Friday, September 13, 2019

The Beatles from A to Zed: An Alphabetical Mystery Tour - Peter Asher

No doubt about it. Peter Asher’s The Beatles from A to Zed: An Alphabetical Mystery Tour is a wonderfully comprehensive reminder of what made the Beatles such a unique and influential band, a book to be appreciated by younger and older fans alike. But this is a very special book for those fans who were there to buy the singles and albums as they were being delivered in what we then believed would be a string of never-ending hits. As it turned out, “never-ending” would only last from 1964 to 1970, but that doesn’t mean that the Beatles have ever been in any danger of being forgotten or surpassed by any of the bands that followed them. 

Thanks in large part to the Beatles Channel on SiriusXM radio, Beatlemania is still alive and well. Some Beatle fans (and perhaps especially non-fans) may have wondered how long a 24-7 radio station devoted to nothing but the music of one group could possibly remain fresh – even if it was the music of the Beatles. If so, they underestimated both the Beatles and those, like Peter Asher, who contribute their own knowledge and memories of that era to the channel’s programming. It is Asher’s Beatle’s Channel program “From Me to You” that in fact serves as the basis for The Beatles from A to Zed (this is more obvious in some of the book’s 26 chapters than in others). 

Asher’s approach is to devote a separate chapter to each letter of the alphabet in which he discusses whatever aspect of the Beatles work the letter suggests to him (he did struggle a bit with the “X” and “Z” chapters but managed somewhat creatively to tie in both letters). Asher goes wherever each letter leads him, be it a discussion of Beatles-related songs beginning with that particular letter or instruments, friends, locations, cowriters, producers, studios, etc. beginning with that letter. It is almost like sitting across the table from Asher and hearing him reminisce about his old friends and the decades of friendship that he shared with them. The man has stories to tell and he tells them well.

Peter Asher
Peter Asher was there from the relatively early days of the Beatles. He was particularly close to Paul McCartney who lived for a time in the Asher family home and composed some of his most famous songs there, meaning that Asher and his family were often the first to hear the songs that would later become classic Beatles recordings (Lennon and McCartney sometimes worked on songs together in the Asher home). Asher, of course, would find his own fame both as a member of the popular recording duo Peter and Gordon and as producer for some of the most famous recording artists of his day. 

The best way to read The Beatles from A to Zed is to read it while listening to the songs being discussed. Asher has a way of dissecting a song that only a world-class musician is capable of, and better yet, he explains it all in a way that it makes sense even to less musically inclined readers. Listening to a song while having an expert like Asher explain in some detail how (and why) it was all put together the way it was is a unique experience. I didn’t think there was anything that could make me love and appreciate the songs of the Beatles any more than I already did. I was wrong; The Beatles from A to Zed did exactly that.

Review Copy provided by Henry Holt and Co. 


(Book number 3,438)

4 comments:

  1. First of all, apologies for my lack of comments lately. My brother died at the beginning of the week, he hadn't been at all well for many months but it was still rather a shock.

    When I saw the name of the author of this book, Peter Asher, I thought, 'Well surely that's Peter from Peter and Gordon?' And sure enough, it is. But also, isn't he Jane Asher's (who was Paul McCartney's girlfriend) brother? Not positive but I think so.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear the news about your brother, Cath. I was a little concerned that you had gone so quiet for a while, but please don't feel the need to apologize for not stopping by.

      You're right about Jane Asher being Peter's sister. He mentions her in the book several times but not nearly as often as I figured he would have considering her relationship with Paul. I was lucky enough to see the Beatles here in Houston in 1965, and much later attended a concert here that included Peter or Gordon (can't recall which for sure but I figure it was Peter) as part of Linda Rondstadt's band. I assume it was Peter since he was her producer for quite a while.

      The book comes out on October 29, so it may still be available on NetGalley if you use that source for review copies. I probably reviewed it about two weeks earlier than the publisher would have preferred now that I think about it.

      Again, I'm very sorry to hear the news. Take care of yourself.

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  2. Thanks, Sam. My husband and myself are also executors of the will so, apart from grieving, there's also a lot to organise, but we'll get there.

    Wow, I'm so impressed that you actually got to *see* The Beatles. Funnily enough the subject came up while we were chatting to the vicar who'll be conducting the funeral service for my brother. That thing where people are either Stones or Beatles fans but rarely both. It was always The Beatles for me, never any interest in The Stones.

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    1. Good luck, Cath. I've gone through that process in this country several times as executor and it can take a long time to complete.

      I was in grade 10 when I drove to Houston with a buddy from our hometown about 100 miles away to catch the second of two Beatles shows at the old Sam Houston Coliseum in downtown Houston. We couldn't hear a whole lot of music with all the screaming being done by the girls in the audience, but the excitement level was tremendously high for all of us. The ticket cost all of $5 and I still have that stub somewhere around the house.

      Even in this country, fans divided along the Stones/Beatles fault line and seldom cross over to like the bands anywhere near equally. My brother was aa Stones fan and disdained the Beatles. I was the opposite. I was right. LOL It's kind of funny now because, according to this book, the bands were friends and the Beatles shared some new songs with them.

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