Journalist and critic Rowlands (Paris Was Ours, 2011, etc.) delivers a collection of light-as-a-feather remembrances of the Beatles’ British invasion.
This latest round of idol worship is mostly harmless to the rose-colored memories of Beatles fans. The author cribs an out-of-context quote by John Lennon about a “scrapbook of madness” to describe it. However, this collection is vexing in its seesawing arc among screaming tweens who remain steadfast Paul-worshipping Beatlemaniacs at 64 and beyond, all-too-clever New York intelligentsia defending careers built on iconoclasm, and the occasional superfluous blurb from the likes of Cyndi Lauper or Billy Joel (these latter bits are so bland they would be completely at home in any tribute issue of Rolling Stone). The book takes its roots from a 1964 Gay Talese article in the New York Times, “Beatles and Fans Meet Social Set.” The accompanying photograph finds a screaming Rowlands at the center of the madness, flanked by identical fans, clutching a sign that reads “BEATLES PLEASE STAY HERE 4-EVER.” In other entries, the author tracks down the photographer and even the other girls in the photo, but it’s hard to say why these are important developments. Others are beyond superfluous. An email from the novelist Phillip Lopate simply reads, “Thanks for the offer, I’m flattered, but honestly, the Beatles had no impact on me at the time.” It’s telling when a book that is meant to be a nostalgic look back at a different time in America is punctuated by an acidic anecdote from the novelist Fran Lebowitz during which she recalls being at a party where Sir Paul was playing the piano. Her reaction? “Hey, I’m trying to talk here.” Other contributors include Joe Queenan, Greil Marcus, Peter Ames Carlin, Pico Iyer and Barbara Ehrenreich.
A bonbon for fans but a legacy better served by more substantive journalism.