Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: 'The Beatles Encyclopedia'


A Beatles encyclopedia seems like the logical conclusion of the gazillions of books devoted to all things Fab floating around out there. Actually, it has been tried several times before, but since the only one I’ve read is probably the first one, Goldie Friede’s The Beatles A to Z from 1980, I can’t really attest to whether or not Kenneth Womack’s two-volume The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four measures up to the mass of Beatles encyclopedias. I can say it is one of the more massive collections of Beatles info, coming in at about 1,100 pages with all the essentials in order: the songs and albums and close associates and much relating to the solo years (though only the most popular solo songs get their own entries). While anyone who wants to get cute by looking up Sir Frankie Crisp, Alpha Omega, or The Rutles will reach dead ends (though the latter two topics do get their mentions in other entries), Womack earns his encyclopedic stripes by creating some exhaustive entries (the one on “A Day in the Life” is seven pages long; the one on the aborted Get Back project is nineteen!) and supporting the obvious information with details he dug deep to obtain. A little quoted Lennon quote in the Abbey Road entry supplies the very heartening notion that he still had some enthusiasm for writing songs with Paul McCartney in 1969. There’s also an abundance of trivial morsels like The Beatles considered making their own Sgt.Pepper's TV movie in 1967, McCartney considered “Norwegian Wood” to be a comedy number (huh?), and Allen Klein wanted to include solo songs on the 1967-1970 compilation. However, some of Womacks information needs to be taken with a grain of salt since he has a tendency to frame unconfirmed details, such as the possibility that McCartney did not play bass on “She Said, She Said” or that his “fuzz bass” on “Think for Yourself” might have actually been his Epiphone six-string guitar, as solid facts.

Neatest of all, Womack states in his preface that his book will be useful to high school researchers. So today’s high school kids are studying The Beatles? Shit, I wish I were a high school kid today! We eighties school kids had to study logarithms and laissez-faire economics. What a drag.

Get The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four on Amazon.com here:

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