More About the Author
'Music Makes Me' music blog (tardypigeon)
About the Beatles it's hard to write anything new...[Yet,] accomplished with fearless dilettantism by Jeff Walker, is the job of pruning what exists. The book is a veritable orchard of the resulting bonsai trees. To put it more crudely, this is a listmaker's wet dream.
Walker structures the book around the idea that, contra Lennon's song 'God', the dream is not over. [T]here is a way to claw back the Beatles' solo careers and construct a Beatlesque canon. To do this, Walker proposes a thought experiment. Suppose the Beatles, upon officially splitting up, had made a pact to continue to group together their best solo recordings under the moniker of the Beatles Releasing Collective (the BRC).
John still dies on December 8, 1980, but he 'survives' as 'ghost-John' recording artist by virtue of having a fair bit of unreleased work in the can. They still release [solo work but] the best tracks (ie. 'Nineteen Hudred and Eighty-Five' but not 'No Words' from Band on the Run) are creamed off and packaged for the BRC.
I would say [the book] is best described as a piece of conceptual art...At its heart is the notion of digging out 'Beatlesworthy' (as Walker puts it) songs from the post-Beatles period. A subjective--and subjunctive--cataloguing which is very much of our time. The idea of wresting programming duties from the artist is the sine qua non of the iPod playlist. It's a notion positively encouraged by the digital world we've surrounded ourselves with. As someone who runs what I'd like to think of as a discriminating music blog, I am all for eclecticism. Out with the overrated! Down with the merely popular (Indeed, at one point, Walker refers to to people whose appetites are sated by Best Of collections as 'cultural plebians'.)
To me, this is where the book comes into its own. The BRC's Black Album, a 1973 four-record boxed set juxtaposes the former Beatles' best solo tracks. [ie.] George's 'What is Life' is followed by John's 'Instant Karma', followed by Ringo's 'It Don't Come Easy', followed by Paul's 'Another Day'. (Interestingly, Walker relates that George made very similar collection in 1971 for Beatle fan[ friends] who couldn't wait for the boys to re-form.)
Walker's selections...are admittedly quirky at times: the Get Back sessions are abundantly represented [in a transition chapter]...However, I found the author's quirkiness endearing rather than irritating. Commendation must go to him for representing each of the Beatles fairly. I myself wouldn't have known where to start with Ringo.
Moreover, there is a marvellous boldness to the writing and to the choices. A boldness which rests somewhere on the assumption that the Beatles' [post-1960s work is] better listened to selectively...[W]hat counts as Beatlesque [is] not an easy question to answer, nor is Walker the type to ponder such philosophic questions. But perhaps that's the point. It's easier to classify the Stones' output...But the Beatles' work frequently eludes such categorisations. That's why we love it. That, I might add, is the best definition of what is 'Beatlesque'.
[T]his is not a book for completists, but for fantasists. And that is also appropriate: the Beatles were, after all, in the job of fantasising for a generation.
[T]he book does double duty as a repository of biographical data and contextual information about the song selections. Here I found Walker's pruning superb. You may know that John Lennon had a pony as a child, but I hadn't seen that mentioned before, and I certainly don't know many writers who would dare to be literal enough to mention it in the context of 'I Dig a Pony'. (And I mean that as a compliment.) You might not think it adds much to your appreciation of the song, but it I think it does.
Futhermore, the timelines Walker provides are helpful, but beyond that, they often have their own unexpected pathos, the week leading up to Lennon's death in December 1980 in particular.
[A]lthough...it is very informative, this is not a dry book, by any means. There is plenty of gentle humour: the short section entitled 'Ringo's Guide to Impressing a Bond Girl' (in short: nearly getting killed together) was a big favourite of mine. And how can you not love a book with the chapter heading 'Getting Past George's Obsession with Eastern Religion'?
I haven't even touched on many of the problems the book deals with felicitously. To select one...how do you go about compiling a great Beatles [Releasing Collective] 'live' album [set]. Walker shows how it could be done...Imagine if Walker was to catch someone's ear at EMI.
