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Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 3rd edition (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556527330
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556527333
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A triumph—compelling, seductive, delightful.”  —Nick Hornby, author, High Fidelity


“A brilliant electrical storm of a book.”  —Newsweek


“The most astute piece of Fabs exegesis ever published—brilliant on the group’s triumphs, refreshingly scathing about its shortcomings . . . One of the twenty greatest rock & roll books.”  —Blender


“The finest piece of fabs scholarship ever published.”  —Mojo


"Among the few essential commentaries on their music and its meaning."  —Shepherd Express


"Dipping into [this] book will make you want to rush to put on a set of good headphones and really listen to what MacDonald points out. . . . This is a great read both for old fans and younger generations seeking to see what the fuss was all about."  — Law Practice Magazine



"A valuable resource."  —newsblaze.com


"I have worn out three—yes three—copies."  —newscritics.com

About the Author

Ian MacDonald was a songwriter, a record producer, and the author of The Beatles at No. 1, The New Shostakovich, and The People’s Music. He died in 2003.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 55 customer reviews
A good balance of praise and criticism.
IFeelFree
Gets into all the songwriting and studio details for every song the Beatles recorded.
K. Moffitt
Very interesting to read, if you are a Beatle fan!
Kexan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 58 people found the following review helpful By TheBandit VINE VOICE on October 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
The late Ian MacDonald really nailed it with this book. I try to read any comprehensive analysis of the Beatles recorded catalog that I can - and none even come close to this. Simply put, this book changed the way I listened to the Beatles music. It made me a more attentive, discerning listener. It broadened the scope of my knowledge of '60s music by pointing the way towards other music of the era that I hadn't yet heard. I find it hard to overstate the influence this book has had on me personally - I have read it cover to cover numerous times and still find myself going back to it.

This isn't a history of the Beatles - it is a song-by-song analysis, in the order the songs were recorded, of everything officially released by the group. And make no mistake, it is not an objective collection of facts - there ARE mostly reliable recording dates, release dates, and song credits for every entry, so it can be used as a quick reference. But this is a highly opinionated piece of writing - Mr. MacDonald was not afraid to ruffle feathers by offering critical evaluations of some of the Beatles most popular songs (he is quite harsh, for instance, towards classics like "Across the Universe" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps").

Mr. MacDonald does a great job of placing this body of work within the context of the time it was released - but he also manages to assess each song purely on its own terms, as well. While quite obviously a true-blue Beatles fan, MacDonald maintained a certain level of objectivity throughout - never getting caught up in fanboy idolization. He's tough on this music - when he feels a song isn't up to the band's established standards, he makes it very clear what he doesn't like.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Magnus on August 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an indispensable book about Beatles music appreciation. MacDonald was one of the most idiosyncratic critics of music that ever lived. This book must be owned by anyone, especially musicians and songwriters, who wants to truly get to the heart of the music of the Beatles.

The only disappointment for me (and for anyone who's been faithfully buying and reading the updates of this book since its release in the mid-1990s) is that the 3rd edition is NOT REVISED. If you own the second edition, you do not need to buy this book. There is not one difference in the text.

Oddly enough, this edition has slightly better quality paper, for some reason, whereas the previous edition uses sort of newspaper/telephone book quality sheets that tear easily. Two other subtle changes are: a different pic on the front cover, and the omission of one of the members of Oasis' profanely worded endorsement of the book.

Happy reading if you've never been inside the book before, but if you have the 2nd revised edition, you can sit this one out.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Nowhere Man VINE VOICE on March 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
There's a real joy in reading Ian Macdonald's "Revolution in the Head," because even if you disagree with his assessments, you know you're in the presence of an introspective but tough critic. He reads the Beatles against the cultural politics of the 1960s in order to assess the extent to which their music shaped and reflected the changing values of those times. His introductory essay, in fact, is one of the finest and nuanced summaries that I've read on the Sixties Revolution - neither congratulatory nor scornful but rather fair-minded. The individual song assessments presume some familiarity with music terminology (a glossary in the back helps) and non-specialists like me will tend to gloss over descriptions like "...endlessly uncoiling B flat Mixolydian melody around a standard three-cord progression." ("She Said, She Said")

While many people here think that MacDonald is harsh in his assessments of McCartney, on the whole I find his take on both Lennon and McCartney to be fairly accurate. It is true that he takes Lennon's songs more seriously and almost all of his extended analyses - in which he shows how a particular Beatles composition embodied the spirit of its moment - are from Lennon's catalogue: "Tomorrow Never Knows," "Strawberry Fields," and "Revolution 1." yet, he does show a deep appreciation for McCartney's musicianship, his innovative and complex melodic arrangements, and the deep empathy that characterizes his best work. He is hardest, though, on Harrison. His low opinion of Harrison's early songs carries over into a serious under-estimation of his later work, especially "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "Here Comes The Sun.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Finch on February 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
Do NOT be put off by negative reviews of this fantastic literary achievement.
I am a 58 year old musician that saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan show live in '64 and life after was never the same. I defy ANYONE who "was there" i.e. in their late 50's, early 60's now who would have anything but praise for this book.
MacDonald puts into words exactly WHY and WHAT the music of the Beatles was about in social,political,cultural context song by song. He is a musician's musician as he describes the middle 16 part of No Reply as the greatest 30 seconds ever... he is dead on.
Song after chronological song he gives us insight and critiques like no one else.
Do NOT be put off by FANBOYS that weren't even born when the Fabs were young. This book is a MUST for Beatle fans as is the Anthology Huge book; The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Lewisohn and the Beatles Gear book.
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