Do John Lennon and Paul McCartney really belong up there in the Serious Music pantheon with the likes of Alban Berg, Igor Stravinsky, and Richard Strauss? The editors of the Phaidon 20th-Century Composers series obviously think so. What's more, author Allan Kozinn makes a strong scholarly case for the Beatles, who in a stunningly short time moved from fairly basic, four-chord ditties to musically sophisticated compositions that hold up well to the present day. Kozinn, a classical music critic for the New York Times,
is also a long-time Beatles aficionado who knows the difference between the stereo and monophonic versions (sometimes an extra "woo" creeps in) of the early songs. He appreciates them both as pop phenomenon and musical pathfinders, and his writing is consistently top-notch. As with all the Phaidon books in this series, there are no musical examples given, but Kozinn does a superb job within the restrictions of the series' format. Beatles fans will want to own this one, and classical music lovers interested in understanding the phenomenon might also give it a try.
From Publishers Weekly
What? Another book about the Fab Four? Kozinn, a classical music critic for the New York Times and author of Mischa Elman and the Romantic Style, avoids another repetition of facts already known about John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr by focusing more on the music and less on the personalities. Yes, there is the history?the group's Liverpool roots, and the long hours spent at all-night Hamburg dives?but Kozinn gives real insight into the influences of Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison and skiffle bands. While Kozinn notes that the Beatles generated "a perfectly balanced, freakishly rare form of musical and personal chemistry," he also shows how Lennon, McCartney and Harrison grew farther and farther apart as composers, each developing his own voice, each making his own experiments. Kozinn is also master of the small details. Abbey Road was supposed to be called Everest; the original lyrics to "Yesterday" were "Scrambled eggs/ oh lady, how I love your legs." Most important is the author's descriptions of the songs. The Beatles released about 10 hours of music, the author says, with nary a loser in the lot. Kozinn is a thorough, persuasive guide through the Beatles' musical bridges, crescendos, odd bars and dialogue loops?for the most part without the snappy, shallow patter of too many rock critics. Photos.
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