WHO WERE THE BEATLES?
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Grosset and Dunlap has been publishing a series of books providing introduction of famous people to children. The latest in this series is an introduction to the Beatles. As with the other books in the series, Who Were the Beatles? is written in an elementary style and provides an introduction, without too much detail, to both the Beatles and the times in which they performed.
Not content to focus on their brief time together as a band, Geoff Edgers provides an introductory chapter for each of the members as well as two chapters which detail their post-Beatles careers. Taking the band members one at a time, he gives some idea about who John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison were as individuals. He also takes a brief glance at several of the members of proto-Beatles bands, like Stu Sutcliffe, Pete Best, and Tommy Moore. In these early chapters, he gives a better indication of the Beatles' lives and careers than he does in the post-Beatles chapters.
When discussing their lives as the Beattles, Edgers hits on many of the high points: touring, making "A Hard Day's Night, the controversy about John's "bigger than Jesus" statement," and the subsequent decision to stop touring. Other important parts of the Beatles' career are missing, however. There is no reference to their dabbling with the Maharishi and most of their films are not even mentioned. Edger's selection of Beatles songs to discuss is generally limited to mentioning songs which have some innovation to them, such as the backwards recording on "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Edgers does buy into certain myths about the Beatles, most notably Yoko Ono's primary role in their break-up. There is a little talk about the Beatles growing apart, but no real mention of the changes in their method of song-writing. Edgers also doesn't mention that even when Lennon or McCartney wrote a song entirely on their own, they still shared credit.
Furthermore, in the chapters looking at the post-Beatles career, he focuses the majority of his attention on Lennon. Starr's fourteen albums are dismissed as the work of someone without a good voice. Harrison is noted as having the first post-Beatles number one song, and McCartney's post-Beatles career seems summed up by a mention of Wings without any mention of post-Wings work or his knighthood.
Who Were the Beatles? provides a reasonable introduction to the music group, although of course without a soundtrack, there is only so much Edgers can do. Interestingly, while the book does contain a short bibliography for further reading, although mostly books not appropriate for the same age group, there is no discography of the Beatles included, which may have been more useful.
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