Kit O’Toole’s Top Beatles Albums, Books, Collectibles and Movies for 2013

The upcoming 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ American debut has inspired a slew of related books, CDs, movies, and other collectibles.

In other words, this Christmas will be a dream for both givers and recipients — those who are buying for their favorite Beatles fans, and the grateful fans themselves.

The following is an overview of 2013’s best releases: Any of these sure to please friends and family on your list …

BOOKS

A surge of quality books hit the shelves in 2013 on topics ranging from the Beatles’ BBC performances to their earliest years. Here are some highlights from the past year (available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble unless otherwise indicated; prices are list price, but costs vary from store to store):

Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years by Mark Lewisohn ($40): The most eagerly anticipated Beatles book of the year, Tune In results from ten years of research—and it only covers their lives until 1962! Lewisohn’s landmark work is essential for any fan’s library.

The Beatles: The BBC Archives: 1962-1970 by Kevin Howlett ($60): While also available as an ebook, the beautiful hardback edition will thrill Beatles fans. It’s encased in a slipcover with reproductions of original BBC documents and a glossy black and white photograph. Overall, this book fills an important gap: it thoroughly chronicles their live performances and interviews on BBC radio and television.

The Beatle Who Vanished by Jim Berkenstadt ($19.95): The “rock and roll detective” is on the trail to discover the whereabouts of Jimmy Nicol, the drummer who subbed for an ailing Ringo Starr during the Beatles’ first world tour. Learn Nicol’s interesting backstory, and experience what it would be like to be a Beatle, if only briefly. Will Berkenstadt reach his goal of meeting Nicol? Read and find out.

Changin’ Times: 101 Days that Shaped a Generation by Al Sussman ($24.95): History buffs will enjoy this exploration of the period between John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the Beatles’ triumphant landing in America. Among other topics, the Beatlefan Executive Editor explores a controversial issue: did the Beatles partially owe their American popularity to lingering grief over Kennedy’s death?

Solo in the ’70s by Robert Rodriguez ($24.95): A companion to Rodriguez’s previous work Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles 1970-1980, his latest work chronicles more anecdotes from this era. Stories of producers and engineers who worked on their solo albums, lists of cover versions, promo films, unreleased recordings, and bootlegs, and many other topics are discussed in this useful reference book.

Recipe Records: A Culinary Tribute to the Beatles by Lanea Stagg ($18 through www.reciperecordscookbook.com): Have a friend who loves the Beatles and enjoys whipping up fabulous meals? Look no further than this charming cookbook stocked with recipes such as “Stuffed Sgt. Peppers,” “The White Album Fondue,” and “Lady Medallions.” Sprinkled with Beatles trivia throughout, the cookbook should delight music fans and chefs. The Beatles cookbook is also available as a set with previous Recipe Records books The 60’s Edition and Recipe Records ($50).

eBOOKS AND APPS

Not surprisingly, more ebooks surfaced this year to appeal to Kindle, iPad, and Nook users. All are available through iTunes, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble unless otherwise noted.

Got That Something! by Allan Kozinn ($2.99): The noted Beatles expert and longtime New York Times arts critic argues that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” should be considered a revolutionary song. Kozinn also provides a history of the song’s development, recording, and lasting impact.

Photograph by Ringo Starr ($12.99): Also available as a limited edition book through Genesis publications (see below), this iPad app features Starr guiding the reader through his personal photograph and memorabilia collection. Some never-before published images of Lennon, Starr, and their wives vacationing together are among the highlights.

The Beatles on Vee-Jay Records by Bruce Spizer ($50 through beatle.net): This out-of-print work has been fully revised and made available in ebook form. Learn about the group’s brief but important stint on this obscure Chicago label, and how it helped them reach American audiences.

