypt Station, the maestro’s new album due out in September.

Kurstin has opened up at length in Rolling Stone for an interesting interview with Andy Greene about the new record, and just what it’s like to work with one of the icons of the music industry. The question everyone wonders about did come up: what’s it like telling a Beatle how to improve a song?

It is strange, but I know that’s what he really wants from me. I just have to take a breath and say it. Sometimes it might not go over very well, but he was always really cool. I remember a couple of times where I might have suggested something that might have been challenging. I can’t remember specifically, but I remember him just sort of carrying on and I’m wondering, “Did he hear me?” Then maybe half an hour would go by and I’d say, “Hey, Paul, what about that idea I mentioned a little while ago?” He said, “Oh, I heard you. I was just pretending to ignore you.” If he challenged me and wasn’t into the idea, I would realize, you know, that this is coming from a Beatle. He’s tried everything at this point. He’s done experimental albums. He’s done pop albums. Anything I could possibly ever want to do in the studio, he’s been there and tried it.

We also get to learn more about the contents and making of Egypt Station, a record that despite two songs being released as “singles” there’s been precious little detail about so far. Just one example:

I see that the album begins with “Station I” and ends with “Station II.” What can you tell me about those tracks?
That started with a choir piece that Paul had worked out on the keyboard. Then we brought in David Campbell to help arrange the choir. We went into a cathedral to record that, which was really cool. It started with us in the studio. Paul had worked out some chords that he wanted the voices to do. Then we started creating different ambient noises, some of which came from tape loops. He had a little portable reel-to-reel player, the one they used on Revolver for “Tomorrow Never Knows.” That was done on this little Brenell tape machine. We created some of the sounds on that, like slowing down guitars.

Great stuff that really makes you want to hear this album…..

There’s also picture by MJ Kim (courtesy of McCartney’s MPL Communications Ltd) showing the pair in the studio. The interesting thing is the copyright date – 2016:

A Little More Info on the ‘Egypt Station’ Super Deluxe Box Set?

There’s been some further bits of information trickling out about what might be in Paul McCartney’s mystery super deluxe box set of the forthcoming Egypt Station album.

The usually reliable Daily Beatle blog says that it is due for release in October, will contain 26 tracks (ten more than the 16 tracks announced so far), and will come with “various ephemera” included.

We don’t know if the image below is real or mocked up by a fan, but it kind of looks official and shows what could be some of the mystery super deluxe contents. It comes from the Macca-News blog Facebook page:

Now, we don’t know where the Macca-News blog sourced this. All they say is a cryptic “Well, well, well, look at this…”, but it appears to be an additional vinyl LP, housed in a sleeve with the same artwork McCartney’s official US store uses to link through to a super deluxe edition sign-up page. When you click through on that page you can sign up to be notified about the box set and when it will become available.

It’s also an image that formed part of the social media teaser campaign in the lead-up to the new album’s official announcement. The Egypt Station wording was intentionally washed out at the time to add to the mystique:In the image we can also see four pin buttons, plus four postcards – also with images that were part of the extensive social media lead-up campaign. Could these be the “ephemera” that The Daily Beatle refers to?As we say, its all speculation and could be a wild goose chase…..If you’d like to chip in your two cents worth, or you have any other clues, please get in touch!

McCartney Confirms 50th Anniversary Edition of The White Album

While speaking with DIY Magazine (to publicise his new solo project Egypt Stationdue out in September), Paul McCartney confirmed that there will in fact be a 50th Anniversary Edition of the The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album):

Have you finished preparing the 50th anniversary package of that one yet?

It’s all in place, I’ve just got a couple of essays [to approve]. It’s all lined up and it’s really good.

Are there any moments you’d forgotten about when you were trawling back through the archives?

Something sparks another memory, but it’s really nice because we were a great little band – I think we can agree on that. So for me to be a part of that and to be remembering it is great; all these little things remind me of it and I do learn things.

The album itself [‘The White Album’] is very cool and it sounds like you’re in the room; that’s the great thing about doing remasters. But we’ve also got some demos of the songs, so you get things stripped right back to just John’s voice and a guitar. You just think, how fucking good was John?! Amazing. We were just doing it; it was amazing. We were having a good time.

Exact details are scarce, but it looks like on November 22 this year we will definitely see something similar to the 50th Anniversary Edition box set Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from last year – which was beautifully done.

A new mix remastered by Giles Martin and Sam Okell? Definitely some demos and studio outakes, from what Sir Paul said. The mono version of the album included? And maybe some bonus materials, including a new stereo mix of the ‘Hey Jude’/’Revolution’ single (like they did with ‘Strawberry Fields’/’Penny Lane’ for Pepper)?

Egypt Station – New McCartney Album Officially Announced

After the distraction yesterday that there would be a double A-side “single” released on June 20 (still no info on any physical vinyl or CD as yet), the official and bigger announcement of the new Paul McCartney album quickly followed.

Egypt Station will hit stores on September 7, but there’s not a lot of other detail to hand.

What we do know though is that there will be a bewildering array of options, and slightly different exclusives offered on McCartney’s official store websites in different countries. We’ll try to summarise these for you below:

At present there’s no detail on what differentiates a “standard” or “deluxe” version, but from what we can deduce from the various websites it is all about the packaging.

“Standard” double LPs (black vinyl and coloured vinyl) will most probably come in a regular gatefold cover. “Deluxe” double LPs (black vinyl and coloured vinyl) will come in what is described on the Australian McCartney store website as a limited edition, tri-gatefold “concertina” jacket, with a six panel canvas concertina folder. The exclusive vinyl colour is yet to be announced, but they will be 180 gram vinyl.

Also interesting is that the UK McCartney store site says that Egypt Station will be on the Virgin EMI label. We’d presume that in the USA it will be on Capitol?

For more check out the UK McCartney store, the US McCartney store, and the Australian McCartney store.

Paul McCartney appeared on BBC Radio 2 and talked about Egypt Station here.

McCartney to Release All-New Double A-Side Single

Seems all the hoopla on Paul McCartney’s social media pages over the past week-and-a- half wasn’t about a new album at all (well, maybe partly).

It was actually the build up/tease campaign for an announcement today that McCartney is to release a new double A-sided single, comprised of two songs from the aforementioned new album: ‘I Don’t Know’ and ‘Come On To Me’.

The official press release says that “….the two A-sides are polar opposites: ‘I Don’t Know’ being a plaintive, soul-soothing ballad as only Paul can deliver, and ‘Come On To Me’ a raucous stomper that fans that first spark of chemistry into a rocking blaze.”

The press release goes on: “Paul’s new album is slated for a fall 2018 release on Capitol Records. Further details will be announced shortly.”

There’s no word yet if this is to be a vinyl single, a download only, or if the songs will be released in other formats.

And it looks like the new album, when it eventually drops, will be called Egypt Station:Why? We’re not yet sure, but over at the SuperDeluxeEdition site they’ve been doing some digging and it appears that Paul McCartney painted a picture called Egypt Station many years ago and signed lithographs were offered for sale: