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Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Gould
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Nearly twenty years in the making, Can’t Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can’t Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould seeks to explain why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social context that girded both their rise and their demise.

Beginning with their adolescence in Liverpool, Gould describes the seminal influences––from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to The Goon Show and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland––that shaped the Beatles both as individuals and as a group. In addition to chronicling their growth as singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, he highlights the advances in recording technology that made their sound both possible and unique, as well as the developments in television and radio that lent an explosive force to their popular success. With a musician’s ear, Gould sensitively evokes the timeless appeal of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration and their emergence as one of the most creative and significant songwriting teams in history. And he sheds new light on the significance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as rock’s first concept album, down to its memorable cover art.

Behind the scenes Gould explores the pivotal roles played by manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, credits the influence on the Beatles’ music of contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Ravi Shankar, and traces the gradual escalation of the fractious internal rivalries that led to the group’s breakup after their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Most significantly, by chronicling their revolutionary impact on popular culture during the 1960s, Can’t Buy Me Love illuminates the Beatles as a charismatic phenomenon of international proportions, whose anarchic energy and unexpected import was derived from the historic shifts in fortune that transformed the relationship between Britain and America in the decades after World War II.

From the Beats in America and the Angry Young Men in England to the shadow of the Profumo Affair and JFK’s assassination, Gould captures the pulse of a time that made the Beatles possible—and even necessary. As seen through the prism of the Beatles and their music, an entire generation’s experience comes astonishingly to life. Beautifully written, consistently insightful, and utterly original, Can’t Buy Me Love is a landmark work about the Beatles, Britain, and America.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. SignatureReviewed by Mark RotellaAs a teenager, I collected every album the Beatles put out, starting with their first U.S. release, 1964's Meet the Beatles, to their last, Let It Be, in 1970. As Paul sang Mother Mary comes to me/ speaking words of wisdom, I heard the wisdom of an aged sage.But as Jonathan Gould states in his brilliant biography of the Beatles, the band had effectively ended before any of them had reached the age of thirty. There have been several biographies of the band (including two outstanding ones, Bob Spitz's The Beatles and Devin McKinney's Magic Circles:The Beatles In Dream and History), but Gould leaves the gossip to others and instead relies on their music to tell the story, starting with the early days as a band in Liverpool (with Paul McCartney on guitar and Stuart Sutcliffe on bass) to the recordings at the Abbey Road studios in London (where Yoko became everpresent and George stormed out threatening to quit). They got their start in Hamburg, Germany, and were soon managed by a young, eager former furniture salesman named Brian Epstein, and produced by George Martin, a recording executive known for novelty records.Gould, a former musician, has written an engrossing book, both fluid and economical (aside from one overlong section on the concept of charisma). Page after page, you can hear the music; Gould's deft hand makes the book sing. This is music writing at its best.It begins with a musical wake-up call, Gould writes of A Hard Day's Night—the harsh clash of a solitary chord that hangs in the air for an elongated moment, its densely packed notes swimming into focus like eyes adjusting to the light. On Here Comes the Sun, Gould describes George's music, written as he became more steeped in Indian philosophy amidst turmoil within the band, as rays of sun cutting across the melting ice of winter... of coming through a long and arduous experience and emerging whole at the end.Focusing on the Beatles' influences, musical (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys) and otherwise (marijuana, LSD, the Maharishi Mahesh yogi), Gould elucidates the mystery of the band that changed the course of Western popular music. (Oct.)Mark Rotella, senior reviews editor at Publishers Weekly, is the author of The Saloon Singers, about the great Italian-American crooners, to be published by FSG in 2008.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gould's combination group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism artfully places the Beatles in their time and social context while examining with great skill how they became an international phenomenon comparable only to themselves. He examines cultural and historical moments on both sides of the Atlantic—the impact of John Osborne's epoch-making play Look Back in Anger, the arrival of Elvis Presley and the rise of rock and roll, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Summer of Love, Woodstock—while limning Liverpool, the working-class port city in England's industrial north from which the Beatles hailed, and the individual Beatles' strong senses of regional solidarity and fierce local patriotism. To understand the Beatles, Gould implies, you must understand where they came from. He follows them through their roller-coaster career: Hamburg, early days at Liverpool's Cavern Club, their "conquest" of America, the hysteria that came to be called Beatlemania, Sgt. Pepper's, and the eventual breakup. All bases are covered, but setting Gould's book apart are his careful dissection of cultural history and his astute critical eye (his masterful critiques of "Eleanor Rigby," "Penny Lane," "Strawberry Fields Forever," and "A Day in the Life," in particular, are miracles of economy). Long on history, short on gossip, he gives nuanced assessments of the world's most admired rock band and of its era. Sawyers, June