In summary: This is a well-meaning and worthwhile project, accomplished with good humour and a lightness of touch, despite the enormous effort involved. I cannot fault Walker's meticulous research, which has encouraged me to seeek out in particular some Harrison and Starr tracks...otherwise...buried...on...middling albums. Certainly this is a good antidote to the complacent, who might think they have listened to everything the Beatles had to offer them.
'Said the Gramophone' music blog (Sean)
[In late 2010] the Beatles' catalogue finally appeared for sale on iTunes...But...the songs of John, Paul, George and Ringo ha[d] been on iTunes for years. Just not their songs together. The Beatles' respective solo material wasn't caught up in the same licensing tangle...But who cares, right? Sure, everyone likes 'My Sweet Lord', 'Band on the Run' and 'Oh Yoko'-but after the Beatles broke up, "The Beatles sucked." Besides a tiny handful of exceptions, and a single here and there, the Fab Four's post-1970 output is scarcely worth paying attention to.
Or is it?
I'm reading a book [whose] title is as good a description as any: Let's Put the Beatles Back Together Again 1970-2010: How to Assemble & Appreciate the 2nd Half of the Beatles' Legacy'. It's a 20-word way of saying, Not so fast, kid. Or, Maybe there's something worth saving on that Ringo Starr album.
Jeff argues that the Beatles kept on making good music after early 1970--they just didn't make it consistently. The gems are hidden amid the dross, he explains, but today such dross can simply be ignored or consigned to oblivion. Imagine if the Beatles kept making music, just not all together. Alone, or in twos and threes, they went into the studio--and then released the best and most Beatlesque of this solo material as, er, the Beatles Releasing Collective.
This is Jeff's alternate-universe...Allen Klein and Yoko Ono don't wedge the boys apart. A mysterious manager called Arnold Zonn (aka "Cap'n Arn") swoops in and consoles their roiling hearts. Zonn had the psychological acumen to persuade [the Beatles]...to carry on, in a new form that would address all their separate aspirations. And suddenly there's room for not just one or two more Beatles albums--but 40 years' worth.
Over 500 pages, Jeff creates, curates and defends six "core" albums, 16 bonus CD-Rs, and various LP revisions overseen by the 'Beatles Releasing Collective'. All, in a sense, are imaginary [but can be made]. There's 1982's MoonDogs, a kind of Lennon memorial, with song's like Paul's 'Here Today' and John's '(Just Like) Starting Over'. There's 2000's 45, a 3-disc set [that includes the] Anthology's 'Real Love' and 'Free as a Bird'...And, um, lots and lots more. Each has been meticulously assembled, sequenced and refined--these are not crude collections of the mop-tops' solo hits. Jeff writes with passion and all the half-crazy focus of a serious Beatles fan.
But is he right? By carefully culling the best of the after-Beatles Beatles, assembling these songs into albums, can you make something that lives up to the legacy?
Judge for yourself.
beatlesnews Sept. 23, 2011 (okvegascowgirl)
[Jeff Walker's] premise is finding a way to appreciate all the solo material available after 1970, and enjoy it as a Beatles fan. The alternative universe the author creates to explain the way he's approaching the project is fascinating: what if the Beatles had still broken up (sorta) but continued to record and release material under the umbrella of the Beatles Releasing Collective.
As interesting as are his explanation of the BRC and how it could have functioned to keep Beatles music alive and well--in the tradition of the 'White Album' (where there was much individual creativity happening)--it's the early section where he makes his case as to why he believes the breakup coud've easily been avoided in the first place that has me glued to the book.
He uses a zillion sources to pull examples of all the times between 1970 and 1980 the four alluded to the possibility of working together. I'd never been aware of quite a few of these quotes, but the conclusion is intriguing: it wasn't ever extreme animosity that kept the Beatles from working together; it was the legal ramifications of the lawsuits, all of which stemmed from the existence of Allen Klein. Walker argues that if only Allen Klein had been out of the picture earlier, so much legal conflict could have been resolved easier or even avoided altogether.
The boys talked about missing the others, about how nice it would be to play and write together etc. that it's very easy to believe in 'what could have been'.
[I] soon will be heavily into the practicalities of assembling the BRC library, composed of solo music that sounds very Beatles-esque, and of course solo material that involved more than one of the Beatles.