Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America
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Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  810 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Nearly twenty years in the making, Can’t Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can’t Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould seeks to explain why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social con...more
Hardcover, 672 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by Crown Archetype (first published January 1st 2007)
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Ursula
The point of the book isn't really to be about the various personalities of the Beatles themselves, but more about placing them and their music in the context of the times, showing how they were influenced and benefited by what was going on around them. And then later on, how that influence worked in both directions.

In addition to that, there's of course stuff about the time in Germany, the making of the albums, the interpersonal issues and the ultimate breakdown of the group. Some of the more i...more
Karen
I took a class on the Beatles in college. It counted as a general ed requirement! I still feel lucky. I do like the Beatles and this will be the second book "about them" that I'll have read (The first was "Shout," for the class). I hope I like it.

MAY 3 UPDATE
This is a great book. The author makes a point early of describing how he wanted this book to differentiate itself from the other books about the band, and his angle was examining the music from a cultural and historical perspective. I love...more
Amanda Hamilton
I have a weird feeling when I read books about the Beatles book that is chronological, I get more and more excited and then about the time they start talking about the White Album, I get sad. I get all swept up in the narrative of their career and then get sad when they break up. That may be why I've only see "Let it Be" once all the way through.

I think with the Beatles, reading books about them is the same reason my Dad reads books about WWII: he knows pretty much everything there is to know a...more
Alan
I blame Tuck. He asked me a question about a particular Beatles book on my review of Revolution in the Head, and I sent him an article/discussion of 'best Beatles books'. Of course it made me think, haven't read that one or that one, and I've ended up buying 'Love Me Do', a slim fly-on-the-wall paperback following the Beatles on tour and making programmes like Juke Box jury from 1964, and getting this one from the library, in contrast a massive 700 page tome, published in 2007 and covering every...more
Anna
Its both comprehensive and vague at same time. Quite an achievement

Sure he mentions offhandedly how certain Beatles movies (HELP! mostly) looked like modern MTV [or rather, what MTV used to be) - but no mention of their ACTUAL MUSIC VIDEOS?
Like.. oh I dunno... Paperback Writer/Rain combo being filmed in the park specifically for sending out as promos? Or Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane hiring a movie director and havin fancy mini-movie editing and even full concepts instead of them just standin aro...more
Sharon
This book exceeded my expectations far more than any book I've read in a very long time. In addition to being a biography of the group as a whole, this is also a social history. Everything about the Beatles, from their childhoods in Liverpool to the seedy nightclubs of the Reeperbahn in Germany, from their Scouse accents to the musical arrangements of their most popular songs, is placed carefully within the perspective of Britain and the United States at the time.

The writing flows wonderfully. D...more
Richard Lesses
I don't waste my time on gossip in my everyday life, so why should I read gossipy biographies? I prefer scholarly history, especially with regard to popular culture. (As an example, I do not read Doris Kearns-Goodwin and am a little leery about David McCullough). I like How The Beatles Destroyed Rock and Roll, notwithstanding that it isn't about The Beatles, for just that reason.

Other reviews can tell about the book's structure - background, timelines, music - and I think it works very well with...more
Mimi
Dream Academy’s 1985 song “Life in a Northern Town” contained the lyrics “He said in winter 1963
It felt like the world would freeze
With John F. Kennedy
And The Beatles”

I remember puzzling over that line and discussing it with my mother. This book attempts to contextualize the line and to explain the impact of the Beatles on Britain and America, and their impact upon the Beatles. It also helps to put the Beatles into the northern English context, which is something that I’d not really realized un...more
Jonathan
There is a lot of contextualizing here which I enjoyed, from the place of Liverpool in the music scene, radio in the US, to changes in the recording and entertainment industry that affected the presentation and reception of the Beatles. It was a very good read indeed.

