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The Gospel According to the Beatles Hardcover – August 3, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1967, drug guru Timothy Leary proclaimed, "[T]he message from Liverpool is the Newest Testament, chanted by Four Evangelists—saints John, Paul, George, and Ringo." Leary certainly captured the feelings of a generation pursuing freedom from old social conventions and searching for love in the lyrics, looks and music of the Beatles. In less than a decade, the group evolved from the fun-loving frantic boys of A Hard Day's Night (1964) to the philosophical poets of Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970), weaving more references to religion and spirituality into their music. Acclaimed pop music writer Turner (A Man Called Cash) unsuccessfully attempts to reveal the "gospel" of the Fab Four in this plodding book. He recounts the already well-known biographies of each Beatle, pointing out that each had some early brushes with either the Church of England or Roman Catholicism. Turner takes John Lennon's now-infamous 1966 claim that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" as his starting point and then examines superficially the well-known turn East that the group took in the late 1960s. The book lacks in-depth interpretations of the Beatles' song lyrics and fails to account for the rich and complex meanings that arguably make their lyrics some of the most religious in rock. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

John Lennon famously proclaimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Music journalist Turner says they were a kind of religion in themselves, and in this entertaining look at their religious and spiritual influences and ideas, he examines each of the Beatles' attitudes toward religion. Lennon, who sang in his local church choir while growing up in Liverpool, was fascinated by the life of the historical Jesus. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr didn't have particularly strong religious feelings. George Harrison increasingly leaned toward Eastern religion. They had in common skepticism toward orthodox religion. Turner follows the arc of the Beatles' remarkable career and also examines their individual lives. While much of the information and anecdotes Turner relays is familiar to Beatles fans, his spiritual perspective refreshens it all. A longtime Beatles admirer, Turner clearly loves the band and the music they created. Fellow fans are sure to appreciate the personal engagement that he brings to the material. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: The Gospel according to...
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press; 1St Edition edition (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664229832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664229832
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #821,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steve Turner is the author of Trouble Man: The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye, A Hard Day's, Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song, Hungry for Heaven: Rock and Roll and the Search for Redemption, Jack Kerouac. Angelbeaded Hipster, and Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now. His articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, Mojo, Q, and the London Times. He lives in London with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"The Gospel According to the Beatles" is a first-rate piece of work: accurate, comprehensive, well written, evenhanded, and (dare I say) scholarly--a fresh and entertaining perspective on an old story that I never get tired of reading. It even has at least one new revelation: John Lennon corresponded with Oral Roberts--a fact I wish I'd known when I was writing "Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon," which, like this book, discusses Lennon's brief conversion to Christianity.

Steve Turner, it's also worth noting, painstakingly pieces together all the details of the "bigger than Jesus" incident in a way that I've never seen reported.

Though I've noticed "The Gospel According to the Beatles" is shelved in the Christianity section of my local B&N, I found it to be a book with a rock 'n' roll heart that anybody seeking new insight into perhaps the greatest cultural phenomenon of the 20th century will enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover
First off, I agree with one reviewer's very clever send up of the 'Publisher's Weekly' review of this book. Has anyone else noticed how stupid those 'Publisher's Weekly' reviews are? They always seem to miss the point, and it always seems that the reviewer didn't actually read the book in question, but either skimmed it,or asked someone else to read it and tell them what it was about..."Plodding"?..."doesn't really say what the gospel according to the Beatles really is?"....What??? If you can read all 200 or so, of this book's pages and still ask what the gospel according to the Beatles is, then you must be cross eyed.

This extremely interesting work starts off with an overview of who the Beatles really were. Through their songs they conveyed their inner most beliefs and thoughts, whether they intended to or not. Each chapter is named after a famous Beatle song, and the book tells in chronological order, how the boys from Liverpool evolved in their thinking, with each new experience, and phase of musical and personal developement, as the 60's unfolded. This book is about religion...The Beatles' religious beliefs that is, and how these beliefs changed as the boys grew and changed. It starts out with the chapter called, 'You Can't Do That' which is a very thorough account of John's controversial Jesus remark and the furor that it caused. But this is not just another retelling. Turner researched this very carefully and the facts he has unturned will really surprise you. You will for the first time, find out what really happened behind the scenes to turn an innocent remark made to a friend, into a major, fiasco that not only changed the course of the Beatles' career but the careers of many others.
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Format: Hardcover
When I saw a book titled "The Gospel According to the Beatles," I groaned. My snap judgment, based on nothing but the title, was that it was the work of an apostate Christian who found that his own watered-down interpretations of Scripture were reflected in the music of the Fab Four. It turns out that the author, rock journalist Steve Turner (who also wrote "A Hard Day's Write," an excellent song-by-song history of the Liverpudlian quartet's canon), is a Christian. His goal is not to find Christian messages where there are none, but to examine the spiritual beliefs, most of which are in opposition to the Bible, that the Beatles expressed in song. And the Beatles, though kicking off their musical journey with innocuous but irresistible ditties like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You," were unique among "pop" groups in that their music consistently expressed profound, if often misguided (to those who believe the Bible), philosophical and religious ideas.

As Turner quotes Paul McCartney as saying in 2004, "There'd never been anything like the Beatles, who were about music but also about something more far-reaching."

That "something more far-reaching" was awakened by the Beatles' experimentation with drugs. They started by popping the pills that provided the pep necessary for their pre-fame marathon stage performances in Hamburg, then progressed to marijuana, widely cited as influencing the mood of their 1965 album "Rubber Soul.
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Format: Hardcover
This is yet another excellent book about the Beatles by Steve Turner. While hard core Beatle fans will be familiar with a lot of the material in this book, it is the fresh writing style and Turner's analytical view of John Lennon's infamous comment in 1966 about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus. That oft-quoted comment was taken out of context and John retracted it shortly thereafter. Lennon explained what he meant and the full quote and context have been provided in many other books. Sadly, that one comment hounded John for the rest of his life.

In addition to being the World's Best Band, the Beatles were pioneers - they experimented with music; reflected the then current issues through their music and clothing; they affected fashion, e.g. moptops, suits and later, psychedelic outfits. They were able to appeal to as well as secure the confidence of the independent thinkers; George Harrison's 1965 "Think For Yourself" is a nod to this very philosophy.

As for a personal philosophy, that is a topic open for speculation. Each Beatle was unique and distinct and very much an individual. This book takes a deeper look at each Beatle and by describing his behavior and responses, attempts to carve out what appeared to be the philosophy of each Beatle.

All in all, an excellent work. This is one the Beatle Literati highly recommend.
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