Friday, April 11, 2008

Can’t Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould

I finally finished Can't Buy Me Love by Jonathan Gould. It took me a long time because a) it is a long book and b) I've been quite busy lately. In the prologue, Gould writes that this book is unique in that it combines "three main perspectives – the biographical, the musical and the historical – in an effort to convey the full import of the Beatles' lives art and times." (p. 12) Gould is looking to do all these things in one book, something he claims no other book on the Beatles does. He succeeds on nearly all counts.

As for the biographical, Gould's book is not quite the definitive biography that Bob Spitz' recent book is – and it couldn't be, especially since this book is not as long and covers things that Spitz never intended to. That said, I wonder if a novice could read this book and get a sense for the whole story. I'm not sure. It struck me, at times, that one had to know the story of the Beatles to really understand what was happening in the book. For me, that was a good thing – I don't need five pages explaining things at a level that someone who is culturally illiterate would need. I just found myself wondering if this book was written primarily for people like me who has seen, heard and read it all as far as the Beatles is concerned.

The historical part I found especially enlightening and learned things about the band and the things that were influencing them that I had not learned. The part of the book that is WAY over the top for novices are track by track discussions of nearly each and every song in the Beatles catalog. While the discussions are enlightening and interesting, the level of detail sometimes goes beyond being a fan to being something else entirely. On the other hand, I really dug thinking about the songs that way, and thought that the critique was especially interesting on the Beatles' top albums, Revolver, Sgt Pepper and Abbey Road.

So if you've read at least one other Beatles book I highly recommend this one. It's very very good.


Ron H said...

Glad to hear you're finally done with the book. I am just starting it now, so I have a ways to go. But I am enjoying the first few chapters immensely. It was interesting for him to go a little into the history of Elvis, Little Richard, etc., so that one had a better sense of their influence on the Fabs. I'll have to weigh in more when I finally finish it myself!

Bob K said...

Ron - thanks for the comment. I found those historical pieces you mentioned among my favorites in the book. Some of his social and historical notes got a little long for me but those first ones were very interesting!