That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can’t Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould explains why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social context that girded both their rise and their demise. Nearly twenty years in the making, Can’t Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism.
Beginning with their adolescence in Liverpool, Gould describes the seminal influences––from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to The Goon Show and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland––that shaped the Beatles both as individuals and as a group. In addition to chronicling their growth as singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, he highlights the advances in recording technology that made their sound both possible and unique, as well as the developments in television and radio that lent an explosive force to their popular success. With a musician’s ear, Gould sensitively evokes the timeless appeal of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration and their emergence as one of the most creative and significant songwriting teams in history.
Behind the scenes Gould explores the pivotal roles played by manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, credits the influence on the Beatles’ music of contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Ravi Shankar, and traces the gradual escalation of the fractious internal rivalries that led to the group’s breakup after their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Most significantly, by chronicling their revolutionary impact on popular culture during the 1960s, Can’t Buy Me Love illuminates the Beatles as a charismatic phenomenon of international proportions, whose anarchic energy and unexpected import was derived from the historic shifts in fortune that transformed the relationship between Britain and America in the decades after World War II.
From the Beats in America and the Angry Young Men in England to the shadow of the Profumo Affair and JFK’s assassination, Gould captures the pulse of a time that made the Beatles possible—and even necessary. As seen through the prism of the Beatles and their music, an entire generation’s experience comes astonishingly to life. Beautifully written, consistently insightful, and utterly original, Can’ t Buy Me Love is a landmark work about the Beatles, Britain, and America.
SignatureReviewed by Mark RotellaAs a teenager, I collected every album the Beatles put out, starting with their first U.S. release, 1964's Meet the Beatles, to their last, Let It Be, in 1970. As Paul sang Mother Mary comes to me/ speaking words of wisdom, I heard the wisdom of an aged sage.But as Jonathan Gould states in his brilliant biography of the Beatles, the band had effectively ended before any of them had reached the age of thirty. There have been several biographies of the band (including two outstanding ones, Bob Spitz's The Beatles and Devin McKinney's Magic Circles:The Beatles In Dream and History), but Gould leaves the gossip to others and instead relies on their music to tell the story, starting with the early days as a band in Liverpool (with Paul McCartney on guitar and Stuart Sutcliffe on bass) to the recordings at the Abbey Road studios in London (where Yoko became everpresent and George stormed out threatening to quit). They got their start in Hamburg, Germany, and were soon managed by a young, eager former furniture salesman named Brian Epstein, and produced by George Martin, a recording executive known for novelty records.Gould, a former musician, has written an engrossing book, both fluid and economical (aside from one overlong section on the concept of charisma ). Page after page, you can hear the music; Gould's deft hand makes the book sing. This is music writing at its best. It begins with a musical wake-up call, Gould writes of A Hard Day's Night the harsh clash of a solitary chord that hangs in the air for an elongated moment, its densely packed notes swimming into focus like eyes adjusting to the light. On Here Comes the Sun, Gould describes George's music, written as he became more steeped in Indian philosophy amidst turmoil within the band, as rays of sun cutting across the melting ice of winter... of coming through a long and arduous experience and emerging whole at the end. Focusing on the Beatles' influences, musical (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys) and otherwise (marijuana, LSD, the Maharishi Mahesh yogi), Gould elucidates the mystery of the band that changed the course of Western popular music. Mark Rotella, senior reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, is the author of The Saloon Singers, about the great Italian-American crooners, to be published by FSG in 2008.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Know the meaning
Thank you Jonathan for this wonderful and complete history of the greatest group of musicians ever assembled.
Growing up I knew the words to all the songs, now I know the meaning.
Excellent writing and worth it just to read the story behind And Your Bird Can Sing.