So many books have been written about the Fab Four that it must be hard for authors to come up with new and interesting information, angles and points of view. Steven D. Stark, a popular NPR commentator and writer for the New York Times and other notable publications, has managed to bring a whole new perspective to the flop-topped historical band that pretty much shaped musical history from the moment they set foot on American shores.
As a pop culture expert, Stark doesnít just tell us who the Beatles were and how the band came to be the biggest of all time. We donít get bogged down in details about how Paul tunes his guitars or what color socks Ringo preferred. Instead, he focuses on the cultural phenomenon the band created, from changes in hairstyles and fashion to reshaping the roles of women to the acceptance of drug use for creative purposes and more. This new point of view makes Meet the Beatles different from other ďmeet the bandĒ books, and offers up some real food for thought about just how powerful an effect music can have on mass consciousness and social trends.
As most other Beatle books do, though, Stark takes us along for the ride as the four members meet as youths and form what would one day become The Beatles. We read about their personal dreams and visions, their wives and girlfriends, their drug use and creative struggles, and their various levels of success dealing with, well, success. But permeating all of the usual history is a deeper examination of how this group of four British youth literally altered culture itself and the dynamics behind the bandís ability to reach so many people from all walks of life. As Malcolm Gladwell might put it, The Beatles were a tipping point.
Donít look for pictures of Paul noodling in the studio, or handwritten notes of Johnís song ideas, or Ringo cooking meatballs for family. Stark leaves that for other, more fan-oriented books. Meet the Beatles goes deeper and reveals the hows and whys of the sexual, musical, cultural and even in a sense, political revolution that took place once the Fab Four came to town.
That is the true phenomenon. Not the music itself, but how it changed things.