JUNE 20, 2013
The Beatles the Biography by Bob Spitz

Fifty years ago, in the spring of 1963, an up and coming British band with one previous hit  (“Love Me Do”), found its new single “Please, Please Me” in the U.K.s #1 records chart spot where it remained in the Top 10, for about 7 months. Less than one month later, their next single release “From Me, To You” opened at #1.  Five months later, “She Loves You” made  #1, and in November, after 13 weeks in the Top Ten, it had sold over 1 million copies in the U.K.  Before “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was released, it had already sold 950,000 in advance orders, and it too, shot to #1. Beatlemania was about to explode on the international scene, where mobs of screaming teenagers met (and eventually terrified) the musical foursome everywhere they appeared. 

I was a Beatlemaniac, although not of the shrieking mob variety. I was in the 6th grade when the Beatles hit the American music scene.  I was besotted with their music. I had photos of the Fab Four taped to my bedroom walls and listened to their recordings incessantly.  I moved the stacking release bar on my record player to the right, so that as soon as the record was over, the tone arm would be tricked into thinking another record had fallen onto the turntable, and the recording began all over again.  When my parents would finally demand mercy, I would simply turn the record to the B-side and do the same thing all over again.  I read the fan mags and learned all the puff about them that was put out in the press (“Paul’s favorite color is green,” “John’s favorite food is steak and chips,” “Ringo Starr isn’t his real name.”)  But I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about these four people, their lives, their careers, their ideas and aspirations - and if pressed at the time, I probably could not have explained what was so special about their music, except that they sounded different from everyone else, and besides, they were the Beatles.  I mean, THE BEATLES, people!

But who were these four “WWII babies”, raised in bombed out areas of England’s tough Liverpool neighborhoods who (except for middle class John Lennon) came from poor working class backgrounds, grew up in government subsidized housing, and who, by their early teens, were teaching themselves to play American rock tunes on pathetically inferior instruments?  And how, with absolutely no connections to the music business, did they manage to breathe life into the anemic British pop rock scene, redefine it for an international audience, and become the most popular rock band in the world?  What were the truths behind the myths that swirled around these young men?  Why, after just a few short years of success, did they stop performing live and become a studio band?  And how did mere rock musicians manage to ride atop the crest of change, and in many cases influence the tastes and ideas of a generation poised for major social, political and cultural shifts? 

Get the answers by reading The Beatles – the Biography by Bob Spitz. This is not a new book, it was published in 2005, but it is very comprehensive. And don’t be afraid of the size (it’s got over 900 pages if you include footnotes.)  You can read it in spurts, but if you’re like me, you’ll have a hard time putting it down.    

posted by Jeanne

Categories: Lets Talk BooksStaff Reads


JUNE 7, 2013
Remembering Stuart Walzer (1924 - 2013)
About ten years ago, Stuart Walzer dropped by my office and introduced himself to me.  A retired attorney, who had recently resettled in Carmel, he told me that he had founded the L.A. County Bar Association’s Lawyer’s Literary Society, and he was now interested in volunteering to facilitate a regular group book discussion at the Library.  I was overjoyed, because this was a frequently requested program that I had hoped to put in place in the Library for nearly two decades, but never had quite the right person to help put it all together. 

At the time, I had belonged to a private “living room” book discussion group comprised of girlfriends and like-minded friends of friends for several years, so I knew how these things operated.  But facilitating discussions that are open to the public, where there are likely to be people of various ages and backgrounds, with a diversity of ideas, temperaments, and opinions, there is potential for conversational detours that could become tricky to navigate. But here was Stuart Walzer, not only a brilliant, well-read man, but a specialist in matrimonial law – a highly tolerant, diplomatic person with vast skills in getting conflicting parties to come to terms.   There are a great many things that I do not know, but when a good opportunity knocks, I know enough to open the door. 

For a full decade, Stuart and often his wife Paula, facilitated 172 book discussions at the Library, cultivating a devoted group of readers who enjoyed lively, congenial discussion of mid-to-high level literary fiction, including both contemporary works and classics.  I have participated in many of these sessions and always came away deeply satisfied with the shared experience of discussing literature that I had enjoyed in private.  Wearing my library hat, I always recognized the value of building community around books and reading. 
Stuart passed away at age 88 on May 8.  This kind, wise, deeply intellectual man with his vast range of interests – a Renaissance man really – will be sorely missed by many people.  We at the Library will always be grateful to Stuart for founding the Library’s Literary Circle and for offering this special activity to our community.  We send our heartfelt condolences to Stuart’s family, and will always remember him with fondness and gratitude.   

The Library will honor the tradition of the monthly Literary Circle established by Stuart, with yours truly attempting to fill his  very large shoes by facilitating the discussions. Currently on its usual summer hiatus, the Circle will meet again on Monday, August 26, at 6:30 p.m., in the Library Community Room.  We’ll be discussing Adam Jonson’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son.  I look forward to reacquainting myself with the regular Literary Circle participants and to meeting newcomers, who are always most welcome. 

posted by Jeanne

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