Thursday, January 30, 2014

Meet the Beatles

So, a couple of weeks ago I slogged through the 808 page (with very small type) volume one of Mark Lewisohn's three volume Beatles history: Tune In. Slogged makes it sound worse than it is. It's a great book; I was enthralled. There's a level of detail in this book likely never applied to any person, place, or event in the history of time (and this is not at all an exaggeration; I firmly believe this to be true).

The slogging comes from the first couple hundred pages or so. It's a little rough and I could see why people might abandon the effort. There's an in depth look at the life histories of three or four generations of Beatles ancestors, recounting the family narrative into which each is born. You get specific dates and duration for each of Ringo's childhood hospitalizations (did you even know he was a sickly child?), but around page 350 or so, it really gets humming. When it does, it's tough to put down.

The book ends at the end of 1962, right before "Please, Please Me" comes out and they rocket to stardom. Yeah, you don't even get the payoff you've been looking for - but I loved it anyway.

Before this book, I knew the names Brian Epstein and George Martin were somehow connected to the Beatles. I knew Pete Best and Stu Sutcliffe had been former members (although I thought them both prior drummers). I knew the Beatles played in Germany (and I learned more about this through Malcolm Gladwell's book - I think it was Outliers). I'd heard most of the hits and once owned the Beatles 1 album.

I didn't consider this a huge wealth of knowledge, especially with how many superfans exist in the world; still it was likely more than 99% of the population knows about the Beatles.

I now know much more.

Highly recommended for any really, really serious music fans or, like me, those people with a pathological need for mundane and trivial information of any kind. The original publication schedule for the volumes was supposed to be 2008, 2012, 2016. Assuming Lewisohn planned four years for each volume and the first actually took nine, it could be a long wait for volume two. The good news? If you start now, you might be done with the first by the time it comes out.

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