Think you know everything about The Beatles? Although countless books have chronicled virtually every aspect of the Fab Four’s careers, author Bruce Spizer constantly impresses with his thorough research into lesser-known areas of their history. From the group’s beginnings on such small American labels as Swan and Vee-Jay to an in-depth look at the 1963-1964 US Beatlemania marketing campaign, Spizer researches particular, previously hidden corners of the Beatles’ story. His newest book, Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records (co-written with Beatles historian Frank Daniels), thoroughly examines the UK album, EP, and single releases, which can be a source of confusion for those accustomed to the American releases. While some information may be overly technical for some fans, the “behind the scenes” stories of the Beatles’ vast music catalog should interest all Fab Four enthusiasts.
Covering 1962-1970, Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records actually comprises two books in one, and Spizer’s introduction promotes that concept. Those who want the behind-the-scenes stories of how certain songs were written and recorded will want to read relevant parts of each section: “45 RPM Singles,” “Long-Playing Albums,” “EPs,” and “An EMI Recording,” which details the history of Parlophone/EMI. Tidbits include revealing the song on which Lennon based “I Feel Fine’s” guitar lick, the origins of that orange smudge on the bottom of the Beatles for Sale album cover, and how “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” was written and recorded. While Spizer does not detail every difference between British and American releases—that would constitute its own book—he does clarify how each UK album was carefully designed and compiled. Ever wonder about the history of the Fan Club Christmas Records? These are covered here, too. Why was “Strawberry Fields Forever” not included on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Spizer addresses that question and many more. Rare photos of the group, original advertisements, and other ephemera grace the pages.
The second book that inhabits this tome is intended for hard-core record collectors. Numerous full-color photos illustrate how the Parlophone/EMI (and later Apple Corps) labels differ from one another. Every color, misspelling, logo, number—Spizer chronicles every label variation imaginable. Researcher Daniels helped compile the data, which serves as essential information for anyone interested in owning every LP, EP, and 45 possible. As Spizer notes in his introduction, he realizes that not all Beatles fans will find these parts of the book fascinating. Therefore he recommends skipping those sections, although record collectors should find the photos, lists, and descriptions of various labels invaluable. However, it is not necessary to read those “hard-core” sections to enjoy Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records.
Accompanying the book is a glossy booklet entitled Check List and Valued Vendors, tucked into a replica of a 45 sleeve. Again, this version on an appendix should appeal mainly to collectors, as it lists catalog numbers, pressings, and other highly technical statistics.
While Spizer’s books can be expensive?$70 or so—their abundance of information make them essential additions for any Beatle fan’s library. Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records continues his pattern for producing painstakingly researched and designed reference tools for intermediate to advanced hobbyists. Like Mark Lewisohn, Spizer has deservedly earned the reputation for being a top Beatles historian and a trusted resource. His latest book follows in this tradition, and is well worth the price.
Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records will be published October 5, 2011, but pre-orders are accepted at Spizer’s website. The hardcover book is also available in two limited editions: the slipcase edition, which is numbered and includes the author’s autograph; and the collector’s edition, which includes the slipcase, a poster, replica of a vintage Beatles promotional card, a bookmark, and a limited edition print. Visit Spizer’s site for complete information.