In the Feb. 2008 edition of FM2U, I'd like to share some information about one of my favorite subjects, rock and roll / pop culture books and films. For those that are interested, there is a treasure trove out there to discover. With new titles being added constantly, it's a never ending journey. In fact, there's so much to discuss, that I'd like to return to this topic from time to time. Most all of the books and films mentioned can be found, by doing a simple title search, either on e-Bay, Amazon.com, or a truly fine web-site I've found for rare and out of print items, alibris.com. Starting with a book of interest (before we move into a discussion of The Beatles), I finally got my hands on a copy of Ian Hunter's Diary of a Rock Star (sometimes titled Reflections of a Rock Star). Ian was the singer, pianist, and songwriter for an amazing, and important, British group from the late 60's early 70's, Mott the Hoople. Mott was something of a cross between David Bowie-Velvet Underground-Gary Glitter. They called it "glam rock" in the U.K. at the time. Punk and New Wave certainly wouldn't have been the same (or maybe happened at all) without this so called glam-rock movement. Mott's one big US hit, "All the Young Dudes" was written for the band by David Bowie and went into the top 40 in America, fall of 1972. As the book's title suggests, this is Ian's published diary kept during an American tour to support that hit single. Mott's guitartist, Mick Ralphs, would leave soon after to form the supergroup, Bad Company, with Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke of Brit-rockers, Free, and bassist Boz Burrel from prog-rockers, King Crimson. This book really captures the sights, sounds, smells, and total feel of being on the road with a not-spectacularly successful band in the early 70's. A quick, compelling read. I couldn't put it down and went from cover to cover in one sitting. The reader gets a great feel of the joys, hopes, disappointments, anger, excitement, happiness, exhaustion, and sadness of life on the road. All very well written in Ian's first person. Be prepared to search a while on e-Bay for this one, and pay a premium price ($25 for my copy). But worth every cent.
Now, if you're a life long Beatles fan (like I am), you'd be perfectly justified in thinking that there was no further behind the scenes info to be mined from the huge assortment of books and films already out there. That's surely what I thought and I'm happy to say that there's plenty to explore! In the last year, several new books have come on the scene with a fascinating spin on The Beatles phenomena. First Geoff Emerick, who was a young Abbey Road engineer, and worked with The Beatles on Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and The White Album (among others), has published his autobiography, Here,There, and Everywhere. It reveals the background stories concerning the recording and studio politics of many famous songs. It also paints, in places, a somewhat less than flattering image of some of The Beatles and their entourage. Geoff was also involved in the production, with George Martin, of The Beatles Antholgy. Beatles fans, don't miss this book! It's a good one. Also recently published is the autobiography of Ken Mansfield (head of Apple Records in the USA). Although written in a very broad and casual style, it shares some truly touching and bittersweet moments with The Beatles. Many have made the claim, but this book really does, explore the "real people" who were the greatest pop phenomena of all time, The Beatles. A totally new perspective, and a very cool artistic design. The book is entitled The White Book and it's cover perfectly mimics the legendary White Album. Complete with embossed title and sequenced number. A nice job, with tons of new, unpublished photos. Ken's book also has a heartwarming chapter on Beatles roadie Mal Evans, who was tragically killed in California back in the 70's. Again, on The Beatles subject, check out In My Life-The Brian Epstein Story by Debbie Geller. As we all know, Brian Epstein was the brilliant young manager of The Beatles who died mysteriously in 1967. If you can, find the BBC documentary available that used this book as it's source (search "Brian Epstein DVD" on e-Bay. Make sure to get the North American format, region 1). Brian's life was a dark and stormy tale with much new information being revealed each passing year. One thing is certain, although we now know of his many apparent professional and personal flaws, Brian was a true genius and visionary. A man who was, more or less, directly responsible for what we think of as The Beatles. Would there have even been the internationally famous Beatles without Brian Epstein? Likely not. A great unsung personality in pop history. The book and DVD has many fascinating interviews with people who were a part of the whole 60's pop culture (many who were, and some who weren't, directly connected to The Beatles). It casts a strange spell and will stay with you for days. Another good video is The Hamburg Sound which explores the time before the group broke big and were a bar band in Hamburg, Germany (incidentally, John Lennon always referred to this as the band's peak!) A really cool read is a new book entitled Fab Four FAQ by Stuart Shea and Robert Rodriguez. A joyful examination of even more fascinating trivia about our favorite band. Sheds new light on the familiar and introduces much that has been generally unknown until now. And we thought we knew all there was to know... check out this book! When we next have this discussion, we'll be looking at some books and films NOT about The Beatles (I promise). But, for me at least, this is where it all starts. I'll end by listing a handful (and there are hundreds more) of titles no Beatles library should be without. As always, if you know of something I should check out, let me know right away! Until next time...
Beatle! The Pete Best Story (the Hamburg Sound dvd also has some VERY interesting info on the former Beatle)
Lennon Remembers (the infamous Rolling Stone interviews from 1970)
Ticket To Ride by Barry Tashian (Barry was in The Remains, who opened for The Beatles on their last US tour in 1966. A very cool book about touring during Beatlemania, America in the 60's, and the end of The Beatles on the road. Not to be confused with Larry Kane's similarly titled book)
The Beatles Movies by Bob Neaverson (an IN DEPTH examination of the Beatles motion pictures. With a particularly interesting look at the dark horse of their filmography, Magical Mystery Tour)
Beatles Undercover by Kristofer Engelhardt (as thick as an encyclopedia. You never knew The Beatles, together and separately, secretly played on so many other artists famous recordings!)
Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger by Dan Matovina (perhaps more than we're comfortable knowing about the talented, hit making Apple proteges)
Get Back: The Unauthorized Chronicle of The Beatles' Let It Be Disaster by Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweinhardt (we've all heard about the hours and hours of recorded audio and video tape left at the end of Let It Be. This book walks us through the entire archive with the music, conversations, fighting, bickering, joking... It's remarkable. By the way, Ken Mansfield's book, mentioned above, recalls his take on the whole Let It Be filming and recording (he was present during the entire project). Ken claims, that with a slightly different edit, Let It Be could have been a joyful celebration of the still-greatness of The Beatles, rather than the painful record of their dissolution. Interesting...)
More to come...