Book Review Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four’s Instruments, from Stage to Studio

It’s difficult to break new ground when dealing with a subject such as the Beatles, who’ve been researched, documented and re-documented for more than 37 years. But that’s exactly what Andy Babiuk has done with his new 251-page hardcover tome, “Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four’s Instruments, from Stage to Studio”. Babiuk, a staff consultant to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and 20 year veteran of the House of Guitars, cleverly weaves a compelling narrative through a timeline replete with technical details and lavish photographs. The end result is a work which will appeal to both the casual fan watching from the wings and the avid musician keen to take the stage for a closer look.

The author begins his story in 1956 with detailed accounts of the Beatles first acoustic instruments and ends in 1970 with stories of sophisticated studio synthesizers. The reader is led from the damp cellars of Liverpool to the worldwide stage and into the recording studio, all the while being introduced to the tools of their trade: the guitars, basses, drums, keyboards, amplifiers and effects used to create the Beatles unique and timeless sound. By the end of Chapter One you will have a good appreciation of the meticulous research that went into producing this book. Further proof is provided in the foreword by noted Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn who calls Beatles Gear “an authoritative guide to the Beatles equipment”.

Sometimes technical details can get in the way of a good story. Although I’ve always been interested in the Beatles instruments I’m not a musician and was worried that at some point I might lose my way. This didn’t happen and in fact I found myself reveling in the nitty-gritty detail. One particular feature I really appreciated was the translation of original price tags into current purchasing power, a tiny piece of information which sheds a lot of light onto the Beatles commitment to their art.

While the left-side of our brain is well fed by the storyline the right-side is equally satisfied with the book’s rich layout and stunning colour photographs. The more than 300 pictures are not limited to the Beatles and their instruments but also include interesting memorabilia such as sales receipts, manufacturers’ ads and concert posters. A book such as this will likely send avid Beatles collectors in pursuit of entirely new items for their collections.

Having spent four months researching my own 9500-word article on John’s psychedelic Rolls-Royce, has left me with a great deal of respect for the effort that went into producing “Beatles Gear: All The Fab Four’s Instruments, from Stage to Studio”. If you are a serious fan of the Beatles music and own a copy of Mark Lewisohn’s “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” you would be remiss not to have a copy of Andy Babiuk’s new book sitting on your shelf next to it. If you love to make music as much as you enjoy listening to it then I suspect you already have!

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