For pretty much my entire life, I’ve loved books. There is nothing quite like getting engrossed in a good read, in my opinion. And considering I write this blog, I (obviously!) love The Beatles! And one of my favourite Beatley things to do has always been to read Beatley books…
When I first got into The Beatles and knew nothing about their history, it never occurred to me to Google them for some reason. Instead, I collected (and borrowed) a mini-library of Beatley books. And that is how — along with a few documentaries and the internet (once it did finally cross my mind) — I learnt the story of The Beatles.
My Beatley library is relatively large, and grows almost every month! It includes everything from some of the best books I’ve ever read (the books below, plus a few more), and some of the worst (*cough*GeofferyGuiliano*cough*), and everything in between. So today, I thought I’d write a bit about four of my favourites — so here goes…
The John Lennon Letters (ed. Hunter Davies)
The John Lennon Letters is a must-have title. Released in 2012, the book collects nearly 300 of John’s letters/notes/drawings/cards/etc; the earliest a thank-you card from when he was ten, the latest an autograph from the 8th of December. These writings provide an invaluable insight into John’s life. Ranging from a few of the infamous Melody Maker letters from him and Paul’s 1971 feud, to a beautiful Christmas card he made Cyn in 1958, some song lyrics which he never finished on the back of a postcard, to witty replies to hate mail, the letters are anything from hilarious to heartbreaking to angry to informative and just about anything in between. They portray John as a very intelligent guy, and show what he was like behind the spotlight. Davies adds notes to put them into context and also transcribes them. This was one of the first Beatles books I read, and was how I first learnt about John!
LIFE With The Beatles: Inside Beatlemania (photos by Robert Whitaker, compiled by LIFE magazine)
This book is somewhat large and awkwardly shaped, but it is beautiful. Robert Whitaker was The Beatles’ official photographer from 1964-1966, and among other things took the infamous Butcher Cover. LIFE compiled pretty much all of his Beatles photos and sorted them into years. And my, was Whitaker a talented photographer! Wherever they were from 1964-1966, Whitaker was there, too, and the results that ensued were amazing. As demonstrated with the Butcher cover, he clearly had a penchant for the experimental, and his photos add a fresh new photographic voice to Beatles lore. With images ranging from John staring into his own reflection at Kenwood, to John, Paul and George’s guitars sitting in Customs in 1966, from Paul + George playing with a birdcage, to The Beatles hanging out with Mick Jagger backstage at one of their Christmas pantomimes, there are some truly special shots in here. Many of the photos have anecdotes from Whitaker next to them. In short, this is a beautiful, beautiful book!
All The Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release (Phillipe Margotine + Jean-Michael Guesdon)
This book is my Beatley bible. Think of it as all a more informal Mark Lewishon-style book, with prettier formatting, more information on the songwriting side of things + lots of cool photos! Right from the engaging introduction written by Patti Smith (who I’m also a fan of!), the book goes into the genesis, recording, production, technical details and (for some of the songs) related facts for each of the 213 titles in the Beatles’ discography! From this book, you’ll learn who wrote what, who played what, where each song was recorded, how many takes it took, who produced it… You’ll also read on its impressive 671 pages about what each song was written about, or who recorded it first if it was a cover, and often little anecdotes about the song, too! A photo also accompanies each song, and most of them are quite rare. The formatting is beautiful, too, and the book comes with three posters. I learnt so much from this book, and is probably one of the most informative titles in my collection!
The Beatles’ Anthology (The Beatles)
This is the mother of all Beatles books; their “autobiography”. Part of the Anthology project from the ’90s (which saw an eight-part documentary and three double albums of unreleased material released too), this book is chock full of practically everything a Beatles fan could want! Detailed interviews with Paul, George and Ringo were conducted for the project and it is through their words that the story of The Beatles is told here. John’s perspective is not neglected, either, as the researchers have found hundreds of quotes from the many interviews he gave over the years. George Martin and Neil Aspinall were also interviewed, and many other important figures in Beatles lore (such as Brian Epstein, Mal Evans and Stu Sutcliffe) also have quotes included. The book covers practically everything! Whether you want to know about Hamburg or Pepper, Shea Stadium or the rooftop concert, you’ll find it here. Not to mention that the story comes from the people who were actually involved, making it all the more valuable. Other highlights include pictures from the personal archives of each Beatle, unseen writings, and other things that add to this highly-illustrated book. A most invaluable addition to anyone’s Beatley library!
What books on The Beatles have you read? Have you got a favourite? Be sure to send me a postcard, drop me a line below…
Oh, and happy birthday to Pete Townshend for May 19th! As a huge fan of The Who, he is one of my favourite guitarists, and not to even mention a really awesome songwriter! Happy birthday, Pete.
Hope you have a great day, wherever you are, and good day sunshine until next post! 🙂