Nearly 20 years in the making, Can't Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. Here Jonathan Gould seeks to explain 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. 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.
©2007 Jonathan Gould (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Not just another biography of the Fab Four, Gould's ambitious, decades-in-the-making volume tells their larger-than-life story and uses it as a lens through which to look at the cultural and historical forces that shaped the band - and its ongoing significance." (Rolling Stone)
"Fascinating.... An essential addition to Beatle literature." (The Guardian)
"Brilliant.... Engrossing.... Gould's deft hand makes the book sing. This is music writing at its best." (Publishers Weekly, starred, signature review)
I took a long time listening to this because I didn't want it to end. I also wanted to listen to the music chronologically as Jonathan Gould worked his way through each album and single; so I kept taking breaks from the audiobook to catch up on the songs.
The Beatles are THE band for me and always have been, since my brother and I took the bus into Richmond in 1964 to see the first run of "Hard Day's Night." I won't go so far as to say this is THE book about the group, but it's a fine one, and is well narrated by Richard Aspel. To the standard question, would you read / listen to another book by this writer / narrator - yes, definitely, on both counts.
It's not the most gossipy book about the Beatles. Gould doesn't have any ground-breaking new research or exclusive interviews to offer. What he has, in abundance, are two things: a rich sense of the political and cultural context in which the Beatles' career took place; and a detailed analysis, musical and lyrical, of every released single and every track on every album. His discussions of the songs are what impelled me to go back and listen to them yet again, this time with a handful of specific things to listen for in each one. (I didn't always understand the terminology Gould uses: at one point, he refers to "the elemental subdominant cadent in A-major" - at least I think that's what he said - but his descriptions are more often concrete and illuminating than over-my-head baffling.)
Gould sets the Beatles firmly against the backdrop of Elvis, Les Paul, Brian Wilson, the Stones, Dylan, and the Goon Show on the one hand; and Vietnam, assassinations, student rebellions, the Prague Spring, the Chicago riots, the Profumo affair, and the political rivalry of Edward Heath and Harold Wilson on the other. If you didn't live through those times, the book will give you a better sense of the wider world than any other Beatles book I know. If you did live through those times, it will remind you of how glorious (and sometimes gloriously awful) they were. Woodstock makes an appearance, even though the Beatles didn't show up there: they were putting the finishing touches on the "Abbey Road" album. But Woodstock was an important part of the cultural background; it's impossible to understand the Beatles' place in popular culture without taking it into account.
I haven't listened to all the Beatles-related audiobooks on Audible. Of the ones I have listened to, the only one in the same league is the book by Bob Spitz - unfortunately only available here in abridged format. (The Hunter Davies account is on my list, but even though it has a 1996 update, it's mainly focused on the period ending in 1968.) Until someone offers Spitz unabridged, or Philip Norman's Shout!, or Hunter Davies writes a fuller account of the later years, this is the audiobook I would recommend to anyone wanting an introduction to the history of the band. Gould presents the story with admirable objectivity; it's obvious that the band, and the band's music, fascinate him; but he's willing to call baloney when he sees it, and some of the Beatles tracks, especially as he moves into the troubled territory of The White Album and the Let It Be sessions, come in for particularly harsh criticism. ("Shapeless" and "gormless" are two of the adjectives employed in Gould's discussion of one of the tracks on the White Album. "A parody of a travesty" is his verdict on another.)
The only thing that could make the audiobook better, in my opinion, would be an edition that integrates the songs themselves into the narrative. But you can always do that on your own, like I did.
Yes and no. I enjoyed the beginning of the book, describing the Beatles' start, their rise to fame, and the cultural backdrop that contributed to and caused their success. Toward the second half of the book, however, there are several passages that describe in verbose detail the making of albums and the attributes of each song. Several hours could have been removed from this book just from editing those out. One would have to be a HUGE fan of the Beatles and/or a musician to understand much of the later lingo.
