Another year, another Beatles biography.
Anyone tackling the oft-told tale of John, Paul, George and Ringo had better come up with a new angle, or new facts, or new interviews, or new something—or risk suffering the wrath of zillions of Beatles nuts. This long-winded debut will certainly put Gould in the crosshairs. The book rehashes biographical information that even casual Beatlemaniacs are quite familiar with. Bob Spitz’s monolith The Beatles: The Biography (2005) is the ultimate Fab Four bio, and it would take an experienced, well-connected investigative journalist to unearth any fresh information beyond that. A former professional musician, Gould chooses to explicate virtually every song in the Beatles canon, but his approach isn’t as much analytical as it is explanatory and interpretive. He spends a goodly number of pages describing the musical theory behind the band’s compositions. Of “A Day in the Life,” for example, he writes: “John’s voice ends the verse on high falsetto G. He clings to that note at the start of the refrain…before descending a fifth to warble the second half of the line…between a pair of adjoining notes.” Musicians are likely the only readers interested in this kind of academic nuts and bolts, and musicians buying a nearly-600-page Beatles tome are likely to already be familiar with Lennon and McCartney’s chord changes and time-signature shifts. Laypeople, on the other hand, will be bored by these incongruous theoretical breakdowns. It’s been well documented that many of Lennon and McCartney’s lyrics are nonsensical, so Gould’s attempts to get into the composers’ heads could be construed as pretentious and superfluous—adjectives that, regrettably, describe this book as a whole.
Well-worn information and questionable musical analysis add up to a very disposable take on the Fab Four.