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Topic: The Beatles
Posted: July 17 2011 at 13:18
The Beatles In Dream and History
By Devin McKinney
A review by Ian Alterman
What do toilets, holes, mutation, meat and Yellow Submarines have in common? In the mind of Devin McKinney, these are the overarching themes of The Beatles’ journey, both performed and recorded, from Liverpool to
There have been dozens, maybe hundreds, of books written about The Beatles; some good, some mediocre, some bad. The group has been analyzed, deconstructed and reconstructed musically, culturally, historically, even personally. Given this, one would think that there is nothing new to say about them, or their place in and contributions to music, culture and history in general.
One would be wrong.
As a combined result of obsessively detailed research, brilliant craftsmanship, force of will and sheer chutzpah, McKinney teases out (and sometimes violently rips) new meanings, unexpected observations, and revelatory nuances that run from the merely spine-tingling to the downright breathtaking.
The book is divided into six chapters. Chapter One (c. 1959 to 1964) deals with The Beatles’ time in
Chapter Two (1964/1965) is largely an extraordinary exegesis of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!,” one which not only puts the two films in context in every regard (historically, culturally, cinematically), but digs so deeply into the symbolism in each film that you will wonder if you saw the same films he did. And while one can certainly debate some of his “connections” and interpretations, it is a certainty that after reading the book you will never be able to watch the films the same way again. (Which is not necessarily a bad thing.)
The chapter ends with a brilliant, in-depth discussion of the notorious “butcher” cover for Yesterday and Today, which McKinney not only puts in its artistic context (which is far more interesting and unexpected than you may realize), but also in its cultural context as the first time “controversy” entered The Beatles lives (whether deliberately or not), and, most critically, how that changed the nature of their relationship with their fans.
Chapter Three is devoted to 1966, which
Also discussed is George’s growing influence, The Beatles vis-à-vis Bob Dylan (a deeper, more interesting look than usual), the truth behind The Beatles’ concerts in Japan and the Philippines (again, more context and detail here than is found elsewhere), John’s “Jesus” comment, and the band’s final concert (San Francisco). The chapter ends with an interesting dissection of Strawberry Fields Forever (the last song they recorded and released that year), and how it was not only a wildly unexpected – and complex - coda to 1966, but a surreal, even “dangerous,” harbinger of things to come.
Chapter Four brings us to 1967/1968. Among an ongoing series of quotes from Milan Kundera, McKinney takes on Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, Dylan’s John Wesley Harding, Vietnam, race issues, Revolution (a “rebuke” to their fans), The Stones’ Street Fighting Man (which came out the same week as Revolution), Happiness is a Warm Gun, Revolution 9 (including an odd, but fascinating exegesis), and the White Album in general (including a culturo-metaphysical comparison to Guernica).
Chapter Five (1969) is arguably the most fascinating chapter of the book, as it juxtaposes the two major events of that year: the “Paul is Dead” hoax and the goings-on of the Manson family. It also touches on the alleged “bootlegs” that came out that year, including the infamous Masked Marauders, a “supergroup” that supposedly included Lennon, Jagger, McCartney, Dylan and Harrison. [N.B.
In Chapter Six,
But these are mere quibbles.
Finally, at the risk of making this review almost as long as the book itself, it is worth providing two of
First, on The Beatles: “There is no way of quantifying the changes The Beatles catalyzed in private lives. The affairs begun or ended to one of their songs; the career paths and passionate avocations inspired by their creative example; the spiritual inquiries spurred by one Beatle’s famous blasphemy; the filial bonds deepened by a common love of their music. Because they don’t move mountains, such things fall into the vast wastebasket of unrecorded history. Are we to consider them unimportant for that reason? I think we may consider them as important as any history ever recorded. They are the changes that determine how people live within history – day to day – as opposed to how people live because of history, era by era.”
Second, one of the most remarkably honest self-assessments – nay, self-revelations – I have ever seen in print, and the defining explanation and theme of his writing of the book: “I had always coveted the direct experiences, earned wisdoms and epochal blessings bestowed on the ‘60s veterans. At any point in my growing up, I felt I would have given all I had to trade places with the merest and most marginal of them. What I had never realized or appreciated until now – alone in a cramped Manhattan room, suddenly pushing 30 – was that trading places in the historical line would have meant giving up the precise set of psychological biases, intellectual limitations, aesthetic prejudices, and personal experiences that had shaped me into the possessor of a relationship with The Beatles and the ‘60s unique from that of anyone who had ever given thought to either. What had been my sweetest and bitterest fantasy was now almost horrifying. Without this identity, after all, I would never have been able to twist The Beatles into the many private shapes I had asked them to assume; never have been able to construct, through an interpretation of dream and study of history, my own version of the story they had once imagined and enacted. Change an instant of my experience, and The Beatles – my Beatles, my customized version of their meanings and metaphysics – would be stolen from me.”
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: August 14 2011 at 08:56|
Sounds interesting, thank you, I will check it out.
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: October 20 2013 at 09:38|
very interesting! thanks
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: October 23 2013 at 09:10|
I don't know ... I still see a different set of people that most are not seeing.
You get the interviews, you see things, we hide the movie "Let It Be", and then we intelectualize minimal events.
I can hear "Live in Hamburg", I can listen to the Beatles Christmas Shows, I can remember "Let it Be" (the film, and almost none of the words mention here show the PERSON behind it all.
We all have feelings, and we all get emotional, and we all learn some things and do other things. Writing a book about it, again, is sad, and sometimes difficult, as we end up making Gods out of men, and women who were people. And Gods, don't exist, except in our imagination!
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!
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