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Black Friday With The Beatles At The Bookstore

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Black Friday — the semi-official name given to the kickoff of the retail holiday shopping season in recent years — has become one of the stranger (and more curiously named) ways that Americans have come to celebrate our annual religious holiday traditions, by indulging our equally rabid lusts for rampant consumerism.

Whoever actually came up with the name “Black Friday” — a moniker which conjures images of occult ritual more than anything having to do with Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Jesus, or even Santa Claus — is anyone’s guess.

You’ve also gotta’ feel at least a little sorry for the illegitimate bastard son of a holiday that Thanksgiving has become — what with the trees and lights already up, and the door-busting TV ads already in place. All that turkey on your dinner table asks in return for allowing himself into your gut today, is a little love in return.

More than anything though, the whole “Black Friday” concept serves as a reminder of just how stressful the holiday season can be. Fears of being trampled to death by that angry mob when Walmart opens at 4 AM on Friday aside though, what is perhaps most daunting is deciding which bargain to choose once those gates have been appropriately crashed.

When it comes time to play the real life version of “Let’s Make A Deal” does one opt for Doorbuster #1 or Doorbuster #2?

Fortunately, when it comes to buying the perfect gift, there is one thing that nearly everyone can agree on, and that is the Beatles. I mean, who doesn’t have a person on their list this year who wouldn’t be delighted to find the Fab Four in their stocking or underneath the tree?

The only problem there of course (at least when it comes to the music), is the likelihood that the Beatlemaniac on your list may already have it all — particularly with the music now only a click away on iTunes.

Which is what makes a Beatles book the perfect solution. One of the greatest things about having left behind a legacy as rich as the Beatles did, is the fact that even after all these years, writers keep finding fresh new things to say about the Fabs year after year. The books just keep on coming, and this year is no exception. Here are a few recommendations on making the most of your Black Friday with the Beatles at the bookstore this holiday season.

Released just in time for the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder, Keith Elliot Greenberg’s December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died is a riveting account of the events leading up to Lennon’s assassination in front of his New York home at the Dakota thirty years ago. Written as a series of briefs that read almost like one of those news-tickers you see at the bottom of your screen on CNN, Greenberg’s narrative takes you as close to actually getting inside the heads of the key players in this tragedy as it gets, without the benefit of actually having been there as an eyewitness to the crime.

We follow the chronology of John Lennon’s day as he shuffles to and from the recording studio, does the famous Annie Leibowitz Rolling Stone photo shoot with Yoko, and makes plans to promote the Double Fantasy album — plans which included serious talk of his first concert tour since the Beatles. We also follow the dark and twisted journey of Mark David Chapman that fateful day — including a chilling account of Chapman shaking the hand of John & Yoko’s young son Sean Lennon earlier that afternoon.

In the aftermath of Lennon’s murder, Greenberg also provides a stunning variety of perspectives to the tragedy, ranging from those of Lennon’s fellow Beatles, to sportscaster Howard Cossell (who broke the story on ABC’s Monday Night Football), to fellow musicians Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen (who were both performing onstage in different cities when Lennon was shot and killed).

We also get the reaction of Lennon’s New York neighbors, including a local bartender and WWF wrestlers Rick Martel and The Wild Samoans — who were wrestling a match just a few blocks away at Madison Square Garden. There have been many books about John Lennon’s murder, but few put you right there with the same “newscast from a time machine” style that Greenberg’s book does.

New York Times best selling author Howard Sounes’ Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney is another must-read for the Beatles or McCartney fan who thinks he has read it all. Billed as the first complete biography of Paul McCartney’s life, Sounes’ exhaustively researched book more than lives up to that lofty claim.

Fab tells McCartney’s story from his birth in England, through the Beatles and his solo years (with and without Wings), his family life with Linda, and finally right up through the present day with albums like Memory Almost Full, his record deal with Starbucks’ Hear Music imprint, and of course his disastrous second marriage to Heather Mills.

Through it all, Sounes is both thorough and unflinching in his appraisal of both McCartney’s music, and of the man himself. In conducting his research, Sounes interviewed some 200 people — including nearly everyone close to Macca himself — to come up with a portrait of a man who is musically brilliant, financially shrewd and professionally driven, but also more privately flawed as a human being than the public picture has ever previously revealed.

In addition to being the genius behind the concept for Sgt. Pepper, we also learn details of Macca’s fondness for both drink and especially for smoking pot, as well as past womanizing and indiscretions. The insecurities driving his sibling rivalry with John Lennon is also given closer examination. But nowhere are these details more revealing than in Sounes’ account of McCartney’s second marriage and bitter divorce from Heather Mills that takes up the latter chapters of the book.

At 600 plus pages, Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney can seem like a daunting read. But once you pick this one up, you’ll have as difficult a time tearing yourself away as I did — at least if you fancy yourself a Beatles or McCartney fan.

Other noteworthy Beatles titles to consider at the bookstore this Black Friday include Robert Rodriguez and Stuart Shea’s excellent Fab Four FAQ (everything you ever wanted to know about The Beatles) and Fab Four FAQ 2.0 (which covers the post breakup solo careers of the Fabs).

