“Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year” by Steve Turner is not just for the Beatles fan. Anyone interested in modern history will enjoy reading this book about what was a revolutionary year in music, art, literature and nearly everything else. It takes the reader on a month by month journey of The Beatles lives as a group and increasingly as individuals from December 1965 through to December 1966. Steve Turner does a great job of taking us from their final UK tour to their final concert appearance in San Francisco while expanding on all the firsts happening to and around them.
During this “revolutionary year” The Beatles recharged themselves as individuals and then as a group, before helping to usher in the psychedelic era hinted at in 1965’s Rubber Soul album and about to be opened wide with 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The 1966 album Revolver is often named as their best album and still sounds fresh, somehow from the 1980’s on it has sounded like an album that could be released by a band today. Turner’s book sheds interesting and informative light on the making of this enduring album. John’s increasing LSD use and voracious appetite for reading, Paul’s excursions into the avant garde art and music scene, George’s trip to India and lessons with Ravi Shankar, and Ringo bouncing around between the other three keeping the connection as a great drummer should.
Amongst all the artistic growth was the down side. You can understand why the 1966 Tour became their last. Turner really does a great job here of showing the chaos that surrounded The Beatles as they travelled and performed. Beginning with John’s Jesus quote and getting worse from there, you can feel the desperation of the band as they slog through the tour waiting for the end. Even events that you know of well like the unintentional snubbing of Imelda Marcos in Manila and the trouble that ensued are written about in a way that has you fearing for the boys safety.
I nearly didn’t buy this book, thinking that I have read and seen enough Beatles books and documentaries to fill a lifetime but the idea of focusing on one year seemed intriguing so I did and I’m glad I did. The epilogue where Steve basically recaps the whole book in essay form is a bit of a slog but the rest is a very good read. With any luck Steve Turner will reward us with books about 67, 68, and 69 next.
Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year by Steve Turner published by Ecco/Harper Collins