Regarded as the greatest and most revealing account of how the Beatles recorded every one of their songs, Revolution in the Head is brimming with details of the personal highs and lows experienced by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, and Starr as they made some of the most enduring popular music ever created.
©1994 The estate of Ian MacDonald (P)2014 Talking Music
This is a fascinating book - lovingly narrated by an ensemble cast - all listenable, and a couple of them exceptional. After an introduction it traverses the Beatles recording career song by song - going session by session rather than album by album, including unreleased oddities. The writer is very intelligent and almost invariably brilliant in terms of his analyses of the lyrics and the broader role of the group in the culture of the 20th Century. He's also *sometimes* brilliant in his musical analyses - often enough to warrant 5 stars across the board. That said, he's also sometimes annoyingly stupid on strictly musical elements, making some technical musical errors and overlooking critical details. A perfect example is the song Day Tripper, which he pans rather ruthlessly. Failing to grasp the importance of layered thematic riffs in popular music (and frankly, failing to grasp what a musical hook is) he thinks this is merely a 12-bar blues variant that the Beatles rushed out in an uninspired moment. I find it hard to believe that anyone interested enough in the Beatle to consider buying this book could fail to hear the virtues of this song. He's even more critical of All You Need Is Love, whose thematic 7/4 riff is stunningly brilliant to anyone with ears but he ignores this entirely and damns the song for what he considers its nonsensical lyrics ("nothing you can do that can't be done") but then a few songs later he heaps near-Shakespearean praise on the (similarly full of convoluted word-play) lyrics of I Am The Walrus and lavishes modern "concept art" superlatives on Revolution 9. My point is that Walrus and All You Need is Love - whatever you think of their lyrics - are both dumbfounding brilliant and original from a musical point of view and to say that the first is pure genius and the second is a pathetic piece of rubbish is just infuriating. That said, many of his analyses are spot on and the fact that he's so arrogantly opinionated will challenge you to think, even if you sometimes want to reach through the speaker and slap the guy. So, 5 stars, take each opinion with a pillar of salt, and don't let his sometimes inaccurate use of highbrow technical musical terminology override what your ears are telling you. If you filter out the nonsense, there's an abundance of really great insights to be had.
If you're looking for a 5 star Beatles book without the asterisk, Lewisohn's Tune In is without the slightest doubt the gold standard in terms of both content and narration. Can't Buy Me Love is also fantastic.
any beatles fan will enjoy this. especially for the track by track behind-the-scenes. the author ticked me off a few times when criticizing the structure of many late beatles favorites. He seems to prefer older pre LSD Beatles tracks. Give it a listen: Warning. if you are a true beatles lover, you might disagree with some of his opinons.
"What a pleasure!"
I knew of this famous book being the best history, but found it quite hard to read a friend’s copy I borrowed. Listening to it though made a real difference. Knowing the details of how they made the songs and what was going on in their lives has made my understanding of the Beatles music much richer. I like the variety of great voices, men and women. Superb.
Well I managed to listen to all over it in a few days - mainly on my computer's speakers - can't imagine I would have managed that had I been reading... books sometimes take weeks to read...
I enjoyed the little digs taken at the hippy movement... Was also v interested to learn about the history of the How Do You Do track. Had no idea about that...
Getting to hear people like Danny Baker and Dave Hepworth narrating...
Made me happy to live in a country with such a rich cultural history...
Definitely worth listening to...
"Fine book - variable reading performances"
Ian MacDonald's excellent dissection of every Beatles recording is essential reading for fans, although die hard fan-boys may take some of his opinions a little hard. Even I - more interested than fanatical - bristled a little at some of his critical comments about some of my favorite tracks - like "Nowhere Man" for instance. More often than not, though, he is bang on the money. He writes from a musician's point of view, and some non-musicians may find some of his references to keys and scales tricky. Most, however, will hang on in there. His rather academic introduction to the book may also alienate some, particularly as it is read by David Morrissey, not the most expressive of readers. The rest of the book is disconcertingly read. Robyn Hitchcock reads over half of it, and this is fine, but the other readers only take small chunks, and I found the change overs a little jarring. Just as I was enjoying (for instance) David Hepworth's amused reading or Danny Baker's enthusiastic section they ended, just leaving me wanting more. This "relay" process was, I think, a tribute to MacDonald from people who knew and worked with him, but on balance, I'd rather have had Hitchcock read the whole thing.
"Not what I expected!"
I thought I would hear about the social and plural influences on The Beatles music, and vice versa. However, it starts with a summary of the sixties which uses far too many long words to be comfortable. It resembles an academic work rather than a leisurely read.
This is followed by a comprehensive list of Beatles' recordings. Much of the detail of this is section was beyond my comprehension as I don't know the difference between an augmented 5th and a diminished 7th, if they exist. There were also many subjective critical comments about the value of the songs. I am one of gang who feel The Beatles did no wrong throughout there career so I am not happy hearing somebody say that any of the songs may have no worth.
Having said that, I did listen all the way through and some of it was of interest. On the whole I have to say that it is probably of more interest to a musician. It could have been so good.
"This is really something to Twist & Shout about!"
Revolution in the Head is an intriguing and revealing account of all things Beatles and the time in which they shined.
Listen to some of the bands most avid fans as they narrate an account of the journey though creating some of the most durable music in our existence …
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to these guys tell Ian MacDonald's non-fictional account who clearly writes with passion and energy.
I have yanked my albums off the shelf once again and have been listening abundantly!
Listen to this book!
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