Since they burst onto the scene 50 years ago, millions of words have been written about every aspect of the Beatles' music and career, from books aimed at teenage female fans to scholarly works deconstructing "The White Album."
Now comes "All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release," an exhaustive tome that gives the inside scoop on every song on every album from their debut, "Please Please Me," to their swan song, "Abbey Road," as well as all the singles, EPs and B-sides they produced between 1963 and 1970.
The book, which is arranged chronologically, is a collaboration between French music writer Philippe Margotin, who has penned books on U2 and the Rolling Stones, and musician Jean-Michel Guesdon, who has spent 30 years collecting information about the Fab Four.
"All the Songs" is a trove of trivia for even the most ardent Beatles fan, featuring facts ranging from who played which instrument on each song to when and where each song was recorded. Margotin and Guesdon also include how many takes each song required as well as who was in the studio when the songs were recorded.
While many of the stories behind the songs will be familiar to Beatles fans — the classic "Yesterday" originally was titled "Scambled Eggs," the title for "A Hard Day's Night" came from a Ringo Starr malapropism, Eric Clapton played the blistering guitar solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" — there are plenty of others that are obscure enough to keep fans reading.
Among some of the more interesting revelations:
• Several of the songs on "Help!" — "You're Going to Lose that Girl," "Ticket to Ride" and "Yesterday" — required only two takes, while the band got "Another Girl" right on the very first one. In contrast, the album's title tune took 12 takes while the band's cover of the Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" needed 13.
• Paul McCartney wrote the ballad "Michelle" when he was a student at the Liverpool Institute of Art, inserting French phrases into the song as a ploy to attract women.• Members of Pink Floyd, who were recording their first LP "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" at Abbey Road studios at the same time the Beatles were recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," sat in the control room while the Beatles mixed the song "Lovely Rita" in March 1967.
• There is a discernable burst of profanity at the 2:59 mark in the song "Hey Jude," although there is disagreement about whether it was uttered by John Lennon or McCartney.
• One of Lennon's favorite guitars was a 1958 Rickenbacker Capri, which he bought on a whim for about $150 when the Beatles were cutting their musical chops in Hamburg, Germany, in 1960. He played the guitar, which he had repainted black, on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and used it in the studio until 1965. His widow, Yoko Ono, said he also used it on "Double Fantasy," the last album Lennon recorded before his death in 1980.
In addition to the stories behind the songs, the book also contains hundreds of photos from all phases of the Beatles' career, many of them rarely seen.
Added together, "All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release" is an engaging journey through the band's canon that should easily satisfy both casual and die-hard fans.
Fifty years ago, the Beatles released their debut album. So many commemorative books have appeared recently that it's hard to keep count, but if you're a fan and All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release (Black Dog & Leventhal, 672 pages, $50) makes it onto your coffee table, chances are that it'll be the one least likely to leave. Music historians Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin dissect, discuss and analyze every song, from 'Please Please Me' (1963) to 'The Long and Winding Road' (1970). There's a well-written 'Genesis' and 'Production' section for each song, as well as enough technical tables to please everyone's inner nerd, not to mention 600 photographs.
Fun facts about every one of the Fab Four's creations, with photos. Yeah yeah yeah."
Fun facts about every one of the Fab Four's creations, with photos. Yeah yeah yeah."
Everybody has a Beatles fan in their life, and you'll make them very happy if you give them a copy of All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release
[This] doorstop collects a galaxy of Beatles song data into impressively simple and digestible form. Beautifully illlustrated.
A perfect giftt for the Fab-Four fanatic
"Fun facts about every one of the Fab Four's creations, with photos. Yeah yeah yeah."People
"Fifty years ago, the Beatles released their debut album. ... if you're a fan and All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release makes it onto your coffee table, chances are that it'll be the one least likely to leave. Music historians Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin dissect, discuss and analyze every song, from 'Please Please Me' (1963) to 'The Long and Winding Road' (1970). There's a well- written 'Genesis' and 'Production' section for each song, as well as enough technical tables to please everyone's inner nerd, not to mention 600 photographs.Wall Street Journal
"Everybody has a Beatles fan in their life, and you'll make them very happy if you give them a copy of All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release."Newsday
"A perfect giftt for the Fab-Four fanatic."New York Post
"This is rock-solid stuff .... Yields all sorts of surprises, even for the initiated.... Essential for Beatles fans and a pleasure to read."
"Beautiful layout and plenty of photos throughout.... And if that isn't enough, Patti Smith wrote the book's preface."A.V. Club, 'Our Favorite Books of the Year
"Impossible not to like for Beatle-types."The Nation
French musician Guesdon and music writer Margotin take an exhaustive look at the Beatles' repertoire in this meticulously researched title. Arranged chronologically by album, the book includes for each song basic information (songwriter, track length, number of takes, etc.), a brief discussion of how it was written and recorded, and an overall assessment. While the authors include thorough technical details about sound engineering and production, numerous anecdotes and quotations from the group keep the book entertaining and accessible even to more casual music fans. The design further enhances this title's appeal: yellow boxes with trivia for Beatles fanatics are interspersed throughout, and an array of photographs features images of the group over the course of their career. Biographical information is incorporated where relevant; however, the emphasis here is on the group as they functioned within the studio, and readers will come away with a rich and rewarding appreciation of the Fab Four's innovative and evolving work. VERDICT Although some of the content may be familiar to die-hard Beatles aficionados, most pop music fans will enjoy this engaging and comprehensive guide. Highly recommended. [See Q&A with the authors on p. 114.]—Mahnaz Dar, Library Journal
Quick: What's the last cover the Beatles ever recorded? If you answered "Maggie Mae," from "Let It Be," then you're likely to inhabit the same geeky, completist universe as French Beatleologists Margotin and Guesdon. Their thoroughness, not to say obsessiveness, yields all sorts of surprises, even for the initiated. Consider, for instance, that "Please Please Me," the group's first official album, was recorded in a single day, February 11, 1963--well, many readers may know that. But who knew that the band took three hours to record two songs, then broke for 1 ½ hours, then recorded three songs and overdubbed three more, then took another 1 ½–hour break, then recorded six songs between 7:30 and 10:45? Well, now you do. And who knew that Eddy Thornton, Ian Hamer and Les Condon played trumpet in the 1966 session that yielded the canonical cut of "Got to Get You Into My Life"? (Thornton, by the way, was a member of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, while the other two were in-demand jazz players.) There's all sorts of spinoff trivia in these wonderfully well-illustrated pages, from the fact that Humble Pie copped the sound of "Paperback Writer" to the circumstances surrounding John Lennon's "Ballad of John & Yoko" and the eventual tensions that tore the band apart. There are a few modest missteps--it's not particularly useful to know that George Harrison's song "Piggies" was "a social critique light-years away from the Eastern philosophy of which he had become a fervent devotee"--but, for the most part, this is rock-solid stuff. Essential for Beatles fans and a pleasure to read.