This year marked a huge milestone in Beatles history: the 50th anniversary of when the Fab Four reached American shores, played Ed Sullivan, and kicked off Beatlemania. Numerous books, DVDs, CDs, and other collectibles hit the market celebrating this historic event, thus making 2014 a very special Christmas for Beatles fans.
The following guide presents the best Beatles-related releases of the past year, and serves as a shopping list for that Beatles enthusiast on your list — and maybe a little something for yourself:
Want to know the story behind every Beatles song released? Do you crave knowledge about their North American tours, or one particular show? Perhaps you want to introduce a newcomer to the band’s story. Several 2014 books cover all those needs and more, and are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble unless otherwise indicated. Prices included are list price, but costs vary from store to store.
All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release by Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon ($50, also available on Kindle): The authors and music historians offer composing and recording details on every song in the Beatles catalog, accompanied by related trivia and rare photographs.
Beatleness: How the Beatles and Their Fans Remade the World by Candy Leonard ($24.95, also available on Kindle): Author and sociologist Leonard interviewed first generation fans about how the Beatles have influenced their lives to the present day, illustrating the band’s impact on culture as well as music. Few books have presented the fans’ perspective on the group’s legacy, and the highly accessible work is both enjoyable and educational for original fans and younger enthusiasts.
Some Fun Tonight! The Backstage Story of How the Beatles Rocked America, The Historic Tours of 1964 to 1966 by Chuck Gunderson ($175, holiday special price $125): This deluxe two-volume set chronicles the group’s North American tours through rare photographs and memorabilia. Gunderson’s extensive research reveals behind-the-scenes stories of opening acts, promoters, press conferences, and onstage adventures. Any serious fan will find Some Fun Tonight! a valuable resource.
The Beatles Invade Cincinnati by Scott Belmer (available through PayPal for $25, U.S. orders only, payable to Belmer at firstname.lastname@example.org): By focusing on one tour stop, Belmer illustrates how the Beatles’ arrival impacted a city and its rabid teenage fans. Using a scrapbook format, the author lets original press clippings, memorabilia, and rare photos tell the story of their two Cincinnati appearances.
The Beatles at Shea Stadium: The Story Behind Their Greatest Concert by Dave Schwensen ($24.95, also available on Kindle): View one of the Beatles’ most significant concerts through the eyes of promoters, opening acts, reporters, and fans who attended the event. Their anecdotes place the reader in the middle of the cyclone, both backstage, onstage, and in the seats.
The Beatles and Me on Tour by Ivor Davis ($15.99 paperback, also available on Kindle): The former London Daily Express reporter recalls his days traveling with the Beatles as an embedded correspondent. For a month, he followed the band during their 1964 American tour, ghostwriting a column for George Harrison and submitting reports detailing the chaos of those concerts. Anyone wanting to know what it was like to exist in the midst of the Beatlemania hurricane will enjoy this lively memoir.
Beatles 101: The Need-to-Know Guide by Richard Buskin ($29.95, also available on Kindle): This educational yet amusing book provides an overview of the Beatles’ story, from inception to breakup. Buskin divides the information into six sections, covering topics such as the Beatles’ television appearances, recording studio crew, and the band’s eventual painful split. Beatles 101 will satisfy anyone wanting to learn more about their music and history in one easy-to-digest package.
The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four by Ken Womack ($189, also available on Kindle): The ultimate reference for any fan, the two-volume set lists every Beatles-related topic from A to Z. Within each entry, Womack lists related readings for further information, a valuable resource for any Beatles scholar.
The Beatles Lyrics: The Stories Behind the Music, Including the Handwritten Drafts of More Than 100 Classic Beatles Songs by Hunter Davies ($35, also available on Kindle): The author of the sole official Beatles biography returns with a lavish book on the Beatles’ greatest songs. Through reproductions of original drafts, written on everything from hotel stationery to backs of envelopes, Davies illustrates how the group’s members painstakingly labored over every word in their lyrics. Diehard fans will enjoy learning about the life cycle of the band’s most beloved tracks.
Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of The Beatles’ Solo Careers by Andrew Grant Jackson ($18.95, also available on Kindle): Jackson has updated his 2012 guide to the best of the solo recordings. Details concerning composition and recording, along with critiques of each song, provide full pictures of these essential tracks. An afterword includes differing opinions from Beatles experts (full disclosure: I am included in this section); this section, as well as the entire book will inspire spirited debate among fans.
I Want to Tell You: The Definitive Guide to the Music of the Beatles Volume 1: 1962/1963 by Anthony Robustelli ($19.95, also available on Kindle): Musician Robustelli closely examines every song the Beatles recorded, beginning with the first in a planned series. Applying his unique insight, he analyzes every element of the recording process from instrumentation to production techniques. Robustelli also explores their composition methods and their chief musical influences, which will particularly appeal to fellow musicians as well as general fans.
Fab One Hundred and Four: The Evolution of the Beatles by David Bedford ($85): Liddypool author David Bedford returns with a deluxe salute to lesser-known artists who most influenced the Beatles’ music. Extensively researched and stuffed with rare photographs, the book spotlights Liverpool and worldwide talents who played crucial roles in the Fab Four’s early development. The high-quality tome will surprise any diehard fan who thinks he or she knows every single fact about the Beatles; it stands as necessary addition to any Beatles library. Page after page reveals little known facts about the band’s musical backgrounds and Liverpool culture in general.