For the Beatles fan who also happens to be a musician or gearhead, Andy Babiuk’s Beatles Gear is also an excellent choice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s clobbering time. Tis’ the season for Beatles fans. See ya’ at the mall.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.
  • If by writing articles for free on a site like BC is simply means of trying to get myself a little attention, then aren’t you and countless others here guilty of exactly the same thing?

    We all write about numerous subjects here, including the occasional controversial one like the topic that I chose to write about here. By writing articles about books or movies that cover historical events — including the tragic or gruesome ones — it does not necessarily mean that we condone them (which in Chapman’s case, I most certainly do not).

    Information is meant to inform and educate, and yes, that does include information about unfortunate and even heinous acts. We learn from our history. It doesn’t mean that we put the gun into his hand. It’s just not the same thing.

    Did it ever occur to you that by continuing this line of argument here you are also contributing to the same things you object so vociferously to? But hey, it’s your right to voice your opinion too. Just don’t tread on my right to express mine.

    It’s called freedom of expression, and it’s one of the things that makes America great, and separates us from places where the flow of information is strictly controlled. As a writer yourself, I’d suggest looking into it.


  • It’s intended to be over the top to get people’s attention.

    Yes, Glen, you’ve made clear you have no qualms about contributing to a killer’s goals. Looks like Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep?” applied to more people than Paul.

    The event has already been chronicled, thousands of times apparently. What exactly did society learn about evil with each of those accounts? Just one example will be fine.

    From your coverage, there doesn’t appear anything significant added to the story so what’s the need to go over it yet again? Greenberg is a ghoul who couldn’t find any other way to make a buck and you are riding on his coattails to get yourself a little attention.

    The naivety on display is all yours. No one is wishing away reality. I am not saying scrub all the records. I am saying stop glorifying this guy while he’s alive. Your comparison to mass murders is also off base. Did you not get the news Hitler and Pol Pot are dead? And when did they state fame was their goal?

    Speech and expression are restricted all the time by the government, by society, and even by our parents when we were growing up. I am sure yours will be happy to know you think they are evil.

  • Restricting free expression and speech…under any guise…now, that’s evil.


  • Bicho,

    We have had this conversation before. but the notion that by reviewing a historical account of a tragic event I am somehow “siding with evil” is just patently absurd.

    It’s history, plain and simple. To write about a book chronicling an historical event, and not talk about the perpetrator of the crime would be less than honest. History is filled with a variety of murderous scumbags, some of which are far greater than Chapman (Hitler, Pol Pot)…and the history books about them do not gloss over any of the details.

    Hopefully, by reading about their crimes, society learns something about the nature of evil. Trying to simply wish away reality is not only naive, but in many ways contributes to the perpetuating of said evil.

    I stand by my review, written for free as it was.


  • Glen Boyd is an “accomplice in Lennon’s murder” because he reviewed this book? Man, that is so over the top!

    In the 30 years since Lennon died, there’ve been thousands of books and articles about his assassination. Can you cite even one single example of another “imbalanced fool” who has followed in Chapman’s footsteps as “an easy way to gain notoriety?”

  • Alan, the people with blinders on are those like the author of the book and this post who have decided to become accomplices in Lennon’s murder.

    That lunatic’s plan was to become famous by killing Lennon. Any books, films, or articles about him contribute to his goal and may well suggest to other imbalanced fools it’s an easy way to gain notoriety.

    Unless there’s some new information to be had, there’s no need for Greenberg to write a new book. It’s bad enough he makes money off Lennon’s murder; Glen takes part in Lennon’s death for free.

    Once the killer is dead, I wouldn’t care if someone tried to get a national holiday installed in his honor, but until then I will continue to speak out against those who side with evil.

  • Boeke

    It’s called “Black friday” because this is the day that sales put stores ‘in the black’, compared to the previous 10 months which, presumably, have created red ink.

  • El Bicho (#3), this is not the first time in BC comment threads that you’ve expressed your disgust at the mere mention of John Lennon’s murderer. It’s touching that you’re such a loyal Lennon fan that you still cannot abide the assassin’s name 30 years after the fact. But I don’t understand how Keith Elliot Greenberg, or anyone else, could write a book titled December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died without naming Mark David Chapman, describing his background, and detailing his actions on that day and during the period leading up to it. That would be like writing a book about the JFK assassination without mentioning Lee Harvey Oswald. Unlike loyal fans, history does not wear blinders.

  • El Bicho

    absolutely disgusting to see yet another person bringing that sick bastard the attention and fame he sought by killing Lennon.

  • Hey Greg,

    There isn’t a proof for a cover yet…and in fact, we haven’t even discussed it at this point (the book itself is barely half done). But thanks for asking.

    Happy Turkey day to you sir, and good luck at the mall on Friday. Break a leg….


  • Greg Barbrick

    Jesus Glen! You nailed it, when I hear the term “Black Friday” I hear the Steely Dan song in my head, not the lovely shopping experience retailers are hoping for.

    You should get an advance copy pic of your upcoming Neil book to promo along with the Fab Four FAQs.