Written by Fred LeFebvre
"The Beatles were a Sixties band."
That's how Barry Miles begins his big, bold, Beatles book, "The
Beatles: A Diary" (Omnibus Press, $24.95) It's like saying that
Picasso painted or that the Empire State Building is an office
building. The Beatles were so much more than "just" a '60s band, they
were the band that defined the '60s.
More than any other band in any decade, The Beatles were the
soundtrack for a generation of teens during 1960-1969. Luckily for
Beatles fans, Miles doesn't stop there. In this exhaustively
researched 300-plus page book, the author looks into everything that
made The Beatles not just a band, but also arguably the most
influential band of the 20th century.
Whether you're a fan of "Penny Lane" (like myself), "Revolution,"
"Yesterday" or any of the 186 Lennon-McCartney-penned songs the
Beatles recorded, there is something in "The Beatles: A Diary," for you.
Miles follows the day-to-day life of the members of the Fab Four,
from the first meeting of John and Paul (June 23, 1955) to the final
days of the end of the band. The pages are filled with photographs to
savor and tidbits of Beatles trivia over which to pour. The first
thing you'll want to do, if you're like me, is to find your birthday
for each year. On the day I turned 9 years old, the Beatles, then The
Silver Beetles, played at a coffee bar in Liverpool. Three years
later while I was busy trying to figure what a 12-year-old boy does
about his changing voice, the Beatles were the opening act on a UK
tour of Roy Orbison. I still hadn't heard of them yet.
For those who grew up in the '60s, especially those who hit their
teen years in the early '60s, the Beatles always seemed to have been
there. When I first started listening to a tiny AM radio it was CKLW
out of Canada. The airwaves were filled with songs my mom and dad
were more than happy to listen to also.
However, things began to change with the first of the many Beatles'
U.S. releases, especially their first No. 1 single, "I Want To Hold
Your Hand." Miles takes the reader through The Beatles' invasion of
the American record market, from the first charting single to the
historic day the band dominated the chart's top five spots in April
of 1964. That's a feat that has never been achieved by any other
group or single artist in the history of the Billboard Top 100.
Before you start to think John, Paul, George and Ringo were overnight
successes, check out the early years that Miles has researched so
thoroughly. Miles painstakingly delves into the daily grind of
becoming the world's greatest band. Check almost any date during
1962-63 and you'll find The Beatles either playing in Hamburg,
Germany or at home in the Cavern Club, sometimes two shows a day.
It's the little tidbits about the Fab Four that make this a book
you'll want to pick up. For example, did you know that at one point
in the early years The Beatles played for Coca-Cola and beans on
toast? Neither did I until I looked up my birthday for 1960. Just a
year removed from that gig the band was playing in at the Top Ten
Club in Hamburg for seven-hour sessions, five days a week. Is it any
wonder that shortly after hitting it big they decided to give up the
grind of playing live? When was that last live performance? To find
out you'll have to grab a copy of "The Beatles: A Diary."
Don't expect to sit down and read this detail-filled love letter to
The Beatles in one day, or even a week of eight days. Like the group
itself, the book grows on you and keeps you coming back to enjoy the
full-page photos, anecdotes and the day-to-day details that Miles has
included. I found myself reliving the days when The Beatles consumed
my teenage life. Having read the book I realized, finally, that John
and the boys were all older than me. While I was listening to them
they seemed to be the same age as me and my friends. They sang about
the things we were experiencing and influenced everything we did from
hairstyles to the clothes we wore.
You won't regret picking up Miles' "The Beatles: A Diary," either for
yourself or as a Christmas gift for that Beatles-loving friend of
yours. My guess is you'll get a big, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah."