Andrew Hickey: The Beatles in Mono
by David Lewis
This is one of the finest books on the Beatles I have read. In it, Andrew Hickey, has, with wit and insight, examined the Beatles’ re-releases and remastered songs. This means of course you don’t get a book as comprehensive as McDonald’s Revolution in the Head, but it has strengths that McDonald’s essential book lacks.
One of the things Hickey does is explain exactly why Ringo Starr is one of the great drummers. As he points out, the reason that the Beatles’ odd metrical songs work is due to the nuanced, subtle and skilled playing of Ringo. He is less complimentary on Ringo’s singing.
Hickey has an almost unrivaled knowledge of the recordings. He has a keen ear, and points out slips and errors that many have missed. For example, ‘Hey Jude’ should have been banned from airplay. Hickey tells you why, and, not just that, when you’ve heard it, you will never not hear it. I would add that the first voice in this incident, who he doesn’t identify, sounds to me like Eric Clapton, who was at some of the sessions (and who was conceivably part of the ‘na-na-na’ chorus). But I don’t know for sure.
Hickey also painstakingly points out the quiet genius of George Martin. More than anyone else, Martin was able to take the often vague arrangement ideas of Lennon or McCartney and actualise them. Hickey falls on the side of the pro-Spector side for Let It Be, explaining the tracks were substandard. Listening to Lennon’s bass on the song ‘Let it Be’, which I’d never done, demonstrates this amply.
Hickey is not blind to the faults of the Beatles. He dislikes every one of the Carl Perkins covers, and is not afraid to disparage a Lennon/McCartney composition. He praises though, where deserved, and will tell you why, say, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ is great.
The book originated from a blog, but has, apparently, been substantially revised from its original form. Nonetheless, it has some of the best qualities of a good blog – discursive, entertaining, witty. But, some minor typos and literals aside, it is a proper book. If you are a Beatles fan, or a fan of pop music, it is an essential purchase.
You can get it here