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Mike Hockinson's Picks


The Beatles. The best rock and roll band – ever. More than thirty years after their breakup, their influence continues to resonate in popular music and culture. My introduction to John, Paul, George and Ringo came in 1972 shortly after my twelfth birthday when CBS-TV aired the network premiere of Yellow Submarine. While some fans enjoy collecting the memorabilia, my passion for the Beatles has always centered around their songs. Books and magazines feed my desire to learn everything I can about this timeless music and the lives of the four men who created it. Working at Powell's for the last eight years has given me the opportunity to assemble an extensive library on the group, which served me well during the writing of my second book, The Ultimate Beatles Quiz Book II. A recent New York Times book reviewer noted over 400 titles on the Fabs with more on the way. No other popular recording artist has had their life examined so extensively; nearly every moment on the Beatles' timeline has been the subject of a book. If you're just getting into the group, here are a few of the titles that rate highly with me:


Beatles Books

The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark Lewisohn

Complete Beatles ChronicleLewisohn's name is respected in Beatles circles with good reason. While there are a number of authors who promote themselves as "experts" on the group, through previous association or sheer volume of output, Mark is the real deal. His first two books, The Beatles Live (1986) and The Beatles Recording Sessions (1988), were meticulously researched revelations, presenting a level of scholarship that changed the way fans and students of the group viewed them as performing artists and musicians.

Combining the best of these earlier works, Mark then added new information and revisions to make Chronicle the most complete examination of the Beatles as a working band, a day-by-day document of every known recording session, appearance for stage, radio, television, as well as film and video work. I could not have written my own book without access to this important reference work. Puzzlingly out of print for the last few years, a new UK trade paperback edition is now available. If you had to limit yourself to one book on the group, this is it. This is the real Beatles Bible.
The Beatles Anthology by The Beatles

Beatles AnthologyThe mother of all coffee table books, there's no denying the impact this Fabular tome will have on Beatles scholarship. Its 340,000 words of text are culled from the transcripts of extensive interviews Paul, George, Ringo, road manager Neil Aspinall, producer George Martin and press officer Derek Taylor gave during the Anthology video documentary, with John's views represented from a variety of archival sources. This well-designed book is a feast for the eyes, with 1300 images, including many from the Beatles' own personal archives. I've been a fan for well over a quarter of a century and have seen a lot of photographs of the group – even I was delighted by what's inside.
Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now by Barry Miles

Paul McCartney: Many Years From NowMcCartney fans know there are precious few books on "Macca" worth reading. A close friend since the mid-sixties, Miles wrote Many Years with Paul's full cooperation, drawing on hundreds of hours of personal interviews. Critics have attempted to fault McCartney here for assigning a percentage value to the contributions he and John made to the Lennon/ McCartney canon, overlooking perhaps that Lennon did his own version of this in his final Playboy interview. That aside, there is much new here to discover about Paul's personal life during the sixties, notably his courtship of Linda, his reminiscences of writing with John and his artistic endevours outside the Beatles. Until he writes his autobiography, this is the best portrait available on an important modern composer in his prime.
Lennon: The Definitive Biography by Ray Coleman

Lennon: The Definitive BiographyColeman's 1985 bio, written with the full cooperation of Lennon's family and friends, remains the best portrait of my favourite Beatle. Coleman covers all aspects of Lennon's life, as musician, peace activist, husband and father. Highlights include remembrances of John's formative years from his Aunt Mimi, early girlfriend Thelma Pickles and first wife Cynthia Lennon.
Black Market Beatles by Jim Berkenstadt and Belmo

Black Market BeatlesBesides books, my other passion is collecting Beatles bootlegs, or "Beatlegs", those unauthorized LPs and CDs issued by naughty persons containing previously unreleased studio recordings, home demos, radio air-checks and live performances. While the official BBC and Anthology discs were great, that's not all there is! Berkenstadt and Belmo present a well-written overview of what's out there on the Beatles "black market," examines how some of it got into the hands of collectors and even interviews some of the bootleggers responsible.


