Book Review – The Beatles 100
Ever since I began reading books about my all-time favorite group, have searched out for those that didn’t exactly regurgitate the same stories. Or, if they did, added something new or took a different approach with dissecting The Lads and their impact. Harder than it looks as so many have taken on this subject with varying degrees of success and scope. This year’s search came down to John M. Borack’s admiring compendium of “pivotal” moments of his and my most prized band.
As Allmusic reports, Mr. Borack is a “Southern California-based music journalist who writes for GOLDMINE, AMPLIFIER, the PURE POP website (www.purepop.com) and THE GARDEN GROVE JOURNAL.” He’s also written CD liner notes for various bands and is on record that The Beatles shaped his appreciation for music. As well, published the 2010 book John Lennon: Life Is What Happens and 2018’s Shake Some Action 2.0: A Guide to the 200 Greatest Power Pop Albums 1970-2017.
All this led to putting his third book on my end of year reading list:
The Beatles 100 – One Hundred Pivotal Moments in Beatles History
Now, here’s an aspect that must be said right from the start of this review, which by the title was unexpected. Once I began reading the book1 it turns out the author’s “100” moments of The Beatles comprise not only their start in 1957 but goes beyond their breakup in 1970. At least half of the chapters are dedicated to the solo work of John, Paul, George, and Ringo since that “pivotal moment” when the group ceased being the “Fab Four.”
That may turn off a few readers, but after finishing the book Mr. Borack convinced me otherwise, so it’s still worth giving this a spin, I say.
I’ve read other such compilations before, the most recent being Peter Asher’s The Beatles From A to Zed, which also went beyond The Lads split up. No surprise, whether you’re a fan, a music critic, or a naysayer, there’s a familiar line of thought here: Once a Beatle, Always a Beatle. When you get past that, there’s a lot to enjoy in the author’s digest. Foremost, learning what’s important to him in his decades-long appreciation of this singular music group.
Must say, he writes from that common cause perspective with his fellow Beatles fans and readers.
“I just thought, ‘Well, he looks good.. and he seems like a great lead singer to me.’ Of course, he had his glasses off, so he really looked suave.”
— Paul McCartney on his first meeting with John Lennon
“I ruined Paul’s life. He could have been a doctor. He could have been somebody.”
— John Lennon
The Beatles 100 offers a good overall perspective of the group, its members and their history (before, during, and after) that is entertaining and easily digestible for Beatlemaniacs or just the curious. Each of the chapters is dedicated to a “pivotal moment”, is reasonably concise, and stays on point. So, it’s easy to drop off and pick up where you left2. The tome brings up both fond and painful memories, but that would be a compliment, even though the latter can be trying for some of us.
The book was published prior to the release of Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary, which he was looking forward to, so his writing still reflected the contentious nature of the original Let It Be film
The author displays an extensive knowledge of The Beatles, including similar groups (like Gerry and the Pacemakers, Badfinger, among others) of the era, and related American power pop bands like The Raspberries in the ’70s and beyond. During my read, more than once I went back to my LP/CD collection and re-listened to segments and songs detailed in the material. As John Borack is himself a musician (drummer), that clearly added to his commentary on vocals and instrumentation.
No doubt, much of my curiosity with the book stemmed from wanting to test his, and therefore my own, gathered familiarity with the many of moments that have been well-documented through the years by a whole host of Beatles authors; and what was among those “100” didn’t disappoint3.
And the author dedicated individual chapters for each of The Beatles’ LPs released from 1963-1970, along with some of the later post-split releases, which was welcome.
Now, did reading this expand my knowledge about my all-time favorite music group? Indeed, it did. Among the highlights was the chapter on the “Ringo” LP, which I didn’t much pay attention to when it initially came out, and how it came to be the closest to a long-sought Beatles reunion. It’s now an LP I’m looking to add to my stack. Plus, many of the chapters dedicated to Paul (16 by my count) reflected key moments on his post-Beatles career4 and albums.
Not a surprise given that he’s been the most prolific in the five decades since the focal year, 19705.
“Even though there were plenty of bad feelings swirling around at the time, Lennon and McCartney kept the mood light in the studio, jokingly called each other “George” and “Ringo” during the session. Quite a good vibe in there, actually,” claimed Apple’s art director John Kosh.” ~ Chapter 67 — Paul and John Record “The Ballad of John and Yoko””
If you pick this book up, included are a number of photos of the group, magazine covers, and individuals on their own, or with a significant other, in black & white and color. In addition, an extensive bibliography gives a good nod toward the research conducted by the author (which included the voluminously detailed You Never Give Me Your Money by Peter Dogget that remains a blistering read of the legal and personal troubles in the band’s separation).
By the time you have reached the 100th moment, the last few remaining chapters offer a rather fun epilogue as they cover John Borack’s personal lists that include…
- Favorite Beatles songs
- Five “Under-the-Radar” John Lennon Solo Tracks
- Ringo’s Top Ten Solo Tracks
- George’s Top Ten Solo Tracks
- Ten Great McCartney Solo Tracks
- Ten Outstanding Beatles Cover Versions
- Beatles Soundalike Releases
What every Beatles fan knows is the Lennon-McCartney catalog of songs can be overwhelming, and like other books covering The Lads, it’s hard to overcome that, as reflected here. This is why the George and Ringo segments are far fewer than some of us would like. Still, fans of this foursome should enjoy this book as the author’s writing style is sincere and authentic with what is clearly a treasured subject(s). And makes a clear case why they continue to matter through today.
The Beatles 100 was also released by Audible in audiobook format on the same day of publication (July 13, 2021), along with the Audio CD by Highbridge Audio and Blackstone Publishing. Clocking in at a fast-paced 9 hours 6 minutes in length, it brought another exciting aspect to the proceedings. Thankfully, it was narrated by Keith Sellon-Wright, who is well experienced in non-fiction works, and he gave John Borack’s words and those “pivotal moments” a forthright voice-over.
And while any revisit of The Beatles and their times is always welcome by this listener, the audiobook and its narrator made it that much more of an intriguingly fun ride for this audit.
- Each book chapter equals one “pivotal moment”. ↩
- The paperback version has the old-timey flaps, front and back, that allow the reader to insert where they left off if they don’t have a bookmark handy. ↩
- That’s not to say I agreed with every conclusion made by the author here, but that’s a given for any fan of a particular music group, and those who write a book about them; comes with the territory. ↩
- To be fair, John Lennon had about 18 chapters dedicated to him, both during and post the group. ↩
- No doubt accounted for with the untimely and early passings of John Lennon and George Harrison. ↩
Are you talkin’ to me?