Back to where they once belonged: the Beatles score more hitsThere are at least a dozen clever and cute ways I thought about starting this piece. When I had four books to cover, a play on ÔFab Four' came to mind; soon enough, however, more books came rolling in, so that idea was a goner. Then there was the idea to open with some sort of reference to the Beatles being Ôhere, there, and everywhere,' but that idea was quickly snapped up for the cover. Of course, lifting a phrase from "Paperback Writer" was a given. So, get ready folks, Here Comes the Pun . . . .
Sorry. I just couldn't resist.
The truth of the matter is, no introduction can briefly explain and justify the 40-year phenomenon that surrounds this band. Whether we loved them as suited mop-tops, psychedelic hippies, or as Paul McCartney's band before Wings, the Beatles are once again making chart-topper history. And this time, they're going after the bestseller lists.
The biggest Beatle book this season by far is The Beatles Anthology. What makes this book so special is that it was written by John (yes, John), Paul, George, and Ringo, with a little help from their friends. Be prepared for stimulation overload: hundreds of photos, lots of text, and snappy graphics and design makes this more of a textbook worthy of study than a book one politely flips through while waiting patiently for a friend to finish her unexpected phone call. Set aside a lot of time for The Beatles Anthology; it deserves your attention and you will want to savor its offerings instead of gulping them. Photos never before seen in print, anecdotes and memorabilia unearthed and assembled, finally, finally available in one package. Year by year, different perspectives are offered on all sorts of events and happenings. Frame by frame, photos reveal the Beatles effect on and response to these events and happenings; it's rather like operating a time machine. For example, one photograph shows the Fab Four crunched in a single-file line; at a glance, Beatle- philes will know this is seconds before they cross Abbey Road and add fuel to the "Paul is dead" rumors. The Beatles Anthology was obviously a painstaking endeavor how in the world did they find all this stuff? but the result is about as exhaustive as can be offered in a single volume. With all the commentaries and accounts that have been written about the Beatles over the years, it's nice to have the lads telling their own story for a change.
Though I myself am partial to George, Paul is still the clear favorite, even among books. Two recent releases are very different in nature but offering charming observations about the incredibly talented Sir Paul McCartney. The first, Paul McCartney: I Saw Him Standing There is a collection of post-Beatle photographs compiled by Jorie B. Gracen, who has photographed McCartney for nearly 25 years. This is a carefully crafted book, as Gracen recounts the circumstances surrounding each photograph and provides mementos that accent her images. Her unique access to McCartney captures Paul, the husband; Paul, the father; and ultimately, Paul the performer (so up-close you may feel the urge to dab his sweaty brow with a cloth). One of only two women whose photographs have been used on a McCartney album cover, Gracen is publishing many of her exclusive photographs for the very first time. The second book is Bulfinch Press's Paul McCartney: Paintings. Until recently, McCartney elected to keep his painting a private outlet for him to escape the world's doldrums and fulfill his creative need in a different way. The result is startling; McCartney has received critical acclaim for his work, which ranges from dark and sinister to fun and whimsical. Interviews and commentary complement the plates, and a great deal of attention is given to friend Willem de Kooning's influence on McCartney's work. Perhaps the most endearing aspect of this beautiful book is Linda McCartney's photography showing painter Paul in his studio, as she captures the love that is reflected on both sides of her camera.
Think you could be a contender on an all-Beatles episode of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Test your Beatles savvy with The Ultimate Beatles Quiz Book II. Michael J. Hockinson offers the ultimate in Beatles trivia; this is not just "name Ringo's eldest child" kind of stuff, this is hard core and nit-picky. Which star did John Lennon publicly reveal he'd like to manage? What was to be the title of the novel Stu Sutcliffe was writing? Beginning with the year 1100 (no typo here, folks yes, the year 1100) and ending with 1999, Hockinson carefully takes us on a yearly journey of information, reincarnated information whose previous fate had probably been either footnotes or editors' pens. To tweak the noses of Beatle buffs even more, Hockinson tells much more when he offers the answers at the end of each chapter. Even if you have every fanzine article ever published about Liverpool's most famous sons, you're bound to learn something more here. So you thought you'd seen the last of the Fab Four? You Should Have Known Better.
Say the wordIf you find yourself singing, "give me more, give me more, give me more," then check out these other Beatle-related titles: ¥ She Came in Through the Kitchen Window is a cookbook with recipes glibly named "Any Thyme At All," "Ticket to Rice," etc. Goofy fun for fab cooks who are wild about the fab four.
Linda McCartney: A Portrait, a chatty commentary written by close friend Danny Fields.
Yes Yoko Ono, a gorgeously bound book of Yoko's artwork, includes CD.
In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story by Debbie Geller, available in December, is a collection of first-hand accounts of the haunting life of the Beatles' troubled but brilliant manager. ¥ The Beatles Complete Scores consists of over 1,000 pages, with full scores and lyrics to over 200 titles. Photos and discography included.