Now that I've completed my Beatles haiku project, I'm moving on to something much different and far more conventional: reading and analyzing a book. Of the vast number of books written about The Beatles, it seems none has received more praise than Ian MacDonald's 1994 classic, Revolution in the Head. As many of you likely know, MacDonald doesn't deliver a formal historical narrative but instead uses a song-by-song examination of The Beatles' catalog to tell their story. I don't think there's a better approach if one's aim is to capture the band's essence; The Beatles are their songs. Furthermore, MacDonald opens the book with a provocative cultural analysis of the 1960s, exploring how the Fabs were central to the societal disruptions of that decade and what the ramifications were.
My plan is to read the book at a rather measured pace, take notes, and regularly post commentaries on what I find most interesting. Thus far, I've only made it through the two prefaces, but already I've been struck by MacDonald's insights about various topics: the importance of the UK's system of art schools in fashioning the whimsical, concept-oriented tendencies of British pop acts; the differences between British and American sensibilities in music (the former generally characterized by sardonic irony and the latter by earnestness and naturalism); and the best way to view The Beatles as lyricists (i.e., not as great but as effective). It's stimulating material, and I have yet to reach page one.