Goldmine’s yearly look back at Beatles-related books, records and DVDs.
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By Gillian G. Gaar
The yearly look back at Beatles-related books, records, and DVDs. Let’s dig right in:
The McCartney Legacy: Volume 1 1969-1973 (Dey St.), by Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair, is the first in what should prove to be a most remarkable series of books, and, if this first volume is anything to go by, likely the definitive account of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles career. However much you know about McCartney, you’re sure to learn something new here, as the authors delve into the minutiae of every recording session and tour. The story’s enlivened by drawing on new interviews and sources ranging from Richard Hewson (who did the arrangements for the Thrillington album, among other McCartney-related projects), to Alan Parsons (who engineered many McCartney sessions), to unreleased archive interviews with Wings guitarist Henry McCullough, to the diaries of Wings drummer Denny Seiwell’s wife, Monique. It’s an absolute must-have for Macca fans. The only problem is it just goes to 1973; hopefully it won’t be too long a wait for Volume 2.
Ringo Starr recently made the observation, “I am in my studio writing and recording every chance I get,” so no wonder EPs keep appearing on a regular basis, including this year’s model, EP3 (UMe). And he’s just as optimistic as ever on the four-song release. “World Go Round” is a keep-your-chin-up toe-tapper, offering encouragement when the going gets tough. “Everyone and Everything” (by Linda Perry) is a more serious number, admitting that “Everything needs changing today,” and it’s up to us to make that change. The message of “Let’s Be Friends” is self-explanatory, and “Free Your Soul” (co-written by Starr and Bruce Sugar) is a dreamy, romantic number that’ll conjure up visions of swaying palm trees and starry skies. Available on CD, digitally, 10-inch vinyl and cassette.
And that’s not all from Mr. Starr; there’s also Ringo Starr and His All Star Band Live at the Greek 2019 (Roccabella via BFD/The Orchard), featuring a performance from September 2, 2019. Starr performs about half the songs from the 24-song set, including not only his best known numbers (he couldn’t do a show without singing “Yellow Submarine”), but also some deeper cuts (“What Goes On,” “Don’t Pass Me By”). Starr gets the biggest audience response of course, but the other All Starrs have their turn in the spotlight, with “Pick Up the Pieces” from Hamish Dtewart’s band Average White Band and Colin Hay’s classics with Men at Work, “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now?” being highlights. And check out the “With a Little Help From Friends” finale, which features former All Starrs, like Joe Walsh and Nils Lofgren. The show’s available in 2-CD, DVD, and Blu-ray, but fans should get all of it by opting for the CD/Blu-ray package.
ICYMI: Record Store Day saw the release of a few Beatles-related items, including a vinyl release of Starr’s Live at the Greek 2019 set, as well as his albums Ringo The 4th and Old Wave. Plus The Best of Dark Horse Records 1974-1977, featuring tracks by artists on George Harrison’s label, including Ravi Shankar and Henry McCullough.
The Mothers 1971 (Zappa Records/UMe) is another in the fine series of releases from the Frank Zappa archives, and this one is of special interest to John Lennon and Yoko Ono fans, as it features, for the very first time, the couple’s complete performance with Zappa from the Mothers’ June 6, 1971 show at the Fillmore East. Some of the material previously appeared on Lennon/Ono’s Some Time in New York City and Zappa’s Playground Psychotics albums. But it’s been remixed for this set, and has never sounded this good before.
Just in time for the Revolver reissue comes another in Bruce Spizer’s “album series” of books, The Beatles Rubber Soul to Revolver (498 Productions). It’s like going back in time to 1965 and 1966, with chapters on British, American, and Canadian perspectives on The Beatles records of the era, along with chapters on world events at the time, putting the period into proper context. There’s also the usual collection of fan reminiscences, and contributions from various contributors (Beatlefan’s Bill King and Al Sussman, and David Leaf arguing that the U.S. Rubber Soul is the superior version). Most essential: Spizer’s chapter on the “Butcher cover” story, which has never been examined in such scrupulous detail before.
The Beatles: Christmas Time Is Here Again (Belmo Publishing), by Belmo and Garry Marsh, is an updated version of the duo’s similarly titled book published in 2008. It’s expanded too; where the first edition ran 225 pages, this latest edition boasts 345 pages. It lovingly chronicles every time The Beatles, collectively or post-Fabdom, crossed paths with Christmas, or, indeed, the month of December. The fan club recordings are merely the starting point for this book of detail and trivia, from the compilation album McCartney assembled as a Christmas present for his fellow Beatles in 1965, to Starr serving as honorary Santa Tracker in 2004, and every permutation of the solo Beatles holiday offerings. The numerous illustrations feature such finds as the Christmas cards sent out by Apple Corps. and the Wings Fun Club, article reproductions, and other goodies. Surely the definitive work on the topic.
A Painter in Sound: Pre-Beatles Productions and Classical Influences (El Music) is a great collection of George Martin’s production work before he crossed paths with the Beatles. Each of the four discs has a theme. In All Directions encompasses the trad-jazz of The Temperance Seven, TV themes (“Robin Hood,” by future Beatles publisher Dick James) and the Vipers Skiffle Group’s “Don’t You Rock Me Daddy-O.” Experiments With Pop features the comic duets of Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren (“Goodness Gracious Me!”) and Bernard Cribbins’ delightful ode to complication “Right, Said Fred.” The Comedy Surrealist disc reveals Martin’s love of sound effects when working with the likes of Peter Ustinov, the Goons and the Beyond the Fringe comedy troupe, while Classical Influenceshighlights some of his favorite composers: Debussy, Ravel, and Delius. A first-rate tutorial of Martin’s development as a producer.
