Is it possible to write anything fresh and interesting about the Beatles in 2020? Improbably, Craig Brown has managed to pull off this feat in One Two Three Four: The Beatles In Time. It helps enormously that Brown departs from the marching-in-strict-chronological order structure used, understandably enough, in many accounts of the band. Brown is the author of 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, as well as multiple parodies, and he brings a light (but not lightweight) touch to the proceedings. He's willing to go down rabbit holes after interesting tidbits, to summarize long-drawn-out situations simply, and to share his own investment in [...]
Geekin' out with Conan and Lewisohn. Comedy legend (and serious Beatle fan) Conan O'Brien has just interviewed Beatle legend (and serious Beatle fan) Mark Lewisohn on his chat show "Serious Jibber-Jabber." It's well worth a listen. "Most of the books you have read, upon which you base your knowledge," Lewisohn begins, "in terms of biography they only skim the surface. The writers will take a year or two. And in that time, they'll do six to nine months of research, six to nine months of interviews, and then they'll write. I always felt this was a subject that would merit [...]
NANCY CARR * A study just issued by researchers at Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London asserts that the Beatles' success in mid-60s America was anything but revolutionary. According to Professor Armand Leroi, the paper's senior author, “They were good looking boys with great haircuts and British accents but as far as their music was concerned they weren’t anything new.” "Yeah-huh," as those of us raised in Texas sardonically respond to transparently idiotic statements (at least when we're trying to be polite). The researchers decided that the Beatles weren't up to anything new because chord progressions, lyrics, and beats in [...]
DEVIN McKINNEY • One of my colleagues at Critics at Large, Toronto-based arts critic Deirdre Kelly, has scored a dynamite interview with Mark Lewisohn, recently in T-Town for a screening of the Hard Day’s Night re-release and a book-signing. The interview is both substantial and delightful, especially for we who so eagerly consumed Tune In last December, who still see its vivid pictures in our minds, still hear the hum of the history it reanimated. Lewisohn is just as engaged a subject as he is a writer, and Deirdre elicits much fascinating info about the research process he’s been following as “the [...]
Update for anyone who didn't seize a copy of the two-volume, extended version of Vol 1 of Mark Lewisohn's definitive biography of the Beatles: due to popular demand, it's been reprinted and is in stock in the U.K. You can buy a copy here. My advice is not to sleep on this, if you're interested. I wouldn't bet on another reprint.
Sure, we're all smiling before we deal with the book business. Eagle-eyed commenter Sandy wrote, late last night: I don’t know if anyone is interested but here you go from Mark [Lewisohn]'s twitter today: “The extended edition of Tune In has sold out and is now unavailable. Another print may or may not be scheduled at some future time. The e-book (issued in two halves) IS still available, but it’s UK only. My US publisher, Crown, wouldn’t issue the extended book and couldn’t agree terms for the e-book. I’m sorry about that, for me and for everyone in US who [...]
The title that always gets attention For those of you who have asked for details on what can only be called "revelations" regarding George Martin's forced signing of The Beatles, Tim Riley's review in the NYT spills the beans on that. He also notes Lewisohn's possible debunking of Lennon's Choice between Alf and Julia though—to his credit, I think—Riley doesn't really buy Lewisohn's take. What man would turn to his sailor buddy and say, "Yeah, my son just picked his mother over me"? BTW, our Devin's Magic Circles gets name-checked and called "shrewd" to boot. For those of you who've [...]
DEVIN McKINNEY • I hope you’ll all toggle over to the arts blog Critics at Large, where I’m a contributor, to read my review of Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In, volume one of his three-part Beatles biography. I know, posting that request here is a bit like asking one’s lover to have dinner at the home of another. But I’m proud to post stuff over there, where it’s in super-fine company. And besides, all of us here in the free-content blogosphere need to help each other out.