The Beatles Complete Songbook

By Jeff Pelkmans

This exhaustive works is the second reference volume from Jeff Pelkmans and chronicles all known songs The Beatles played live or recorded during their career, totalling some 1063 tunes. Jeff’s first book documented The Beatles locations in Hamburg and a companion volume on locations in Liverpool is expected later this year.

Tackled chronologically all songs are presented in a simple and easy to follow format detailing their own compositions as well as the myriad of covers that they played mostly in a live context. Their Hamburg visits, in particular, required them to expand their set lists in order to fill the time they were expected to play. It is the fact that the songs they covered were of such an incredible mixture of styles; as highlighted in the book; and forms the basis for their adopting such a wide variety of styles when they came to their recordings. Covering Rock ‘n’ Roll, Skiffle, Blues, Jazz, Show Tunes as part of their set list is well known but the obscurity of some their choices is staggering but fortunately the author highlights versions of the song by specific artists for us to listen to. Many of the songs they played achieved lowly chart positions or were obscure album tracks or B-Sides and the fact that these were identified and incorporated into The Beatles repertoire shows that they were equally adept at identifying songs as writing them.

When the focus is on the recorded versions of the songs, details are provided on recording dates, studio and engineers present as well as outlining the motivation for the writing of each song. Who plays what instrument and relative chart positions achieved by The Beatles or the originators of the recordings adds additional scope to the story of each song.

While the book could be considered a dry read if consumed in its entirety it shines as a reference work which will be useful for future use and settling curiosity and arguments. This is well worth checking out and adding to your Beatles library.

By Gwyn Jenkins.

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