"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair

I've always loved The Beatles.  First as a fan, always as a fan.  How much as a fan? Well, I was delighted to find a subscription to Sirius/XM  Radio in my new car, early this month, and I promptly tuned it to MSNBC. Until The Beatles channel checked in on May 18, and that's what I listen to when I'm driving now.  Even when I'm not driving - I just came in from my driveway, because I wanted to hear the end of "Baby You Can Drive My Car".  I'd probably still be there, if the urge to write this review had not been so strong.

Yeah, writing soon blended into my love of The Beatles.  First as a singer and songwriter, in the early 1960s through the early 1970s (produced at one point by Ellie Greenwich), and then as a writer of nonfiction and about two decades later of science fiction.  My first published article - "A Vote for McCartney" in The Village Voice in 1971 - took on the Voice's dyspeptic, tone-deaf critic Robert Christgau. who had savaged Paul's debut solo album, McCartney.  (Christgau had a habit of missing the forest - at some point, he also lashed out at Phil Ochs, a lyricist second only to Dylan, for his guitar playing).   My Loose Ends Saga - arguably my best-known science fiction (arguable in the sense that many people deny it) - has a time traveler faced with the choice of either saving John Lennon or stopping September 11.

So, I was primed to read Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World since 1963, but my son Simon, who edited at Rolling Stone and knows Sheffield, pushed me over the top this weekend when I was raving about The Beatles station.   My wife had already purchased the hardcover and the audiobook, and I knew I would love it - a perfect accompaniment to my own continuing love story with The Beatles.

Sheffield is a masterful writer on all kinds of levels.  He has a knack for spot-on record reviews in less than a sentence - noting "the brash aggression of 'And Your Bird Can Sing'" and "the hair-curling harmonies of 'I Don't Wanna Spoil the Party'".  He has an assumption that The Beatles were and are in a class by themselves, which, though it may seem obvious to true-believers, Sheffield turns into a galvanizing and even surprising organizing principle.  He has a photographic, watercolor eye, describing how Ringo's wife Maureen was  "freezing her ass off" on the roof in the Get Back concert in a way that makes you want to grab your coat and get your hat on a hot Spring day.

There's so much in this book, in fact, that I decided after reading just the first 11 pages, that it warranted more than a single review.  After all, The Beatles were and are about songs, which is a short form, but even if not, who says a book has to be reviewed all at once, in one big review?   So consider what you've been reading here as an introductory review, of just the Prelude and part of the next chapter of the book, and I'll be back with more, soon.   I'll likely have the whole book reviewed in the next weeks, maybe the next months.  It probably won't take years, but you never know.  (See my series of reviews of The Perversity of Things as an example of another series of reviews in progress.)

And that's it for now.  Get the book. (I'm sure I'll disagree with some of Sheffield's views but I disagree with some of everyone's except mine, and even I change my mind.)  I'm going to watch a little of MSNBC, and then get back in the car.

See also Dreaming the Beatles 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ... 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4 ... 9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver ... 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper ... 13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones ... 14 of X: Unending 60s ... 15 of X: Voting for McCartney, Again ... 16 of X: "I'm A Loser" ... 17 of X: The Split ... 18 of X: "Absolute Elsewhere... 19 of X: (Unnecessary but Brilliant) Defense of McCartney ... 20 of X: "All Things Must Pass" ... 21 of X: Resistance .. 22: The 70s Till the End ... 23: Near the Science Fiction Shop ... 24 of 24: The Last Two

And here's "It's Real Life" -- free alternate history short story about The Beatles, made into a radio play and audiobook and winner of The Mary Shelley Award 2023

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