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A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles' Song [Paperback]

Steve Turner


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Book Description

Nov. 23 1995
"Lovely Rita, Meter Maid" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" are as much part of popular mythology as "Little Dorrit" or "Macbeth". Strawberry fields, fool-topped hills and long and winding roads are all part of a collective subconscious stretching from New York to New Delhi. This book tells the story behind every one of The Beatles' songs. Who was Eleanor Rigby, and was Polythene Pam a figment of John Lennon's imagination or a real, flesh-and-blood person? What stories and emotions influenced them and how do they reflect the development of The Beatles' distinctive musical style?

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"One of the most readable and illuminating books ever written about The Beatles" Steve Matteo The Music Paper" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steve Turner has written for a wide range of publications, including leading US music magazine Rolling Stone and the New Musical Express in the UK. His books include Van Morrison: Too Late to Stop Now and Trouble Man! The Life and Death of Marvin Gaye. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  75 reviews
467 of 493 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, but . . . March 22 2009
By doublefantasy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As I bought this book based on all of the very high praise found on this Amazon page, I now feel obligated to warn future potential buyers that this book is nowhere near all it's cracked up to be.

First of all, if you've read at least a few other Beatles books before, a lot of the information in this book purported to be "revelatory" is actually old news, and well-known even by casual fans. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was a drawing by Julian Lennon? Well, I'll be. Strawberry Fields Forever was a reference to John Lennon's special, childhood hideaway? No way! Penny Lane is a district in Liverpool? These are the kinds of shockers that just keep coming and coming.

Of course, as someone who truly does obsess over the Beatles, I was expecting to reread lots of things I already knew. The problem is the things I didn't know. There was, in fact, all kinds of information that I had never before come across. To the point that I would almost be impressed.

If I could believe a word of it. And sadly, I can't.

The book is riddled, just riddled, with ridiculous typos and factual errors. There seems to have been no copy editing done in this book outside of computerized spell checking. And so all kinds of typos remain, because the words they spell are in the dictionary. One of my favorites is when the author seriously refers to previous Beatles films as "Help! and Hard Day's Write." Yes, the author got the Beatles film confused with his own book, and no one managed to catch it. A mere few paragraphs later, he claims that the song added to Let It Be... Naked is I've Got a Feeling. Which it is not. He also claims that George Martin came up with the idea for the Sgt. Pepper Reprise, even though it's well-documented that Neil Aspinall was the true inspiration behind the idea. On and on it goes.

So, is the reason that "Badfinger Boogie" was the original title for A Little Help From My Friends because John had an injured finger at the time of writing? Perhaps. Sounds believable. But who knows. The inexcusable errors, coupled with the painful lack of any citations, leaves me unable to trust a word, no matter how much I'd like to.

As a final note, while other reviewers refer to John Lennon constantly being psychoanalyzed by the author, even to the point of ridiculousness, and the glossing over all of Paul's compositions as written about Jane Asher, George Harrison is the one who gets the true short end of this stick. All of his song entries are excruciatingly short, up to and including a mere 97 words -- I counted -- written about While My Guitar Gently Weeps, one of the greatest Beatles songs ever written. Though Turner could find a whole page of information about It Won't Be Long and how he believes that John's mother inspired the song's sentiments (WHAT?), he couldn't find nary a word to say about what George's profound lyrics in this song said about his philosophical thoughts or world views.

It's a shame, because this really could have been an excellent and truly invaluable book, as the cover quotes all claim. Indeed, it should have been. But it's not. It instead goes down as one of the worst Beatles books I've ever read. And that means a lot.
78 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for New Beatle Fans May 11 2007
By Beatlefansincethen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is very valuable for people who haven't read many Beatle books and don't know much about them or their music. If you fall into that category you will find this book indispensible. It gives an accurate outline of the stories behind every Beatle song, and what interesting stories they are. The people who inadvertantly influenced their writing, the events that inspired them to write a particular song, (sometimes a TV commercial or innocuous statement made by someone in the room or in their recent past.) A wonderful insight into their creative process and into their minds as well. Unfortunately for me, I've read so many Beatle books, that I have heard all of these stories before, so by the time I came across this book, it was kind of anticlimactic. Even so, there were still some things I didn't know like, Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkee is actually referring to Yoko Ono,(she's John's monkee) and is not about having a heroin habit, like I had assumed. I won't give anymore away though because if you are reading this, I recommend that you read A Hard Day's Write and find out for yourself.