I would have liked more of the Beatles' lyrics to be reprinted in toto or quoted at greater length, but then the author would have had to pay for royalties had he done so. He confines himself to a fair use proportion... A bit more...more
Rodrigo
It was a fairly entertaining read, and I liked the way the author uses the Beatles to illustrate the changing cultural dynamic between the U.S. and the UK in the years following WWII, how their relation changed from one of two peers looking at each other with distrust to one of mentor and apprentice, akin to that of ancient Greece and the Roman Republic.
It surprised me to realize how many things I had always thought of as very American were originally British, and how many aspects of American cu...more
Tim
This is a decent book, although it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. It’s “a combination of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism,” as someone’s said. It’s well-written, the author’s done his homework very carefully and thoroughly, it’s pretty balanced, and the musical analysis of the songs is unusually good. He assumes his readers know what subdominants and inversions are, which was nice for me but won’t work for everyone. But that’s a fraction of it, so no big deal if you d...more
Joey Bacon
If you are uninitiated, as I was, into the history of the Beatles, this is a good book to get you started. I have always been a fan of the Beatles music but I am 22 years old, and as I did not grow up in that era, never looked into the history of the Beatles. When I started the reading I viewed the band as the larger-than-life sensation. While they are just that, this book humanized the Beatles to me, now it seems that a great deal of the success they achieved was in part due to luck and timing....more
Brianna
Jun 05, 2011 Brianna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: casual and hardcore fans alike
I was incredibly skeptical about the Baltimore Sun review quoted on the cover ("The best book ever written about the Beatles"), but not any more.

Gould is clearly a fan of The Music. I thought I couldn't respect their albums any more than I already did, but the author's technical appreciation gave me a better understanding of just how aptly they accompanied the subtleties of each song's enthusiasm, heartbreak, jest, or sarcasm with chord changes, vocal stylings, or instrumentation. Almost 100% o...more
Christian
Nov 29, 2007 Christian rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teddy boys, mods, rockers, hippies, and eggmen
Phenonmenal biography both of the Beatles and of their place in rock and roll history. I haven't read any of their other bios, so I can't say how/if this is better than the others, but it does a lot well:
- Gives personal history without going into minutiae
- Discusses the Beatles' influences on a 'real-time' basis to their recordings (rather than just list them at the beginning, ignoring subsequent ones that emerge)
- Treats the Beatles as a singular entity for a large majority of their history; t...more
Sach
Of all the many, MANY books on the Beatles, we now know that Lewisohns Tune In is rendering the vast majority of the onslaught obsolete. However this is still one tome worth reading. The context illustrated in one far more vivid and comprehensive and Brief than that of Lewisohn's. If you are a musician, like Gould, you will be further interested by the non too clunky descriptions of way the songs work and the ins and outs of their (The 'Beatles' being not just the Fab Four but others who helped...more
Maryellen
About halfway through this tome the tv tribute to The Beatles aired. Both events conspired to take me back to 1964, when I was a 14 year old high school freshman, in love with the Beatles. Some of the details regarding their business machinations were less interesting to me, but the stories of how they got together, and the inspirations for their songs were fascinating to read. Would recommend this to other Beatles fans of all ages.
Matti Karjalainen
Jonathan Gouldin kuusisataasivuinen mammutti "Can't Buy Me Love : Beatles, Britannia ja Yhdysvallat" (Johnny Kniga, 2010) on joissakin mainoshenkisissä puheissa leimattu parhaaksi koskaan kirjoitetuksi Beatles-historiikiksi. Se on melko paljon sanottu, vaikka kirjailija kieltämättä ihan hyvää jälkeä tekeekin. Liverpoolin moppitukkien vaiheet käydään läpi ties monennenko kerran, eikä yhtyeeseen perehtyneelle tarjota mitään suuria paljastuksia tai upouusia teorioita.

"Can't Buy Me Loven" ansioksi o...more
Michelle
i appreciate this book, but i didn't like it.

i felt it was uneven. yoko ono's personal life got more coverage than any of the actual beatles. while the beatles' youth was covered in depth, their personal lives from 1964-1970 were glazed over. beatle divorces and remarriages were mentioned in a sentence, but yoko's story was covered throughout the final chapters.

