A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I’d always thought of The Rough Guides as travel books, so was startled to see this on the shelf, but later discovered the publishers have a whole division devoted to music. It’s a surprisingly thorough book, one that can telescope from details to overview in a smooth way.
Divided into sections, it covers every sort of project concerning The Beatles as solo artists as well as in the group. That includes books, artwork, films and television appearances. There’s also a list of projects proposed that were never realized, some thankfully, such as a film idea of “The Beatles Meet Elvis Presley” which was awkward enough when it actually happened. There are sidebars discussing pertinent, but offbeat items such as the Saturday morning cartoon series and The Rutles, a Monty Python takeoff on the whole Fab Four phenomenon, which I recall watching as a teen.
My favorite portion was called “The Canon”, of what the author considers the 50 Greatest Beatles songs. Each song is presented with backstory, some technical musical details and references to it in interviews or press clippings and often, the context in which it was written; meaning what else was going on with The Beatles at the time.
Some parts are for diehard fans, such a the assorted personalities dubbed “the Fifth Beatle” at various points, which list some obscure names, as well as the expected ones such as Billy Preston and George Martin. There’s a small amount of padding, such as a price list for certain memorabilia and well known quotes, but those are only a few pages. There are many black and white photos through the book, candids, movie stills and promotional pics. As always, it’s fascinating watching their looks change, sometimes drastically, through the years. Over all, this would be a good resource for both longtime and new Beatles fans, as it’s enjoyable as well as educational.
Rough Guides Ltd. 3rd edition 2009 326 pp. ISBN 978-1-84836-525-4