The only thing I found mildly annoying, is the author's slight over analysis of Lennon's songs. Maybe he is right about most of them, he certainly doesn't seem off the mark when he talks about Lennon's abandonment issues. However his editorialising about John's, And Your Bird Can Sing really got under my skin. He seems to have the idea that John is singing about Paul in this song, and trying to say that Paul isn't as cool as he is, when he sings, "Tell me that you've heard every sound there is" etc. According to Turner, when he sings, "You say you've seen seven wonders," he's referring to Paul's "seven levels" remark when they first got high together. (huh?) What does one have to do with the other? John uses the 'seven wonders' reference as a metephor for someone who's 'seen it all'. I picked up on that when I was eleven for heaven sake. It's so obvious. And it's anyone's guess who he's singing about. Maybe he's singing about himself! Or the press, or maybe the fans, or the establishment...whatever. It was beyond stupid for Turner to stick this song with his clumsy oppinions. No one knows what the song is about. It makes me think that maybe Turner is the one who thinks this about Paul and he was looking for something in John's lyrics to validate HIS feeling. He even talks about the Anthology 2 version of the song, where John and Paul break into uncontrolled giggling at the mic, saying that Paul seemed unaware that the song is about him, judging from his giggling. Yeah Mr. Turner, only you and your idol John Lennon are in on what the song really means. I guess he whispered it in your ear and told you not to tell Paul. And what a fool Paul is! Here he is thinking that John Lennon is his friend, when he really isn't! Thankfully there is you, Steve Turner to set things straight. Hopefully Paul read your drops of wisdom and realized once and for all that he just wasn't cool enough to be friends with that wonderful Lennon.

Every once in a while, Turner's feelings seem to peak through like this, and it diminishes what is otherwise, a great read. There are a couple caption mistakes, especially a big one which features more editorialising. On one page there is a large picture of a Beatle reclining in his seat on a PanAm jet. It looks like the flight to New York on Feb. 7, 1964. He has a clothe over his face, so you really can't tell who it is, except...if you look at the watch worn on the right wrist instead of the left,the checked shirt, and the cuff links,you'll know that it is definitly Paul. ( he was dressed this way on that flight, while John had a white shirt and was sitting with his wife.) But Turner writes in the caption that JOHN always needed time to be alone and get away from it all and the picture shows this. No it shows that PAUL needed time to be alone and get away from it all. Or maybe he was just TIRED and needed a nap! This editorialising is dumb. Like he's trying to show that John was the only one who needed to be alone. Because he was cooler?,more brilliant?,the 'artistic Beatle'?,the 'smart Beatle?' Paul was maybe too busy being 'cute'.

In his quest to analyze John's songs (to death) he under analyzes Paul's, even Yesterday, which most Beatle scholars think is subconsciously about his mother. But Turner seems to think that if Paul is not writing about Jane Asher, he is writing about.... nothing. Only John has deep feelings that are revealed in his songs. Only John was hurt by the loss of his mother. Not that 'cute Beatle.' He has no feelings and was hurt by nothing.

Except for these flaws, A Hard Day's Write is an interesting book, and highly recommended. I just hate when Beatle writers try to perpetuate the myth that John was the only smart one. The only artistic one. etc. It reduces their credibility. The best Beatle books never stoop to subjective editorialising.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well and little known stories behind the creation of Beatles songs March 11 2009
By Wayne Klein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Steve Turner's A HARD DAY'S WRITE: THE STORIES BEHIND EVERY BEATLES SONG focuses on all the material written by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Star that has appeared on offically released albums. Turner gives us a peak into how the popular songwriting team of Lennon & McCartney would turn ordinary every day events or items from their personal lives into the enduring classics that every Beatles fan knows. The book is extremely well written (although there are a couple of proof readings that slipped through the cracks for example there's a picture in the book with an incorrect caption claiming that Chuck Berry sued John Lennon for plagerism--it was Morris Levy's music company that did. Turner also misses the chance to tell about the fiasco of the John Lennon "Oldies" album that was marketed on TV as a result of this suit and the settlement)and factual for the most part.This third edition is the most handsome one yet and the book appears in a coffee paper size in paperback. Turner has filled the book with a nice mixture of rarely seen photos so that this treasure trove of Beatles trivia won't make most fans feel that they've been there and done that with previous Beatle books.