Product Details

  • File Size: 1246 KB
  • Print Length: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype; 1 edition (October 2, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,412 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars let's talk about their music October 8, 2007
Hundreds of books have been written about the Beatles. Jonathan Gould read a lot of them and he wasn't satisfied. They talked about almost every aspect of the Beatles except they seemed to flash right past one of the most important things, the thing we remember most, the music.

Gould, a musician, started this project 20 years ago. He looked at the Beatles from back at the very beginning-their roots. How did they become songwriters? How did Lennon and McCartney become such a wonderful songwriting team? Who were there major influences?

He doesn't rely on the memories of those who were there 50 years ago. Instead, he looks to the original sources, the music writers and fans of that time, in the words they wrote then.

He follows the Beatles course during their short but prolific time together. He looks at many of the songs and the stories behind them-the ideas that were formed in the studio and elsewhere, influences like India, drugs, women, philosophy, etc. Little tricks and accidents changed so many songs from what they might have been to something even better.

Throughout he plugs readers into what was happening in the world as the Beatles were making their indelible mark upon it.

'T is a thing of beauty. These things needed to be said.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual, musicological, yet entertaining December 5, 2007
Gould, a jazz player, spent two decades on this investigation. He combines the biographical range of an author like Bob Spitz with a deeper cultural insight that parallels if not intersects with Steven Stark, and he offers, as did Ian Mac Donald, a sophisticated analysis of many of their songs from a technically adept and closely observed musicologist's understanding.

Gould not only recites the familiar details, but explains their significance. For instance, Woolton is a suburb of Liverpool where Lennon was raised, but Gould places the locale in its suburban context vs. the supposedly working-class upbringing the maturing John was afforded. Instead of saying he dressed like a Teddy Boy, he goes on the place that movement within its psuedo-Edwardian origins in a war-straitened tailoring innovation that failed to catch on among the dandies so much as the sartorial rebels after the Second War. Such detail for many may be more than the reader may have bargained for, and as with the excursus upon Max Weber's theories, has surprised critics expecting another dutiful slog through accounts of Lennon wearing a toilet seat around his neck in Hamburg. Gould, to his credit, avoids the tiresome repetition.

