A quick request for anyone who’s read my Beatles book…

I’ve had a couple of reviews on Amazon of my Beatles book which are outright lies – specifically, one says
“The author is obviously not much of a McCartney fan, and seems to dismiss much of his work up through Sgt. pepper, and beyond, claiming Lennon superior to McCartney.”, while another says:
“However, his disdain for Paul McCartney is frankly ridiculous. Throughout the book, Hickey regularly informs the reader of Paul’s inferiority to Lennon on almost every level; he gives only occasional, grudging credit to Paul for his contributions to the Beatles as a creative force, while frequently dismissing McCartney tracks as being generally overrated. Most serious Beatle fans recognize that while McCartney was certainly capable of superficial banality, particularly during the group’s later period, both he and Lennon relied on one another for not only direct assistance with each other’s songs, but also for the positive effect the competitive nature of their working relationship had upon the quality of their respective compositions. Hickey never seems to recognize this crucial dynamic.”

I’m absolutely certain that no-one who’s actually bothered to read the book I wrote, rather than go in with their own strange ideas about it, could have come to that conclusion, unless parts like

As will so often be the case with this album, though, McCartney makes all the difference on this track. While Harrison and Starr both turn in exemplary performances, just listen to McCartney’s bass triplets under the middle eight. NOBODY was playing like that back then. Rhythmically his bass part is actually quite close to McCartney’s One Drum Idea, but the way it bubbles and twists is astonishing. Add in his Indian-flavoured guitar solo, and you have a track that shows McCartney to be one of the great musicians of his generation.

suggest that I don’t like McCartney or

And we move from a Lennon song vastly improved by McCartney to a McCartney song vastly improved by Lennon

suggests that I don’t recognise the two relied on each other, or

He later tried to exaggerate the differences between McCartney and himself, saying of this album “Paul said ‘come and see the show’, while I said ‘I read the news today, oh boy'” – but in fact, McCartney’s song merely hopes you’ll enjoy a show you’re already attending, while Lennon’s lyrics here (taken in large part from a poster for a circus performance in Rochdale in the mid 19th century) are actually exhorting you to come to a show you’re not at yet. On the other hand, the previous track, McCartney’s She’s Leaving Home, was based on a story McCartney read in the newspaper

is taking Lennon’s side in a dispute with McCartney or… well, you get the idea.

Anyway, it’s extremely bad form for an author to comment on reviews, but my worry here isn’t that the reviews are *bad* (everyone gets good and bad reviews, and that’s fine), but that they’re *inaccurate*. I worry that people are going to read those reviews (one of which, strangely, is from someone who’s never reviewed anything on Amazon before) and not buy the book because they think it’s something it’s not.

So could anyone who’s actually read the book and thinks I have a relatively balanced view of Lennon and McCartney go to the Amazon US page for the book and post a review? I don’t care much if it’s good or bad, just so long as it’s *accurate*, so if people are put off buying my book it’s for the right reasons. Say it’s not detailed enough, or that my writing style is poor, point out factual errors or problems with the proofreading (or, of course, say it’s a masterpiece and everyone should own twelve copies), just don’t say I slag off Paul McCartney in the book when I blatantly, obviously don’t.

Incidentally, according to my last.fm profile, Paul McCartney is my joint-11th most-listened to musician in the last year, while Lennon is 39th. Not that that proves anything…

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21 Responses to A quick request for anyone who’s read my Beatles book…

  1. S. Barrios says:

    thanks for bringing this up. will try to do my part for th’ war effort in the next 24 hrs !

    • Thanks for that – I wasn’t expecting such a glowing review (especially seeing some of your other ones ;) )

      • S. Barrios says:

        “Amazon will take down an inaccurate review if you ask them to. It only takes a few days.”

        good information .. along with much else that’s been posted in this thread. there has as well been arguments for *controversy* as a selling point. i must admit my interest in Albert Goldman’s Lennon bio peaked when G8 member “Bono” attacked it. .. and do you know what i learned from “The Lives of John Lennon”? that Lennon was an intriguing, conflicted character – more so than i could ever have imagined. if anything, it’s Paul and Yoko who get shortchanged, but even they are given more depth than you’re likely to get out of your average Fanboy whitewash.

  2. rankersbo says:

    I’ve read many negative reviews of books that say to me “this reviewer has been rubbed up the wrong way by the author’s opinions” rather than “this is a rubbish book.”

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Yeah, but even that wouldn’t bother me as much as “this reviewer has created a straw-author, and attributed opinions to them which he has then become offended by”…

      • rankersbo says:

        Maybe I didn’t put that well. But it just seems that the second pro-Paul reviewer is seeing everything through the prism of his fandom so much that any neutral piece is going to be distorted into Paul bashing in his mind.

        Kind of like the people who are so far gone with their right wing views that the inclusion of non-white people in Balamory comes across as dangerously communist propaganda.

        Although kind of not, being a raving Paul fan isn’t in any way destructive or poisonous.

  3. plok says:

    Ha, Andrew! And who’s ever been persuaded not to buy a book about the Beatles, by being told it was pro-Lennon and anti-McCartney? You might even gain sales from that inaccurate review!

