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A Hard Day's Night book proposal

Friday 1/6/23

Dear (redacted),

How are you, sir? I had a book project I'm looking to do, and I thought you were the man to bring it to. It's something I want to do with celerity--writing it all on the next several months--which would be formidable work in and of itself, and also a money-maker. My work has appeared just about everywhere: The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Harper's, The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, LA Times, The Wall Street Journal, and so forth. I'm the author of eight books to date and I give many interviews as a guest on radio programs and podcasts.

A number of people know me for a number of different things, but I have a very large following for my Beatles writings, which are typically discussed as works of prose art themselves. I say things about the Beatles no one else does, and am generally thought to have a different kind of insight. My work in this arena garners much discussion and sharing, and I'm badgered--though I welcome it in this case--at my website for when the first Beatles book of mine will come out.

No one writes about them as I do. There will be a big Beatles op-ed by me in the New York Post on New Year's Eve, about the Star Club recordings, which speaks I think, to how I take something so specific and open it up to all readers, in this instance, on the opinion pages of the fifth highest circulation newspaper in the country. Here's a link to a section on my site of some Beatles-based writings. I also give hundreds of interviews about the band, on NPR and the like.

Here's what I'm thinking and this is my secret weapon of a book that will knock Beatles conversation and studies on their collective head. It's what I've been thinking for some time, but then I saw the U2 book you folks did, and this seemed all the more of a logical landing spot.

There is a misguided tendency to overvalue the Beatles' recordings from 1967 on, and pay little attention to their early work. One simple explanation is that radio has long featured the former. It's Sgt. Pepper that plays as we drive in cars, and "Here Comes the Sun" and tracks from the White Album. Then of course we had the likes of the Get Back docu-series.

I've written about the Beatles professionally going back over two decades. I've mulled them and their output since I was a mid-teenager, when I'd kill time in my head by ranking their albums, their best concerts, their best radio sessions, their best demos, their best first takes. And now here at forty-seven, I am of the belief that they never made a finer record than A Hard Day's Night, the only Beatles LP comprised entirely of Lennon-McCartney originals.

Energy is the rarest component in the arts. A value of a work of art, and it's quality, is in direct proportion, I believe, to its quotient of energy. Energy doesn't mean shoutiness, it's not some volume thing. Joyce's Ulysses has great energy, Beethoven's late string quartets have great energy, a Joseph Cornell box has great energy, Citizen Kane has great energy. But I've never encountered a work of art that radiates energy more fully than A Hard Day's Night. Its songs were as invent as anything this duo ever wrote, and completely remade the possibilities of popular music. "A Day in the Life" from Sgt. Pepper is an inversion of "A Hard Day's Night." The earlier song was the blueprint. The crucial chord begins rather than ends the number, Lennon interpolates a key line under McCartney's phrasing the same as he does when he returns for the final version of the Pepper song.

The second side of the record deals in the domestic, whereas the first side is a clarion call to the world. There's an interiority here that anticipates "Strawberry Fields Forever," that may have been more Dylanesque than Dylan was, paradoxically, at the time.

Lennon's voice changed much after A Hard Day's Night. He didn't become a worse singer, but he became a different one. His is the perfect rock and roll voice on this record, and it's also the Beatles' lone perfect artistic statement. Sometimes when we have a perfect work, it's because it risks less; but A Hard Day's Night is constant risk that pays off sans fail.

I've written a book about Sam Cooke's Live at the Harlem Square Club for the 33 1/3 series, which I did in fifteen days, and that book was entirely about the album but also more than the album; the Civil Rights Movement, Cooke's unique brand of soul, how the in-concert set let to the writing of America's most consequential song, along with Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," in "A Change Is Gonna Come." When compelling narrative pairs with unique analysis, we have potent results. I also write widely about film, and did a book on 1951's Scrooge as the ultimate horror film.

What I want to do in this book with you is a combined Hard Day's Night venture: both record and film. I was supposed to do a book about the film for the BFI, but they changed from one editorial staff to another--moving from England to the States--and some projects ended up in limbo. The person in the States seems to have a disdainful view of anything that might be popular or have resonance in popular culture, as if a Richard Lester picture--and the finest rock and roll film ever made, and a sort of arthouse venture in its way at the same time--was slumming it.

There has never been a good book about the film. There has never been a good book about the record. The film and the record pair wonderfully well. We have the Beatles authority that many people turn to, who also tells stories that feature in the likes of a Harper's and a VQR. We have the film person. We have a big hole in the market, and also people looking to buy a Beatles book from this writer.

I have written often on the album and the film. You can find anything you want, pretty, pertaining to me and the Beatles online. That's why I'm forgoing the typical process, perhaps, and also because I think I have a very different and proven track record from the norm with the press. What I've done says a lot about what I am about to do. And I know there's not much in the way of an advance at the press, but I believe I'd be making that up on the royalties.

So we could have something big here. Given the go-ahead, I'd be looking to have this book done in the first half of the year. As I went, I'd show you chapters. One of the cool things about a project like this is you give people a new way to experience something they think they know everything about. But they're not really listening, and they're not really looking. We become passive, and we parrot what those around us--and on Twitter--are saying.

For instance, you'll see some Twitter poll about what the best Beatles album is, or their best single, and it's the same old, same old, every time. There is nothing like the early Beatles. If you look at my career, you'll see that I'm an expert on many subjects, and range is a thing of mine; but even still, I know nothing like what this band was in 1964. The Beatles had two apogees; Pepper was the second, but A Hard Day's Night--album and film--was the first. I find that first apogee--to slightly mix metaphors--more emblematic of their brilliance. And I find that it has greater cultural utility, too.

I'll tell the story of these joint projects, look at the script, the demos, the outtakes, the inventions, the live versions, the compositional process, the changes from what the Beatles had been. The year before they created no less than a debut for the ages, a sophomore LP that is the definitive statement of British rhythm and blues, and the singles "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand"--but beginning in January 1964, in a Paris hotel room on what was a dire trip for the band to the city of love, something different began to happen as Paul McCartney wrote "Can't Buy Me Love."

The song had a long ways to go, but in a short temporal stretch, for the Beatles always had an alchemical relationship with time. Beatles time is not regular time. The first take of "Can't Buy Me Love," for instance, was a country and western sort of affair. And we will sit with John Lennon in his home in the middle of night, as he sings the earliest version of "If I Fell"--which may be the coldest song of that decade, and one of the most psychologically illuminating, for all of the token rigamarole about it being a love song--into a tape recorder.

So. Just wanted to get this off to you in the dying moment of 2022. Wishing you all the best for 2023.


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