Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Growing up with the Beatles - a book review
What Beatles book sold over 160,000 copies and every Beatle fan in the world had on his or her bookshelf in 1976? Why none other than Growing up with the Beatles by Ron Schaumburg. Admittedly, most fans bought this book for one reason: the photos! What other Beatle book has a pull out poster in the middle? The photos in this book are gorgeous and in 1976 they were photos that had never been seen before and really even today some of the shots aren't extremely common ones.
I decided to re-visit this book for this week's Wednesday review and see if I thought it held up over time. The text of the book is that of Ron, a first generation Beatles fan. He talks about his life growing up near Kansas City and how his life as a young boy was intertwined with the Beatles. One of my first realizations was that 12 years really wasn't enough time to have a true retrospective of what type of legacy the Beatles were going to have on the world. And was it really long enough for Ron to understand the impact the Beatles had on his life? The title was "Growing up with the Beatles," but was Ron truly "grown up" when he wrote the book? And what about the Beatles? While as a band they had disbanded, they still all had more to experience as well. I think this book would have been better if it had been written today, as several books of this type have been over the years.
But with that aside, it is a fun book to read and it gives you a glimpse of what it was like to be a male Beatlemaniac. Many of these retrospective books are written by females, which I love, but the male view is different and fun as well. The thing I found shocking (alright that is a little harsh of a word) is that Ron was actually an anti-Beatles fan in the mid 1960's! He admits that he hated the Fab 4 and when the Shea Stadium concert was on television, Ron was hurling insults at the screen! Oh my! But Ron eventually came back to the Beatles and they became a big part of his daily life. Magical Mystery Tour was playing on the turntable when his dad sat down to give him the talk about the facts of life.
I do recommend re-reading this book through the eyes of 2015. It is a fun book to read and it is a classic in Beatles bookdom. Of course my favorite part was when Ron tells about meeting Ringo in person! In 2008, Beatlefan magazine interviewed Ron and he tells the story the magazine, which I am going to share here.
Ken Sharp of Beatlefan: There's a personal connection between George and your boo.
Ron: the week before I did an interview for a big radio station in Chicago, I was told George Harrison had come through doing a promotional tour for "33 1/3" and he was on the same radio station and he'd had dinner with the staff. Because they knew I was coming in to do an interview, the publisher sent them some advance copies and they gave one of the copies of "Growing up with the Beatles" to George. They told me that George sat at the table and he wasn't eating his diner but he was leafing through the book. I have this great created memory of George sitting and leafing through the pages of my book; it's a happy one for me and I tell myself that he was enjoying it! (laughs)
Ken: Take us back to when you met Ringo in 1974.
Ron: I was living in LA and there was an ad in a paper for the premiere of the movie "That'll be the Day", which co-starred Ringo and David Essex. In the ad it said, "In person Ringo Starr." I said "Wow, I might be able to finally meet a Beatle." I remember standing on the street with a big crowd and a limo pulling up. And Ringo's kind of short (laughs) and here was this crowd and this little guy walks in and it was kind of hard to see him.
I brought three albums that I hoped to get him to autograph, "Sgt. Pepper," "Abbey Road" and "Ringo." I was sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to start and I realized there was no microphone or podium. There wasn't going to be an event. Nobody was going to speak or say "Hey, ladies and gentlemen, meet Ringo!" We were all just a bunch of audience members waiting for the movie to start. I began to think, if I'm going to have a moment with Ringo, I'm gonna have to make it happen myself. So I stood up and walked to the back of the theater acting like I was going for a drink. I didn't really want a drink. I just wanted to scope out the situation. I saw where Ringo was sitting, came back to my seat and got my albums. It thought it was best and most polite to have him sign his own album so I grabbed the "Ringo" record. I walked back to where he was. He was sitting with Harry Nilsson and Ted Neely, the star of "Jesus Christ Superstar". I zeroed in on Ringo, leaned over Harry Nilsson, made eye contact with Ringo and told him, "I just wanted to tell you that you've been a friend for so many years." He said in his dry Liverpudlian accent, "Oh have I?" I said, "Yeah, I wondered if you'd mind signing my album?" and handed him the "Ringo" album and he said, "Well, if you buy the album I guess I have to sign." It wasn't exactly upbeat happy, "Oh, here's a fan." He seemed a little bit grumpy about it but I didn't feel bad about it because he was at an announced public appearance. It wasn't like I cornered him in a restaurant or in the restroom. Anyway, so he signed the record. I guess you could say he was being dry and sarcastic in his typical way or maybe he was just really pissed. I tried to tell the story in the book as accurately as it happened and I think I characterized him as being a little grumpy. The published wisely suggested that maybe we should alter the tone a bit. I think they were right. They said that we'd been building up to something like this throughout the book and here's this chance and we dont' want it to be too much of a let down. I went along with that. It think in the book it accurately tells the story of what happened but it omits some of the tone, and that's fine. What also happened, as I described in the book, when we were handing the album back and forth one of my knuckles brushed one of his and I felt "Bang!" I'd made contact with the hands that gave the Beatles' music its backbeat. It was a nice little moment.