I’ve mentioned Beatle books on a number of occasions here in my blog. I have, for the most part, found them enjoyable. Some, like Bruce Spizt’s book (reviewed here) or Geoff Emerick’s book (reviewed here) I liked a LOT. Others, like Cynthia Lennon’s book (reviewed here) I was less excited about. Tony Bramwell gave us a nice look at the early days and I enjoyed that too. So, it was with anticipation that I got McCartney by Christopher Sandford from the library because I’m a McCartney fan and, unlike other books about McCartney this book goes beyond the Bealtes days and brings us the story up to this past year and the release of Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (which I like a lot).
McCartney is one of the most disappointing books I’ve read in the past few years. Aside from the errors (which every Beatles book is bound to have – but this has its fair share to say the least) Sandford makes two other types of mistakes. The first is in the writing. In reading this I found that I went back a number of times to reread passages so I could try to figure out exactly what he meant. Sometimes I still didn’t know. He has a style that seems to assume that we already know what happened so Sandford obliquely refers to things, makes a snarky comment about it and moves on. He also has a tendency to use British slang which is often hard for us Americans to figure out and leaves us wondering if what he’s referring to is really good or really bad. The slang doesn’t give us the context. Here’s a sample in a discussion of Flaming Pie: “With the good-rockin’ intro of the album’s would-be knees-up, The World Tonight, McCartney wakes from a deep slumber and sets forth, hands clapping, voice and guitar full of resolve.” I really don’t know what that first phrase means and I'm not sure what the point of the sentence is.
In his discussion of Sgt Pepper Sandford writes positively about the album overall but suggests that “perhaps the one lapse [is]Paul’s ill-advised heavy riffing on the title track…” Huh? Does anyone really have an idea what he is referring to with "ill-advised heavy riffing"? I"m not sure I hear any in the title track to Sgt Pepper. This sort of thing just makes me think that the author seems to have a need to feel superior and make comments just because he can. Some of his one-line reviews of the albums have a sort of hipper-than-thou attitude to them which, when teamed with his love for British slang leave the reader both irritated and confused.
In addition, Sandford seems to spend the first half of the book documenting all of McCartney’s sexual dalliances and the last half of the book making sure we know every time Paul says an expletive in public. He pays undue attention to inconsequential aspects of Paul’s life and career. For example, once a woman jumped out of a crowd saying "why won't you acknowledge me" and Sandford implies that this might be another paternity situation even though there is no eividence to that effect and he doesn't even know who the woman is or what she wanted. Why even include this is the book?
As you can tell I am not impressed. I wasn’t nearly as irritated reading the last half of the book as I was the first half because I’m not as familiar with the solo McCartney story but I’m just not sure I can trust what’s in the book – even when I can figure out what he’s saying.
A new thing
2 months ago