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The Gospel According to the Beatles Hardcover – August 3, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
In 1967, drug guru Timothy Leary proclaimed, "[T]he message from Liverpool is the Newest Testament, chanted by Four Evangelists—saints John, Paul, George, and Ringo." Leary certainly captured the feelings of a generation pursuing freedom from old social conventions and searching for love in the lyrics, looks and music of the Beatles. In less than a decade, the group evolved from the fun-loving frantic boys of A Hard Day's Night (1964) to the philosophical poets of Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970), weaving more references to religion and spirituality into their music. Acclaimed pop music writer Turner (A Man Called Cash) unsuccessfully attempts to reveal the "gospel" of the Fab Four in this plodding book. He recounts the already well-known biographies of each Beatle, pointing out that each had some early brushes with either the Church of England or Roman Catholicism. Turner takes John Lennon's now-infamous 1966 claim that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus" as his starting point and then examines superficially the well-known turn East that the group took in the late 1960s. The book lacks in-depth interpretations of the Beatles' song lyrics and fails to account for the rich and complex meanings that arguably make their lyrics some of the most religious in rock. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
John Lennon famously proclaimed the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Music journalist Turner says they were a kind of religion in themselves, and in this entertaining look at their religious and spiritual influences and ideas, he examines each of the Beatles' attitudes toward religion. Lennon, who sang in his local church choir while growing up in Liverpool, was fascinated by the life of the historical Jesus. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr didn't have particularly strong religious feelings. George Harrison increasingly leaned toward Eastern religion. They had in common skepticism toward orthodox religion. Turner follows the arc of the Beatles' remarkable career and also examines their individual lives. While much of the information and anecdotes Turner relays is familiar to Beatles fans, his spiritual perspective refreshens it all. A longtime Beatles admirer, Turner clearly loves the band and the music they created. Fellow fans are sure to appreciate the personal engagement that he brings to the material. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Reporter: "You don't seem like a very good Beatles fan, Mr. Wilson, if you'll pardon us saying so. For one thing, you don't have a mop top hair cut, and you've hardly said 'yeah, yeah, yeah' once during this interview." Wilson: "Yes, I see you've grasped the gist of what the Beatles were all about and would certainly have no use for Steve's book. Not being an existentialist like Astrid Kircherr, who invented the mop top, I'm off to the barber shop for a trim. It's a great place to read while you're waiting, and I have this diverting new book by Steve Turner."
This extremely interesting work starts off with an overview of who the Beatles really were. Through their songs they conveyed their inner most beliefs and thoughts, whether they intended to or not. Each chapter is named after a famous Beatle song, and the book tells in chronological order, how the boys from Liverpool evolved in their thinking, with each new experience, and phase of musical and personal developement, as the 60's unfolded. This book is about religion...The Beatles' religious beliefs that is, and how these beliefs changed as the boys grew and changed. It starts out with the chapter called, 'You Can't Do That' which is a very thorough account of John's controversial Jesus remark and the furor that it caused. But this is not just another retelling. Turner researched this very carefully and the facts he has unturned will really surprise you. You will for the first time, find out what really happened behind the scenes to turn an innocent remark made to a friend, into a major, fiasco that not only changed the course of the Beatles' career but the careers of many others. You will hear about Tommy Charles the Alabama DJ, Art Unger the editor of Datebook Magazine, and other people who played a pivotal roll in the media circus that followed. This was my favorite chapter. Trust me, you will never again, see this incident in the same light. After this chapter the story "goes back, back back" to Liverpool, and you will read about the different religious backgrounds of the four musicians. Again, a lot of very new info. is disclosed. As Turner remarks in the prologue, so much has been written about John Lennon.... "the games he played in the street" or "the drawings he made for Aunt Mimi", his rebellousness,losing his mother twice, beating up Bob Wooler at a certain so and so's 21st birthday party,Yoko, Yoko, Yoko, blah blah blah,...but nothing has ever been written about his extensive religious background. Yes that's right...extensive. From the time he was very young the kid practically lived in church. He was in the choir, bible studies, church youth group,etc. He studied his catecism and made his confirmation. So by the time he was 25, he was in a very good position to give his oppinions on Christianity, good or bad. In other words, he wasn't just an arrogant pop star shooting off his mouth. The guy new his Bible. He knew about Jesus'life. He knew about the apostles. Turner makes a very good point in this chapter. He says, only someone who had been immersed in the teachings of Christianity could turn around and be so blasphemous in his drawings and writing. Someone like Paul McCartney, who was not raised in the church would never be this irreverent, because he didn't care enough to be. He had nothing to rebel against because it was never forced on him. In reading about their various religious backgrounds, I most identified with Paul and George. Both were baptised Catholics with devoutly Catholic mothers but because of their blue collar, agnostic fathers, the church became of diminished importance as they grew older. This really resonated with me. All readers will find themselves identifying with at least one of these guys, as you read this. Ringo, who's mom was Protestant, had even less religion than Paul or George.
Each chapter thereafter, traces the changes they experienced, from "post-Christian,existentialist, agnostics", to Hinduism, Buddism, Zen Buddism, Christianity (John and George), to fully realised...post- Christian,existentialist, agnostics. Except for George of course. Everyone knows the extent of his love for his God, and how he arrived there. This is facinatingly detailed in the book. I have a new respect for George Harrison after reading about his remarkable journey. But that leads me to another point. All four Beatles were on a constant journey. Always learning and growing. Some of the things they found out weren't right, so they moved on until they found what they were looking for. For Paul, it was fundamentalist vegetarianism, based on a respect for the lives of all living beings, home, family,and a return to the values that he learned from his down to earth dad. After going through the pain of alcoholism, Ringo has the sense that there is something bigger and greater, and for the first time in his life he knows what people mean when they refer to "God". And John?...He was still searching when his life was cut short by... a "Christian".
I've read so many books about the Beatles, I thought I knew everything about them, but I learned once again that you can't know everything about these guys. No matter how much you read about and research them, there will always be something you didn't hit upon. Always a new perspective that was unexplored. You will enjoy this book. I learned so much.
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