A Hard Day’s Write –
The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song
By Steve Turner
Carlton Books – £20.00
‘’’This Boy’ was written by John and Paul in a hotel bedroom as an exercise in three-part harmony, which they had never attempted on record before, and was inspired, as so much else was at the time, by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. ‘’The middle eight,’’ said George, ‘’was John trying to do Smokey.’’’’
I don’t know about you, but as a Beatles fan, this is the sort of stuff that I never tire of reading about: golden nuggets of truly inspiring information regarding how some of the greatest pop songs ever written came into being. And this absolutely fabulous book, written by insatiable Beatles fan Steve Turner, is invitingly crammed full of the stuff from beginning to end.
Simply written and a joy to both behold and read, A Hard Day’s Write – The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song does indeed touch on every song during every era. It admittedly, doesn’t delve into the recording techniques of The Beatles, nor does it bequeath any major (new) analytical analysis upon the band’s extraordinary catalogue of material; something Turner makes clear at the outset of his Preface: ‘’[…] this is not a book about how the Beatles recorded the songs, nor about who played what on which sessions. Mark Lewisohn has done that job definitively in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions and anyone who writes about the Beatles now cannot fail to refer to Lewisohn’s book. I have only mentioned production details where they have had a significant bearing on the actual construction of a song, such as where George Martin suggested beginning a song with the chorus, or when lyrics were written or altered in the studio.’’
Due to this approach, A Hard Day’s Write may well appeal to the layman Beatles fan, rather than the tried and tested and read it all before Beatles fan. Many of whom, not only (think they) know all there is to know about the band, but are quite often unprepared to rediscover any of the initial madness and mayhem of Beatlemania – a period during which so many truly great songs were written.
As the author goes on to further qualify, the descriptions herein don’t necessarily stem from that of a dense and academic persuasion either: ‘’Neither is A Hard Day’s Write a book of in-depth musical analysis. I haven’t attempted to describe to the reader what he/she has been listening to for all these years in the language of pentatonic melismas and syncopated stresses. For a musicological approach to the Beatles, see Twilight Of The Gods by Professor Wilfrid Mellors (Schirmer Books, 1973) or the definitive The Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles by Dominic Pedler (Omnibus Press, 2003).’’
In short, this is the sort of read that gleans all that was and still is great about The Beatles, without traipsing into too much dry or scientific detail. It’s brimming with the sort of information quoted at the outset of this review and – as well as being littered with many black white/colour photographs of the band during the several stages of their career – there’s also something special about the way in which this book has been written and compiled. Whether or not this is partly due to it being a new and updated edition, is hard to tell. That it’s already sold in addition of 250,000 copies however, does in a way suggest there’s a certain quality amid these 217 pages. As Q Magazine’s Johnny Black is quoted as saying on the back cover: ‘’Written with the meticulous integrity of a first-rate journalist.’’
To quote and agree with Mojo’s Paul du Noyer, simply ‘’invaluable.’’