the author critically detailed some songs, ignoring others. his coverage of their catalog felt uneven. I don't feel as though the book...more
Brett
This book does a great job of covering the Beatles from the very beginning until it all finally unraveled. What separates this from the many other biographies are the author's thoughtful and thorough examinations of the songs themselves. These musical insights, in conjunction with listening to the three Beatles Anthology albums, led to an incredibly rewarding experience. My only complaint is the author's brief and complete dismissal of the famous "Paul is Dead" hoax as an unfortunate coincidence...more
Jonathan Sargent
There are hoards of Beatles biographies, but this one clearly stands out as an unbiased great look at tone of the greatest bands of all time. You know an author is skilled when you can hear the music play in your head as he describes each Beatles album and song with great detail. Not only do you get a great look at every aspect of the Beatles lives and careers, but also a bit of British and American history so we can understand some of the things that happened in their lifetime with a better per...more
 Dr. Michael Galvin
The best book I have read regarding The Beatles (and I've read many). Explores the economic and cultural climate in both the UK and the USA from just after WWII thru the inception of the band and their rise thru Beatlemania and their eventual split up. Excellent analysis of songs. If you are looking for the same old story of the Beatles this isn't it. If you are interested in the conditions in two countries that helped mold the Beatles this is your book.An excellent history of the social and eco...more
Nathan
Rather misleadingly titled, this book devotes only a fraction of its considerable bulk to a study of the titular threesome of subjects, insisting instead on analyzing, album by album, track by track, the music of the Beatles. While this jerky change of topic might be forgiven in light of the (limited) value of the analysis, Gould suffers from delusions of academia and insists on psychoanalyzing the minutest detail, whether lyrical, conceptual or personal, droning on in a snooty monotone that end...more
Cyndie
Feb 28, 2009 Cyndie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cyndie by: My friend Susy
I've read a few other Beatles biographies, and this one is different in that it focuses more on the Beatles as a whole, rather than each individual, and the phenomenon of their influence on the culture of both Britain and America during the 60s. There were many fun and interesting facts about the Beatles from their beginnings to their break up, but unless you're a musicologist, it did go into a bit too much song analysis in parts, down to describing individual chords, which I found myself skippi...more
jimstoic
This book excels in two content areas: description of the Beatles' music, and explanation of the context for that music. The biographical details have all been told elsewhere, as the author did not base the book on his own interviews of the Beatles themselves or the people around them. The book is also very well-written. I would not have expected a non-fiction book about something that happened publicly more than 40 years ago to be a page-turner, but it was. I hope Gould plans to write another b...more
Eric Bittner
A great portrait of the Beatles from their days as unknowns in Liverpool, to the height of Beatlemania, to the pinnacle of Sgt. Pepper, and finally to their disintegration. Best of all, Gould doesn't just focus on their lives, but spends a large portion of the book discussing their music. After all, why read a book about the Beatles if you aren't going to learn something about their music and how it was made. Some of his attempts to ascribe meaning to particular songs don't work, but that is a m...more
John
Jan 14, 2009 John added it
Ahh, yes! Another Beatles book. It's been a few years since I've read one. Most days I feel like, "What more can I learn? I spent my youth eating, sleeping, and drinking the Beatles. This came recommended by some blog or another. Started it yesterday, and read the prologue and part of the first chapter. Then I started skipping ahead - wonderful stuff, offering some new perspectives on the Fab Four and their influence on post-war culture in Britain, and the US. Lots of good music reviews as well.
Anna Ghirardelli
Even though I read this book for school, I loved it. If you are a Beatles fan and want really in depth descriptions about their lives and the reason behind almost every song they wrote, you must read this book. While the author gets a little too wordy and assumes a little too much at times, I still loved it. I was sad for it to end because that meant my learning about the Beatles is about to end too. So sad. But they were so great and will always be the best.
Jeff
I can't believe the depth of contextual information and understanding Gould imparts with such concise passages, and suddenly he throws in an hysterical, cackle inducing wit bomb. I am getting a lesson in cultural history as well as the way the communications industry developed as much as I, the consumate Beatleologist, am being made to see this band anew. It's so intriguing that 40 years later books on the Beatles are getting better all the time.
Craig Werner
The best book about the Beatles. Gould does a nice job synthesizing the biographical facts (most of which have been available before--no revlations) with a concise, accurate overview of the historical background of the Sixties. But the best thing about the book is that Gould has a terrific ear for, and knowledge of, the music. I emerged from reading (and teaching) the book with a much clearer sense of why the Beatles matter. Highly recommended.
Elderberrywine
An amazing book. For those of us of a certain generation, it's rather like seeing the machinery behind the music we know so well. Thoroughly complete as to the lads' backgrounds and what influenced them, the music business in both Britain and America, and a wonderful analysis of each and every song, since the author is a professional studio musician (drums) as well as a writer. Even Ringo finally gets his due. Very much recommended.
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