Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: 'The Beatles in 100 Objects'

The Beatles’ story has been told many times and in many ways, so congratulations to Brian Southall for finding a fresh way to do it again. In the sixties, Southall was a teenage Beatlemaniac. In the seventies, he met Paul, George, and Ringo (but not John) as an EMI employee. Now he has compiled a slew of instruments, documents, rare and international records, articles of clothing, and weird merchandise and memorabilia into a handsome book called The Beatles in 100 Objects. Southall uses each item as an in on a key aspect of The Beatles’ career, starting with the Antoria guitar Paul borrowed to play his milestone first performance with John Lennon in 1957. The neat thing is that Southall doesn’t just use the guitar to repeat an oft-told story; he also tells us a little history of Antoria guitars. These 100 objects are not just storytelling devices; the writer takes a genuine interest in them, so his book is not just a cleverly formatted story interchangeable with any of the million other Beatles books. The choice of objects also allows discussions of less traveled paths of Beatles lore, such as their roles as Grammy and Ivor Novello award-winning artists, George’s penchant for photography, and Paul’s enthusiasm for motorcars.

Sometimes Southall loses focus. The entry on John’s iconic granny glasses is actually about Mendips, his Aunt Mimi’s home, and the glasses only receive a cursory mention in the final paragraph. But a house may not make for the most fascinating viewing (especially when the next entry is on Paul’s boyhood home), and the photos are a big part of The Beatles in 100 Objects. This isn’t all eye candy. The various contracts and business letters may be significant from a historical perspective, but they aren’t as much fun to gawk at as the shots of Ringo’s Premier drum kit (less celebrated than his iconic Ludwig), an undistributed Beatles harmonica by Hohner, John’s psychedelic Rolls Royce, George’s tripped-out Stratocaster, a Beatles record player, Julian Lennon’s “Lucy in the Sky” drawing, and a goofy mop top “Magnetic Hair Game.” Fab! 

Get The Beatles in 100 Objects at here:

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