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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding -- overlook the bits of musical criticism
Fellow super-picky Beatles listeners and book aficionados, we have a winner. This six-hundred-page surprise is exceptionally insightful and well written. It even startles you with brilliant bits of humor when you're least expecting them. In spite of getting a few lyrics wrong (at least, according to my ears), he's written a book about the Beatles and their impact for the...
Published on 15 Oct. 2007 by ABQChris

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An odd book
This was supposed to be a book that encompasses UK AND US opinions. I am not a Beatles fanatic but turned to what he says about the Ed Sullivan show which I thought was one of the breakthrough moments. There are two pages about how it was arranged but then . . . nothing. What happened on the show? What was Sullivan's opinion? What was the press comment? I hunted through...
Published on 12 Mar. 2012 by David R. Patten


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding -- overlook the bits of musical criticism, 15 Oct. 2007
By 
ABQChris (Albuquerque, NM) - See all my reviews
Fellow super-picky Beatles listeners and book aficionados, we have a winner. This six-hundred-page surprise is exceptionally insightful and well written. It even startles you with brilliant bits of humor when you're least expecting them. In spite of getting a few lyrics wrong (at least, according to my ears), he's written a book about the Beatles and their impact for the benefit of - are you sitting down? - intelligent adults who appreciate the watertight application of a wide vocabulary.

Regrettably, as with too many books that center on the work of musical artists, it's tarnished by negative criticism of many songs - even entire album-sides, written off with incongruent flippancy. Nobody would suggest that every piece of music the group recorded is fantastic, but this berating adds nothing, merely detracting from the astute bulk of the book. Why does everyone who writes a Beatles volume feel that he must intermittently assume the musically cynical, aloof and utterly useless role of "music critic"? It's not as if it changes people's tastes, or the way the music sounds coming out of the speakers.

The irrelevant disapproval periodically pulls the book down from its otherwise enlightening and highly erudite bearing into the realm of subjectivity; and the charm of the early recordings is, for some reason, almost entirely lost on the author. The author's historical and sociological context-painting of the Beatles' music is remarkable, so the criticism's unnecessary.

Anyway, the immaterial tracts of negative opinion aside, the book is superb, and this is coming from an extremely picky reader/writer (no kidding, right?) whose favorite Beatles books include their own Anthology, Recording the Beatles, the Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, An Oral History and the incredibly good Many Years From Now (the best non-technical books tend to consist mainly of interview sections, rather than merely the author's removed take - for obvious reasons). Gould's book is added to my list of absolute favorites.

If the occasional inaccuracy doesn't annoy the reader too much, this book pleasantly separates itself from the ever-growing stack of "I wasn't there" accounts with a writing style that gloriously refuses to dumb itself down, insight worth its weight in syllables (for once), and a rare capacity for making dyed-in-the-skull music sound fresh. It's unquestionably worth reading - more than once, in fact, given the sheer amount of gossip-free historical and musical perception - to anyone who likes the Beatles' music and is interested in the environmental circumstances under which such revolutionary work buds, blossoms and thrives.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, and defining take on the Beatles phenomenon!, 11 Feb. 2008
By 
Apollo 11 (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Way beyond being just another book about the Beatles, Gould's weighty tome is, as the sub-title (The Beatles, Britain & America) suggests, an equal-shares analysis of the revolutionary social, industrial and cultural events that occured in the two key geographical markets, that in turn generated the global Moptop phenomenon.

As much an investigation into the cementing of pop music potential, celebrity culture, and mass market appeal, as it is the tale of four lads that made some great music together, by laying open the state of mass media, art, and society in general during the 60s, into which he can then introduce the Beatles, Gould expertly recreates a controlled and well structured - and very well written - explosion of events that proves far more unintended and out of control than inherited media myth would have us believe.

In fact, by stating that the band were more of a lightening rod than freak of nature, Gould actually presents a highly compelling and well thought out formula of events - one, that as the Beatles myth ceases to rebalance itself - some uberfans or less well informed industry-fed (and lazy) journos might find painfully counter to their beliefs.

So, whilst the coming together of John, Paul, George and Ringo can truly be seen as a sparking of collective natural talent, it was in fact the pent-up powder keg of social, industrial and media developments post-WWII that actually casued the tremors. Blessed with unbelievably good fortune, the quartet's success was, as Gould repeatedly illustrates, more like a synergic Big Bang for our times, than the now self-perpetuating myth of Beatles as gods rising amongst mere mortals. And in doing so, helps refocus our attentions to the real sources of heat and light, force and effect during that time.

However, that's not to say Can't But Me Love is some kind of scientific exercise in spiritual debunking. Rather, it is a fascinating, and extremely enjoyable and revealing historical study of how our current age jolted into being during the Sixties, perpetuated by the gigantic tsumani the Beatles rode.

