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Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties [Paperback]

Ian MacDonald
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
RRP: 10.99
Price: 7.69 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

4 Dec 2008

As dazzling as the decade they dominated, The Beatles almost single-handedly created pop music as we know it. Today, their songs are cited as seminal influences by stars like Oasis and Blur. Eloquently giving voice to their time, The Beatles quite simply changed the world.

Fully updated to include material from The Beatles Live at the BBC and the Anthology series, this acclaimed book goes back to the heart of The Beatles - their records. Drawing on a unique resource of knowledge and experience to 'read' their 241 tracks - chronologically from their first amateur efforts in 1957 to 'Real Love', their final 'reunion' recording in 1995 - Ian MacDonald has created an engrossing classic of popular criticism in which the extraordinary songs of The Beatles remain a central and continually surprising presence.

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Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties + The Beatles: The Authorised Biography + You Never Give Me Your Money: The Battle For The Soul Of The Beatles
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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 2nd Edition edition (4 Dec 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099526794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099526797
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"The finest piece of fabs scholarship ever published" (Mojo)

" The masterpiece The Beatles deserved" (Max Bell Vox)

"The most sustained brilliant piece of pop criticism and scholarship for years. An astonishing achievement" (Stuart Maconie Q)

" No book has ever taken us closer to the actual music of The Beatles...A brilliant piece of work" (Tony Parsons Daily Telegraph)

" Consistently brilliant. The Beatles have never been so discriminately adored" (Robert Sandall Sunday Times)

Book Description

This extraordinary work of popular criticism provides the story behind every single Beatles song ever recorded. Unprecedented and unparalleled.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Peerless 10 Dec 2008
This book details every known song the Beatles ever recorded from Love Me Do to Real Love, giving details of composition, recording, release and any other relevant info. It also includes a long introductory essay and a few shorter ones interspersed analysing 60's society and culture, and the Beatles place therein. At various points in the individual song entries, MacDonald also gives psychological analyses of the Beatles and their relationships with each other and all the factors that affected them.

MacDonald was a teenager during the sixties and clearly has a lifetime interest in the Beatles, though he is highly critical of their actions and their music, at times. It is this lack of sentimentality and nostalgia, as well as his considerable erudition and musical knowledge, that makes this book such a standout. His opinions, sometimes deviating from the critical consensus, are always objectively reasoned, and his negative judgements of such sacred cows as "All you need is Love" and "Across the Universe", are completely justified, in my opinion, and his contention that the Beatles' quality control and capacity for self-criticism went out the window post-Sgt. Pepper (expanded upon in the entry for "Magical Mystery Tour")is also a key point in considering their later work.

Some have suggested a pro-McCartney bias in this book, but this is a valid recognition of McCartney's greater work ethic and musical technique. He does not fail to recognise McCartneys "patronising" attitude to Harrison and Starr and pours scorn on Macca's "granny songs" like "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Some great reviews have already been written on this book, which has its firm place among my favourite Beatles literature. I agree with most of them, and don't have to add anything new - except for the following:

I was more than thrilled to see a "Third Revised Edition" had been published in 2008, this time not by Pimlico but Vintage Books. Ian MacDonald, the author, died after having prepared the "Second Revised Edition" (Pimlico) that came out in 2005. So I wondered if/how another revision could have possibly improved the book. The answer is, not at all.

The only time "THIRD" is mentioned is on the cover. Once you open the book, you get the 100% same content as before. It is here (inside) where they inform you that this is really the "Second Revised Edition", now published by them instead of Pimlico. Not a word was changed from the original second edition.

I would call this bad business practice or, more directly, a rip-off. They lie to you, and to me it doesn't look like an "accident". They've gotten away with this for two years now.

So, if you already own the second edition (same cover design), there is no reason to spend your money on this "third" one. Unfortunately I did, so I found out the hard way (and returned it to Amazon).
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Revolution in the Head is one of those books that is impossible to put down once started. Nor can it be read just once. Every piece of information Ian McDonald provides is riveting and describes not just the writing and recording process, but the cultural and personal back stories behind each song and each band member.

The power of this book is the fresh light it throws on the Beatles as a dynamic unit, their thought processes, their relationships with the other Beatles and the outside world and their general approach to life encapsulated whilst writing and recording songs. Although muscicians will appreciate the detailed analysis of the songs' structure, it is not just a musicians' book, neither is it strictly for Beatles fans. But as it says on the cover, you will want to return to your record collection and hear the songs again in a re-evaluated light.

Although the author includes every song recorded by the band, he quite rightly only concentrates his efforts on those songs worth evaluating. So, for example 'A Day in the Life' covers about 5 pages, whereas 'Baby You're a Rich Man' barely receives a paragraph. McDonald is not afraid to criticise band members as well as the song when required, but his criticisms are always supported with strong arguments and are often even-handed. This is summed-up perfectly in his analysis of the the friction between Lennon and McCartney towards the break-up, by way of his evaluation of 'The Long and Winding Road', which is nothing short of exceptional. Neither Lennon or McCartney come out on top, instead you feel that you have been given a priviledged insight into the minds of two great artists, who had their own agendas for their own reasons.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the very best Beatles books 13 Jan 2009
The late Ian MacDonald's Revolution In The Head is, if not the best book on the music of The Beatles, certainly the best written, and arguably the most interesting. Comprising a mixture of fact and opinion, always set in the context of The Beatles total output, their lives in general, and the Sixties overall, it always holds the interests even when the author holds opinions one may not agree with. And the quality of the prose is a delight come what may.

This is a book I return to again and again.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsessive
This book was recommended to me as a Beatles fan Now I can't listen to any Beatles track without reference to the book ! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ceedee
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive guise
All Beatles fans should own this book. Amazing facts as well as an unbiased view of the songs and their composition
Published 1 month ago by david sevage
1.0 out of 5 stars ian McDonald ain't dead . . .
. . . he just disappeared up his own Arse. A more pretentious load of bollix I have yet to find. Seriously looking forward to reading this after the reviews but if you wanna know... Read more
Published 3 months ago by G. A. King
4.0 out of 5 stars flawed masterpiece
I'd like to give this book five stars as I'd like as many music enthusiasts as possible to read it. It is so full of fascinating, insightful and entertaining content. Read more
Published 3 months ago by fraxinus
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Have
If you are a fan of the Beatles at all, then this is a "MUST HAVE" book.

Every recording session, and reason behind what they wrote and why they wrote it... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mike
2.0 out of 5 stars McCartney doesn't like it
It's become a self-enforcing myth that Ian McDonald offers deep insight into the world of The Beatles. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Batuta
5.0 out of 5 stars bought for a uni module... loved it
such an interesting read and gives such great detail to every song. highly recommend to anyone interested in learning the stories behind the music.
Published 6 months ago by Jamespeach
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
I would recommend this book to anyone who was around at the time of the Beatles, and to anyone who wasn't and wishes they had been. Read more
Published 7 months ago by northlink
5.0 out of 5 stars Really informative read
If you like The Beatles and want to know the background to thier songs this is a must read. Full of interesting facts.
Published 10 months ago by Chay
5.0 out of 5 stars YES IT IS
If you are a Beatles fan this is a must. Also anyone interested in the sixties you won’t regret reading it. Read more
Published 11 months ago by REDSHIRT
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