In this chock-full-of-facts retrospective, author Bruce Pollock, who has written twelve pop culture-related books, chronicles in great detail how the Beatles were influenced by the musical landscape of the preceding era and how subsequent artists were in turn influenced by them.

Some of the facts and stories in the book are common knowledge to the die-hard Beatles fan already, but even the obsessive will enjoy the way Pollock supports his statements and anecdotes with astute insights, wit and colourful candour, rather than scholarly psychobabble. He even embraces other disciplines. For example, he parallels the dance movements of the “Swinging Sixties” with “the Roaring Twenties.”

He states, “In the twenties, cigarette-smoking flappers in clinging skirts stoked the lust of otherwise buttoned-up young gentleman. In both decades, dance was the key outlet for pent-up sexual tension.”

The photos are bold and the themes are varied. The reader will see Pollock’s well-researched puzzle pieced together though these genres: rock ‘n’ roll, R & B, rockabilly, punk and more. In addition, trivialists will enjoy learning that Ringo Starr paid tribute to Johnny and Dorsey Burnette with his version of ‘You’re Sixteen’.

But the light, breezy tone also turns necessarily dark. Harrowing accounts of Roy Orbison’s personal tragedies, Eddie Fontaine’s conviction for hiring someone to murder his wife and Buddy Holly’s unfortunate death are told (or retold, as the case may be…)

And, though you may be aware of the rock ‘n’ roll progenitors taken too early, accounts like these are emphasized to underscore how cultural history had left a gaping hole for the Fab Four to occupy.

Pollock is confident in his opinions, though his observations offer room for lively discussion. He’s not afraid to take a stand. Consider “Whereas a year earlier, Bob Dylan had turned them on to pot, Elvis apparently didn’t offer them so much as a peanut butter and banana sandwich.” That chapter concludes with a brilliant analysis of how Elvis may have felt about the Beatles’ rise and his concurrent, chart-flopping decline.

By digging so deeply into the orifices of rock ‘n’ roll anatomy, Pollock unearths the Beatles genius at selecting material: “…they reserved a special place in their hearts and their repertoire for ‘Mister Moonlight’, the B side of the 1961 single, the eponymous ‘Dr. Feelgood’ by the Georgia-born barrelhouse piano player Willie Perryman…”

Pollock highlights the dramatic side of the business; the acts that ignited hits, but were left behind; i.e., Hank Ballard’s version of ‘The Twist’ was overshadowed by Chubby Checker – he uses this device to foreshadow the Beatles’ eventual takeover.

Barrett Strong’s ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ was another tune made wildly famous by the Beatles. Plenty of adoration is paid to the girl group acts, which the Beatles admired, not just the Marvelletes or the Ronettes, but the Cookies (‘Chains’) and the Donays (‘Devil In His Heart’).

The chapter on ‘The Songwriters’ includes an intense look at duos like Leiber and Stoller and Goffin and King; citing milestones and trumps and a juxtaposition of bands vying for said material.

An entire chapter is devoted to George Martin and why, at first, he might have been considered an unlikely choice; his original common interest with the lads was ‘The Goon Show’. Soon after Lennon and McCartney’s reasons for being more seduced by Martin’s wizardry are unveiled, which are relayed with delightful irony: “But Martin didn’t just sit in the dug out like the manager of the New York Yankees…”

That said, ‘If You Like the Beatles…’ is a genuinely enjoyable read for fanatics and cultural historians, alike.







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