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Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America Paperback – November 4, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307353389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307353382
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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

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Customer Reviews

I read library copy and purchased a copy to give as gift.
Eighteenth Letter
Jonathan Gould gives us a brilliant panoramic picture of the Beatles within the context of the British and American cultures of the middle of the last century.
Thomas M. Surmiak
Ultimately, this is a minor quibble ... but it diminishes the work a bit in my opinion.
Christian Thoma

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Richard Cumming on October 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By R. Riis VINE VOICE on November 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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 By Mark F. Putnam on November 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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 By J. Slott on May 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By Christian Thoma on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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