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Can't Buy Me Love

Cover of Can't Buy Me Love

Can't Buy Me Love

The Beatles, Britain, and America

Nearly twenty years in the making, Can't Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can't Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould seeks to explain why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social context that girded both their rise and their demise.

Beginning with their adolescence in Liverpool, Gould describes the seminal influences--from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to The Goon Show and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--that shaped the Beatles both as individuals and as a group. In addition to chronicling their growth as singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, he highlights the advances in recording technology that made their sound both possible and unique, as well as the developments in television and radio that lent an explosive force to their popular success. With a musician's ear, Gould sensitively evokes the timeless appeal of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration and their emergence as one of the most creative and significant songwriting teams in history. And he sheds new light on the significance of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as rock's first concept album, down to its memorable cover art.

Behind the scenes Gould explores the pivotal roles played by manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, credits the influence on the Beatles' music of contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Ravi Shankar, and traces the gradual escalation of the fractious internal rivalries that led to the group's breakup after their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Most significantly, by chronicling their revolutionary impact on popular culture during the 1960s, Can't Buy Me Love illuminates the Beatles as a charismatic phenomenon of international proportions, whose anarchic energy and unexpected import was derived from the historic shifts in fortune that transformed the relationship between Britain and America in the decades after World War II.

From the Beats in America and the Angry Young Men in England to the shadow of the Profumo Affair and JFK's assassination, Gould captures the pulse of a time that made the Beatles possible--and even necessary. As seen through the prism of the Beatles and their music, an entire generation's experience comes astonishingly to life. Beautifully written, consistently insightful, and utterly original, Can't Buy Me Love is a landmark work about the Beatles, Britain, and America.

From the Hardcover edition.

Nearly twenty years in the making, Can't Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can't Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould seeks to explain why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social context that girded both their rise and their demise.

Beginning with their adolescence in Liverpool, Gould describes the seminal influences--from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to The Goon Show and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--that shaped the Beatles both as individuals and as a group. In addition to chronicling their growth as singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, he highlights the advances in recording technology that made their sound both possible and unique, as well as the developments in television and radio that lent an explosive force to their popular success. With a musician's ear, Gould sensitively evokes the timeless appeal of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration and their emergence as one of the most creative and significant songwriting teams in history. And he sheds new light on the significance of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as rock's first concept album, down to its memorable cover art.

Behind the scenes Gould explores the pivotal roles played by manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, credits the influence on the Beatles' music of contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Ravi Shankar, and traces the gradual escalation of the fractious internal rivalries that led to the group's breakup after their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Most significantly, by chronicling their revolutionary impact on popular culture during the 1960s, Can't Buy Me Love illuminates the Beatles as a charismatic phenomenon of international proportions, whose anarchic energy and unexpected import was derived from the historic shifts in fortune that transformed the relationship between Britain and America in the decades after World War II.

From the Beats in America and the Angry Young Men in England to the shadow of the Profumo Affair and JFK's assassination, Gould captures the pulse of a time that made the Beatles possible--and even necessary. As seen through the prism of the Beatles and their music, an entire generation's experience comes astonishingly to life. Beautifully written, consistently insightful, and utterly original, Can't Buy Me Love is a landmark work about the Beatles, Britain, and America.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 Now, you've got to keep in mind that Elvis Presley was probably, innately, the most introverted person that came into that studio. Because he didn't play with bands. He didn't go to this little club and pick and grin. All he did was sit with his guitar on the side of his bed at home.

    --Sam Phillips

    Well since my baby left me . . ." The voice, unaccompanied but for the tinny flourish of piano that anchors the end of each line, was somehow bigger and riper with feeling than any voice its young listeners had ever heard. "Well I found a new place to dwell . . ." It projected an authority and an insolence that reached beyond the words themselves, and it came from a place beyond the realm of "entertainment" as they had ever conceived of the term. Now joined by a doomstruck bass line, the sound of that voice seemed only to grow larger and more menacing, yet closer and more confiding as well, as if --given the lurching slow-dance tempo of the music--the singer's lips were pressed tight against the ear of the girl he now began to address, his words expressing a vengeful wish to make her feel the same way he was feeling in his room at the Heartbreak Hotel: "So lonely I could die." Though such things had been said for time immemorial in the lives of ordinary people; and though similar expressions of such dire emotion could be found in a growing number of avowedly realistic novels, plays, and films; and though something very much like it had been available for years on the sorts of records that most people never heard (including earlier, more obscure records by this same singer)--the fact remained that no man had ever sounded this way, or spoken this way to a woman, in front of so many millions of listeners before.

