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The Beatles: From the Cavern to the Rooftop Paperback – November 22, 2010
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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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I am a professor of music and teach a course on the music of the Beatles. This book was my first choice for the course textbook, but unfortunately it was out of print and we couldn't get enough copies for my students. So I am delighted that it is again available and I can use it for my class. I have read dozens of books on the Beatles, and this is one of my very favorites. It is not the book to read for someone looking for a recreational overview of the Beatles. There is enough biography to give the reader a good timeline of their career together, but it is not as in depth as in other books. That is not its intent. It is meant as a piece of serious music criticism, and in that regard it is excellent. Only MacDonald and Riley can compete in insightful observations about the music (although he does not attempt to address every single song as the former do). But Kozinn beats both of them with his engaging writing style. His prose is a pleasure to read!
Kozinn brings his years of experience as a classical music critic for the New York Times to the task. His broad historical knowledge of music, and his demand for the highest aesthetic standards from the artists he reviews, is something that is sadly lacking in most rock criticism. He demands the same artistry from the Beatles as he does from the best classical composers or the finest symphony orchestras. Some readers might be put off by this (see some of the other reviews posted here), but it is ultimately a sign of respect; the best rock music deserves no less than to be measured by the yardstick with which other great art is measured. This book accomplishes that as well or better than any other to date.
My big complain is the ending: the author seems to rush through it, and his approach of the last two albums¬--"Let it be" and "Abbey Road"--is much more superficial than what you'd expect from the rest of the book. One gets the feeling Kozinn got tired and just wanted to be done with it. He redeems himself in the Epilogue, with a great fast-forward chronicle The Beatles post-breakup careers.
It is an overall great analysis and biography of The Beatles as a group and the contribution of each member to their incredible musical development throughout their short career.