Book offers daily glimpse into Beatles’ historyWritten by Fred LeFebvre | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Beatles were a Sixties band.”
That’s how Barry Miles begins his big, bold, Beatles book, “The Beatles: A Diary” (Omnibus Press, $24.95) It’s like saying that Picasso painted or that the Empire State Building is an office building. The Beatles were so much more than “just” a ’60s band, they were the band that defined the ’60s.
More than any other band in any decade, The Beatles were the soundtrack for a generation of teens during 1960-1969. Luckily for Beatles fans, Miles doesn’t stop there. In this exhaustively researched 300-plus page book, the author looks into everything that made The Beatles not just a band, but also arguably the most influential band of the 20th century.
Whether you’re a fan of “Penny Lane” (like myself), “Revolution,” “Yesterday” or any of the 186 Lennon-McCartney-penned songs the Beatles recorded, there is something in “The Beatles: A Diary,” for you.
Miles follows the day-to-day life of the members of the Fab Four, from the first meeting of John and Paul (June 23, 1955) to the final days of the end of the band. The pages are filled with photographs to savor and tidbits of Beatles trivia over which to pour. The first thing you’ll want to do, if you’re like me, is to find your birthday for each year. On the day I turned 9 years old, the Beatles, then The Silver Beetles, played at a coffee bar in Liverpool. Three years later while I was busy trying to figure what a 12-year-old boy does about his changing voice, the Beatles were the opening act on a UK tour of Roy Orbison. I still hadn’t heard of them yet.
For those who grew up in the ’60s, especially those who hit their teen years in the early ’60s, the Beatles always seemed to have been there. When I first started listening to a tiny AM radio it was CKLW out of Canada. The airwaves were filled with songs my mom and dad were more than happy to listen to also.
However, things began to change with the first of the many Beatles’ U.S. releases, especially their first No. 1 single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Miles takes the reader through The Beatles’ invasion of the American record market, from the first charting single to the historic day the band dominated the chart’s top five spots in April of 1964. That’s a feat that has never been achieved by any other group or single artist in the history of the Billboard Top 100.
Before you start to think John, Paul, George and Ringo were overnight successes, check out the early years that Miles has researched so thoroughly. Miles painstakingly delves into the daily grind of becoming the world’s greatest band. Check almost any date during 1962-63 and you’ll find The Beatles either playing in Hamburg, Germany or at home in the Cavern Club, sometimes two shows a day.
It’s the little tidbits about the Fab Four that make this a book you’ll want to pick up. For example, did you know that at one point in the early years The Beatles played for Coca-Cola and beans on toast? Neither did I until I looked up my birthday for 1960. Just a year removed from that gig the band was playing in at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg for seven-hour sessions, five days a week. Is it any wonder that shortly after hitting it big they decided to give up the grind of playing live? When was that last live performance? To find out you’ll have to grab a copy of “The Beatles: A Diary.”
Don’t expect to sit down and read this detail-filled love letter to The Beatles in one day, or even a week of eight days. Like the group itself, the book grows on you and keeps you coming back to enjoy the full-page photos, anecdotes and the day-to-day details that Miles has included. I found myself reliving the days when The Beatles consumed my teenage life. Having read the book I realized, finally, that John and the boys were all older than me. While I was listening to them they seemed to be the same age as me and my friends. They sang about the things we were experiencing and influenced everything we did from hairstyles to the clothes we wore.
You won’t regret picking up Miles’ “The Beatles: A Diary,” either for yourself or as a Christmas gift for that Beatles-loving friend of yours. My guess is you’ll get a big, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”
Fred LeFebvre hosts the “Morning News” on WSPD 1370 AM.