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

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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  1,691 ratings  ·  133 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
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
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 Maj
...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.
Tim Julian
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Less of a Beatles' biography, of which there are dozens, this is an attempt to place the Beatles in their cultural context, both in Britain and America. Gould therefore spends less time than other biographers on the early years, family backgrounds and suchlike and devotes more attention to the cultural scene (teddy boys, the Angry Young Men, the satire boom) from which the Beatles made their meteoric rise to superstardom. This means he gets to Love Me Do by page 135, compared to the thousand-plu ...more
Jennifer
Massively comprehensive look at the Beatles as a group and their songs, largely focused on the music, its creation, and publication. Gould is quite good at music analysis but the exhaustive descriptions of each and EVERY song that the Beatles ever wrote got a bit tiresome to me. I did enjoy greatly the biographical parts and the commentary on the current events of the Beatles era. Being such an iconic group and so influential in American and British culture - if you want to understand the 60s, y ...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
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
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
Julie_ian_curtis
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
At first I had. A lot of trouble getting into this. Too much 'what was happening at the time' and I didn't want that I wanted the boys. However stick with it - on the 3rdor 4th attempt I found it picks up and is particularly good at describing the end. Specifically about the demise/break up - although no new revelations, it was very well written in such a way that - it was actually very upsetting to read ! ...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. ...more
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. ...more
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. ...more
Matt Kelly
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: don-t-own
Surely the one stop shop if you want a biography on the Beatles. The author not only captures the life and music of the Beatles, but puts them in the context of history. Very entertaining and informative.
Jim Swike
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a terrific book, for all music lovers and especially if you remember the 1960s era of the Beatles. This is a great history of the Beatles from start to finish. Enjoy!
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
John
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an exhaustive (600-plus pages) history of The Beatles. I've read a few books about them in the past, including Shout!, but this one seemed more complete. The author goes into great detail about the songs themselves, using a lot of musical terminology that mostly went way over my head. (I'm not a musician myself.) Still, though, it was great reading, and fun to listen along to the albums as he was describing them.

I was perilously close to giving this four stars instead of five, however, f
...more
Brad
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I expected more of a history of the time period than what this was, but instead got a pretty good Beatles book with bits on the time period sprinkled throughout. Not as thorough as the big three: Revolution in the Head, Anthology, and Mark Lewisohn's All These Years series (which at present is only one book long).

(view spoiler)
...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
Kevin
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sadie
Oct 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
dense yet extremely readable. this book moves the beatles and their discography through a swirling mass of current events and cultural revolutions. it helped paint such a vivid picture of why their music was received the way it was and also why the songwriting/instrumentation/arrangement of the records themselves was revolutionary. the beatles were playing in the background almost constantly when I was little so I know many of these songs better than I know most other things. as I read this book ...more
John P.
I loved this book. The author also wrote a book on Otis Redding which is also great. I will read anything and everything that this author writes. I have read other interpretations of the Beatles’s songs, but that is to be expected. I will continue to use this book as a reference book as I reacquaint myself to the Beatles catalog. I was young (born in 1959) so I had embraced the band halfway into their career (older sisters bought their albums). The Beatles, esp. Paul, will always play a large pa ...more
Paul Jellinek
Sep 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am a die-hard Beatles fan, and have been since the first time I heard "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" in January, 1964, standing outside a bar in Hastings, New York (I was too young to go in). So I have read my fair share of books about the Beatles. This is one of the best. It's well-researched, well-written (no small matter in this field), and best of all, it's one of those books that makes you want to rush to your stereo (or whatever you listen to) to immediately play the song he's writing about. T ...more
Brooke
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has cemented itself into my top 5 books about the Beatles. Rather than just a biography of the band, Gould focuses on the music and historical-social events happening in England, the US, and elsewhere in the world, along with how those events had a probable influence on the Beatles' music...and vice versa. So interesting, and written very beautifully. I also really love Gould's occasional snarky asides and observations. Fascinating. ...more
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“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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