In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs

In Their Lives: Great Writers on Great Beatles Songs

by Andrew Blauner


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The perfect gift for any Beatles fan, In Their Lives is an anthology of essays from a chorus of twenty-nine luminaries singing the praises of their favorite Beatles songs.

The Beatles’ influence—on their contemporaries, on our cultural consciousness, and on the music industry ever after—is difficult to overstate. We all have a favorite song from the band that made us want to fall in love, tune in, and follow our dreams. Arranged chronologically by the date of the song’s release, these essays highlight both the Beatles’ evolution as well as the span of generations their music affected. Whether they are Beatlemaniacs who grew up listening to the iconic albums on vinyl or new fans who stream their favorite songs on their phones, all of the contributors explore that poignant intersection between Beatles history and personal history.

With contributions from twenty-nine authors and musicians—Roz Chast on “She Loves You,” Jane Smiley on “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Rosanne Cash on “No Reply,” Gerald Early on “I’m a Loser,” Rick Moody on “The End,” Maria Popova on “Yellow Submarine,” David Duchovny on “Dear Prudence,” Chuck Klosterman on “Helter Skelter,” David Hajdu on “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number),” and more—the breadth of the band’s impact is clear. From musings on young love and family strife to explorations of racial boundaries and identity, these essays pay tribute to a band that ran the gamut of human experience in a way no musical group has done before or since.

Timed for the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this anthology captures the full spectrum of reasons fans still love the Fab Four after all these years.  

In Their Lives is full of pleasant surprises.”—New York Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780735210691
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/23/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 669,367
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

ANDREW BLAUNER is the founder of Blauner Books Literary Agency. His other anthologies are Coach, Brothers, Central Park, Our Boston, The Good Book, and (coeditor) For the Love of Baseball. A graduate of Brown University and the Columbia University School of Business, Blauner is a member of PEN American Center and the National Book Critics Circle, and a former intern at Rolling Stone.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
She Loves You


“SHE LOVES YOU” was released in the U.S. in September 1963, when I was eight—almost nine—years old. That song provided my first inkling that there was another world out there, one that did not include my parents, my relatives, my neighbors, my teachers, or my classmates—a world of care‑ free and attractive young people who did not worry about illnesses or money, and who did not care about homework or why one was not popular. The reason they did not think about these things was obvious: they were too busy having fun and being young.

When I heard “She Loves You”—that exuberant singing, like nothing I’d ever heard before—I became aware not only that that world existed, but also that I deeply wanted to be part of it. Before the Beatles, pop music didn’t really register with me. I’m sure I’d heard it, but it didn’t “reach” me. It was boring; a bunch of mushy love songs sung by icky guys with irritating voices and greasy hair and even ickier girls with2 ROZ  CHAST bouffants. Ugh. Gross. A lateral move from the shackles of childhood to a different, but equally shackled, adulthood.

So, what was it about “She Loves You” that felt like an anthem of liberation? Perhaps it was that chorus of “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” or maybe it was that thrilling “Wooooo!” Or maybe it was the Beatles themselves. I’d never seen any‑ thing like them. I watched the Beatles sing on Ed Sullivan, with their funny suits and haircuts, bouncing to the beat of their music and playing their instruments, and was completely, totally, in love. They were sexy, for sure, but not smarmy or creepy. I wouldn’t say they were “wholesome,” either, which implies a kind of rosy‑cheeked, outdoorsy, earnestness that has never, ever appealed to me. No. This was something else entirely.

That spring, the one after the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, I was nine, and my parents and I went to Puerto Rico for a week. It was a school vacation, and since my parents worked in the New York City school system, they had the week off, too. I had befriended another nine‑year‑old only child who was staying at the hotel with her parents. Big shockeroo: we were both Beatlemaniacs. At some point, our two families were in a car driving to some tourist attraction. As the parents were chatting, she and I decided to sing “She Loves You” as loud as we could. We didn’t know most of the words, but we knew when to sing the “Yeah, yeah, yeah” and the “Wooooooo.” More than fifty years later I still remember how thrilling this was. I don’t recall any of the grown‑ups getting particularly mad at us. They were just baffled. This was for us, this kind of music. Not for them. And that was okay with all of us.

I had a record player in my room. There were no speakers. You opened it up like a suitcase, plugged it in, plopped your record onto the spindle in the middle, and manually placed the arm that held the needle onto the record as carefully as you could, because you didn’t want to scratch the record. Anyway, my first Beatles record turned out not to be a Beat‑ les record at all. It came from a discount store in our neighborhood in Brooklyn, and it had a drawing of four Beatle‑ish hairdos on the cover. That was what fooled me. When I got it home, I immediately realized my mistake: these were instrumental versions of Beatles songs. There wasn’t even any singing! Total rip‑off. My first experience with false advertising.

When I was in third grade and close to the bottom of the social pecking order—not the very bottom, but, like I said, close—the four most popular girls put on a show for the rest of the class. They dressed up like the Beatles in suits and Beatle boots and Beatle wigs. Three of them pretended to strum guitars they had made out of cardboard. The fourth played a drum. I don’t recall whether it was a real drum or made out of cardboard like the guitars. They sang a couple of Beatles songs in front of the class for our entertainment. One of them was “She Loves You,” and when they sang “Wooooo!” they shook their heads like the Beatles. I watched them with a kind of envy. Everyone applauded. I hated to acknowledge it, but they were great.

My parents were not interested in popular music. Even Frank Sinatra and big band music were beneath them. And jazz? Don’t ask. My mother played classical piano: Chopin, Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy were her favorites. Sometimes my parents listened to a little show music— songs from Carousel or Oklahoma! They liked Gilbert and Sullivan. My father loved French music. He was a French teacher and a Francophile. Sometimes he listened to Yves Montand or Edith Piaf. To their ears, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Mamas and the Papas all sounded identical. One of the more shameful fights I had with them as an adult was getting angry with them because they didn’t listen to Billie Holliday or Ella Fitzgerald when I was growing up.

When I think about “She Loves You,” and how much I loved that song, how new it sounded, and how happy it made me feel to hear it, I think about how much it represented the mirage of a possible future, one that was more joyful and more interesting than my lonely and borderline‑grim child‑ hood with its homework and tests and mean girls and stupid boys and parents who worried about everything and got angry over nothing. A promise that, in the future, things would be better, or at least I would have greater autonomy. And now that I am a grown‑up, I can say that even though I’m not skipping along a jewel‑bedecked street lined with chocolate‑truff le trees while angels throw rose petals at me, it’s definitely better than being a kid.


Excerpted from "In Their Lives"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Andrew Blauner.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

A Note from Paul McCartney xi

Introduction xiii

She Loves You $ 1

I Saw Her Standing There $ 5

I Want to Hold Your Hand $ 15

I'll Be Back $ 23

No Reply $ 25

I'm A Loser $ 31

Yesterday $ 49

Norwegian Wood $ 59

Eleanor Rigby $ 63

Yellow Submarine $ 75

And Your Bird can Sing $ 87

Tomorrow Never Knows $ 99

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds $ 111

She's Leaving Home $ 127

Good Day Sunshine $ 135

She Said She Said $ 145

Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane $ 155

A Day in the Life $ 167

I Am the Walrus $ 187

Dear Prudence $ 201

Helter Skelter $ 205

The Ballad of John and Yoko $ 217

Octopus's Garden $ 227

The End $ 241

You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) $ 257

Here Comes the Sun/There's a Place $ 269

Let it Be $ 277

Two of Us $ 287

Acknowledgments $ 293

Contributor $ 295

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