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.