Erin and I are happy to announce that we’re taking our blog to the airwaves!

In this podcast, Erin and I will delve into the band’s historiography— the study of how their story has been told over time — by reviewing beatle biography in the context of its data sources, the objectives and biases of the individuals who have constructed its narratives, and the varying versions of Beatle history contained within its pages. It’s a podcast for Beatles lovers, readers, and history lovers alike. 

Stay tuned!

Controversial Cornerstones: Book Review: Martin King’s “Men, Masculinity and the Beatles”

Measuring the influence that a secondary work — most commonly a biography or a larger history — wields in a historiography is an effort that requires looking at various factors. Obviously, one of the most telling indications of a book’s influence involves its sales. This is a perfectly valid rubric: after all, even the most well-written, revelatory and well-researched book would have little-to-no impact if no one bothered to read it. Certainly, it’s no coincidence that many of the most influential books in the band’s historiography — The Authorized Biography, Shout!, Revolution in the Head, The Beatles Anthology, Tune In — are also among the works that have moved the most copies, and are available in multiple, revised editions.

But attention to sales is only part of the picture. What’s easier to overlook, but just as crucial to the influence wielded by a secondary source, is the ripple effect involved when certain works become widely regarded cornerstones of a historiography. These works are then granted further validity when other secondary authors, both popular and academic, employ them as research tools, basing significant elements of their own interpretation on those provided by the cornerstone works. In this pattern, these other authors who unquestioningly use it become implicitly invested in affirming the cornerstone work; by using it in their own studies, they incidentally buttress its reputation, perpetuate the original work’s findings and spread its influence.

Continue reading

Half of What I Say: Book Review: Ray Connolly’s Being John Lennon: A Restless Life

A rule of thumb in Roman history involves diligent analysis of the memoirs from one of its greatest, most famous figures: Julius Caesar. It is widely acknowledged among historians that Caesar’s recollections habitually overestimated the strength of his enemy’s numbers, ensuring that his own military victories appeared that much more impressive. For students and historians of Rome, this requires analyzing Caesar’s memoirs – such as The Conquest of Gaul – with an acknowledgement of that habit of self-serving hyperbole. Indeed, Gilbert Garraghan could very well have had Caesar in mind when describing, in A Guide to Historical Method, a habit of exaggeration as an element that historians must acknowledge in those sources that possess it.

Continue reading

The Brothers McCartney: Book Review: The Macs

One of the criticisms various Beatles fans leveled at Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In is the relative lack of attention paid to the death of Mary McCartney. The event, its emotional aftermath, and the presumed psychological and emotional consequences it had on her widower, Jim, youngest son, Mike, and, oldest son, Paul, receives roughly half of the page coverage devoted to the death of Julia Lennon. For a Beatles historiography which has tended, over the decades, to zero in on John’s trauma while seemingly neglecting that of the band’s other members – Ringo’s childhood health struggles, for example – this lack of equal page time from the band’s preeminent historian on a subject which many fans felt had already been inadequately explored left them disappointed.

Continue reading

Get Back: The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster

[Ok, beatle history peeps: while Erin is recuperating from childbirth I thought I would post this book review I wrote for Hey Dullblog awhile back.  Looking forward to your comments. KH]

Get Back: The Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster (Doug Sulpy and Ray Schweighardt, 1994)

In January, 1969, The Beatles began a project that ostensibly marked their return to concert performances, something they hadn’t done in over three years. The project was the brainchild of Paul McCartney, who hoped that performing before a live audience would restore the group’s fading morale and creative ennui.  Michael Lindsay-Hogg was hired to direct a television documentary which was slated to accompany the concert’s live television broadcast.

Continue reading

“Some Other Kind of Mind:” Book Review, The Beatles with Lacan, by Henry Sullivan, Part II.

Authorial speculation and armchair psychoanalysis theorizing that John Lennon’s undoubtedly unstable parenting situation and the conflict between his Aunt Mimi and mother Julia provoked deep trauma and emotional instability in the artist’s life and psyche is not new. References to the emotional tumult caused by Lennon’s early childhood can be found as early as Michael Braun’s work Love Me Do and now can be found in virtually every major contemporaneous work in Beatles historiography.

Continue reading