Quick: What’s the last cover the Beatles ever recorded?
If you answered “Maggie Mae,” from "Let It Be," then you’re likely to inhabit the same geeky, completist universe as French Beatleologists Margotin and Guesdon. Their thoroughness, not to say obsessiveness, yields all sorts of surprises, even for the initiated. Consider, for instance, that "Please Please Me," the group’s first official album, was recorded in a single day, February 11, 1963—well, many readers may know that. But who knew that the band took three hours to record two songs, then broke for 1 ½ hours, then recorded three songs and overdubbed three more, then took another 1 ½–hour break, then recorded six songs between 7:30 and 10:45? Well, now you do. And who knew that Eddy Thornton, Ian Hamer and Les Condon played trumpet in the 1966 session that yielded the canonical cut of “Got to Get You Into My Life”? (Thornton, by the way, was a member of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, while the other two were in-demand jazz players.) There’s all sorts of spinoff trivia in these wonderfully well-illustrated pages, from the fact that Humble Pie copped the sound of “Paperback Writer” to the circumstances surrounding John Lennon’s “Ballad of John & Yoko” and the eventual tensions that tore the band apart. There are a few modest missteps—it’s not particularly useful to know that George Harrison’s song “Piggies” was “a social critique light-years away from the Eastern philosophy of which he had become a fervent devotee”—but, for the most part, this is rock-solid stuff.
Essential for Beatles fans and a pleasure to read.