Like Some Forgotten Dream – Book Review

In the lead-up to the re-mixed Let It Be album and all it’s associated special releases, and The Beatles: Get Back – the mammoth three-part, six-hour Peter Jackson film looking at the final days of the Beatles as a band – its tantalising to speculate on just what might have been had the band not called it a day back in 1970.

Enter Daniel Rachel’s new book, Like Some Forgotten Dream – What if the Beatles Hadn’t Split Up?

The first part of that title derives from the first two lines of ‘Real Love’, a John Lennon song recorded long after his death by the “Threetles” – the three surviving members of The Beatles: Paul, George and Ringo. Its a clever reference to exactly what is going on in this book: what if this incredible band actually went on to record again instead of going their separate ways in 1970?

This requires the reader to susupend disbelief for a moment around what is a very big “what if” question, but basing that suspension firmly around evidence and real events. Author Daniel Rachel steps us through a very well-researched premise that things in fact could have – with just a few changed decisions by the Beatles – worked out very differently.

This book is not a novel. It’s what I’d describe as ‘informed speculation’. It takes real facts and cleverly strings them together to form a narrative that proposes a possibility. Its a bit like that Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors which examines an alternate reality of what might happen in a person’s life if just one or two decisions are different.

In-depth and scholarly, this book is, on the whole, exceptionally well-researched. Even if you can’t bring yourself to believe the book’s central premise, along the way you’ll learn heaps about The Beatles, their music, and what was going on around them at the time of their break-up.

Author Rachel delves into events and real statements made by John, Paul, George and Ringo in interviews that play into the story he is telling. As he states in his Introduction “Often, this necessitated taking words out of context to serve the argument, but it is important to stress that no words have been invented. Like Some Forgotten Dream is a fantasy [but] the information used – dates, facts, interviews – is all genuine.” He goes on: “The fantasy involves retracing the last years of the group’s working relationship, from the personal and the political to the artistic and the financial. The tragic death of manager Brian Epstein, the fragmented recording of the White Album and, in 1969, the problematic Get Back/Let It Be sessions that spawned a year of internal rancour and bitterness.”

Rachel skillfully re-evaluates all these areas, and through this we as readers catch a glimpse of an alternative to what really happened – a world where the band fought just a bit harder to stay together, compromised a little more, and negotiated their way through all their disagreements to release another Beatle album to add to the canon.

Like Some Forgotten Dream is presented in two parts. Part One: ‘Don’t Upset the Apple Cart’ examines the world of the Beatles pretty much from 1966 (the time they decided to stop being a touring band) through to late 1969/early 1970 and the eventual, drawn-out demise of the band. The sections on the Twickenham and Apple Studios Get Back/Let It Be sessions, their final live roof-top performance, and the sessions for Abbey Road are fascinatiing in their detail – essentail reading as we await the release of the newly remixed Let It Be album and its many outtakes due later this year.

Part Two is called ‘Four Sides of The Beatles’. It imagines that John, Paul, George and Ringo stay together to release one more double LP. This is based on a real suggestion put forward by Lennon in the dying days of the band: that each Beatle gets one side of an LP and is given free reign to fill it with their own songs. Daniel Rachel calls this album Four Sides of the Beatles and again, using real events and what actually transpired once they became solo artists, posits what those songs might have been.

Again, we learn heaps about the origins of real songs – songs which in many instances were released on solo albums. But here we’re invited to imagine what the end results might have sounded like with magic Beatle dust being sprinkled across each track as all four band members contribute to them in different ways.

I was a little sceptical about this book at first. I’m not usually big on speculative stories like this, but because this is not a fictionalised account but rather a premise firmly based around facts to build it’s case, Like Some Forgotten Dream turns out to be a fascinating read. It is well worth you it seeking out.

Daniel Rachel is a musician turned award-winning author. His previous books include the NME and Guardian Book of the Year Isle of NoisesEvening Standard Book of the Year Don’t Look Back in Anger, and Walls Come Tumbling Down, which was described as ‘triumphant’ by the Guardian and ‘superlative…brilliant’ by Q magazine, and was awarded the prestigious Penderyn Music Book Prize in 2017.

Like Some Forgotten Dream is published by Cassell, an imprint of Octopus Books. It was released on August 26 in the UK, and will be available in other territories shortly.

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.

Some Sgt. Pepper’s Holiday Listening

With the holidays upon us, and to celebrate the release of the 2017 remix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (on 180 gram vinyl) in single LP form – plus the Sgt. Pepper vinyl picture disc, here are a couple of Pepper-related items for your listening pleasure.

They all come from the Australian Radio National program, The Music Show – hosted by Andrew Ford.

For the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper earlier this year The Music Show spoke to singer Barb Junger (whom you’ll hear has a record of Beatle covers out) and writer Joyce Morgan about their memories of first hearing the album back when it was first released in the Summer of Love:

The Music Show also spoke to Beatle biographer extraordinaire, Mark Lewisohn:

The program’s final Pepper installment came from Joanne Petersen, Brian Epstein’s personal assistant. Petersen, who now lives in Australia, recalls the time she heard a test pressing of Sgt. Pepper’s; details some of the launch activities (including John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce); and George Harrison refusing to cuddle British DJ Kenny Everett:

Their Pepper special also came with a special bonus. It’s a link to a fantastic mini documentary on the background to the people (and horses!) mentioned in the poster John Lennon used to inspire his song, ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite’. And, believe it or not, there’s another Australian connection:

All audio is ex ABC Radio National. Visit The Music Show website for more of their great programs.