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It's been a long time since I've read a "book." If you knew me, you'd know that the scope of my literary interest revolves around comedy books and books about music. I've read a lot of books about The Beatles (and have written a lot of half-assed high school reports on them, too) but Anthology has been the best so far.|
This is the first time anyone has thought to let The Beatles themselves tell their own story with no outside narration at all. The book includes in-depth interviews with Ringo, Paul and George, as well as pertinent snippets from every interview ever done with John. Also in the mix were manager Neil Aspinall, producer George Martin, and friend/publicist/Apple guy Derek Taylor.
The book begins with four seperate biographies of the guys, as told by themselves. It then goes into descriptions of their lives together by year. The book flows well and reads much like a conversation with The Beatles instead of a story. While reading, you really get a sense of their personalities and their love for each other and the band.
Paul comes off as one of those guys who thinks he's being rebelious but is always afraid to go too far. He often says "That sounds like one of my ideas but I'm not sure," wanting to take the credit but also wanting to be a nice guy.
Ringo is everybody's friend. Usually when someone is talking about going on a vacation, it was "I went with my wife and Ringo and his wife." He was most into travelling and would go anywhere with anyone, and didn't say too many bad things about others.
John is just how we all imagined him -- artsy, cynical, rebelious and eerily in love with Yoko Ono (to say the least). The book's editors did a good job of piecing his comments together with the others to make it seem like John had snide comments towards their statements -- even if their statements had been made 30 years later.
George, the "quiet" Beatle, wasn't as quiet in his parts. He got especially mean towards the end of the book (which is also the end of The Beatles) and had some delicious stuff to say about Yoko. He really gets to talking when it comes to his experiences with Indian music and how the others are just big phonies when it comes to it. George was also good friends with Eric Idle (of Monty Python. Shame on you for not knowing!) who put out a spoof documentary of The Beatles called The Rutles which George kept citing as a funny but realistic interpretation of what really went on.
This book is massive. I mean, it's huge. Very hard to read on bed but even harder to read on a bus, I'd imagine. You have to plan when you are going to read it, but give yourself plenty of time because if you are a Beatles fan in any capacity, you will find yourself engulfed in it. It really is like a soap opera.
One complaint about the book is that although the photographs are spectacular and look really great (most of the older shots have been cleaned up to make them look as if they were taken yesterday) but there are no captions on the pages of the book. If you are really curious as to what the shots are, you have to flip (easier said than done with this thing) to a page at the end with photo credits which are usually vague and simply state either place or owner of the photograph. Also, many times the Beatles mention photographs, usually by the press or someone specific, which are not included in the book. When someone mentions a spectacular photograph that would really illustrate their point, I would like to see it. Also, inlaid within many of the pages are lots of things like invoices and contracts and other legal documents. I thought there would be more in the way of drawings by The Beatles and strange fan letters, but instead it was mostly these drab, half-complete contractual things. Better than nothing, but it really left me wanting more.
As for content (ie words) this book is the best I've read. Others I've enjoyed in the past were Peter Brown's The Love You Make and Nicholas Schaffner's The Beatles Forever, both sadly out of print (but track them down. They are worth it!) But Brown's account was from the perspective of a business associate and Schaffner's was of a fan/music journalist. Anthology is the book Beatles fans have been waiting for. It is the answer to all of those questions and the final word on all of the speculations.
I got this book when it came out in October and have waited until I had some time over Winter Break to read it. Of course, now it is 40% cheaper everywhere so it seems like they have gotten their money's worth and now want everyone to enjoy.
I'd reccommend this book not only to Beatles fans but to people who are in a band and want to know the secrets of becomming the world's best and biggest band without selling out and becoming a cookie-cutter boy band. It seems to me that it takes a lot of touring at the begining, tons of beer and other chemicals, and also a sense of humor. Good luck!
Reviewed by -Jessica Brandt
A lot of things happened on the day late in 1980 that John Lennon died. There are people who will tell you that, for them, the world of music would never be the same. Certainly, the light of a genius was senselessly snuffed out, arguably, in its prime. Likewise, the world was deprived of an unthinking amount of future photo ops: Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono had always provided fodder for the cameras of the paparazzi. But, of course, the single thing that had been possible until the time of Lennon's death that became impossible in an instant was The Beatles' reunion tour. Where there had been a Fab Four, there was now just a sad three and that really wasn't the same. You couldn't, for instance, pull a Van Halen and replace your David Lee Roth as required. The Beatles were The Beatles: no substitutions accepted.
