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Revolution in the Head: The "Beatles" Records and the Sixties Paperback – 8 Oct 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New ed of 2 Revised ed edition (8 Oct. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712666974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712666978
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 3.7 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 98,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"MacDonald's inspired critique has become the work against which all other Beatles books are measured."--"Observer" "Arguably the most indispensable Beatles book ever published has just become more indispensable."--"Uncut" "A triumph -- compelling, seductive, delightful."--Nick Hornby

About the Author

Ian Macdonald is a writer with an interest in and encyclopedic knowledge of many kinds of music. A former Assistant Editor of the NME, he has also worked as a songwriter and record producer. He is also the author of THE NEW SHOSTAKOVICH (Fourth Estate, 1990).

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 30 Dec. 2001
Format: Paperback
Having read tons of books & column inches about the Fab Four, I can honestly say that this book was a real breath of fresh air. It is a thoroughly interesting & entertaining read for anyone with the slightest interest in the Beatles. The introductory essay about the sixties helps to put the Beatles firmly into context, but the real pleasure comes from McDonald's analysis of the Beatles songs.
You may or may not agree with some of his comments, but they are thought provoking & usually spot on. I was outraged by his dismissal of 'Across the Universe', but unlike a previous reviewer I though his judgement of 'Helter Skelter' was absolutely accurate! This is an essential book for anyone interested in the Beatles. The only time you will put this book down is to put a Beatles record on to LISTEN with new ears. I can't recommend this book enough.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By tcbnyc on 1 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
After all that has been written about the Beatles you would think it would be impossible to offer real, fresh insight into their music. but this book does. McDonald explains in many cases what qualities make certain songs great or mediocre. And he is not afraid to voice unorhodox opinions, such as saying that "Day Tripper" is a rather tired song.( I don't agree, but I admire his candor.) He also has managed to break down the contributions of the individual Beatles to many of their songs. For instance, George Harrison made "Drive My Car" more of an homage to the Otis Redding records he was digging at the time by doubling a super-funky guitar and bass pattern. If you find these snippets fascinating, you'll find scores of them in Revolution in the Head. And like any well-written rock&roll read, it makes you want to listen to their songs all at once.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Dec. 2004
Format: Paperback
Not since Wilfred Mellors' "Twilight Of The Gods" has one man analysed The Beatles' songs in such consummate detail, and whereas Mellors' book concentrated on the musical side, in the sometimes baffling language of a trained musician (infectious though it was!) this book analyses the songs not only for their musical merit but for the impact they had or have in a historical context. An ambitious project for sure as we are no more than 40 years on from most of their recorded output. Analysing the work of, say Gilbert & Sullivan, is in the happy knowledge that their best known songs at least have lasted for 120+ years. But with The Beatles' songs it is harder to say which will be talked about in the 22nd Century! So we can perhaps forgive Macdonald for not heaping praise on EVERY track.
Having said that, I cannot help offering my subjective opinion. Why oh why does Macdonald dismiss "Across The Universe" as boring? Why does he slag off that great Side 3 opener from the White Album "Birthday" or even George's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" from the same album? Difficult to comprehend that one. Or why is he luke warm about "Obla-Di Obla-Da"? And utterly dismissive of "Maxwell". But it has to be said these are the exceptions, a handful out of 150+ songs. In most cases, he hits the nail right on the head in an incisive and intelligent manner which in fact has the effect of encouraging readers to dig the songs out and appreciate them if not in a new light at least with added insight into the meaning of the songs or the reason why they are such a class above most of what has come since. That is an admirable achievement these days when it is tempting for everyone to take this band for granted. History will not. My grandchildren can write this review in 75 years from now and prove me right.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a unique achievement. Two polemical theses (addressing firstly the decline of meaning over the past 40 years and then the role popular music played/plays in the social consciousness of the 1960s and 1990s) begin and end a fully comprehensive guide to every track The Beatles ever recorded. Equally comprehensive indices and references justify the facts thus imparted.
But, factually precise and encyclopedic as Revolution In The Head is, it is the spirit and style of the book that resound and remain with the reader. Ian MacDonald turns a series of recording notes into a classical tragedy. The rise, the peak and the fall of the first and greatest pop band to change the world becomes, through the intimate character portrayal, masterly musical/technical criticism and beautifully crafted historical detail, a story of individual ambition, brotherly love and jealousy, musical genius unbound, a society in flux and a centre that couldn't hold... It has an epic quality and a terrible sadness. I cried at the final words.
More importantly, perhaps, MacDonald identifies through his close examination of The Beatles where and how today's barren social, spiritual, personal mental environments were sown. The revolution of the title comes alive as historical fact as the story he tells confronts us with some unpleasant and highly plausible 'truths' about the way we live now. They are dark and unpleasant truths that in the end overwhelmed him - he took his own life last year, presumably depressed beyond salvation at how the high hopes of the glorious age and revolution he describes - a time when, to paraphrase another great commentator on the sixties, the energy of a generation united in a single flash of shared creativity - have been so savagely betrayed...
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