And in doing so, Gould also enables us to see how they might have become sick of their band, being themselves more often than not propelled by forces beyond their control. So, whilst they undoubtedly provided a soundtrack of revolutionary, and highly creative musical expression, they also endured the beginning - and to some extent proved to be the apex, to which others would merely be retreads - of the now bittersweet concentric worlds of pop music evangelism, celebrity culture, and mass produced art redundancy, as we have come to know them.

A brilliant book, and one that should be read by anyone with more than a passing interest in the state of the world in which we life today: one that is equal parts joyous in the fruits of youth, great tunes and acts of fabulous imagination, but also polluted with hype and narcissism.

My only criticism is that Gould can get bogged down in musical terms at times, with too many references to triads and time signatures that left me excluded. But, for the sake of writing a truly brilliant record of the Beatles event, I think this is but a quibble - and one that shouldn't rob him of a five-star rating for 20 years of work very, very well done!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite Beatle books, 16 July 2008
By 
There's a lot to like about this book so I won't repeat the other reviews... I think they have it about right. The main thing I'd like to add is about the album "reviews". I have to agree with the others to some extent - I don't like everything Gould says about the songs, but...

In a book like this it's inevitable some kind of analysis of the releases has to be included, otherwise it would be limited to factual details... much like a discography. So given that he's going to assess the songs themselves Gould is bound to be subjective, and after all that's what we're buying: his opinion in many instances.

That said, a lot of his comments about the songs are enlightening and (reflecting one of the big strengths of the whole book) place the releases in context with contemporary and previous releases by other artists. Having read Ian Macdonald's Revolution in the Head: The "Beatles" Records and the Sixties cover-to-cover more than once I didn't think there could be that much more to add.

Overall this is a great Beatle book and one I'll read again and refer to for its excellent narrative thread and context. There is a rather flat spot for me when he discusses Jungian "band psychology" but that's a minor blip and some people might dig it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inspired vignettes, 20 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (Paperback)
I wish I had more time to post a thorough review of this book, but maybe it doesn't matter because the only way to do it justice would be simply to quote virtually the entire text. If there is a flaw, it is that the last part of the book, being merely excellent, finds itself overshadowed by the central bulk, which for my money earns the adjective "incomparable" (in the canon of Beatle writing). Inevitably a great deal of the biographical material will be familiar, but the backstory is told economically, and vividly enough to feel fresh. Even here Gould is able to tease out some interesting and surprising insights. The analysis of the social and political context of the Beatles' impact on America is masterfully done and very credible. But in my opinion the core of the book is his evocation, against this background, of the music itself. Of course you will have reservations about some of his own valuations of iconic tracks (I dare say none of us has ever read a Beatles book without raising an eyebrow or two at the author's incomprehensibly poor opinion of some song that we reckon a masterpiece), but I have to say that many times I found Gould's verbal evocations (and I use that word carefully, because that is what they are) to be nothing short of inspired. I had numerous "aha!" and "Yes, of course!" moments as the inner character of some track from Revolver or Pepper was revealed afresh by Gould's beautifully judged vignettes. Next best thing to listening! An essential companion to the very best of Beatles literature. Buy immediately.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Having read the book - not perfect, but one of the best you'll find, 4 Feb. 2010
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (Paperback)
One of the best Beatles bios to date.
Unusually, perhaps uniquely, it consists of both an exhaustive, authoritative biography of the group and a critical musical analysis of the recordings. (The latter feature is somewhat like a condensed version of Ian MacDonald's unsurpassable "Revolution in the head" - read this if you haven't already.)
Gould succeeds in placing the emergence and development of the Beatles in the context and society of BOTH sides of the Atlantic. As an obvious Anglophile, he is not subject to the view sometimes expressed or implied by American authors that the group were "unknown" until January 1964 (until then they had achieved little, e.g. only minor feats like releasing back-to-back the UK's two best-selling singles ...). He clearly favours the original UK programming of their LPs, in contrast to Capitol's approach of spreading tracks out to invent extra albums. (Rolling Stone once referred to "Beatles VI" as a concept; sorry guys, the concept was purely a marketing one.) I noticed only one gaffe, the mention of "the A1 motorway from London to Birmingham" - rather as if a Brit referred to the Chicago-LA highway as "I66!" To be less facetious, Gould does very occasionally revert to a US-centric view; for example, in mentioning the three Motown covers on "With the Beatles", he says that at the time Motown were outselling all labels except Columbia and RCA. The point is that Motown had hardly dented the UK charts then, so their catalogue provided the Beatles with a source outside the mainstream UK market.
(Folks - I have no axe to grind against the US, on the contrary, I have American cousins - I'd just like it remembered that with the Beatles we did, for once, re-export to the US with dramatic success!)
Gould's literary turn of phrase is refreshing, e.g. his contrast of the two major UK groups of the 60s - the Beatles as "a bright Apollonian sun" and the Stones as a "pale Dionysian moon". At one point he goes into Pseuds' Corner; in arguing that "Lovely Rita" is "lewd", he describes Paul's bassline as onanistic (not the word he uses, but you get the message). Come on Jonathan - many of us would apply this description metaphorically to much of Paul's post-Beatles work, but not to "Pepper", literally or otherwise!
Gould also gives credit to one of his precursors, Hunter Davies; while critical of some limitations of Davies' "The Beatles", he gives it full credit as "the first serious book" ever written about a rock group.
Overall, if you were there it will bring it back to you and put it in perspective; if you weren't, it will give you a pretty good idea.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Beatle book for the Non Fan, 10 Aug. 2013
By 
B (Ireland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (Paperback)
If you a Beatle obsessed anorak and you want one book for your partner to read to share your fascination with the Beatles phenomenon - this is the one. A long highly readable tome that sets events in a sociological, historical and cultural context. The literary style is about the best of any Beatles tome I have read and its worth reading in its own write on that basis, simply as a good factual book about cultural history. (Has to be said the literary standard of Beatles books rarely rises above pot boiler. Most are cash-ins). This is a labour of love that probably took a decade or more to write. Gould is not a professional writer turning out a book a year and his devotion to the subject of Beatles astonishing ability to surpass expectations shines through, cooling when the Lennon-McCartney relationship begins to melt down from May 1968 to the dismal break up and dismally anticlimactic solo careers.
With musical criticism Gould gives level-headed consensus reviews neither myopic nor eccentric. Good songs are not trashed here and the best is warmly praised. It is for the literate writing and the sociological context (eg in parallels between John Osbournes look back In Anger and the angry young man that was John Lennon ) where Gould produces one of the key Beatles books. Anoraks are better with Mark Lewisohn's Books eg The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions but for friends and partners and unfanatical this is the best available.
Weaknesses - the title! Hardback versions of this under publicised book can be found in charity shops for a song.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book, 26 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (Paperback)
This is a really excellent book. It tries to create a broad picture of the Beatles period rather than give a list of events . This can lead to some events being shortchanged eg The Ed Sullivan concerts and perhaps George Martins influence. However on the other hand the writer will very often pursue an event and give a new insight (and after 15 Beatle books I greatly appreciate a new insight!). However if you want to know about the Beatles and that time and read a very well written book-this is it.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly Perfect..., 22 Jan. 2008
By 
Michael A. Ash "Boro Boy" (Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A cracking read that flows like a novel - any Beatles fan shouldn't be disappointed with this offering. I found it hard to put the book down as it's nicely written and successfully places the Band in a broader social context. Yet it's certainly not a book intended solely for sociologists or academics as it still charts the band's story in a nice chronological order.