And it's all so long ago now, isn't it? The only people that can possibly remember the first faint stirrings from Liverpool are either middle-aged, old or dead. None of this would prepare us for the keen -- almost manic -- interest in The Beatles Anthology, the book that was already roaring to bestseller status prior to its October 5th debut, released just a few days before what would have been John Lennon's 60th birthday.
Prerelease hype and hoopla aside, The Beatles Anthology is a startlingly magnificent book. Encyclopedic in its weight and dimensions, it's the sort of coffee table book heavy enough to put a bend in lightly built coffee tables. Beyond its physical magnificence, however, is the creative approach the remaining Beatles -- and their team of helper elves -- have taken in creating the work.
Perfectly chronological in nature, The Beatles Anthology begins at the beginning: with a first person narrative of each Beatle's childhood. And so the book starts, appropriately enough, with John Lennon's words, "What can I tell you about myself which you have not already found out from those who do not lie?" And later, "The first thing I remember is a nightmare."
Lennon's contributions to this interview -- and to all of the conversations that follow -- have been culled from published interviews. While this sounds a bit hokey, the result is smooth and finished and the end result is almost breathtaking: we hear his long-stilled voice and it's as though he'd been resurrected for this project. Risen again, like the Christ he had the temerity to compare The Beatles -- or rather, their popularity -- to in an interview with Maureen Cleave of the London Evening Standard in 1966.
After a personal introduction from John, Paul, Ringo and George, the story begins with 1960-62. In interview style, the story is told by The Beatles, with occasional comment from Sir George Martin, Neil Aspinall and Derek Taylor, who consulted on the book until his death in 1997. In an editorial note at the book's beginning, the The Beatles Anthology's innovative format is explained:
The text... comes in part from the interviews from which the television and video programmes The Beatles Anthology were made, and includes substantial material which was not included in either. Further major interviews were conducted with Paul, George and Ringo specifically for this book. Also reproduced in The Beatles Anthology are a large number of photos, memorabilia and documents. Many of these come from the musicians' personal archives and have never been publicly displayed before.
The result, I'll say it again, is startling and as close to a reunion tour as it's possible to get. At the beginning: our Fab Four -- plus two and minus one -- looking impossibly fresh and young playing the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, or being guided from their customary leather garb to the black mohair suits in which they'd make their earliest marks.
The years spin by and we see them make their arrival in the United States and feel the craziness that followed from their perspective. Then success following success and their own evolution as musicians and icons becoming a metaphor for the changing times: Their introduction to various drugs, their marriages and breakups, the loosening of a tie, the lengthening of hair, the adoption of a more casual style of dress echoed precisely by an evolution in their sound. Their uniforms giving way to individuality.
The book's design echoes the changes we see. Most of the early pages have an almost newsreel quality about them. The photos are mostly black and white and the feeling is one of serious musicianship in the hands of humorous youth. While color has crept into some of the preceding years, it bursts forth with brilliance in 1965, with a quaking orgasm of fuchsia and orange when describing George and John's introduction to acid. It was the year of Rubber Soul and nothing would ever be the same again.
Appropriately enough, The Beatles Anthology ends abruptly in 1970, the year of the group's famous and final split. This split is explained in the musicians' own words, as is everything in the book: drug use (Including discussions around the pot it was said they smoked at Buckingham palace in 1965 while waiting to be introduced to the Queen.), Elvis Presley's attempt to get The Beatles ejected from America; trouble in Manila; various births, deaths, marriages; management and mismanagement; and all of it ending with the group's own end.
This end in 1970 is just as it should be. Aside from the closing business pages -- a very good index, pages of photo captions, acknowledgments, credits, sources and a discography -- the final image in the book is a photo taken in 1966. The Fab Four are dressed in black and on the ground -- the photo taken from above them -- each Beatle has his right hand on his own left shoulder, each set of eyes meets the camera squarely and their heads are touching: Clearly in each other's space. Each is given a final quote. This is right, somehow. As it should be. Because The Beatles ended there: with four men. No brutal slaying, no loss of beloved wives, no constant nagging about reunion tours. A chapter that ended. The Beatles Anthology captures it all as perfectly as can be imagined.
Mersey Beat 13 photo © Bill Harry, used with permission
The Journey: The Beatles . This DVD/CD Combo is a look at the remarkable formation and ultimate rise of the world’s first supergroup! Utilizing rare, archival footage, news reels and interviews, this program charts the Beatles’ success and follows their careers through to the untimely deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison. The Beatles Journey features various conversations and filmed events that follow the groups’ relentless sweep through the musical boundaries of the world. Includes Audio CD - In Their Own Words. The Beatles talk about their remarkable success, their thoughts and beliefs.