Conservatively, hundreds of books have been written about the Beatles. In addition to the plethora of autobiographies and biographies, these include children’s books, at least two separate volumes on the late ‘60s “Paul is Dead” hoax, and titles like Earn Extra Money In Your Spare Time Selling Beatles Memorabilia Online. Yet, if necessary, the truly universally essential titles could be grouped into a Nick Hornby-type Top Five, and the late Ian MacDonald’s Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, originally published in 1994, would be among them. Why? In short, it’s MacDonald’s ingenious tact of cataloging each of the 188 songs the Fab Four ever released, along with a handful they didn’t, in order of the original date of recording, and writing an individual analysis of each. This setup plays on what Beatles observers love or loathe most about the band—the music, stupid!—and uses it as a springboard for analyzing everything else about the band, including influences on and of, personalities, cultural contexts, relationships, and philosophical musings, rather than vice versa.
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