The Beatles: Eight days a week

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I´m from Liverpool so if I´m ever anywhere that isn´t Liverpool people will always ask me about The Beatles. I conform nicely to the stereotype because I love football and I love The Beatles but I didn´t get into the group until I was about 10  years old when I saw a documentary at school in Oman. The doc was called The Compleat Beatles (yep, that spelling) and told the story that anyone who knows anything about the band is familiar with. But it hit home and hooked me and ever since I´ve been a Beatlehead. So there was never any doubt that I wouldn´t go and see the new Ron Howard documentary about the Beatles´ touring years.

And it´s not a bad film. It retells the story we all know. It has new interviews from a doddery Paul and a still youthful-ish Ringo, but there´s not a lot they can add that we haven´t seen or known before. It´s interesting to see the story told from a mainly American angle and nice to see The Beatles standing against segregation, but there´s too much fluff here for me. Eddie Izzard as a talking head doesn´t do much for me. The narrative works well until they decide to stop touring, and while we´ve been given a rundown of each album, stats etc, suddenly that all gets rushed along when John and co.  decide “That´s it!” after Candlestick Park in ´66. The film ends abruptly and, for me, isn´t satisfying. It feels half-cooked and unbalanced, interesting as it is to hear the story.

However, once the credits roll we get a restored full-on version of the Shea Stadium show in August, 1965. At the time this was the biggest pop show ever staged and what we hear this year – 50 years after the concert – sounds nothing like The Beatles or anyone else in the stadium heard. Back then it was piped through the tinny PA, but now we get great booming sound and mostly crystal-clear images. And it fricken rocks.

The set-list is a joke in itself: they open with Twist and Shout, laughing and joking and generally having a ball. Lennon later said he saw the top of the mountain that evening and you can see them all thinking, “we really have made it to the toppermost of the poppermost here, la”. We get I Feel Fine, Dizzy Miss Lizzy, Ticket to Ride, Can´t Buy Me Love – piss-takingly introduced by Lennon – “er, I think this is on – what album is this on? Beatles six or something?” – but all well played. You get the charm, you get the character and you get the beat. You get what all the screaming was about: how they gave the world joy.

Baby´s In Black – “a waltz, remember that?”, A Hard Day´s Night, Act Naturally and Help! lead up to a manic Hamburgy finale of I´m Down with Paul going full-on Little Richard and John on the keyboards giving sweeps with his elbow and trying to make George crack up as he´s doing his backing vocals. It´s just brilliant fun and a relief, after the stodge before it, to get to see the animals in their natural habitat.

End of: well worth going, The Beatles are ace, stick around for the concert, even if you think you´re not going to into it after almost two hours of the doc. You will. beatles-shea-03

NOW BOOKING! A 5 minute interview all about books…

We´ve got new interviews with authors L.V. Wiseman, T.L. Clark, Madison Love, Grace Anthony and Devorah Fox on the NOW BOOKING page.

If you fancy taking the NOW BOOKING interview test, contact me through james@jameshartleybooks.com or leave a note on the website.

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BACK TO SCHOOL Short Story Competition NOW OPEN

Calling all young writers between the ages of 12 and 15, our latest short story competition is now open for entries. First prize will win an Amazon Voucher of 25 pounds (or equivalent) and your story will be published here on our website.

For full details check out the SUBMISSIONS page.

Good luck!

FROM THEN TO NOW – My Bookwormz List

BOOKWORMZ are lists of books, maximum 10, which tell a story of their own. Every so often I´ll ask you for a list on a new theme and I´ll publish as many as we can.

For the inaugural edition, the theme is FROM THEN TO NOW.

I want to see a list of books which take you from infancy to wherever in life you are now. I prefer if you´re honest to cool and I prefer your gut reaction to what you think you ought to say.

After you’ve submitted your list, include a brief description of the books you´ve chosen. Space permitting, we´ll publish that too.

If you would like to have your list published, make sure you´ve signed up to our mailing list.

Here´s mine, and a brief explanation of why I´ve chosen what I´ve chosen…

Play With Us (Peter and Jane, Book 1a) by William Murray

Good Work Secret Seven by Enid Blyton

Not A Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.

The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Night by Eli Wiesel

The Crime of Father Amaro by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

Nobody who grew up in Britain in the 1970´s will have escaped the world of Peter, Jane and the Dog. Still evocative, these perennial bestsellers are now just as valuable as a historical record of their times as they are an educational tool. Sailing boats, red footballs stuck in trees, flares and having “We we” written at the bottom of a page mean these books remain close to my heart.

Enid Blyton is one of the all-time great storytellers. I love her so much I put her in The Invisible Eye as the headmistress, Miss Waters (her final married name). The Secret Seven was my favourite series of hers and Book Six, with its mix of fireworks, ginger buns and the annoying but wonderful Susie, was one of my first hallowed books – set apart from the others, left face up beside my bed as a kind of badge of  character. This is me! I used to think. This is what I like!

Jeffrey Archer gets a bad press but his books were good friends to me when I was metamorphosing into a teenager. The Willard Price “adventure” series were great but Archer´s books – especially the one on the list and Kane And Abel – eased me out into the adult world of books. I´ve met Mr Archer twice – once at a prize-giving competition (I won second prize for a ghost story, he left early) and once in the street outside his abyssmal West End play Exclusive. He´s like a character from one of his own books.

The Wasp Factory was a thrilling wakeup call: a jolt that reawakened an interest in fiction which had died with under the pressure of too many po-faced, “serious” teen novels and too-old for me classics pressed on us by teachers. It met me at the perfect time and bluntly informed me there was more nourishing soul food out there than the bland diet I was being fed. Like D.H. Lawrence, whom I gorged on after school, or Maugham, Pritchett, Bainbridge or Bates, I learned to love a singular author´s take on the world. These were writers I loved, whose personalities shone through their prose and spoke to and moved me.

Night by Eli Wiesel stands, with Yogananda´s Autobiography of a Yogi, in a separate category from the other books on the list. These works are touched by something other and contain a challenging power which makes them less volumes of writing  than experiences which might change you profoundly. These are noble works.

My awful twenties, rising and falling, rudderless, on a rough sea of emotion and circumstance, were enlivened by new and surprising voices. Bukowski, although desperate to shock, is a poet. Lowry, although desperate to be a poet, is shocking. The Crimes of Father Amaro, and most of Eça de Quieroz’s work (especially when translated by Margaret Jull Costa) is testament to the power of literature to transmigrate: to pass from soul to soul.

Apart from this last book, almost everything on my list is by white, Anglo-Saxon authors, and mostly men at that. But I am a white Anglo-Saxon man and I suppose I read to know myself; I read what interests me. My interests are not solely white Anglo-Saxon male-authored books but these are the books I have picked because these are the ten books which presented themselves to me when I thought about the list. These are my books. My books which bring me from then to now.

What about yours?