Turner also dispells some myths about the band's popular songs for example "Yellow Submarine" although clearly written as a children's song had a rumors floating around for years that it was about drugs (heck, just about every Beatls song had that rumor but this was one unusual one that I hadn't heard before). Turner also digs up the news item that inspired Paul McCartney and John Lennon to write "She's Leaving Home" and even discovered that the girl that McCartney wrote about in his song had met her idol three years before the song was written (although McCartney never knew it). He also finds out that McCartney's song got a lot of the incidental facts right even though he didn't know the facts of the missing person's report. Likewise, he tackles McCartney's popular "Michelle" and points out that jazz singer Nina Simone was the inspiration for the song and the playing style of Chet Atkins.

"Baby You're a Rich Man" a Beatles b-side that used the same question/answer approach of "With a Little Help from My Friends" was a Lennon-McCartney collaboration with John bringing the unfinished "One of the Beautiful People" and Paul's chorus of "Baby You're a Rich Man". There are also the familiar stories about songs such as "Hey Jude", "Let It Be", "I Am the Walrus" and "Something" (although here it states that George denied that he wrote the song about his wife Patti wherease the popular assumption was that he DID write it about her)in addition to little known stories about some of the "Anthology" tracks. He often comments on the various songwriter's approach and style and how their personality informed their music.

The book has an extensive discography for the band and bibliography with books and interviews that Turner used as the source to verify some of the tales told here. Turner's goal was to write a book that would occasionally surprise the surviving Beatles as well with info about the people that might have inspired a story and their fate. Turner has a terrific job here. The only thing that might have improved his book would have been more first person interviews about the songs included here from some of those who knew the band well. Also, Turner should focus on the songs that have appeared on various bootlegs that they wrote and recorded over the years that appeared on various solo albums (John's "Child of Nature" which morphed into "Jealous Guy"--why THAT song hasn't appeared on an offical release is beyond me).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious In Depth Look at the Beatles' Songs March 5 2011
By BeatleBangs1964 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
One almost wants to smile and say, "The Doctor [Turner] is in and he is analyzing the Beatles even as we speak." I thoroughly enjoyed this well researched, richly illustrated book of Beatles' song lyrics. I felt that Turner did an outstanding job of gathering this information and providing it to the hordes of people eager to obtain it. It is truly a treat. I can't recommend this book highly enough. Turner treats the Beatles individually and their work with the utmost respect. This book is a must have.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eight Years that Shook the World Aug. 13 2010
By Gord Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Despite the negative bits in some reviews, I couldn't put this book down. I'll consider a few cavils. If you've read the zillion books on the Beatles, you likely wouldn't find anything new here, but I found new bits on nearly every page. If you'd like to read further, there's a bibliography in the back. There are some typos; it seems you can't find a book these days that's not riddled with them. You would think they'd be corrected in later editions (they're not), but that also is par for the course. You'll find the same thing in editions of P.G.Wodehouse, the other best British export.

So what do I like about the book? This 11 X 8.5 inch paperback has one or more color or black and white picture(s) on each of its 225 pages (except the indices). Besides having the back story on each and every Beatles song arranged by albums, from "Please Please Me" to "Anthology 1-3", there's also a discography of all the UK and US singles and albums, with label and release dates. Turner generally notes that in the text as well.

There's also quite a bit on the musical inspirations of some songs, which is quite fascinating. One reviewer says Turner slips into psycho-analyzing the Fab Four, and projects that into the songs. Perhaps it's the proximity to Vienna, but a lot of Brit authors I've read do that. More than mythologizing, Turner tends to myth-busting: "No, that song wasn't about drugs, it turns out." Are his stories accurate? Who knows? If the Beatles themselves are the source, we have to assume they are. When they're not, he often cites a source, usually another book on the Beatles.

Turner's entries can seem dismissive, merely because they're so short. One reviewer said he underrates George's musical contributions. Turner doesn't rate the songs at all, although most other Beatles authors do, and he does often give chart positions. He also notes that John and Paul continually underrated George's songs. At first, George could barely get a song on an album. I learned from Turner that George's line, "Only a Northern Song" on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, was a protest against the inequitable publishing/ royalty arrangements that then prevailed.

Those hungry for more might consider Turner's other unique book, which goes into far more depth, "The Gospel According to the Beatles" The Gospel According to the Beatles. Rather than damning with faint praise, as some reviewers have done with "A Hard Day's Write", I would reverse it. I can't imagine any Beatles fan would not learn something here, and for every one else, once pick it up, I don't think you can put it down.

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