    Elvis Presley was the catalyst, not the originator, of the phenomenon called rock 'n' roll. Three years before he made his first recordings, the term was being promoted by a Cleveland disc jockey named Alan Freed as a race-neutral pseudonym for the black rhythm and blues that Freed began beaming across a wide swath of the North American continent in 1951. In 1954, the year that Freed moved his radio show, "Moondog's Rock 'n' Roll Party," to New York City, a white band singer named Bill Haley (himself a former disc jockey) recorded a pair of songs on the Decca label, one a novelty tune with a snappy tick-tock rhythm called "Rock Around the Clock," the other a sanitized "cover" version of a current rhythm-and-blues hit by Joe Turner called "Shake, Rattle and Roll." "Rock Around the Clock" failed to catch on at first, but Haley's pallid rendition of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" became a hit record, rising into the Billboard Top Ten in the fall of 1954. The following year, "Rock Around the Clock" was featured on the soundtrack of a film called Blackboard Jungle--one of a spate of Hollywood movies designed to exploit the rising tide of public anxiety about juvenile delinquency in America. Placed in a suitably inflammatory context, the song caught fire, reaching number one on the pop charts in the summer of 1955, turning the chubby, thirtyish, tartan-jacketed Haley into the world's first rock-'n'-roll star.

    In the meantime, legend has it, an eighteen-year-old delivery truck driver named Elvis Aron Presley sauntered into the storefront offices of Sam Phillips's Memphis Recording Service in the summer of 1953 to make an acetate of a song called "My Happiness" as a birthday present for his mom. (That Gladys Presley was born in the spring only burnishes the myth.) Sam Phillips, who operated his studio in conjunction with a small independent record label called Sun, had concerned himself to date with recording such talented Memphis-area bluesmen as Howlin' Wolf and...

About the Author-
  • JONATHAN GOULD is a writer and a former professional musician who studied with the eminent jazz drummer Alan Dawson and spent many years working in bands and recording studios. In addition to writing and playing music, Gould has raised a family, served in local politics, and taken an active role in the life of the upstate New York community where he has lived for the past twenty-five years. He currently divides his time between New York City and Willow, New York.


    From the Hardcover edition.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 20, 2007
    Signature

    Reviewed by
    Mark Rotella
    As a teenager, I collected every album the Beatles put out, starting with their first U.S. release, 1964's Meet the Beatles
    , to their last, Let It Be
    , in 1970. As Paul sang “Mother Mary comes to me/ speaking words of wisdom,” I heard the wisdom of an aged sage.
    But as Jonathan Gould states in his brilliant biography of the Beatles, the band had “effectively ended before any of them had reached the age of thirty.”
    There have been several biographies of the band (including two outstanding ones, Bob Spitz's The Beatles
    and Devin McKinney's Magic Circles:
    The Beatles In Dream and History
    ), but Gould leaves the gossip to others and instead relies on their music to tell the story, starting with the early days as a band in Liverpool (with Paul McCartney on guitar and Stuart Sutcliffe on bass) to the recordings at the Abbey Road studios in London (where Yoko became everpresent and George stormed out threatening to quit).
    They got their start in Hamburg, Germany, and were soon managed by a young, eager former furniture salesman named Brian Epstein, and produced by George Martin, a recording executive known for novelty records.
    Gould, a former musician, has written an engrossing book, both fluid and economical (aside from one overlong section on the concept of “charisma”). Page after page, you can hear the music; Gould's deft hand makes the book sing. This is music writing at its best.
    “It begins with a musical wake-up call,” Gould writes of “A Hard Day's Night”—“the harsh clash of a solitary chord that hangs in the air for an elongated moment, its densely packed notes swimming into focus like eyes adjusting to the light.” On “Here Comes the Sun,” Gould describes George's music, written as he became more steeped in Indian philosophy amidst turmoil within the band, as “rays of sun cutting across the melting ice of winter... of coming through a long and arduous experience and emerging whole at the end.”
    Focusing on the Beatles' influences, musical (Elvis, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys) and otherwise (marijuana, LSD, the Maharishi Mahesh yogi), Gould elucidates the mystery of the band that changed the course of Western popular music. (Oct.)

