Is there such a thing as a new approach to listening to The Beatles? Author Brooke Halpin believes his new book, "Experiencing the Beatles," has that. “There are many many books out there, so it was very important for me to take a fresh approach with the Beatles and their recordings,” Halpin, also a classically trained musician, told AXS in a phone interview. “Many of the books are written in a chronological order beginning with the first recording and ending with the recordings they did on the Let It Be album. So I thought it would be more interesting to group the songs in a different way.”
What he did, he said, was to group the songs by type. “I start with how the Beatles were influenced. The first chapter is called 'Beatles Roots' covering American and rock 'n' roll songs and the music that inspired them before they really wrote a lot of original material.” Halpin also includes chapters on love songs, songs from movies, folk songs, psychedelic songs and even world music, and, of course, their original songs. He discusses the Beatles' creative approaches and includes a recommended listening list.
Halpin says the Beatles were influenced from many areas. “There's so many influences early on – Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley.” When in the studio, he cites Bob Dylan. “And then there was the influence of their record producer, George Martin. He influenced them with his classical background. They were (also) influenced by Stockhausen,” a German 20th-century composer who delved in electronic music. And these are only a few.
Does Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band deserve the accolades it gets? “Yes, as a stand-alone album, it is the most unusual album in their entire collection because the way it was produced. The material and the sounds they were experimenting with and using in the recording studio are completely unlike Rubber Soul or Revolver which preceded it,” he says. “But Pepper … is a masterpiece in terms of a concept album. The whole idea (was) of bringing the audience into the recording studio because they stopped touring, right?”
Above all, he says his purpose with the book was to put the listener back in time when the music was made. “I expect them to experience the Beatles not today, but when they were together. When they read the songs, I'm going to bring them into the recording studio. They're going to get the feeling they're actually hearing the songs being written, being put together. What's the backstory on some of the lyrics? What's the back story on the song? How did the section from King Lear end up in 'I Am the Walrus', for instance? I want to make it as fresh as possible.”