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Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties Paperback – September 1, 2007
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"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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
"McCartney: ....But I've seen some of the books, particularly about the Beatles, where they'll say, "This was McCartney's answer to Lennon's barb"-- and so on and so on. Like hell it was!
Pitchfork: Like Ian MacDonald's book [Revolution in the Head].
McCartney: Yeah, exactly. You got it in one, exactly. And you know, unfortunately [MacDonald] is no longer with us. He died, and so I don't want to put him down. But while he was around I must say, I would dip into that book and think, "See now, what's he got to say about this song?" And he'd go, "This is McCartney's answer to-- " and I'd go, "No, it wasn't!" It was just, I just wrote a song."
Dismiss the reviews that tell you that this is the definitive book of Beatles lore. Most of it is contrived, speculative and imposes meanings and contexts on to the Beatles' music. Do not mistake Ian McDonald's entertaining and confident style for insight in the Beatles. A far more reliable and readable Beatles expert is Mark Lewisohn.
The interview I quoted from can be found here: [...]
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great read. Valuable for the "who played what" for each song, and the commentary is refreshing and informative. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Mr. Wayne Olsen
This is ultimate Beatles book. Ian MacDonald, who, alas, as slipped this mortal coil, writes about every track the Beatles produced and offers incisive commentary that takes in... Read morePublished 13 days ago by Mark D. Burgh
The next best thing to listening to Beatle songs is reading about them. Interesting stuff.Published 18 days ago by Travis Horton
Heavily academic in tone and not as much of a pleasure to read, as I would think a book about a pop band would be. Dense.Published 5 months ago by Unsung Heroines
There are sooo many books about the Beatles right? This one is interesting because it analyzes all of their songs and reveals many things about them that I never knew. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Don Roberto
One of my favorite books of all time. Reading its chronological take on the Beatles' recordings while listening to the songs MacDonald is analyzing is massive fun. Read morePublished 6 months ago by DC99
Revolution in the Head is a fascinating analysis of how life and society changed throughout the1960s and after and The Beatles' influence from then to now. Read morePublished 7 months ago by ragastrums