Beatleness by Candy Leonard tells the story of the Beatles through the eyes of the American first generation fans. I have read books similar to Ms. Leonard's book before. However, her book was written in a much more academic format. I would think that Beatleness will be used in Universities that study the Beatles or the 1960's will be happy to use this book in the classroom. Beatleness reads like a college textbook at times.
The book starts with the reactions and memories of first generation fans seeing and hearing the Beatles for the first time in February 1964 and goes on through the touring years and movies of the Beatles. It is always wonderful to hear first hand accounts of original fans. I cannot say too many times how important it is for the legacy of the Beatles to have these accounts in writing so that when the first generation fans are no longer with us, those who continue to study the Beatles will have an understanding of what it was like for them. I have to thank Candy Leonard for the work she did in gathering these memories because the such a vital part of the Beatles story that gets overlooked.
What particularly interested me was the memories and reactions of the fans after the Beatles stopped touring. Through this blog, I have gotten so many wonderful memories of the touring years, but besides those lucky few that hung around EMI, you dont' get to read much about the regular fans reactions to things after the tours. It was really fascinating to read the reaction fans had to the Beatles facial hair during the Pepper era, or to John's long hair in 1968. I loved the memories of the "Paul is dead" conspiracies and even memories of the Beatles break-up.
But the part that I think interested me the most was the memories of fans getting a new Beatles record and what that meant to them and how they remember the details of getting that record. While I know it is true, it just amazes me how the Beatles' music has made such an enormous impact on so many people. Fans would memorize the lyrics and try to figure out what they meant. Fans would learn the guitar parts and play them in bands in their basement. Fans would talk to other fans about the songs. And memories that are deep and important to people were made with the Beatles songs playing the background. I think the one story that really made me think was the story of a fan who recalls seeing servicemen going to the front door of a neighbor who had a son fighting in Vietnam. The men were there to tell his mother that he had died in war. The song "Hey Jude" was playing on the radio at the moment this fan saw this happening and has made a strong connection between the song and that moment. Good or bad---the Beatles were there.
Much of the book was hard for me, as a 2nd generation fan, to wrap my mind around. I would love to read a Beatleness book with other generations of Beatle fans asked the same questions. Beatleness has spread to all generations. This isn't a light-hearted book. It is deep and honestly there are words in there that you might need to look up. However, it is well worth taking the time to digest because there is much to learn from our fellow fans about Beatleness.
Beatleness has just recently been released in a paperback version and is available through Amazon