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

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4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,345 Ratings  ·  102 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
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Judith Borgardts
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book!!!!! It is several things at once: American & European history, music criticism of the highest order, sociology, industrial sociology, and A history of the socio-economic changes that broke open, then separated the 50s from the 60s generation.
One of the best aspects of this book is the author's deep examination of musical structure and how each of the Beatles contributed to making that genius work. Who played/wrote which lines or songs, what each person contributed in terms of
...more
Brianna
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
victor harris
Feb 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: music
When it addressed social history, the ascent of the Beatles, and the England-U.S. interaction in the recording industry, it was excellent. Unfortunately, when breaking down individual songs, it got terribly long-winded and pedantic. It could easily have been compressed into a 300 page book. The stories on manager Brian Epstein and studio man George Martin are definitely worth checking, the material on Yoko Ono got tedious. Exactly a 3 rating.
Megan Sanks
I really enjoyed this book. Gould did a wonderful job of integrating biographical information about the Beatles and the people around them with an analysis of their music, all while providing historical context. No better way to understand the Beatles.
Jeff
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bibs
I really enjoyed this book. I've read quite a few Beatles books and I learned some new stuff from this one. Very thorough.

My only complaints, and they are very minor:
* I love how "thorough" the book was/is, but sometimes it was just overkill, especially on the early albums. For example there was 45 - 60 mins (I listened to audible version) on the Beatles early haircut and mod outfit, yet the last 30 mins of the book basically covered finalizing Abbey Road, Let It Be and the breakup and post brea
...more
Karen
May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Alan
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Sharon
May 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Anna
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
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
Amanda Hamilton
Jun 21, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Nathan
Dec 13, 2008 rated it did not like it
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
Donna
Oct 29, 2007 rated it liked it
I wish I could say that I finished it but I didn't. I got bogged down in the middle by the minute details of each song and each album and I gave up. I love the Beatles but I guess I don't love them enough to know all the guitar chords for each song on Rubber Soul. This book is truly well researched though and is definitely for the ultimate fan.
Ross
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not just another Beatles book. It recounts the familiar tale of these four individuals, "clearing away the ephemeral, the apocryphal, and the merely anecdotal" in order to focus on the bigger picture, their lives and their music in social and historical context. Fab.
Carlgatto
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A friend who teaches a college course on the Beatles recommended this, saying it's the textbook for his class. I can see why! It's a terrific book, interesting for both new Beatles fans and first generation fans like myself.
Int'l librarian
This book makes me sing. Quietly. Just to myself, really. But still. I was singing.

I like the Beatles a lot, but I never knew too much about them, and don’t play their music all that much. So I couldn’t always immediately connect with Gould’s song-by-song month-by-month breakdown of just about everything the Beatles did as a group. But given enough context, it was almost always possible to realize, “Oh, that’s that song!” And then, it was near impossible to keep quiet.

Gould makes significant d
...more
Panther Library
This book makes me sing. Quietly. Just to myself, really. But still. I was singing.

I like the Beatles a lot, but I never knew too much about them, and don’t play their music all that much. So I couldn’t always immediately connect with Gould’s song-by-song month-by-month breakdown of just about everything the Beatles did as a group. But given enough context, it was almost always possible to realize, “Oh, that’s that song!” And then, it was near impossible to keep quiet.

Gould makes significant d
...more
Patrick King
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Gould's historical information is excellent. His musical reviews are excruciating. When his reviews are complimentary the detail is absurd. When they are not complimentary he seems like an idiot. It feels as though Mr. Gould did not grow up with this music but got a box set and a "complete Beatles" song book and listened to each track consecutively without taking into account the temporal distance and circumstance when each song was written and recorded. He draws parallels between songs whos ...more
Jessica
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
There are parts of this book I love and parts I loathe. Often the literal description of every chord for every song on every album was a bit much for my music skills. I loved the personal moments of the Beatles and learning how they evolved and eventually dissolved. They truly were a force in the world and the music they wrote changed the world.
Deb
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I can't rate this with 5 stars because in all fairness, I skimmed through a lot of it. I'm a Beatles fan, but this book is packed solid with details. It really slowed me down. If you are a tried and true Beatles fan, this book is for you.
Marti
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Connected the story of the Beatles, both individually , and as Beatles with the political, cultural and musical period of their rise. This approach yielded a fresh look at the phenom of The Beatles.
Very good read.
Nick
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not much new, but still a good book. Good explanations of Ringo and fair coverage of Yoko Ono. I liked the descriptions of every song and the coverage of the recording sessions.
Don
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: college-textbook
Class textbook & loved it!
Claire
May 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly insightful book that paints the Beatles as human behind the rock legend. Gould is meticulous in detail to flesh out the musical genius of the band.
Malcolm Frawley
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
Mark Lewisohn is currently compiling the definite Beatles biography - All These Years. Volume 1, all 800 pages of it, was published in 2013 but takes us only to when the Beatles started recording. Volume 2 isn't due until 2020 & Volume 3 till 2026 (lazy bastard!). I feel fortunate to have come across Gould's brilliant examination of the Beatles, & the times in which they lived, in between volumes of Lewisohn's master work. By contextualising the Beatles within the society, politics, arts ...more
Tim
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Lizzie
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Yes, I'm that person who "hates" the Beatles. Well, I don't exactly hate them. I like some of their songs, but I've heard them all way way way too many times. If I could not hear them for 20 years or so they might sound fresh again. In fact occasionally I hear one I haven't heard in a long time and like it - that happened last week with "Hey Bulldog". Mainly I hate how people, especially those my age, think they're the be all and end all of popular music. They're good, but there's a lot of music ...more
Richard Lesses
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Christian
Nov 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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A Tale Ripe For A Feature Film! 1 2 Jan 31, 2014 02:51AM  
  • A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles
  • You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup
  • Tell Me Why: The Beatles: Album By Album, Song By Song, The Sixties And After
  • The Complete Beatles Chronicle
  • A Hard Day's Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song
  • Magical Mystery Tours: My Life with the Beatles
  • Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles
  • Ticket to Ride: Inside the Beatles' 1964 and 1965 Tours That Changed the World
  • Shout! The Beatles in Their Generation
  • Many Years from Now
  • The Beatles
  • Beatles Forever
  • The Beatles: Unseen Archives
  • Paul McCartney
  • All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  • Living in the Material World: George Harrison
  • Lennon Remembers: The Full Rolling Stone Interviews from 1970
  • The Love You Make: An Insider's Story of the Beatles
“It is the sound of the crowd that can be heard in the second, crescendoing rush of the orchestra that follows the final verse, rising from a hum to a gasp to a shout... fusing at last to a shriek (its similarity to the sound of the crowds at Beatle concerts is surely no accident). The onrushing sound of the orchestra at the end of "A Day in the Life" has transcended more than the conventions of Sgt. Pepper's Band. It is the nightmare resolution of the Beatles' show within a show. It is the sound in the eras of the high-wire artist as the ground rushes up from below. There is a blinding flash of silence, then the stunning impact of a tremendous E major piano chord that hangs in the air for a small eternity, slowly fading away, a forty-second meditation on finality that leaves each member if the audience listening with a new kind of attention and awareness to the sound of nothing at all.” 3 likes
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