Some might say that modern pop music started with the Beatles. Yes, before the Beatles there was this singer, Elvis Presley, and the other guy, Chuck Berry, pretty much invented rock and roll, but the Beatles were in another league. Jonathan Gould's new Beatles biography, "Can't Buy Me Love" (Harmony Books, $27.50) provides an insightful overview of the Fab Four's career.
As Gould recounts the Beatles changed pretty much everything. Pop and rock music in the early 1960s was released mostly on 45 RPM singles, but the Beatles' producer George Martin was onto something from the get-go when he insisted on recording a full length LP. True, the early success of the "Please, Please Me" single had something to with that decision. That first LP quickly rose to #1 and held the top spot on the English charts from May to December 1963. Something on the order of 30 weeks at #1, and that was before they conquered America!
Gould dissects the band's influences--Buddy Holly, Motown, Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan and how they shaped the Beatles music. There are times where "Can't Buy Me Love" reads like a textbook, perhaps because it so exhaustively details how the music came to be. The Beatles restless trajectory of change, constantly moving the music forward reached its zenith with the release of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" LP. Paul McCartney explains that he wanted to put aside the Beatles identity to create a new band with a completely different sound. Which was, when you think about it, all the more amazing that he fiddled with the Beatles sound at the height of their popularity.
Alas, the Beatles were destined to be a phenomenon of the 1960s and by 1970 John, Paul, George, and Ringo had released solo albums. The rest, as they say, is history. "Can't Buy Me Love" thoroughly documents the journey.