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Northern Songs: The True Story of the Beatles Song Publishing Empire Paperback – November 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Omnibus Press (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184609996X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846099960
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,261,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

After 10 years as a journalist, including working for Melody Maker and Disc, Brian Southall joined A&M Records between 1973 and 2003 and worked for EMI Records as a consultant to Warner Music International, HMV Group and the British Phonographic Industry. He has written books including the History of Abbey Road Studios, The A-Z of Record Labels and the Story of the Brit Awards.

Customer Reviews

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The actual story is very interesting, complicated, and long.
Example: Mark Twain
As a life-long Beatles fan and avid Beatles collector for the past 30 years, I have, like most serious fans, read all the major books on the Beatles over the years.
G. Griffith
I think that if any one individual is to blame for the bad advice given to Paul & John during this time is Brian Epstein.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By G. Griffith on August 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a life-long Beatles fan and avid Beatles collector for the past 30 years, I have, like most serious fans, read all the major books on the Beatles over the years. Up until now, the best serious attempt at trying to explain the business side of the Beatles was Peter McCabe and Robert D. Schonfield's "Apple to the Core". Well-researched and decently written, it focused on how Apple's legal and financial mess tore the Beatles apart. But it was published in 1972 and thus covers only a small piece of the full history of the Lennon and McCartney songwriting legacy.

35 years after that book was published, we now have "Northern Songs: The True Story of the Beatles' Song Publishing Empire" by Brian Southall with Rupert Perry. This excellent book documents the full story behind the management (and mismanagement) of the Beatles song publishing rights over the past 40+ years. And what a fascinating story!

Northern Songs was the company set up in 1963 by Brian Epstein (the Beatles' manager) and Dick James, a fledgling London music publisher recommended by George Martin, to handle Lennon and McCartney's song publishing. The deal that Brian cut meant Dick James (and his partner) owned just over half of Northern Songs, with the remainder being split between Lennon, McCartney and NEMS (Brian Epstein's company).

Whether purposeful, or simply a byproduct of Epstein's lack of experience, the ownership design of Northern Songs kept Lennon and McCartney from having any controlling interest in the company that was formed to manage the rights to their own songs. By 1965, Northern Songs decided to go public - leaving John and Paul with even less control over the company -- minority stakeholders answerable to the thousands of other shareholders.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By barloop23 on September 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Even the youngest Beatle fans who have followed the recent financial travails of Michael Jackson know that John Lennon and Paul McCartney long ago lost the publishing rights to their own songs. Exactly how that happened is one of several important topics covered by Brian Southall's latest book on the greatest musical act the world has ever known.

The book provides, perhaps for the first time in one place, a detailed, understandable explanation of music publishing in general...and a history of the Beatles' Northern Songs publishing empire in particular. Specifically, it describes what music publishers do, how they make money, and to what extent, if any, publishing profits are shared with song composers.

Southall starts out by providing a quick history of music publishing practices and norms from its beginnings in the 18th century, followed by a vivid snapshot of the industry as it existed in the U.S. and Britain in the early 1960's when the Beatles sprang forth upon an unsuspecting world.

For John Lennon and Paul McCartney, a truly pivotal moment in their lives occurred on a cold morning in early 1963 when they were taken to an office to sign a contract...one which they apparently hadn't read, didn't understand, and didn't even ask questions about. What that document did was to give a guy named Dick James, a struggling London song publisher looking for a musical gold mine, a one-half ownership share in the future songs written by Lennon and McCartney.

Why he deserved to own half of their songwriting catalog is never satisfactorily explained, mainly because it cannot be explained, but the Beatles' manager Brian Epstein offered it to him, and he quickly accepted it. The remaining half was divided between Lennon, McCartney, and Epstein...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By bool on October 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Hard to believe that some reviewers here claimed to have read the book, gave it 5 stars and then go on to say that Dick James & Charles Silver were thieves, that they tricked Lennon & McCartney who should have hold on to their songs and sign an Administration-type deal. Come on guys!

Brian Southall does a great job to put the story in context with the times when the deals occurred. In the 1960s all pop song contracts in the industry were 50-50 deals (Administration deals were unheard of), the publishers were the Record Company Promotion and A&R guys of today and thus felt a right to deserve a 50% cut. The Beatles were nobodys in 1961/1962. Dick James was an honest man. In a way, he made the Beatles happen in 1963 by getting them on TV. He deserved his 50% cut on the songs Please please Me/Ask Me Why and no way that he should give up to his rights just because The Beatles started earning millions.

The book also describes the tax burden that Lennon & McCartney faced which lead to the decision to form Northern Songs and later go public. I think that if any one individual is to blame for the bad advice given to Paul & John during this time is Brian Epstein. There was no justification for making James/Silver half owners of Northern Songs with a 51% controlling interest. Overlooking the Northern Songs split was Brian's biggest mistake (among others like having no provision to prevent James/Silver from selling out without the other parties' consent). But Paul & John trusted Brian blindly and that's all there is to say.

I think Brian Epstein should have been more conservative, explored other avenues to alleviate the tax problem (perhaps move the duo's residence out of Britain?) and continue to give songs to James on an album by album basis.
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