"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah": Dreaming the Beatles


Hey, Beatles!!! She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah! We all love you, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Time for another moment in Beatlemania. Having just finished Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield, I have to say this book is way up there on the Beatles geekiness scale. Honestly. If you fancy yourself a Beatles fan, like I do, I challenge you to read this book and you will realize there are fans who are far more geeky about the Beatles than you.

Rob Sheffield is a columnist for Rolling Stone Magazine and an obvious rock-n-roll aficionado. The guy seriously knows what he is talking about, not only about the Beatles but about other rockers and their songs.

From the very first page I knew this was the book for me and yet it was a little over my head. I often found myself reading it with iTunes open so I could listen to excerpts of songs that Sheffield referenced and the Internet open to look up more details about topics he brought up.

The book opens with a quick update about all the key players: John, Paul, George, Ringo, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Liverpool, and Abby Road. Once that business was handled, the book diverted away from the usual biography format. It didn't rehash the old information about the formation of the band, the touring years, the clashes, and the breakup. It started this way:
The Beatles are far more famous and beloved now than they were in their lifespan. when they were merely the four most famous and beloved people on earth...They sincerely tried breaking up---it just didn't work. They've gone from being the world's biggest group to the act that's bigger than all the rest of pop music combined (7).
Sheffield spends the rest of the book reminding us why the Beatles are the best pop/rock group ever. He also lays down his ideas of why the Beatles are more popular today than ever. What a love fest!

The Beatles understood better than any other music group that their music was about the girl. They spoke to her and they spoke for boys to help them understand her. My husband and I were discussing this concept just the other day as I was telling him about the book. I tried to explain the "girl" concept and he countered with, "Yes, but I was challenged by the songs to understand girls better, or to understand what I was up against." Sheffield describes it this way:
And through it all, girls. Screaming girls, in the audience. Worshiping girls, in the songs. Girls, girls, girls. The girl is the whole reason these songs exist, right? (12).
A little myth has grown up about the song "Dear Prudence." John said they sang the song to Prudence, Mia Farrow's sister, who was locked in her room meditating, and they were worried about her so they sang her a song. That isn't really true, but the message is the Beatles knew how to sing to the girl and we are all that girl (even if you are a boy!)

And then there was "the Scream", as Sheffield referred to the fans. The Beatles fans were the most famous screamers in history. In fact, these screamers may have invented the Beatles. "Once you step inside the Scream, you get transformed into a different person. The Beatles spent years there" (72). Listen to clips of any of their live shows and you know what I am talking about. The Screamers are the "lead instrument" in many of the shows. And since the Beatles didn't have fold-back speakers, they couldn't hear themselves sing. Yet, somehow, they still sounded great. I am still jealous of those girls who got to go to a Beatles concert and screamed in ecstasy for a half hour. Ah, to have been in one with those audiences, a part of the whole crowd, a part of the Scream.

A central mystery of this book is trying to understand the John/Paul bond. They are the most prolific songwriting duo of all times. Was it camaraderie or competition or both? They certainly represent different things to different people. Everyone tends to decide at some point whether they are Paul or John people. "If you're the John in any relationship, you wish Paul would lighten up and stop nagging. If you're the Paul, you wish John could take more responsibility" (34). It's funny how we all do it. Ask around and see what I mean. Personally I am a Paul girl and I live my life that way.  Sorry about the nagging, family.

Many of the titles of the book chapters are named for Beatles' albums. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Learning what made each album special, new, and exciting for its time, most of this was news to me. For example in the chapter "Rubber Soul" we learn that it was during the making of this album that the Beatles starting taking control of their recordings but the "girl" theme still looms large. They grew up from boys to men on this album and the rest of the musical world took notice.

An odd but delightful chapter in the book is called "Instrumental Break" where Sheffield really shows off his Beatles geekiness. This chapter describes 26 songs about the Beatles by other musicians like Lil Wayne, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Prince, and others. This is when I had to break out the iTunes because I wanted to hear these songs for myself. Some weren't even on iTunes, like the Muppets on their "Exit"-themed week. The character does a John Lennon parody. Hmm. I didn't see that one. But if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, the Beatles win.

The book takes us through all the albums, through the trials that follow the death of Brian Epstein, the group falling apart, and the final breakup. It then follows the boys into their second careers as solo artists.
The Beatles ended their first career, because they felt they didn't have control, then began their second career, where they had no control at all. They tried to break the spell they'd cast and were genuinely surprised whey they failed. When John sang "The Dream is Over" in 1970, he wanted to free his listeners and himself from the dream. But it didn't work, because the group didn't belong to these four men anymore. The dream wasn't theirs to break...The Beatles are what they are because they are the most beloved humans of their lifetimes and mine. They had a unique talent for being loved, though they found it a strain and a puzzle and a trap and something they failed to understand and desperately wished to escape. But the fact that the Beatles were so good at being adored changed a lot of things (19-20).
I loved this book, obviously, but at times I was really overwhelmed by it, too. In fact, I've decided I need my own copy (I read a library copy and need to return it soon) so I can refer back to it and digest it in smaller doses.

The Beatles have remained popular for an astonishing fifty years, much longer than they were an active group. In 2000 their album "1" was released. It was an album of all their number 1 hits. It was the biggest selling album of that year and the next. "1 proved three things never change: (1) people love the Beatles, (2) it's a little weird and scary how much people love the Beatles, and (3) even people who love the Beatles keep underestimating how much people love the Beatles" (307).

I love the Beatles (and I don't care who knows it), yeah, yeah, yeah!

Read the book. I recommend it.

Sheffield, Rob. Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and Whole World.  HarperCollins. New York. 2017. Print.

PS...Just for my own reference. Sheffield identified his favorite and least favorite songs and I wanted the partial list for myself so I can refer to it when I return the library book.

Best songs
Worst song
John
“Strawberry Fields Forever”
“Julia”
“Your Bird Can Sing”
“A Day in the Life”
“It’s Only Love”
Paul
“Here, There, and Everywhere”
“For No One”
“Hey Jude”
“Blackbird”
“My Love”
George
“Here Comes the Sun”
“Something”
“I Want to Tell You”
“Apple Scruffs”
“Piggies”
Ringo
“It Don’t Come Easy”
“Octopus’ Garden”
Drumming:
“Rain”
“Drive My Car”
“Cookin’ (In the Kitchen of Love)”


11 comments:

  1. Such fun! I like the song Piggies :-)

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    1. I wasn't that familiar with The White Album, so I didn't know this song.

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  2. I love George's While my guitar gently weeps, and Ringo's Yellow Submarine. It seems like many of these are from the early years and not many from their later work. I love Across the Universe, if that's the title. And The Long and Winding Road. Just too many to choose from! :)

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    1. I know. It is really hard to choose a favorite. I think a lot of people agree that the best Beatles tune is probably "A Day in the Life". But I have many, many favorites depending on my mood.

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  3. Thanks for the review. I need to get myself a copy of this one. It's sounds great.

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    1. Yes. If you love the Beatles, you will enjoy this!

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  4. You know what, I (shock) am not a massive Beatles fan ... but even I've still got "1"!

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  5. I like the song chart you have : when I think of Ringo I think of the song Yellow Submarine, and perhaps Yesterday with Paul and indeed Here Comes the Sun with George, and many songs with John --- but Day in the Life is such a good one.

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    1. I think that the list is the most unscientific of the book. The songs he listed (along with the others I didn't type up) represent Sheffield's favorites. I agree he left off some really good ones.

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  6. How fun to dig so deeply into a topic that interests you! I've only read one nonfiction book about music and I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I'd also read with a music player open :)

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