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Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America by Jonathan Gould

My favorite surprises are the fact that George Martin learned rudimentary guitar to communicate with Beatles who couldn’t read music; that the French in “Michelle” was polished by a teacher who was the wife of Paul’s schoolmate Ivan Vaughn; that the crowd noise on “Sgt. Pepper” is an actual tape from the 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert; and that John had agreed to appear at George’s concert for Bangladesh, but George balked when Yoko insisted on performing. Black-belt trivia buffs will know that Death Cab for Cutie (the name of a current group from Seattle) was a lyric sung by a non-Beatle in the seldom-watched film Magical Mystery Tour.

He gives short shrift to the young Beatles’ sexcapades in Germany and the financial bath Brian Epstein took in rip-off licensing deals for Beatle trading cards and lunchboxes. One factual error: he assumes that the University of Michigan journalist who instigated the Paul-is-dead rumors used a fake name, but Fred LaBour is for real and performing today in the country-western act Riders in the Sky.

But hey, Gould, don’t make it bad. When you get around to the Beatles’ painful break-up—from the thuggish machinations of manager Allen Klein to McCartney’s booking studio time under a pseudonym for his first solo album—I found that, like the group itself, the book left me wanting not to get to “The End.”

Charlie Clark is a Washington writer who’s been tight with the Beatles since he saw them on Ed Sullivan.

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