Why nearly perfect? 2 things....

Firstly the author continually critques all songs and subjects us to his subjective opinion. This is despite also making several references to the fact Lennon and McCartney said many times 'we just write songs and people can interpret them how they like'. And that is the beauty of their music - so why continually subject us to one opinion in a book that attempts to encompass a far broader and objective perspective?

Secondly - I don't reead / write / understand music so the substansial material on how each song was musically composed meant nothing to me - and I literally had to skip these pages which was very frustrating.

Still - I'd absolutely recommend the book as it's brillaintly researched and a pleasure to read. Just a shame about the above two aspects...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As thrilling as the best novel, 20 July 2009
By 
Hans Lund (Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (Paperback)
Jonathan Gould manage to describe the myth about The Beatles in a very breathtaking and exiting way. I was not able to stop reading until finished. I can recommend this book to everyone who would like to know more about The Beatles in particular and the development of the rock music in the sixties in general.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An odd book, 12 Mar. 2012
By 
This review is from: Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America (Paperback)
This was supposed to be a book that encompasses UK AND US opinions. I am not a Beatles fanatic but turned to what he says about the Ed Sullivan show which I thought was one of the breakthrough moments. There are two pages about how it was arranged but then . . . nothing. What happened on the show? What was Sullivan's opinion? What was the press comment? I hunted through to see if some pages were missing, but no nothing.
There are also many pages on socio-economic changes and Kennedy and Cuba which I thought was stretching the topic a bit. He says it took 20 years to write: if he had taken less and restricted himself to at most 350 pages then it may have been a better book. Nothing that I could see about how they actually wrote their music: did they write it down? Who of them could read/write music? And more importantly there is almost nothing that I could see about what George Martin contributed? But then I did skip a lot, maybe it is there, but that's the trouble when you pick a book with waffle.
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Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America
Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America by Jonathan Gould (Paperback - 6 Nov. 2008)
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