Let’s Have a Dream (Fuji) is a rare live recording by Yoko Ono & Plastic Ono Super Band from 1974. The show was part of the One Step Festival, and took place on August 10, 1974, in Koriyama, Japan. This is Yoko Solo; instead of Lennon, she’s backed by a group of New York City sessions musicians who lay down a tight groove. Highlights include the up tempo rockers “Move On Fast” and “Don’t Worry Kyoko,” while the witch-killing frenzy of “Woman of Salem” is especially chilling.
And for an in-depth look at Ono’s creative works, check out Madeline Bocaro’s In Your Mind: The Infinite Universe of Yoko Ono (Conceptual Books), covering her career from her avant-garde performance in early 1960s New York to the banners designed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2020. Much of the book is devoted to her collaborations with Lennon, with detailed information on the couple’s music, live performance, films, and events. It offers the most well-rounded look at the couple’s creative life than you’ll find in any biography of either of them. Hardcover copies only from conceptualbooks.com; softcover more widely available. Also: inyourmindbook.com.
Jude (BMG) is Julian Lennon’s first album since 2011’s Everything Changes (the album title references McCartney’s “Hey Jude,” written for Julian when his parents were breaking up, and originally called “Hey Jules”). The overall mood is melancholy; “Save me, before I lose my soul,” Lennon sings in the opening track (“Save Me”), expressing an unfulfilled yearning that crops up throughout the album. In “Breathe” he begs for release, the music soaring as he dreams of escape; the message of “Love Don’t Let Me Down” seems positive, but there’s nonetheless a pervasive sense of unease; “Stay” has him left on his own again. The music’s a bit too lethargic at times; the album’s in need of a few more tracks that break out with the vigor of “Lucky Ones.”
Our good friend Spencer Leigh teamed up with fellow Liverpudlian Mike Jones on The Road to Love Me Do: The Beatles & Their Liverpool Contemporaries (Beatles Liverpool and More Ltd.). This fun book explores Liverpool’s vibrant pre-Beatles music scene, and how it impacted The Beatles’ own development. The book is packed with information and trivia, with plenty of first-hand accounts. And its biggest innovation is that you don’t just read the songs; throughout the text there are sidebars on key tracks featuring QR codes, so you can call the song up on your cell phone and listen to it (the first time such a thing has been done in a book say the authors). One such fascinating gem is the original demo of “How Do You Do It,” by Barry Mason with the Dave Clark 5 backing him; this is the demo The Beatles listened to when they were asked to record the song.
From Genesis Publications comes Mike McCartney’s Early Liverpool. McCartney’s released books of his photographs before, but this latest release is particularly lavish, in keeping with Genesis’ high standards. It also offers a wider selection of his work, with a number of previously unseen photos. McCartney also provides extensive commentary about his work. Also from Genesis is Olivia Harrison’s Came the Lightening, a book of twenty poems about her husband George, published on the 20th anniversary of his death. There are moving poems of loss, but also depictions of a relationship that had its share of struggles. In a nice embellishment, the book is illustrated with numerous photos, many of them previously unseen. The Deluxe edition also comes with a wooden bookmark, made from a tree from Friar Park, George and Olivia’s home. Oliviaharrison.com and genesis-publications.com.
From Backbeat Books, Top of the Mountain: The Beatles at Shea Stadium 1965 (Backbeat Books) by Laurie Jacobson draws on the recollections of those who were involved with the show in every capacity, from the fans in the audience clear up to the show’s promoter, Sid Bernstein. Ever wonder who those female dancers you saw in Shea Stadium TV special were? Well, you’ll read interviews with some of them here. It’s the insider accounts that are the most interesting: Sounds Incorporated member Dave Glyde; Bob Precht, Ed Sullivan’s son-in-law; intrepid photographers Marc Weinstein and George Orsino, who managed to gain access to the field. The book features dozens of photos, but they’re printed disappointingly small; in one section of Weinstein’s shots, twenty photos are crammed into a two-page spread. Given its larger size and glossy paper, you’d think the publisher would want to show off these rare photos to their best advantage. And Peter Asher: A Life in Music by David Jacks is a straight-forward bio of a man who’s surely had a charmed career in the music business. When his stint as a child actor ended, Asher formed a duo with friend Gordon Waller, and presto! Peter and Gordon enjoyed a string of hits, including the McCartney-penned “World Without Love” and “Woman.” When Peter and Gordon’s chart run was over, along came an offer to join The Beatles’ Apple Corp. as the head of A&R. When Apple began to crumble, Asher headed for America with the singer-songwriter he’d brought to Apple, James Taylor, and started his very successful career as a producer and manager. The book’s packed with detail, though the text is bit dry, and as Jacks had Asher’s cooperation, the text is nothing less than respectful.
Right before deadline, a copy of Art Fein’s memoir Rock’s In My Head (Trouser Press Books) arrived. Fein’s first job in the music industry was in college promotions for Capitol Records where he soon found himself working with Lennon and Ono, and he also crossed paths with Ringo Starr, Allen Klein, and most notably Phil Spector. An entertaining read, though it sounds like his journals have a lot more stories in them.
McCartney’s big release of the season is the 7” Singles Box, but he also makes an appearance on the reissue of Holidays Rule (Craft Recordings). This album, originally released in 2012, has been released on vinyl for the first time (red vinyl and limited edition clear vinyl with red and green splatters), and features Sir Paul’s version of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire).” Alt-rockers the Shins also take on McCartney’s own “Wonderful Christmastime.”