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A Year Like That: The Beatles' Annus Mirabilis of 1963

Saturday 3/11/23

As I do my work, future work is thought about and built in some ways before it is officially built. It's one of my ways of building. And of writing.


For instance, I become aware of a book that I will write. Sometimes I don't know when. But I know that I will because I should. That idea of the book lives with me, takes shape, gets mulled. Lines are written in my head. They stay there for when the official time comes. Work for me always begins inside of me. Once it is inside of me, it is being made, no matter what else I am doing. In this manner, I'm working on it without working on it, but also really working on it. I make notes. I make mental notes. I listen and read with a consideration of book-based purpose. I live with the book or the work because it's now me.


I'm formally working on Beatles books right now. The one that has immediate priority is the A Hard Day's Night book. But that doesn't mean I don't know what else I'll be writing, and two projects have begun to germinate in my mind recently, so I'll mention one of them here, and the other a little later.


I work with complete focus in the short term. In the moment. But I also plan the rest of the season, let us say, the season being my career, my life. The following decades.


From time to time, there will be a Beatles book coming out from me, is the plan for the rest of the way. There are many Beatles books. I would never write a Beatles book that is at all like any other Beatles book, which is what I think most people do with their Beatles book. Or they're very niche.


You need a special idea. You need to be able to think about the Beatles in a special, unique way. It all must be new. And encompassing. Not niche. You really need to be a different kind of cat. And you need a different level of expertise, by which I especially mean, understanding. You need to see the Beatles better. And be able to convey what you see--what you know--to others.


I'm a paradigm-shifter on the subject of Beatles. Giving You Everything: A Hard Day's Night and the Artistic Zenith of the Beatles overturns accepted wisdom. I'd suggest that that "wisdom" has been in place for so long because 1. People don't think and 2. People are lazy. They're going to only deal in that which is most readily presented to them. That can be for a number of factors--recency is one. What other people are more often talking about/focusing on is another.


But just as the A Hard Day's Night album and film represent that creative apogee for the Beatles, 1963 is their best year. The year in which they did the most amazing work. In various forms. It's a year for the ages, with the great creatives and artists in history. Shakespeare's such year was 1599. Keats' such year was 1819. Fleming's is every year. Wait, what? Yeah. My bad. Sorry. But people aren't going to be able to pick one, so maybe I'm not quite sorry at that.


In 1963, we have the best song of the Beatles' career, in "She Loves You." As a piece of writing. There are the two albums, and they are major statements. There are the sessions for those albums, especially the Please Please Me LP. What wasn't released deserves study. There is the "I Want to Hold Your Handle" single. The "From Me to You" single. The Beatles are multiple kinds of bands during 1963. By the end of it, they are briefly a rhythm and blues band. We have the Royal Command Performance. The Swedish tour, and the finest concert they ever gave. The homecoming show at Christmastime in Liverpool. The songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote that they gave to others. And, hugely, crucially, we have the bulk of the BBC sessions.


I would say--and have said--that if you want to know what the Beatles were about more than anything, spend a lot of time with the 1963 BBC output. Study that music. It's purely them as artists, musicians, friends, members of a community, music fans, dreamers, doers. And it's also them becoming who they will be. I have never seen anything by anyone else that satisfactorily explores that trove. Not with the depth and finesse of analysis it merits. I have The BBC Archive, the book. But it's not enough. It doesn't go where it needs to go, as far is it needs to go, as deep as it needs to go. It's more of a reference book, than something living and breathing.


What I'd also do is evaluate and discuss this year in the context of Britain and the world. What was happening in art, entertainment, events, culture. Really dial in on the Beatles' miracle year, from within and without.


The book will be called A Year Like That: The Beatles' Annus Mirabilis of 1963.



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