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Book Review: Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Solo Years 1970 – 1980 by Robert Rodriguez

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Like its predecessor Fab Four FAQ, Robert Rodriguez's new Fab Four FAQ 2.0 is a book jam-packed with facts, facts, and more facts.

In this look at the post-breakup solo work of the four ex-Beatles, no stone is left unturned when it comes to dissecting the most minute details of John, Paul, George and Ringo's individual work apart from the collective Fab Four.

Everything from who played what on which albums, to tantalizing details about a number of those "near misses" when it came to reunion rumors (the Saturday Night Live offer of $3000 to reunite on the show was one such close call), to juicy tidbits from John Lennon's "lost weekend" and the love triangle between George Harrison, Pattie Boyd, and Eric Clapton all receive their fair share of ink here.

But wisely, Rodriguez mostly sticks with the music here. As was the case with last fall's Fab Four FAQ, Rodriguez breaks down the Beatles solo years with all the precision of a master statistician. No matter how much you think you may know about the fabs, Rodriguez is sure to show you something new here. It makes for quite a bit of information to digest in a single sitting, or even in just reading it cover to cover. But as a resource that can be revisited time and time again, Fab Four FAQ 2.0 is near unequaled.

Nearly as interesting as the details about the albums though, are the interesting side-stories Rodriguez manages to unearth. Did you know for instance, that Cheap Trick members Rick Neilsen and Bun E. Carlos played on an early version of John Lennon's Double Fantasy album, or that Lennon may have scrapped their contributions to the record because of his anger after details of the sessions were leaked to the rock press?

Equally fascinating are the number of times that ex-Beatles played on each others solo albums. This also paints a very clear picture of the makeup of the Beatles post-break buddy system (it's little surprise that Paul McCartney became the de facto odd man out in the fraternity after the split).

There's also plenty of information here about the various sidemen employed by the ex-fab's, ranging from the famous friends (Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Elton John, Harry Nilsson, David Bowie) to the somewhat sadly forgotten (Gary Wright, Jesse Ed Davis). Of course, there is plenty on the usual suspects like Klaus Voorman and Alan White here as well.

The one way that Rodriguez breaks with the template of the first Fab Four FAQ book though, is the way he is so much more forthcoming here with his own opinions about the Beatles solo work than he was in the previous discussion. Because of this, the chapters in this book tend to be a little longer than the short lists which made up the bulk of the first Fab Four FAQ book. Rodriguez is much looser with his own opinions here.

For the first time, Rodriguez also takes it upon himself to actually rate the Beatles solo albums and singles with personal best and worst lists. The choices in the best column include most of what you'd expect (Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, McCartney's Band On The Run and Starr's Ringo). But there are some surprising choices here as well, as he rates albums like Ringo's Beaucoups Of Blues and Harrison's 33 1/3 much higher than you might think.

The real surprises — and the ones which could generate some controversy for the author — come with his choices for the worst albums though. It's not at all surprising to see something like Lennon's Sometime In New York City get the Rodriguez version of the Razzie, but Double Fantasy? You're kidding me, right? Or the albums McCartney, Wings At The Speed Of Sound and Red Rose Speedway from Macca's catalog?

Opinion being the subjective thing it is, I still fully expect to see Rodriguez catch some heat for some of the more curious choices here. The thing is, he backs up each argument very effectively. The best and worst lists included here also provide a nice counter-balance to this otherwise very fact heavy book.

As a resource for anyone researching the Beatles, Fab Four FAQ 2.0 is as invaluable as its predecessor was and makes a fine companion to it. As a more casual read, its also perfect for the coffee table or the porcelain library. Beatle-maniacs and casual fans alike will find themselves coming back to it again and again, and still finding something new every time.

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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, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.