John Lennon: The Bermuda Tapes ($4.99): The fully interactive iPad app guides the user through Lennon’s 1980 sailing trip to Bermuda. Listen to demos of songs that would comprise Double Fantasy, and hear in his own words how the trip affected his writing. All net proceeds from the app benefit WhyHunger, an organization dedicated to eradicating hunger and poverty worldwide.

ALBUMS

While fewer Beatles-related albums were released in 2013, here are a few of note (all available on Amazon or iTunes) …

Paul McCartney – New ($14.88 deluxe edition): McCartney’s first album of original material since 2008 fared well with critics and fans. The deluxe version includes additional tracks not available on the standard edition.

Paul McCartney and Wings – Wings Over America (standard edition $15.19; special edition, $40.06; deluxe, $104.19): The latest addition to the Paul McCartney Archive Collection features a fully remastered version of the group’s seminal live album. All versions include the complete album, while the special edition includes a bonus live CD Live at the Cow Palace. For the ultimate McCartney fan, consider the deluxe version, which includes a bonus DVD containing the Wings over the World TV special; a replica tour book; a 60-page journal featuring Linda McCartney’s photographs; and much more.

The Beatles – On Air: Live at the BBC Vol. 2 ($17.52): After almost two decades, the sequel to 1994’s exciting Live at the BBC has finally arrived. Want to hear what the Beatles sounded like live, minus the screaming? This collection is essential for experiencing how they must have sounded at Liverpool’s Cavern Club. The first volume has also been remastered, and both are available as a set ($42.98). Hear these incredible performance minus the hiss, static, and otherwise terrible sound that marred previous bootlegs.

MOVIES

“They’re gonna put me in the movies,” Starr once sang, and 2013 spawned some intriguing Beatles-related DVDs. The following are available through Amazon and iTunes, and prices may vary. Many titles are also available on Blu-ray.

Good Ol’ Freda ($22.93): The acclaimed documentary tells the little-known story of Freda Kelly, the Beatles Fan Club president and assistant to manager Brian Epstein. Kelly lovingly reminisces about her years working with famous people who ultimately became close friends. Her refusal to “dish the dirt,” profit from her previous connections, or betray confidences will astound viewers.

Rockshow: Paul McCartney and Wings ($19.49): Remember the dark and murky copy you had of this concert film? Prepare to toss it away after viewing this pristinely restored version. Relieve the group’s famous 1975-1976 tour by viewing this highly enjoyable documentary. A bonus feature shows behind-the-scenes footage of the band on tour.

Ringo Starr And His All Starr Band 2012: Ringo At The Ryman ($11.88): Filmed at a July 2012 stop on Starr’s tour, the DVD shows the drummer and his truly all-star band romping through his solo hits. Other highlights include Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light” and Toto’s Steve Lukather performing “Rosanna” and “Hold the Line.” Starr’s close friend Joe Walsh joins the group for a rocking rendition of “Rocky Mountain Way,” showing that these tours come down to Starr just playing music with his close friends—and loving every minute of it.

The Rutles Anthology ($19.88): Only Monty Python’s Eric Idle and frequent cohort Neil Innes could dream up the greatest Beatles parody ever recorded on film and record (even George Harrison played a role in the first Rutles film). The two-disc set includes the original 1978 movie, All You Need Is Cash, and the 2004 followup The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch. Idle provides commentary and additional insights into the making of the films.

COLLECTIBLES

Have a Beatles enthusiast on your list that seems to have everything? Try these unique finds …

Monopoly: The Beatles Yellow Submarine Edition ($40): Those who find Park Place and the Boardwalk a little boring will enjoy traveling through a Sea of Green instead.

Paul McCartney – New (vinyl, $28.50): Those who still like their music played through a turntable will appreciate this limited edition vinyl pressing of McCartney’s 2013 album (standard edition only).

Ringo: Photograph Limited Edition by Ringo Starr ($560 at thefest.com): For the ultimate Beatles splurge, dive into Genesis Publications’ signed, expanded version of Starr’s iPad app. Only 2,500 are available worldwide, so order now!

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.