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Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History

Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History

by Devin McKinney
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No one expressed the heart and soul of the Sixties as powerfully as the Beatles did through the words, images, and rhythms of their music. In Magic Circles Devin McKinney uncovers the secret history of a generation and a pivotal moment in twentieth-century culture. He reveals how the Beatles enacted the dream life of their time and shows how they embodied a kaleidoscope of desire and anguish for all who listened—hippies or reactionaries, teenage fans or harried parents, Bob Dylan or Charles Manson. The reader who dares to re-enter the vortex that was the Sixties will appreciate, perhaps for the first time, much of what lay beneath the social trauma of the day.

Delving into concerts and interviews, films and music, outtakes and bootlegs, Devin McKinney brings to bear the insights of history, aesthetics, sociology, psychology, and mythology to account for the depth and resonance of the Beatles' impact. His book is also a uniquely multifaceted appreciation of the group's artistic achievement, exploring their music as both timeless expression and visceral response to their historical moment. Starting in the cellars of Liverpool and Hamburg, and continuing through the triumph of Beatlemania, the groundbreaking studio albums, and the last brutal, sorrowful thrust of the White Album, Magic Circles captures both the dream and the reality of four extraordinary musicians and their substance as artists. At once an entrancing narrative and an analytical montage, the book follows the drama, comedy, mystery, irony, and curious off-ramps of investigation and inquiry that contributed to one of the most amazing odysseys in pop culture.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674016361
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/18/2004
Edition description: Revised ed.
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 5.69(w) x 8.94(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Devin McKinney is an independent scholar.

What People are Saying About This

Luc Sante

This is the book to read on the Beatles, whether or not you've read all the others. It is the critical look the Four have always deserved--clear-eyed, funny, daring, continually surprising, extraordinary in its reach and breadth. Devin McKinney, a generation younger than the Beatles and their core fans, is unburdened by received ideas, and he writes like a dream.
Luc Sante, author of Low Life

Howard Hampton

At its core, Magic Circles traces how the Beatles, as working-class musicians who came "out of the sticks" to transform the world by sheer force of will as well as talent, were able to enter the lives of millions of people and get under their skins as well as into their dreams. Thus McKinney argues their music both colonized and liberated their audience's imagination, laying the psychological foundation for the ecstasies and upheavals of the 1960s: the Beatles are presented as agents of desire combined with rebellion (a heady brew indeed), but who at the height of the '60s carnival-cum-revolution appeared at least in part as double agents, cover-up artists, traitors to the zeitgeist. These and other contradictions are rendered vividly here. The most original and valuable contribution that Magic Circles makes is as a map of collective sensibility: depicting the Beatles as a white hole in the fabric of official culture, disgorging meanings, fantasies, and mutations for all to share.

Ben Saunders

The Beatles occupy a unique moment in the history of popular entertainment, one in which the relationship between artist and audience undergoes a profound transformation. The Beatles mattered to people in ways that no previous (and few subsequent) popular entertainers have mattered. Sinatra may have inspired devotion, and Elvis mass hysteria, but only the Beatles inspired metaphysical debate.
Ben Saunders, University of Oregon

Kevin Dettmar

I believe Magic Circles quickly will be recognized as one of a handful of classic rock texts. This is simply a wonderful book, and I mean that quite literally - a book full of wonder. It filled me with the joy of intellectual discovery, challenged hard-set conventional notions I'd long harbored, and perhaps most surprising for a book of this kind, filled me with joy to read: it is a joyous book.
Kevin Dettmar, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

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Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
wordnat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
McKinney deftly -- and fearlessly -- punctures holes (enough of them to fill the Albert Hall) in the bloated blimp of Celebrity, then digs through the pockets of the Crabalocker fishwives and pornographic priestesses that litter the crash site. There were no survivors -- except Paul, of course. Goo goo g'joob!
Guest More than 1 year ago
McKinney tells us he used to consider Hey Jude 'overrated' and now 'trembles' when he hears the song. I'm of McKinney's generation and I've found time and again the way a Beatles' song or album I thought I knew so well it could delight but not surprise me, will, upon a sudden hearing, bring me to my knees. McKinney writes a fine and true story about these Beatles, that does justice to the peculiar position of our generation: passionate response to art that ostensibly drew its life from the moment of its making. You must read the book to discover for yourself that only a passionate mind can articulate the difference between nostalgia and actual history. McKinney's book also demonstrates so much that is absent from nearly all contemporary nonfiction: it is passionate without being sentimental; it is personal without being confessional; its intelligence is alive and transparent and neither the fill-in-the-blanks obscurantism of fashionable cultural analysis nor middlebrow accessibility. And the photos are so well-chosen--really rich images that complement the text. I only wish McKinney had included a good annotated bibliography in addition to his discography. Really, read this book now and Revolver will never sound the same again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read an advance copy of this book and was truly amazed by the author's original look at the Beatles. There have been hundreds of books written about this greatest of music groups, but this is the first one to delve into the subconsoius relationships the Beatles had with their fans. For anyone who loves the Beatles or for that matter is fascinated by the 1960's, I urge you to purchase this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author's confident, fresh style; meticulous academic research, and obvious love for the subject matter synthesize into a brilliant must-read. In this thorough and intimate account, Devin McKinney lucidly and gracefully guides his reader through the complex and oft-dark layers of Beatles history and cultural myth. I literally could not put this book down--read it in one sitting!