Bookshelf: Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and The Sixties

This “Bible of the Beatles” captures the iconic band’s magical and mysterious journey from adorable teenagers to revered cultural emissaries. In this fully updated version, each of their 241 tracks is assessed chronologically from their first amateur recordings in 1957 to their final “reunion” recording in 1995. It also incorporates new information from the Anthology series and recent interviews with Paul McCartney. This comprehensive guide offers fascinating details about the Beatles’ lives, music, and era, never losing sight of what made the band so important, unique, and enjoyable.

About the Author
Ian MacDonald was a songwriter, a record producer, and the author of The Beatles at No. 1, The New Shostakovich, and The People’s Music. He died in 2003.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist
There's certainly no shortage of books on the Beatles. In this latest one, MacDonald--musician, composer, and former New Musical Express editor--purports to do something different by putting the group in the cultural context of its decade. His observations on the 1960s, fortunately confined largely to an introductory section, are, however, too often distressingly obvious. He's far more successful when he focuses on the music with a song-by-song chronicle of the group's career. Other Beatles books have taken the same approach, but MacDonald's incorporates session information from Mark Lewisohn's Complete Beatles Recording Sessions (1988), and it details the group's musical development and growing reliance on the recording studio and then makes some cogent observations on both the culture and the music. He makes the tie-in to 1960s culture most effectively through a month-by-month time line that follows the song-by-song main text and places the Beatles' history next to developments in world affairs and pop culture. Even if your Beatles shelf is groaning, MacDonald's work will be a useful addition. Gordon Flagg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews
An ideal pathfinder on the Beatles' long and winding road from moptops to magi--insightful, informative, contentious, and as ambitious and surprising as its heroes. Popular music criticism is often a thankless task, falling uneasily between mindless hype and lugubrious academicism. MacDonald, former deputy editor of New Musical Express, adroitly bridges that gap, taking the factual chassis--recording session data, itineraries, etc.--laboriously assembled by Beatlemaniacs like Mark Lewisohn and bringing to bear a fan's enthusiasm, a musicologist's trained ear, and a critic's discernment to produce the most rigorous and reliable assessment of the Beatles' artistic achievement to date. Advancing chronologically through the songs, MacDonald provides an encyclopedic wealth of biographical, musical, and historical detail, yet always keeps his eyes on the prize--the uniquely rich elixir the group distilled from these disparate elements. He considers the Beatles on their own musical and cultural terms, taking his cue from contemporary influences (rhythm-and-blues, soul, and the supercharged social crucible of the '60s), rather than straining for highbrow parallels in Schoenberg or Schubert--you'll find no reference to the infamous ``Aeolian cadences'' of ``This Boy'' here. MacDonald makes no bones about his own critical convictions: He prefers the artful structures of pop, its ``energetic topicality'' that ``captures a mood or style in a condensed instant,'' to rock's ``dull grandiosity,'' a shift he attributes to a general retreat since the '60s away from depth and craftsmanship into spectacle and sensation. Accordingly, he champions the pop classicism of the Beatles' early-middle period, culminating in Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, and in his most memorably acerbic passages deplores the rockist leanings of their later work: ``Helter Skelter,'' for instance, is dismissed as ``ridiculous, McCartney shrieking weedily against a backdrop of out-of-tune thrashing.'' The ultimate Beatles Bible? Certainly a labor of love, and all the more valuable for holding the Fabs to the highest critical standards. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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