    Always frustrating to be misrepresented. But I’d doubt if this particular misrepresentation can do any harm, so my advice is…

    You’ve got every right to be pissed-off, so feel free to be pissed-off! And you probably don’t have any cause to be concerned, so don’t be concerned. In other words: have the cake and eat it too.

    • plok says:

      That was a tricky one to parse, but seriously…many Beatles books sell on the back of being anti-McCartney, you know? And you may not want your book to sell on the back of that, which is fair enough, but…just consider that if it were to sell because of that, then the anti-McCartney person potentially buying it would end up reading something that may help to correct that prejudice.

      Not to mention that they would then know the above reviews to be false.

      • Andrew Hickey says:

        True, but they don’t sell to *American Beatles fan* audiences – USian Beatles fans have weird views about the band’s infallibility.

        BTW sorry for the lack of response to your emails (I know I keep saying that). But I’m almost dead from exhaustion, and thinking about actual things is far too much for my brain to cope with…

      • plok says:

        I’ve worked 60-hr. weeks before, and know all about it. Take your rest where you can get it!

        Also, I can absolutely guarantee you that “who’s your favourite Beatle JOHN OR PAUL” is a question that sells books as readily in the States as it does in Canada. You could sell a book that was called that, just filled with alternating pictures of John (“John…?”) and Paul (“…Or Paul?”), because Beatles fandom is made of nothing if it isn’t made of opinions, and this is the very first one…!

        So, who is steered away from a book by someone saying “that guy’s got the wrong opinion about Norwegian Wood”, or whatever? No one, because we all want to see for ourselves…we know we probably disagree with the reviewer’s bias too, probably more than we disagree with the author’s if it comes to that.

        Don’t you feel that to be true?

        So don’t underestimate the man on the street!

        (Oh no, I was trying to be reassuring and now I’ve gone all “hectoring”…that happens sometimes…)

  4. plok says:

    Oh, I just read that third review…if I were a guy who just wandered in I’d think “oh, self-important Amazon reviewers, do you really expect me to accept you as authorities?” I think the second review’s all right, just because, you know…a little disagreement is healthy. That person sounds like a person you could converse with. But Number Three just sounds like he thinks he’s the biggest Beatles genius in the history of the universe, which is clearly a laughable posture because THAT’S ME, ACTUALLY.

    • The second review I wasn’t *hugely* bothered about, because he at least seems to have read the book, just been unable to understand it. But really, being *appaled* at saying Clapton’s an over-rated guitarist?!

      • TAD says:

        Clapton *is* over-rated. I’m not saying he sucks, but there are so many other guitarists I prefer to him (including his friend George).

  5. Larry says:

    What did Sartre say? “Hell is other people…”

    I have not been able to purchase your Beatles or Beach Boys books yet-I live in the USA, lost my job (quite) a while back, have not been able to find a full time position since then-but I will write ACCURATE reviews as soon as I read them. I should write the reviews now, seeing as I have read the majority of the book’s content on your blog-and they both seem fantastic.

    Larry S.

    Maryland, USA

    • Thank you!
      Incidentally, I know what it’s like being unemployed. If PDF versions of the books are any good to you, I’ll gladly email you copies. I know how hard it is to keep entertained when you’ve got no money, and they’re hardly lost sales if you can’t afford to buy them…

  6. plok says:

    Our man Andrew.

  7. Andy Bolton says:

    Amazon will take down an inaccurate review if you ask them to. It only takes a few days. I had an insane review of my book “Fatpuss!” which must have been written by one of these “troll” characters. It bore no relevance to the book at all. Amazon took less than 48hrs to remove it. Just contact them through the option provided.

  8. TAD says:

    If they think you were hard on McCartney, wait’ll they see how much you slag off Davy Jones in the Monkees reviews.

    I haven’t read your Beatles book perse, but I’ve probably read most of it from your blog here, as you gradually wrote and posted it online. I would say that you have a greater respect for John Lennon as a songwriter (compared to Paul), but your reviews are full of praise for Paul’s performances (vocally and instrumentally) and his production ideas. One thing I got from your reviews is that Paul’s harmony vocals are a key ingrediant in so many great Beatles songs.

    • Ha! Although I think I’m very fair about the Manchester Midget too…
      And that’s exactly it. I think that, say, the weakest twenty Lennon/McCartney songs are all McCartney, and maybe seven or eight of the best ten Lennon, but they were both still absolutely essential to each other’s work…

  9. Carroll says:

    Please explain what you consider to McCartney’s One Drum Idea. i read your book on the remastered mono set, the phrase is used several times but I can find no explanation.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      It’s the pattern that you hear first in the break on What You’re Doing – that boom-BAP, boom-boom-BAP pattern. Variants of this are used on Ticket To Ride and Tomorrow Never Knows, among others. It’s not quite the only pattern McCartney ever came up with – he played some fairly straight, uninteresting stuff on Back In The USSR, for example – but pretty much every time McCartney suggested a part for Ringo to play, it was a very slight variation on that pattern.
      Apologies if I didn’t make that clear enough in the book itself.

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