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Monday, Aug. 2, 2010

Rock That Defined the Decades

New Books on the Beatles, Pink Floyd

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The fans keep writing rock books in a never ending, detail-focused scrutiny of personal lives and performances, recording sessions and releases. Two of the latest from Omnibus Press concern the band that defined the ‘60s and the group that set the boundaries for the ‘70s—unwittingly helping precipitate a revolt against all it stood in the form of punk rock. The better of the two is Peter Doggett and Patrick Humphries’ The Beatles: The Music and the Myth, not only because the foursome set the stage for the subject of Andy Mabbett’s Pink Floyd: The Music and the Mystery, but for the authors’ critical insight and sharp wit. Mabbett follows his fave band’s story well enough, but Doggett-Humphries are more fun to read.

Both books are essentially track-by-track descriptions of the bands’ recordings in chronological order and are replete with information for new or casual fans. The massive sets of stereo and mono remasters issued last year are only a brief add-on for Doggett-Humphries (the release must have occurred as they were going to press), but the authors engagingly describe most of what came before, including the alternate renditions of the Anthology series.

What sets Doggett’ Humphries apart is their understanding of the context of the Beatles (“the 20th century’s most abiding and enduring fairytale”) and their legacy. “In the artificially-hyped multinational media world of the twenty-first century,” the Beatles sales have been dwarfed, the authors remind us, usually by dwarfs in terms of talent. “Working under immense pressure, to schedules that would baffle the sedentary superstars of the modern era, they produced thirteen great albums and more than 20 singles in little over seven years.” The Beatles will probably be one of the only 20th century pop acts remembered a hundred years on.

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