11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, thorough and insightful, but maybe not for the general reader,
This review is from: The Beatles as Musicians: The Quarry Men Through Rubber Soul (Paperback)
The first time I read (or tried to read) Walter Everett's two-volume study of the Beatles' musical development, I thought it was niggling, pedestrian and not a patch on Ian Macdonald's justly celebrated book "Revolution in the Head". That was a few years ago. In the meantime, my knowledge of music theory has advanced a good deal and I can now see that, far from being overly detailed supplements to Macdonald, Everett's books are in some ways much better.
What we have here is an Associate Professor of Music analysing the Beatles' music and providing a detailed commentary on how the Beatles' music does what it does. This is therefore a tricky read if you don't know the meaning of terms such as "voice leading", "Dorian mode" and "parallel fifths", and it also helps considerably if you can read music because there are a lot of (well-chosen) examples. If, however, your knowledge of theory is up to snuff, it's possible to appreciate something like Prof. Everett's seven-page analysis of "She Loves You" as truly enlightening.
His research is exceptionally wide-ranging. He seems to have listened to nearly every bootleg ever released, and although there are many transcriptions of the Beatles' music he has a properly sceptical attitude to the value of transcribing rock. He quotes a Paul story about George Martin having to write down "A Hard Day's Night", and asking Lennon what exactly was the note for "-innnng" as in "working like a dog" - was it a flat VII? A VI? Lennon thought about but didn't think that it was either, and Harrison suggested that it was "something in between". "Yeah," decided Lennon, "write *that* down."
He is an acute analyst of the Beatles as players, too, and offers one of the best arguments as to why Ringo was a better drummer than Pete Best (basically, Ringo was more imaginative). These books are far better than I thought they were on first reading, and must count as some of the best writing about the Beatles, but it has to be said that his caveat in the introduction is well taken: anyone without a reasonably advanced knowledge of music theory will not be able to see why the books are so good.
Although this book covers the earlier part of the Beatles' career, it was actually written after the volume that covers their later stuff (from "Revolver" to the later "Anthology" stuff), which I am now looking forward with intense excitement to re-reading.
Ian Macdonald's book cited above is a better book for the general reader, but as time goes by I get increasingly tired of Macdonald's apocalyptic and downbeat tone. His long and fascinating introduction climaxes in a despairing outburst about the total collapse of meaning and truth in contemporary Western society, which reads to me more like a symptom of the depression that would eventually cause Macdonald to take his own life. Everett, by comparison, is less pretentious and more convincing. Books like his are examples of the kind of fidelity to truth and scholarship which Macdonald seemed to fear had passed from the world.