The Stories Behind The Songs 1967 – 1970
By Steve Turner
Carlton Books – £9.99
This, the second of two books by Steve Turner on The Beatles: The Stories Behind The Songs (1967-1970) is as equally enjoyable and readable as the first.
It’s crammed with an assortment of facts, figures and snippets of groovy information, all of which will no doubt continue to resonate with Beatles fans far and wide, old and new.
The brief stories behind ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘I Am The Walrus’ alone, warrant its purchase: ‘’The Sprawling, disjointed nature of ‘I Am The Walrus’ owes much to the fact that it is an amalgamation of at least three song ideas that John was working on, none of which seemed quite enough in its own right. The first, inspired by hearing a distant police siren while at home in Weybridge, started with the words ‘Mis-ter c-ity police-man’ and fitted the rhythm of the siren. The second was a pastoral melody about his Weybridge garden. The third was a nonsense song about sitting on a corn flake.’’
The author makes clear at the outset, that this is by no means an in-depth analysis of the band’s work. It’s a simple dip in, dip out, kind of reference book, which gives readers a brief overview of The Beatles recordings during the four years in question. And as the above example shows, light is shed upon the kernel of almost every song’s construction throughout the period, along with every corresponding release date and highest chart position (in both the UK and America).
As mentioned in my earlier review, there’s always something new to learn about The Fabs and their colossal body of mesmerising work – no matter how minimal! For instance, Paul McCartney did sixty-seven takes of ‘I Will’ (with Ringo Starr playing a cymbal and maracas and John Lennon tapping the rhythm with a piece of wood). That it was the first of his songs to be written about Linda, McCartney was ‘’still adding and changing lines as it was being recorded.’’
Moreover, the one prime difference between this book and the first is the band’s partially reported demise around the recording of the Let It Be album; which, as an ardent fan of The Beatles, makes for slightly hesitant reading within the context of their musicality. In relation to ‘Carry That Weight’ (off Abbey Road), Turner writes: ‘‘the lyric expressed Paul’s fears about The Beatles in their twilight days. He later said that the arguments over finance and management plunged him into the ‘darkest hours’ of his life so far. The atmosphere around The Beatles had changed from light to heavy: ‘At certain times, things get to me so much that I can’t be upbeat anymore, and that was one of the times,’ he told his biographer Barry Miles.’’
There may be a couple of spelling errors here and there, but as U2’s Bono states on the back cover: ‘’I am a huge fan of The Beatles: The Stories Behind The Songs. It’s an inspiring and humbling book.’’