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Can't Buy Me Love

Cover of Can't Buy Me Love

Can't Buy Me Love

The Beatles, Britain, and America
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Nearly twenty years in the making, Can't Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can't Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould seeks to explain why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social context that girded both their rise and their demise.

Beginning with their adolescence in Liverpool, Gould describes the seminal influences--from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to The Goon Show and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--that shaped the Beatles both as individuals and as a group. In addition to chronicling their growth as singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, he highlights the advances in recording technology that made their sound both possible and unique, as well as the developments in television and radio that lent an explosive force to their popular success. With a musician's ear, Gould sensitively evokes the timeless appeal of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration and their emergence as one of the most creative and significant songwriting teams in history. And he sheds new light on the significance of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as rock's first concept album, down to its memorable cover art.

Behind the scenes Gould explores the pivotal roles played by manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, credits the influence on the Beatles' music of contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Ravi Shankar, and traces the gradual escalation of the fractious internal rivalries that led to the group's breakup after their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Most significantly, by chronicling their revolutionary impact on popular culture during the 1960s, Can't Buy Me Love illuminates the Beatles as a charismatic phenomenon of international proportions, whose anarchic energy and unexpected import was derived from the historic shifts in fortune that transformed the relationship between Britain and America in the decades after World War II.

From the Beats in America and the Angry Young Men in England to the shadow of the Profumo Affair and JFK's assassination, Gould captures the pulse of a time that made the Beatles possible--and even necessary. As seen through the prism of the Beatles and their music, an entire generation's experience comes astonishingly to life. Beautifully written, consistently insightful, and utterly original, Can't Buy Me Love is a landmark work about the Beatles, Britain, and America.

From the Hardcover edition.

Nearly twenty years in the making, Can't Buy Me Love is a masterful work of group biography, cultural history, and musical criticism. That the Beatles were an unprecedented phenomenon is a given. In Can't Buy Me Love, Jonathan Gould seeks to explain why, placing the Fab Four in the broad and tumultuous panorama of their time and place, rooting their story in the social context that girded both their rise and their demise.

Beginning with their adolescence in Liverpool, Gould describes the seminal influences--from Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry to The Goon Show and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--that shaped the Beatles both as individuals and as a group. In addition to chronicling their growth as singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists, he highlights the advances in recording technology that made their sound both possible and unique, as well as the developments in television and radio that lent an explosive force to their popular success. With a musician's ear, Gould sensitively evokes the timeless appeal of the Lennon-McCartney collaboration and their emergence as one of the most creative and significant songwriting teams in history. And he sheds new light on the significance of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as rock's first concept album, down to its memorable cover art.

Behind the scenes Gould explores the pivotal roles played by manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin, credits the influence on the Beatles' music of contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, and Ravi Shankar, and traces the gradual escalation of the fractious internal rivalries that led to the group's breakup after their final masterpiece, Abbey Road. Most significantly, by chronicling their revolutionary impact on popular culture during the 1960s, Can't Buy Me Love illuminates the Beatles as a charismatic phenomenon of international proportions, whose anarchic energy and unexpected import was derived from the historic shifts in fortune that transformed the relationship between Britain and America in the decades after World War II.

From the Beats in America and the Angry Young Men in England to the shadow of the Profumo Affair and JFK's assassination, Gould captures the pulse of a time that made the Beatles possible--and even necessary. As seen through the prism of the Beatles and their music, an entire generation's experience comes astonishingly to life. Beautifully written, consistently insightful, and utterly original, Can't Buy Me Love is a landmark work about the Beatles, Britain, and America.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1 Now, you've got to keep in mind that Elvis Presley was probably, innately, the most introverted person that came into that studio. Because he didn't play with bands. He didn't go to this little club and pick and grin. All he did was sit with his guitar on the side of his bed at home.

    --Sam Phillips

    Well since my baby left me . . ." The voice, unaccompanied but for the tinny flourish of piano that anchors the end of each line, was somehow bigger and riper with feeling than any voice its young listeners had ever heard. "Well I found a new place to dwell . . ." It projected an authority and an insolence that reached beyond the words themselves, and it came from a place beyond the realm of "entertainment" as they had ever conceived of the term. Now joined by a doomstruck bass line, the sound of that voice seemed only to grow larger and more menacing, yet closer and more confiding as well, as if --given the lurching slow-dance tempo of the music--the singer's lips were pressed tight against the ear of the girl he now began to address, his words expressing a vengeful wish to make her feel the same way he was feeling in his room at the Heartbreak Hotel: "So lonely I could die." Though such things had been said for time immemorial in the lives of ordinary people; and though similar expressions of such dire emotion could be found in a growing number of avowedly realistic novels, plays, and films; and though something very much like it had been available for years on the sorts of records that most people never heard (including earlier, more obscure records by this same singer)--the fact remained that no man had ever sounded this way, or spoken this way to a woman, in front of so many millions of listeners before.

    Elvis Presley was the catalyst, not the originator, of the phenomenon called rock 'n' roll. Three years before he made his first recordings, the term was being promoted by a Cleveland disc jockey named Alan Freed as a race-neutral pseudonym for the black rhythm and blues that Freed began beaming across a wide swath of the North American continent in 1951. In 1954, the year that Freed moved his radio show, "Moondog's Rock 'n' Roll Party," to New York City, a white band singer named Bill Haley (himself a former disc jockey) recorded a pair of songs on the Decca label, one a novelty tune with a snappy tick-tock rhythm called "Rock Around the Clock," the other a sanitized "cover" version of a current rhythm-and-blues hit by Joe Turner called "Shake, Rattle and Roll." "Rock Around the Clock" failed to catch on at first, but Haley's pallid rendition of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" became a hit record, rising into the Billboard Top Ten in the fall of 1954. The following year, "Rock Around the Clock" was featured on the soundtrack of a film called Blackboard Jungle--one of a spate of Hollywood movies designed to exploit the rising tide of public anxiety about juvenile delinquency in America. Placed in a suitably inflammatory context, the song caught fire, reaching number one on the pop charts in the summer of 1955, turning the chubby, thirtyish, tartan-jacketed Haley into the world's first rock-'n'-roll star.

    In the meantime, legend has it, an eighteen-year-old delivery truck driver named Elvis Aron Presley sauntered into the storefront offices of Sam Phillips's Memphis Recording Service in the summer of 1953 to make an acetate of a song called "My Happiness" as a birthday present for his mom. (That Gladys Presley was born in the spring only burnishes the myth.) Sam Phillips, who operated his studio in conjunction with a small independent record label called Sun, had concerned himself to date with recording such talented Memphis-area bluesmen as Howlin' Wolf and...

About the Author-
  • JONATHAN GOULD is a writer and a former professional musician who studied with the eminent jazz drummer Alan Dawson and spent many years working in bands and recording studios. In addition to writing and playing music, Gould has raised a family, served in local politics, and taken an active role in the life of the upstate New York community where he has lived for the past twenty-five years. He currently divides his time between New York City and Willow, New York.


    From the Hardcover edition.
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Can't Buy Me Love
The Beatles, Britain, and America
Jonathan Gould
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