For once, a book about The Beatles that differs – to me – from the ones that have gone before. Beatleness, by Dr. Candy Leonard, is a look at the meaning of The Beatles to the “first generation” who experienced The Beatles from their initial landing on the American shores in February, 1964. Told through numerous perspectives, it traces the five year journey of these fans along with The Beatles from their debut, their progression and their end in May, 1970.
Often, books about The Beatles are heaped with praise and empty hyperbole or rehash stories you’ve heard a million times before. This book is not like that, which makes it a worthwhile and deeply interesting read. For me, the striking statements are those which criticize the band during their more adventurous phases (Revolver, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, etc.) – some fans felt the band was getting strange or weird; some were alienated by these less-than-squeaky clean Moptops – some switched allegiances to other bands of the day (The Monkees, being the most notable – and for good reason). Also, it isn’t the memories of female fans, who had led the charge of Beatlemania; it’s an all-inclusive story of men and women who remember with fondness and a very good sense of objectivity on the “how”and “why” The Beatles were so critical to American society at that time and most importantly, how The Beatles helped point a new direction in their own lives.
I’ve had the good fortune to hear Candy Leonard speak about the “first generation” and the ones that follwed, during a panel on The Beatles’ impact on American society through the decades at Beatlefest 2014; I hope that she’ll continue the theme in her next book, should she write again about The Fabs. I implore any real fans of The Beatles to pick this book up and digest it.