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Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles,…

Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (2007)

by Jonathan Gould

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Yes, I'm that person who "hates" the Beatles. Well, I don't exactly hate them. I like some of their songs, but I've heard them all way way way too many times. If I could not hear them for 20 years or so they might sound fresh again. In fact occasionally I hear one I haven't heard in a long time and like it - that happened last week with "Hey Bulldog". Mainly I hate how people, especially those my age, think they're the be all and end all of popular music. They're good, but there's a lot of music I like much more. I'll admit, there are a lot of their songs I do hate. Mostly ones by Paul.

So they came along when I was 8 or 9 and I instantly loved them and along with my friends obsessively listened to their records and argued over which was the cutest. But then I discovered the Rolling Stones and the Beatles went into the big pile of "other stuff I like". By that time my mom was saying how cute they were, like choirboys, and that kind of put the kibosh on them.

It's been interesting, as an adult, to look back on that time and learn about adult stuff that was going on. I knew Elvis had caused a ruckus but he was old hat by the time I was aware of music. This book describes all of that - the music that influenced the Beatles, the political and social zeitgeist. It has short biographies of everyone involved and how the relationships among the group functioned - how their original presentation of themselves as a group instead of individuals spoke to young people; how for a long time they each felt understood only by the other group members; the breakup.

It has a lot of information about how their songs and albums are structured, and about John and Paul's writing process, which I found really interesting. The author was a working musician and it shows.

I still don't want to hear any Beatles for another 20 years, though.

Things I have learned:
- John was the most middle class one - I'd thought he grew up in a slum, the child of a single mother. He fooled me with that working class hero album.
- Pet Sounds didn't do well commercially, though it made up for it later.
- I thought John sang "I Get By With a Little Help from my Friends".
- Richard Lester is American; Nik Cohn, British.
- The Beatles all admired The Band and their music.
- John was an even bigger prick than I'd though. ( )
  piemouth | Jul 1, 2015 |
The point of the book isn't really to be about the various personalities of the Beatles themselves, but more about placing them and their music in the context of the times, showing how they were influenced and benefited by what was going on around them. And then later on, how that influence worked in both directions.

In addition to that, there's of course stuff about the time in Germany, the making of the albums, the interpersonal issues and the ultimate breakdown of the group. Some of the more interesting things to me were the sections that actually talked about the music - assessing the albums and individual songs thematically and musically. I had never realized that "Eleanor Rigby" has only two chords, or that some of the other songs had lyrics cribbed from other people's songs, or poems.

In spite of the fact that it wasn't about the individual Beatles, I will say that by the time I finished the book, I liked John Lennon a lot less than I had when I started it. I don't know that any of them particularly come out covered in glory, but his flaws certainly show large in the book.

Overall, I enjoyed most of it but occasionally the story got bogged down in seemingly tangential facts, especially in the early parts. But it made me want to listen to all of the songs again and hear the various things Gould talked about, and that's got to be a good thing. ( )
  ursula | Dec 14, 2012 |
Gould’s attempt at theorizing why The Beatles meant (and mean) so much to music lovers makes as much, or more, sense than a lot of other articles, and books, I’ve read. By putting them into the larger context of their time and the world, especially the political uprisings of the tumultuous 60s in America and Britain, there’s much to mull over here. It’s mind-boggling how much was going on then, and how quickly things changed. In a short two years, The Beatles went from nearly completely unknowns to international superstars. In seven they went from best of friends to breaking up and licking their wounds with solo projects. Although the ending falls into the, “and then they broke up The End” sort of category, what happens before is worth reading and pondering. ( )
  AuntieClio | Mar 30, 2010 |
superb book ( )
  bentoth | Aug 21, 2008 |
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On a gray, blustery Friday afternoon in February 1964, the four young British musicians collectively known as the Beatles arrived on a gleaming Pan American Airways jetliner at Kennedy Airport in New York...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307353370, Hardcover)

Nearly twenty years in the making, Can’t Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can’t Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould seeks to explain why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social context that girded both their rise and their demise.

Beginning with their adolescence in Liverpool, Gould describes the seminal influences––from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to The Goon Show and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland––that shaped the Beatles both as individuals and as a group. In addition to chronicling their growth as singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, he highlights the advances in recording technology that made their sound both possible and unique, as well as the developments in television and radio that lent an explosive force to their popular success. With a musician’s ear, Gould sensitively evokes the timeless appeal of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration and their emergence as one of the most creative and significant songwriting teams in history. And he sheds new light on the significance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as rock’s first concept album, down to its memorable cover art.

Behind the scenes Gould explores the pivotal roles played by manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, credits the influence on the Beatles’ music of contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Ravi Shankar, and traces the gradual escalation of the fractious internal rivalries that led to the group’s breakup after their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Most significantly, by chronicling their revolutionary impact on popular culture during the 1960s, Can’t Buy Me Love illuminates the Beatles as a charismatic phenomenon of international proportions, whose anarchic energy and unexpected import was derived from the historic shifts in fortune that transformed the relationship between Britain and America in the decades after World War II.

From the Beats in America and the Angry Young Men in England to the shadow of the Profumo Affair and JFK’s assassination, Gould captures the pulse of a time that made the Beatles possible—and even necessary. As seen through the prism of the Beatles and their music, an entire generation’s experience comes astonishingly to life. Beautifully written, consistently insightful, and utterly original, Can’t Buy Me Love is a landmark work about the Beatles, Britain, and America.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:17 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A cultural and musical history of the 1960s in Britain and America captures the pulse of the era through the music of the Beatles, critically analyzing why the group became a trans-Atlantic phenomenon while discussing the evolution of the group's music.… (more)

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