Will You Still Read Me When I’m Sixty Four?

Posted: September 7, 2009 in Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Yes. I’m in heaven this week.

Unless you’ve been living under a soulless, pop-culture avoiding rock, you’ve heard about a phenomenon known as Beatles RockBand, otherwise known as Beatlemania: 2.0.

Yes, I’ve pre-ordered it. Yes, I’m getting the super-deluxo set complete with Paul’s plastic Höfner Bass guitar.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed I’ve clogged your feed with endless, breathy declarations of love for the Greatest Band of All Time. Sorry. Can’t help it if I love them Eight Days a Week. Doesn’t everyone?

If you’re ready to join the Revolution, here are some of my favorite books and articles about the Fab Four:

The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz

I consider music journalist Spitz’ work the quintessential biography of the band. Yes, you’ll develop enlarged 16 amp biceps carrying this magnum opus around, but hey, all the better to strum your guitar on RockBand, right?

The book begins by painting a portrait of Liverpool society, the culture which gave birth to the Mersey sound. The reader is immersed in the world which nurtured, challenged, and molded John, Paul, George, and Ringo. From there, in depth research delivers the real scoop on the Beatles.

Where else can you read these delicious tidbits?

Both John and Paul lost their mother at a young age; the resulting grief and insecurity would cement and strengthen their relationship in a profound way.

John studied art in school, but flunked out. His subversive comic newsletter viciously lampooned both teachers and handicapped people.

Ringo Starr (a.k.a Richard Starkey) nearly died from appendicitis; a resulting infection kept him an invalid for two years. During his illness, left handed Ringo first learned to drum on everyday objects.

The lyric “I am the eggman” is a reference to a member of the Beatles’ entourage who enjoyed cracking eggs on women during, ahem, intimate encounters.

The Beatles pioneered use of the multi-track recording system, instrument feedback, and distortion in Rock and Roll music. (Okay, so maybe you already knew that…)

After reading Spitz’ biography, you’ll never see the Fab Four in the same light again. John, the gentle peace-nik? Oh, the irony. If you’re serious about understanding the Beatles’ legacy, this is the book for you.

The Rough Guide to the Beatles by Chris Ingham

While Spitz’ book is hefty doorstop, Ingham’s guide is a pocket sized compendium of band minutiae. If you don’t have time for the full length Fab Four canon, this “Beatles’ for Dummies” style paperback is for you. This one ranks high with me for great commentary on each and every Beatles’ album, song, movie, and book. It even devotes a whole chapter to the elusive 5th Beatle. There are several supposed candidates in the running; you can be the judge. (BTW, I vote for producer George Martin.).

Still hungry for more? Check out these articles:

Why the Beatles Broke Up: The Inside Story by Mikal Gilmore (Rolling Stone issue #1086)

In this special issue (available at newsstands now) Gilmore combs through every RS interview and primary source to deliver a concise, play by play analysis of The End. Yes, it’s a rehash. A well done rehash. The online supplement (available at http://www.rollingstone.com/issue1086 ) highlights a timeline of quotes from band members. Each petty and heartless snipe is listed. Heartbreaking stuff.

Paul: “John’s in love with Yoko, and he’s no longer in love with the other three of us…” (London Evening Standard, 1970)

George Harrison: “We should die. “It’s time to break up.” John Lennon, irritated by George: “Who gets the children?” (Get Back: The Unauthorized of the Beatles’ Let It Be Disaster)

Last but not least, this recent NY times article:

Generation Gap Narrows, and Beatles are a Bridge by Sam Roberts (NY Times, 8/12/09)


Roberts insight into the band’s legacy are validating indeed for the like of fans everywhere. It’s no surprise the Pew Research asserts the Beatles are still the favorite band of every age group from 16-64. But hey, full disclosure, I’m biased, right?

Still hungry after reading about Everybody’s Favorite Band? Then binge on Everybody’s Favorite Chocolate Sheetcake:

This recipe came from my mother…it’s one just about every family in OK and TX has tucked away in a cookbook or file.



2 stick of butter

½ cup water

4 tbsp. cocoa

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten, by the eggman, of course

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk (no butter milk? Add 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup reg. milk)


1 stick butter (Yes, more of the real stuff. Use margarine, and it’s your funeral)

4 tbsp. cocoa

1 tsp. cinnamon

6 tbsp. milk

1 box (1lb.) powdered sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla (yes, a whole stinking tablespoon!)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, heat margarine, water, and cocoa together over a low to medium heat. Stir, stir, stir until everything comes together…right now. Cue the bassline! Pour melted mixture over flour and sugar; add the eggs, baking soda, buttermilk, cinnamon, and salt. Bake in a sheetcake pan (better) or 9 by 13 pan (will still work) at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Frost while still a little warm. (I didn’t say Helter Skelter hot!)

Frosting Directions:

Melt butter, mix in cocoa, cinnamon, and milk. Stir, stir, stir. When you’ve smoothed it out, pour it over the powdered sugar and vanilla. Add nuts, if you’re feeling Sgt. Pepper-y. Mix well and frost the warm cake. Climb aboard the Yellow Submarine and enjoy.

Binge. This cake goes well with just about every Beatles album but Revolver. Don’t know why, it just doesn’t.

You tell me, who’s your favorite Beatle? What’s your favorite Beatles’ song? Fire away. I must warn you, any comments which hate on the Fab Four may be summarily blindfolded and shot.

  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    Great post, Jenny! Makes me want to go out and buy more books 🙂 My fave Beatles’ song is probably Hey Jude – just love the melody in that one. Here Comes the Sun as well. Gotta go turn on my iTunes now!

  2. jmartinlibrarian says:

    Jemi: Ah, Hey, Jude. A few weeks ago, Paul played it at Cowboy’s Stadium. There’s a special joy in chanting na,na,na,na,na,na….in unison with twenty thousand people .

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