    Mark Rotella, senior reviews editor at
    Publishers Weekly, is the author of
    The Saloon Singers, about the great Italian-American crooners, to be published by FSG in 2008.

  • Publishers Weekly, starred, signature review "Gould, a former musician, has written an engrossing book, both fluid and economical (aside from one overlong section on the concept of charisma). Page after page, you can hear the music; Gould's deft hand makes the book sing. This is music writing at its best."
  • Library Journal "What separates writer and musician Gould's first book from the multitudinous others is his threefold focus; Gould deftly mixes biography with social commentary and musical and lyrical analysis, illustrating how the band crafted its groundbreaking songs and how its achievements impacted, and were impacted by, the tumultuous 1960s. Highly recommended for all academic, public, and music libraries."
  • Booklist, starred review "Gould's combination group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism artfully places the Beatles in their time and social context while examining with great skill how they became an international phenomenon comparable only to themselves. ... Setting Gould's book apart are his careful dissection of cultural history and his astute critical eye. ... Long on history, short on gossip, he gives nuanced assessments of the world's most admired rock band and of its era."
  • Santa Barbara News-Press "Every so often – every rare once in a while – it is good and cleansing and necessary to have one compact volume that sums everything up, hitting the heights and depths and sticking with the facts all the way to the bitter end. Jonathan Gould's Beatles biography 'Can't Buy Me Love' is that book – and, aware as it is of the fact that even titling the book 'Can't Buy Me Love' is something so completely simple and banal, it tells the sprawling, complicated Beatles story in a refreshingly straight-forward manner. ... Gould succeeds in not only expertly telling that tale, but infusing it with a voice that's all his own."
  • Dayton Daily News "Gould excels at depicting the complexities involved in creating songs destined to become classics...He juxtaposes their personal history, the genius, the outrageous statements, the women, the drugs--with the arc of world events then. If you loved the Beatles, you'll love this book."
  • DailyVault.com "It's been said that not only did the world want the Beatles in the 1960s, it needed them. Gould, for the first time, really explains why....Gould has written a book that both fans and rock historians will enjoy."
  • The Boston Globe "Essential....his narrative literally sings itself off of the pages."
  • James Marcus, The Los Angeles Times "Excellent and engrossing....Gould has the two gifts essential to a critic–passionate expertise plus a bulletproof sense of humor–and his descriptions of the music are hilariously on target....Yet Gould also possesses that third essential gift: the capacity for awe."
  • USA Today "Excels by providing what's been missing from many biographies: context."
  • Play-Taste "Volumes have been written on the Beatles....Now comes one of the best, Jonathan Gould's Can't Buy Me Love, a smashing group biography that doubles as a masterful cultural history."
  • Glenn Frankel, Washington Post Book World "Offers a fresh vision that, like the Beatles, brims with entergy, wit and charm."
  • Fulvuedrive-in.com "Can't Buy Me Love the book is not just a book, it is an experience and if I had to name must-read/must-own books on the subjects covered, it would be in the Top Ten of all my lists. Don't miss one of the best music history books ever written!"
  • Ray Ellis, Culture Salad Online "In Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America, author Jonathan Gould presents perhaps the most comprehensive, enjoyable read concerning the Fab Four ever written. More importantly, Gould's book illustrates how events influence our thought processes, and how we turn to idols to make sense of it all. This isn't just a
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