Science Fiction

Kissing the Beehive by Jonathan Carroll

Kissing the BeehiveIn Kissing we meet writer Sam Bayer, a best selling author whose return to his hometown of Crane's View inspires him to write a book on the unsolved murder of a teenage girl whose body he discovered when he himself was a teenager. Bayer is aided in his research by a beautiful but obsessive fan he meets at a signing named Veronica Lake. While Veronica appears unbalanced, a relationship develops between them despite several incidents that challenge the reader's character allegiances. We are also introduced to the many colourful characters of the town, including my favourite, Police Chief Frannie McCabe
The Marriage of Sticks by Jonathan Carroll

The Marriage of SticksAs Marriage of Sticks opens, Miranda Romanac is preparing to attend her fifteen year high school reunion. She is hoping to see James Stillman, "the first man I ever loved with an adult heart," only to be informed that he died three years before in a car crash. As a rare book dealer in New York City, Miranda makes the acquaintance of many interesting people, among them a married man named Hugh Oakley, whom she is soon having an affair with, and Frances Hatch, an amazing woman who regales Miranda with stories of her days as mistress to many of the noted artists in Paris during the twenties. One day Miranda is walking in the city, regarding a letter she just received from Hugh, when across the street she sees a man waving at her...James Stillman.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

Bridge of BirdsWinner of the World Fantasy Award, Hughart's novel of an ancient China that never was is one of the few fantasy novels I wholeheartedly recommend – and this from someone who doesn't like fantasy fiction. But I could not resist the exciting and humorous adventures of Master Li, a wise old sage with a slight flaw in his character and a weakness for rice wine. His assistant, Number 10 Ox, a strong ernest young man, narrates this tale of their perilous quest to find a root that is the antidote to a poison that threatens to kill the children in Number 10 Ox's village. Hughart's ending is both beautiful and sublime.


Graphic Novels & Alternative Comics

Red Rocket 7 by Mike Allred

Red Rocket 7A Hi-Sci-Fi graphic novel from the creator of Madman, Allred's tale of a alien clone who learns to rock and roll is a perfect fanboy fantasy. Fleeing the tyranny of the evil Enfinites, Red Rocket crash lands on Earth. Near death, and seeking to preserve his lineage, his robot guard creates six clones, each possessing a specific aspect of the original's personality. Red Rocket 7 inherits his creativity and sets out on a pop odyssey that's a history lesson of the popular music of Earth, learning his chops in the ensuing years with the help of Little Richard, Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, David Bowie and even Portland, Oregon's own Dandy Warhols! Allred's distinctive style is an eye-popping homage to Jack Kirby, with amazing colours by wife Laura.
Maakies by Tony Millionaire

MaakiesIf you're looking for a laugh out loud comic strip, nothing beats the violent, alcohol fueled nautical mayhem of Uncle Gabby the ape and Drinky Crow, who seem to find it nearly impossible to stay sober or to keep the various ships they man from sinking. Millionaire's exquisitely drawn panels remind me of a cross between John (Alice In Wonderland) Tenniel and Ernest (Winnie the Pooh) Shepard. Invariably limbs are severed, brains blown out, and there's certain to be at least one strip in this debut collection to offend just about everybody's sensibilities, but if you take your humor black and totally bent, Maakies is a must!
Julius Knipl and the Beauty Shop District by Ben Katchor

Julius Knipl and the Beauty Supply DistrictI first became aware of Katchor's sublime black and white strips in the pages of Art Spiegelman's Raw magazine. "(His) picture stories speak a sad, beautiful clarity," R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe once remarked. Compiled from strips published in The Forward between 1994 and 1997, Katchor's third collection of stories from New York real estate photographer Julius Knipl is peopled mostly by men who hold in high regard the urban land-scape of the past and the obsolete artifacts and ideals that once held sway. Discover the motives behind such whimsical business ventures as the Normalcy Parfume Company and the Rencher Memorial Library. Pay your last respects to Professor Dombay Fecol, hair tamer, meet the friends of Dr. Rushtower and, of course, don't forget to wander into the Beauty Supply District, a twenty-four page story exclusive to this collection.

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