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Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties Paperback – 4 Dec 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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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: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is meticulously well researched and almost unique in offering a separate analysis of every single song written and recorded by the Beatles between 1962 and 1970, including a small number that remain unreleased even to this day. For the most part, the book is very readable and stimulating. However, a close study of the text soon reveals that the late Ian MacDonald's real passion was the music the Beatles made in the second half of the 1960s (essentially from 'Revolver' onward). The author is opinionated and seems to regard the group's earlier work as an apprenticeship for the creative surge they experienced once the influence of drugs and psychedelia started to take hold in the 1966-67 period. Unfortunately - and even allowing for the subjectivity of individual tastes - this bias towards the later material has a distorting effect and undermines the book's credibility. MacDonald depicts all the early albums as 'hit-and-miss' affairs, as if half the tracks were little more than fillers or frivolous dance music for impressionable teenagers. Some of the early Lennon & McCartney songs come in for particularly harsh and unwarranted criticism (e.g. 'Do you want to know a secret?', which the author believes 'over-stays its welcome' at just under 2 minutes long. Does anyone else agree with that?). I would wager that there will be very few Beatles fans out there who will find this approach to analysing the band's career less than totally infuriating. The point here is not that the band is beyond criticism; far from it - they occasionally displayed poor taste and their post-1967 output was certainly erratic.Read more ›
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