The Complete Beatles Songs – The stories behind every track written by the Fab Four. By Steve Turner



This Craic appears in issue 220 of the Liverpool fanzine, Red All Over The Land.

I have to admit that when John Pearman, the editor of Red All Over The Land asked me to review a new Beatles book for the fanzine, I was expecting something a bit lighter. I don’t mean the content, I mean I wasn’t expecting the heavyweight, hardback tomb that John handed me after the Leicester City game. Some books are hard to put down, this one was hard to pick up!

The Complete Beatles Songs by Steve Turner isn’t a new book, it first came out in 1994 and was called A Hard Day’s Write. It’s never been out of print and was updated in 1999, 2005, 2009 and 2012. This version was released at the end of 2015. Over 440,000 copies have been sold, making it one of the world’s best selling books about The Beatles.

It contains the lyrics and the stories behind every original Beatles song recorded, all of the singles, A and B sides and all of the albums from Please Please Me to Abbey Road, Anthologies 1-3 and an original song that only showed up on fan club flexi-discs and Live at The BBC.

I thought I knew most Beatles lyrics but thanks to this book, I’ve found out that I’ve been singing the wrong words to at least a couple of the songs I’ve performed on stage in various bands over the years. In ‘Come Together’, John DOESN’T sing, “Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease…”, it’s, “Holds you in his arms, yeah…” And in ‘Something’, George sings, “You know I believe and how..” not “You know I believe in how…”

It doesn’t matter when you were born or where you’re from, The Beatles have been a part of all of our lives. In the 60s they were in mono on black vinyl, through the 70s it was awkward stereo on coloured vinyl and picture disc, the 80s on CD, the 90s Anthology DVDs, downloads in the 2000s and now streaming. Beatles music has been and continues to be omnipresent. I have been working as a radio presenter since 1993. I started playing music on the radio more than 20 years after The Beatles broke up but on every one of the more than twenty radio stations I’ve worked on, Beatles music has been on the playlist. Now, when you read this book, you’ll learn a lot more about the songs and what inspired them. ‘She’s Leaving Home’ is about a real person, she had even appeared with The Beatles in 1963 on Ready Steady Go. The true identities of other characters like the “Eggman” and the “Elementary Penguin” are revealed, “The Fool on The Hill” remains a mystery and there’s confirmation that Jojo, Loretta Martin, Vera, Chuck and Dave are all made up.

There are a few football references; John Lennon was pleased when he heard that the Kop were singing All Together Now, the lyric about the “Man in the crowd with the multicoloured mirrors on his hobnail boots” from Happiness is a Warm Gun was about a bloke who was a regular at Man City and former Liverpool player, Matt Busby gets a mention in “Dig It”.

You’ll find out why lyrics that made no sense were kept in, which ones were thrown out and the songs that influenced them. You’ll learn which bass lines, guitar riffs and vocal harmonies were “stolen” from other songs. Reading the book with a smartphone in your hand is a joy, thanks to YouTube you can listen to each song that influenced a Beatles “original” with sources as diverse as Smokey Robinson, Bob Dylan and Humphrey Littleton. If you’re a musician, you’ll enjoy discovering which Beatles songs used chord progressions stolen from other Beatles songs.

It’s all here, including which newspaper headlines, snatches of conversation, posters, television commercials, religious tracts, dreams and letters inspired the soundtrack to our lives.

The book is also full of wonderful photographs from pretty much every era of The Beatles story, including some from after the break-up and many I’d never seen anywhere else before. From Menlove Avenue to Madison Square Garden and from where the eyes of man have never set foot.

As a reference book, The Complete Beatles Songs by Steve Turner is excellent. If you’re planning on buying it to help pass the time on a journey or take to the beach, you’d be better off downloading the ebook version. The hardback is about the size and shape of an old phone book and half as thick. It weighs just under three and a half pounds. I’m not saying it’s not portable but there are 352 pages to get through and, if you’re like me and you like to have the current book you’re reading on you or in your bag, well… You’re Going To Carry That Weight a Long Time!

Craic on!

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