The Beatles and the Avant-Garde by Aaron Kreowicz ($17.99): This scholarly but accessible work illustrates how the avant-garde movement influenced the Beatles in their personal and professional lives, particularly focusing on Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Kreowicz also explores how Yoko Ono’s art changed Lennon’s music and politics. Understanding the main tenets and figures spearheading the movement allows deeper appreciation of how the Beatles’ music changed rock and roll by bringing avant-garde to the mainstream (full disclosure: I am quoted in the book).
Confessions of a Beatlemaniac by Dee Elias ($17.99, http://www.confessionsofabeatlemaniac.com/; also available on Kindle only at www.amazon.com): First generation fans will most likely relate to the author’s adventures in 1964. On January 1, a teenaged Elias began writing a diary chronicling her love of a new band called the Beatles. Like many girls, Elias dreamed of meeting her idols; unlike these young women, she actually succeeded. Her story of how she accomplished that extraordinary goal, accompanied by entries from her original diary, make for a brisk and entertaining read.
Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s by Tom Doyle ($27, also available on Kindle): When Doyle’s biography first surfaced this year, the media seized upon a particular tidbit: that McCartney sank into a deep depression after the Beatles’ breakup. Yet Man on the Run encompasses much more, including how McCartney rebuilt his career while overcoming professional and personal hardships. Doyle’s extensive interviews with the ex-Beatle provide additional context to his 1970s output, and will fascinate McCartney enthusiasts.
Horse-Doggin’: the Morrell Archives, Volume 1 by Dave Morrell ($12.99; also available on Kindle): An early Beatles memorabilia collector and longtime record promotions man, Morrell has published the first in a planned multivolume memoir. While his stories of attending early 1970s concerts and meeting various musicians will amaze, fans will particularly enjoy reading about his friendship with John Lennon. What was it like to hang out in the studio with him? What special gift did he give Morrell? The author answers these questions and many more.
She Loves You by Jude Sutherland Kessler ($25.50, also available on Kindle): The third entry in Kessler’s planned nine-volume series on Lennon’s life reveals the excitement and chaos surrounding Beatlemania. The narrative history guides the reader through the Beatles’ 1963 rise to fame, their 1964 American breakthrough, and first American tour. In addition, Kessler explores Lennon’s personal life, detailing his marriage to first wife Cynthia and his growing loss of privacy. Lennon enthusiasts will appreciate this thoroughly researched book that immerses readers in Lennon’s life on and off stage.
Ringo Starr: Photographs by Nancy Lee Andrews ($60, www.nancyleeandrews.com): The drummer’s onetime fiancee reveals never-before-seen pictures from the mid-to-late 1970s. A professional photographer, Andrews captures the complex personality of the ex-Beatle through her camera lens.
The Beatles in Mono Vinyl Box Set ($336.47): The biggest splurge for any hardcore Beatles fan, The Beatles in Mono set lovingly restores the original mono recordings, faithfully reproducing the original album artwork. Fourteen LPs cut on 180-gram vinyl are supplemented with a hardbound book featuring new essays, rare photographs, and archival documents. Since its September release, the set has received rave reviews from fans and critics, stressing the mono albums’ superior sound quality.
The Art of McCartney – Various Artists: This deluxe tribute features various musicians covering some of McCartney’s most beloved (and in some cases, less well known) tracks. The album comes in several configurations including the standard two-CD edition ($19.99), MP3 album ($17.99), Deluxe Box Set ($199), Vinyl Box Set ($99), two CD and one DVD with accompanying hardcover book ($23.99), and Triple Vinyl LP ($39.99).
New: Collectors Edition – Paul McCartney ($28.21): McCartney’s acclaimed 2013 album has been rereleased in a limited edition package The two CD and one DVD-package also includes a hardcover book, previously unreleased tracks, live performances, music videos, and a “making of” documentary.
The Apple Years Box Set – George Harrison ($124.98): A sequel to the 2004 box set Dark Horse Years, this collection features all solo albums Harrison released on the Beatles’ Apple label. In addition to the six newly remastered albums, the set includes a DVD containing live performances, music videos, and documentaries and an accompanying book. All albums are also available individually.
I’m Not the Beatles: The John and Yoko Interviews 1969-1972 by Howard Smith ($41.01): John Lennon fans will appreciate this eight-CD set of conversations with Village Voice journalist Howard Smith. Smith interviewed Lennon and Yoko Ono several times, and hearing how their musical and personal relationship developed over just a few years lends new perspectives to their story.
Venus and Mars Deluxe Edition – Paul McCartney ($69.19): The latest release in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection, the newly remastered 1975 album receives a lavish makeover. In addition to the original album, the deluxe packaging features a CD containing outtakes, remixes, and singles; the DVD includes TV ads, documentaries, and live footage. A hardcover book sheds more light on the album, with new McCartney interviews and rare photographs placing the disc in context.
Wings at the Speed of Sound Deluxe Edition – Paul McCartney ($69.19): The second entry in the 2014 Paul McCartney Archive Collection comes loaded with extras, including original demo versions, alternate takes, music videos, and full concerts. The two-CD and one DVD package also features a hardcover book chronicling the making of the 1976 album.
The Beatles US 1964 Replica Memorabilia Box Set ($100 at www.thebeatles.com): A ratings bonanza, the TV special The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ New York arrival. Capitalizing on this renewed interest, the limited edition box set contains replicas of 1964-1966 US tour books, facsimile concert tickets, and reproductions of original fan buttons, all encased in a special collectors box.
The Beatles BBC Puzzle ($18 at www.thefest.com): Have a friend who loves the Beatles and jigsaw puzzles? He or she will enjoy putting together the famous image gracing the 1994 Beatles at the BBC album cover.
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