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Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album By Album, Song By Song, The Sixties And After
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Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album By Album, Song By Song, The Sixties And After

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  468 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A unique combination of musical analysis and cultural history, Tell Me Why stands alone among Beatles books with its single-minded focus on the most important aspect of the band: its music. Riley offers a new, deeper understanding of the Beatles by closely considering each song and album they recorded in an exploration as rigorous as it is soulful. He tirelessly sifts thro ...more
Paperback, 482 pages
Published May 30th 2002 by Da Capo Press (first published 1988)
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14th out of 143 books — 16 voters
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Community Reviews

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Marcel Daguerre
Oct 08, 2007 Marcel Daguerre rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people with ears
Riley achieves what I would have thought impossible - he allows us a fresh listen to the most familiar music of the late twentieth century. Plus he makes it clear how underrated Ringo Starr is. This book (which must be read with recordings of all the songs at the ready) is a must for any serious music fan.
John Porcellino
Been meaning to read this one for a couple years, and finally picked it up at my library. In it, Riley analyzes the Beatles published output song by song, chronologically. I would agree with most of the criticisms others have made-- he seems to have a grudge against George, dismissing most of his songwriting contributions until Rubber Soul, and ragging All Things Must Pass. I'm a big George fan, and always thought his off-kilter early tunes made for a nice contrast to the L/McC stuff (and I thin ...more
Mar 19, 2008 Philip rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Beatles fans
Shelves: music
Riley offers an accessible but musically informed analysis of every album and significant single released by the Beatles. Lots of intriguing and satisfying discussions of melody, innovative uses of harmony and instrumentation, and other aural aspects of the music on record.
it was stupid, got stuff wrong.
Joel & Christie
I accept the role of professional critics. We've got food critics, movie critics, political commentators, etc. Somebody annointed Siskel and Ebert as movie critics and people like me listen to their recommendations and act or not accordingly. Don't ask me what makes their opinion more valid than my next door neighbors, although my next door neighbors opinion on restaurants and movies and such carries as more weight with me as the professional opinions do, often times. Yet we still assume that cr ...more
I vowed to lay off Beatles books but this was in the library and couldn't resist. It was so much like the later 'Revolution in the Head' - going through song by song, that I didn't read from cover to cover, just picked favourite songs (eg Rain, And Your Bird Can Sing: the guitar solo is flourescent irony.. it glitters with supremacy.) and also read all the stuff on their solo careers (up to late 80s - George still alive). Again too dismissive of George I thought, saying of his wonderful 'All Too ...more
Terence Towles-Canote
Tell Why: The Beatles: Album by Album, Song by Song, the Sixties and After is a must read for any Beatles fan. Tim Riley goes through, album by album, song by song, and critiques each and every one. What makes this book so good is that Mr. Riley isn't simply some music critic with a journalism degree. He is an actual musician himself, both a pianist and composer. He has a bachelor's degree and a master degree in piano. Mr. Riley then has a good understanding of music theory, which he puts to goo ...more
Okay, he's a real music critic, so therefore he takes himself too seriously at times (I mean, suggesting songs should end a different way, now really?), but it's fun reading about the music, described over my head, in personal, technical and lyrical ways for the Beatles; meanwhile listening to their albums at the same time; and when he loves songs, he goes into great detail about them, even though it was all focused on the Brit albums, which were so carefully crafted by the Fab Four--little did ...more
Outstanding detail and insights about how the Beatles constructed every song and album recorded on the EMI/Parlaphone and Apple labels. An unflinching, fair and honest discussion authored by a man who degreed in Piano and Music Theory. At times technical and intricate in deconstructing the Beatles work, it might overwhelm the non-musician at times - but not enough to detract from the enjoyment Riley gives the reader. Musicians, on the other hand, will greatly apprerciate Riley's attention to det ...more
Song by song (literally) account of the Beatles' recordnigns ,with a focus on discussing them from th epersepctive of music, so there's lots of technical terminology I don't understand. Riley is generally good at providing concrete examples (e.g. by quoting lyrics) to help on figure these thing out, and there's certainly plenty here ot interest the fan as opposed to the musician or scholar, but it's fairly heavy going for someone not well-versed in musical terminology. Still, a book any Beatle f ...more
It sucked.
Mark Taylor
Wish I had a copy to give to every one of my friends who loves The Beatles.
Loved this book. Great explanation and critique of The Beatles' songs and albums. Mr. Riley does an in-depth job of breaking down the songs, perhaps too in-depth because there were passages that I didn't quite understand (not having a background in music theory). However, overall I found this to be a very entertaining and informative book.
Very good book. Not thrilled with the anti Harrison stance. I think Riley underestimates his songs. Sometimes this book tends to ramble and be repetitive. However it is worth reading and does do something almost every other Beatle book doesn't, deals with the music and not the mania. I recommend it to friends and students all the time.
A frustrating analysis of the Beatles work. On the one hand, Riley is trying to do some actual analysis of their music, on the other, he gets LYRICS wrong and is a bit too in love with the scratch of his critic's pen for his own good. There are some worthwhile insights in there, but there is also a lot of annoyingness.
Slogged through the first half of the book. You'd think it would be hard to make the Beatles music boring but that's what it was. It has picked up a bit as he get's into Sgt. Pepper's. Last third of the book was interesting, although I had a very hard time finishing.
I pulled my copy of TELL ME WHY off the shelf, to re-read, now that my BEATLES boxed set is in. I originally purchased in the late '80's and enjoyed the heck out of it! Check it out...the perfect, complementary companion to the set!
Suzanne (suz&mark)
Im putting this down for now. I may pick it back up at some point. Its a bit too technical for me- I thought it would be a book from the Beatles point of view about what each song was about but its not.
Feb 14, 2010 Damon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: music
I had to read this book for a college class! It gives background to all Beatles songs and albums. But I don't like how the authors are a bit dismissive of everything George Harrison put out. Not cool.
Almost as good as Revolution in the Head. It goes in order of album tracks, as opposed to Revolution, which goes in the order in which they were recorded.
Wow. Song-by-song, this book analyzes the entire Beatles catalog. Indispensable for the fanatic, but probably too heady for the casual fan.
Very good, a little technical. You wouldn't want to read this without knowing something about music terms and chord theory.
Peter Holst
Awesome if you feel like reading the story behind every Beatles song. Lame if you don't.
Brent Wilson
Handy reference with good info about each song the Beatles recorded.
Abe Goolsby
Pretty insightful commentary on the Beatles' songs.
The Beatles is awesome!!
abcdefg marked it as to-read
Jan 29, 2015
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NPR CRITIC, AUTHOR, PIANIST, and SPEAKER TIM RILEY reviews pop and classical music for NPR's HERE AND NOW, and has written for the HUFFINGTON POST, THE WASHINGTON POST, SLATE.COM and SALON.COM. He was trained as a classical pianist at Oberlin and Eastman, and remains among the few critics who writes about both "high" and "low" culture and their overlapping concerns.

Brown University sponsored Rile
More about Tim Riley...
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