When he discusses the Maharishi and his Transcendental Meditation, he opines how the guru proved a clever salesman who did not exactly tell the Beatles that the noun was much easier to attain than the adjective, so to speak! He handles the Eastman-Klein-NEMS negotiations in the same numbing detail that Spitz had, but adds to the discussion of these necessary facts an understanding of the reasons Lennon and McCartney may have desired such legal and managerial changes, why they picked who they did, and what blunders were made by all sides.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just another Beatles book November 3, 2007
After having read maybe a thousand books on the Beatles, what a treat to find a new one that is not only well-written and intelligent, but actually includes material I had not read or heard before. Everyone will have their favorite era and favorite part, but I especially enjoyed learning more about the very early days (1960-1961) when the band were acquiring their instrumental chops and soaking up lessons in songwriting and showmanship. A great book.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended! November 5, 2007
I teach a college course about The Beatles,and recently have re-read many of the best books about them, so when I first saw this book, I thought it would recycle the same old stories, but when I looked through it, I quickly saw the author provides much original, meaningful insight. If you're interested in the history of their music (rather than gossip), I highly recommend this.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable insights except when... May 21, 2008
Unlike some of the reviewers here I felt that this book's major strong points are when the author goes into a sociological and/or cultural analysis of The Beatles phenomena. For chapters like this, the book deserves five stars!
It's when he becomes a music reviewer that he delves into troubled waters. A few of his insights are interesting, but so many others are way, way over the top analysis-wise, and when he turns negative, whoa!
Music is something so personal for a lot of people. It's expected that one appreciate other's opinions. Still, no matter how open-minded one tries to be, it can be a bit psychologically unnerving to read such an obviously intelligent and learned individual put down one's favorite songs as either "a muddled-leaden mess" or "awkward-sounding rewrite... with... dreadful lyrics" or "an outright gaffe". It's as if someone is putting down the clothes you're wearing or the type of friends you keep.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cultural bio of the Beatles December 29, 2007
Phenomenal biography both of the Beatles and of their place in rock and roll history. I haven't read any of their other bios except for Geoff's, so I can't say how/if this is better than the others, but it does a lot well:
- Gives personal history without going into minutiae
- Discusses the Beatles' influences on a 'real-time' basis to their recordings (rather than just list them at the beginning, ignoring subsequent ones that emerge)
- Treats the Beatles as a singular entity for a large majority of their history; the closer you get to the end, the more individual each member becomes, so the biography starts to fray as the band did
- Goes into detail as to what made certain songs work (or not work)
- Keeps the music industry itself in the foreground, so you see the circular impacts as they occur
- With one small qualifier, easy to read (see flaws listed below)

There are two flaws in this book, though, that prevent me from giving it 5 stars:
The first flaw is that a lot of the songs are described in a manner that requires one to know music theory to appreciate (e.g. Yesterday is seven bars instead of the traditional eight, or the discussion of chord changes within a song). Fortunately, it's not overly cumbersome, and honestly does not constitute a large portion of the book, so you could probably get away with just nodding your head and pretending you understand what he's talking about, even if you don't.

The second flaw is one of interpretation; in the book he gives his interpretations as if they are what was intended by the Beatles. At the end of Day in the Life, there is a second orchestral bit followed by The Chord. The author equates it with For The Benefit of Mr.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Seemed like that is how the author wrote the book
Not enough about the Beatles personal lives. Too much detail about their music. Not difficult to do research about their songs without talking to each of the Beatles about their... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Eric
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting twist on my favorite banc
Published 1 month ago by R. C. M. Decker
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Beatles fans MUST own and read this book!
Published 6 months ago by Amazon User #1
3.0 out of 5 stars a big term paper
It borrows everyone else's research and compiles it into a compendium, but sadly slowly looses focus of the purported subject of the book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Peter Anagnostos
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a Bio That Tells Us What We Didn't Already Know
I want to strongly disagree with many of the reviewers here. Complaints about this book are 1) it delves into contemporary history when discussing the Beatles, and 2) it analyses... Read more
Published 17 months ago by James Abraham
3.0 out of 5 stars Good writing, but too many details in the wrong places and not enough...
An insightful but tedious read, this book focuses on the details of Hamburg's, Britain's and America's recent and contemporary history to provide a very rich, if often irrelevant... Read more
Published 20 months ago by E. Minkovitch
2.0 out of 5 stars It took him 20 years to write it and it takes about 20 years to read...
Two words: too much. I felt the true music of the Beatles was eclipsed by the minute details and the music criticism. Read more
Published 21 months ago by
2.0 out of 5 stars Um...couldn't make it through this one....
Like many others who've reviewed here, I've read many, many books on the Beatles. This one was a struggle for me. Read more
Published 22 months ago by B. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply amazing!
This is by far the best book about The Beatles I've ever read (... and I've read many!). Scholarly, complete, amazingly written. FIVE STARS!
Published on February 6, 2013 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Tought I bought a book about the Beatles
I have 2 main problems with the book. Other reviewers have mentioned both of them, so I won't go into too much depth. Read more
Published on January 21, 2013 by phillip anderson
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