The Beatles: Yesterday & Today!

I picked up The Beatles: Yesterday & Today! by John Swenson shortly after the death of John Lennon. The reprint (purple cover) was from December 1980. I later found an original first printing from May 1977 (this edition is not uncommon) at a Beatles convention in the mid-eighties. It was a standard history of the Beatles with individual chapters about each solo member at the end of the book. I liked that it started with a chapter about Paul’s concert at Madison Square Garden during his Wings Over the World tour on May 24, 1976. Unfortunately the book descended into a mire of spelling errors and totally asynchronous photo placement. Why on Earth use a photo of Ringo dressed as the pope (from the 1975 film “Lisztomania”) during the chapter on the Beatles’ first visit to America? Is it because of a dubious Beatlemania/Lisztomania link? Seems a stretch. Other photo placement choices seemed laughable: flanking the first page on the chapter about Paul was a full-page shot of John and Yoko! Fortunately this was fixed in the 1980 reprint. While the facts were right and Swenson did use reputable sources (some of which I have read and reviewed) I found this unpaginated paperback to be an annoying slog through TypoLand.

I read the 1977 edition and each time I spotted a spelling error or sentence that made no sense I flipped to the 1980 reprint to compare. Neither edition had pagination so I followed along with a bookmark in the reprint. By the way, the reprint didn’t include an update or even a page to report on Lennon’s murder–not that it had to–as some of these later reprints often do. Sadly, the spelling errors that I would label “easy to miss” were not corrected. Most of these included the strange triplication of letters in words where a double would be correct. The other errors were just plain sloppy, such as misspelling the recently deceased Astrid Kirchherr’s surname as Kichenerts in the 1977 edition (the first time I had ever seen it misspelled that way) while leaving her surname out entirely in the 1980 printing. Kirchherr’s friend Klaus Voormann has his surname misspelled as Voorman every time. (I have come to accept that Voormann’s surname has likely been misspelled in the English press more often than spelled correctly.) Formatting gaffes repeated identical lines of text underneath one other. Errors like these were corrected in the later edition. I could understand how in the rush to capitalize on Lennon’s murder publishers would and did issue hastily-prepared Beatles books. These paperbacks were editing nightmares. Though inexcusable, it would be understandable if a December 1980 paperback came out looking so sloppy. But the mistakes I am talking about here were all from the 1977 edition. Often mistakes were corrected using a different font in the 1980 printing; thus it made it very easy to see that a correction was made before I could get to reading it. I could only roll my eyes when Swenson wrote about Paul’s lead vocal on “Twist and Shout” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret”; this was later corrected to John and George as lead vocalists respectively. I was impressed, and surprised to say the least, that Swenson spent so much ink on the Beatles’ rocker “I’m Down”, originally one of three Beatles songs found only as a B-side. Maybe he wanted to spotlight this song that he may have considered forgotten until it was rereleased on the compilation album Rock ‘N’ Roll Music.

Slight Beatles biographies like this are, as I have stated before, not worth getting worked up about. This is just one more book from my Beatles bookshelf that I must read and review before I toss. Swenson ended the book with a hopeful wish for a Beatles reunion. Even at the time of publication, the members were contributing songs and playing on each other’s solo albums. It was natural for the press to wonder if a group-wide collaboration might come next. It was sad, though, to read this same hopeful ending in the December 1980 reprint. 

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