Another reviewer indicated frustration with Richard Aspel's odd pauses, and I must confess I found them grating as well. With that exception, he did a very good job of narrating, particularly when he was being flippant.
Overall, this book may appear to music history buffs, cultural history buffs, fans of the Beatles who may want a comprehensive biography... But I am not interested enough in these topics - or perhaps their intertwining as compiled by Gould - to wholeheartedly recommend this book.
I enjoy passionate narrators. Great content is also a good thing.
I have listened to The Beatles for years and only knowing tidbits about them and their music. This book was a great way for me to have a better understanding of them as individuals and as a group. Even though I have very little knowledge in music the book goes into detail about chords. Not too much detail that it turns me away.
The narration was good, but at times there are unusual pauses as if he's turning a page to continue reading.
Like many of you, having read virtually ALL of the Beatle books in the past 35 years, I don't expect to be surprised anymore. Gould's book is well-written, and well researched, and well-read, but there is little new about the Beatles. As a first Beatle book, this would be excellent. He skims the highlights of their story well without getting into significant detail. His analysis of the individual songs is good, with an interpretation of And Your Bird Can Sing I'd not heard before. There was a pleasing amount of new information about people and events that occurred in the music business and elsewhere in the world in relation to significant Beatle events. So, for what Gould attempts to do, this book is very good. I suggest Tune In for a more complete telling of the story, but this is s great book for a grandparent to give a child who has just recently come across the band.
"Decent Book, awful reader"
If you're a Beatles fan you will enjoy much of this book - some parts are heavy on the wider social issues, but I guess it's all related to the subject.
The most memorable part of the book is the ending - a genuine sense of sadness as when a family disintegrates.
The narrator should have been sacked on day one. Apart from his annoying timbre ( I thought that this was a contrived 'DJ' type voice - but it persists for the whole book) he simply hadn't done his homework - he clearly hadn't listened to some of the Beatles material. His musical vocabulary was limited - as evidenced by the fact that he can't pronounce several musical terms - and his enunciation of lyrics was excruciating! I almost gave up on listening several times.
A half decent book completely sabotaged by the narrator. If you want a book on the Beatles don't muck about - get All These Years and have done with it!
"FALLS BETWEEN TWO STOOLS"
People who want to know something about The Beatles, and are starting from a position of no knowledge.
Half the book is written like a dissertation on the sociology of the 1960's. Not very well written at that. The other is the usual rehashed tale of the Beatles. there is no insight here. His description of the music is based on Ian McDonald's ground breaking Revolution in the Head.
By getting a narrator who can pronounce the words...
For example his pronunciation of place names in Liverpool is pitiful, he constantly refers to Nems as N. E. M. S. the pattern of his de-livery is very strange.
I'd cut out the sociology, and I'd look for some originality.
I'd advise people not to download this.
"Those were the days!"
Yes - I've already done that. It is a very well written analysis of the Beatles story. The author is not afraid to express his opinion and is very critical of the different characters in the story's behaviour.
This will probably only be irritating to people from Merseyside but the narrator mispronounced many local Merseyside names! Otherwise I don't have any complaints - the narrator sounded as though he had written the book which made it easy to listen to.
It made me very nostalgic!It was full of interesting aspects of the Beatles story which was being played out while I was a secondary school on Merseyside. I enjoyed being able to look back across the years and evaluate those formative years.I will confess it supported my prejudices about Yoko Ono! I went off the Beatles after John took up with her. Many blame her for the break-up of the Beatles and the author seems to be of this view too.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and didn't get bored once.I'm even thinking of buying a paper copy. The book is very well written with changes of scene at a pace that keeps you interested. For anyone who plays a musical instrument the analysis of the music will be particularly insightful. I've recommended the book on the basis of this aspect alone. I would warn people that this is not an easy reading 'popular history' that you might buy in an airport. It is a serious analysis of a significant musical phenomenon which brought many changes to society (eg regional accents became acceptable on the BBC) and to the music business.Some people might find the analysis of the songs (eg which key a song is in) tedious.
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