Books: The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four by Kenneth Womack

Numerous Beatles books tell the group’s story, or may focus on very specific periods in their relatively short but complex history. Now, all the major topics are included in one convenient place in The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, the latest work by Beatles scholar Kenneth Womack. From A to Z (or Apple to Zapple), Womack provides succinct yet thorough entries for topics from songs to albums to significant people in the Beatles’ story.

Intended for a wide audience, The Beatles Encyclopedia is accessible for new and younger listeners yet serves as a convenient reference tool for serious fans. Womack organizes each entry by breaking up the descriptions and definitions into several sections. For example, the Beatles Anthology miniseries listing is examined as to background, content, and legacy and influence. Even more useful is suggestions for further reading after each entry, a feature that researchers and curious readers will both appreciate. Lesser-known topics are not neglected, including an overview of the legendary “lost” Beatles track “Carnival of Light.”

A particularly strong section of the two-volume encyclopedia set is Womack’s extensive discussion of the Get Back album sessions. Often reported inaccurately and with a great deal of confusion, the subject instead receives a thorough investigation here. Womack leads readers through the essential details of the ultimately aborted project — some of which later resurfacing as the Let It Be album.

Every single song they wrote or at least rehearsed during the sessions is listed; casual fans may be surprised that compositions such as George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,” Paul McCartney’s “Every Night,” and John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth” were once considered for the album. In addition to original compositions, the Beatles sometimes covered early rock and roll songs just for fun. Womack dutifully includes every track, even if the group only played the song for a minute. Cross-references and suggestions for further reading conclude the section, providing a compact yet thorough definition of a very complicated period.

The Beatles Encyclopedia maintains a careful balance between academic and mainstream, a trademark of Womack’s work. His past works include Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles, and he has edited collections such as Reading the Beatles: Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four as well as the Cambridge Companion to the Beatles. While his latest text boasts an extensive bibliography similar to his previous books, his language remains fully accessible for nonacademic readers.

The two-volume set may be a splurge for some Beatles fans. People who extensively write about and generally study the band, however, will find this an essential tool and time saver. Imagine being able to instantly look up any song, album, person or broader topic without consulting five different books The Beatles Encyclopedia also functions as a launching point for other points of interest. In other words, Womack does advance work for the reader in screening trustworthy resources for further consultation. Its compact yet extensive information, straightforward organization, and author-approved bibliography make The Beatles Encyclopedia an educational and entertaining addition to any Beatle fan’s library.

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.