The spindle on my inner phonograph is stacked high with Beatles records. I have just finished reading All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release by Jean-Michele Guesdon and Philippe Margotin, a huge book that chronicles the recording history of the Fab Four. At the moment as I write, I'm hearing "Words of Love," the group's cover of a Buddy Holly song found on the album Beatles for Sale. When I woke awhile ago, it was a George Harrison composition "Don't Bother Me" from the With the Beatles album. I am obviously more cheerful than I was 30 minutes ago. As I finished the big book Saturday night, it was "Two of Us" and "Across the Universe" from Let It Be. I have been in many musical moods the last week.
All the Songs is a huge book for Beatles fans interested in the origins and recording of songs the group released on vinyl singles, EPs, and LPs between 1962 and 1970 in Great Britain and the United States. The songs are organized chronologically by year. Within each year, albums are first and then the singles. Songs are listed in order by track on the British editions of the albums. Had the songs been alphabetically arranged, All the Songs would be a mere dictionary and not the rich chronicle that it is.
By being chronological, All the Songs reveals the artistic development of the band and much about the personal lives of its members. I have been reading about the group for 50 years and recognized some of the facts and stories, but I still learned much I did not know. Some of the facts were little things, such as George Harrison inserted "beep beep" into "Drive My Car" or that the constant tapping in "Blackbird" was Paul McCartney tapping his feet, not a metronome as previously reported.
Some of the information is disturbing. I never dreamt that the narrator in "Norwegian Wood" sets fire to the apartment in the last verse. Though the song is basically John Lennon's composition, Paul McCartney suggested the bizarre twist. I'm still not sure that it is true.
Undoubtedly, all readers who take on reading the whole book will understand why the Beatles could not have possibly continued past 1970.
With help of lists in the appendix, I better understand the differences between the British and American markets for Beatles music in the 1960s. Americans were more willing to buy lots of records, and Capitol Records took advantage of American Beatlemania by putting out more albums with fewer songs on each. There were also many more singles in the U.S. than England. I was shocked to learn that "Yesterday" was never released as a single in the U.K. It was such a big hit in America.
Americans were also more enamored with Ringo Starr than his countrymen. I remember how my drum-crazy friends and I thought Starr as the key Beatle. All my fourth grade friends wanted to be Ringo.
Having read about the songs, I noticed new sounds and meanings as I listened to CDs this past week. I don't really need another reason to listen to the Beatles, but I am making my way through the catalog again. All the Songs has refocused my attention, and I feel about 40 years younger.
"Eight Days a Week" is now playing in my head.
Guesdon, Jean-Michele and Philippe Margotin. All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release. Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2013. 671p. ISBN 9781579129521.