When I first heard about the book, The Beatles A to Zed: An Alphabetical Mystery Tour, I thought it would be a great idea for Peter Asher to tell some of his personal stories about The Beatles in a well-organized encyclopedia-type format. Sadly, when I started reading the book, I discovered there were few personal stories about The Beatles and the book was presented in an unhelpful design.
The format of the book is more of a stream of consciousness. Within each chapter of the alphabet, Asher keeps jumping from topic to topic with no helpful arrangement for the reader. The topics range from The Beatles, to the solo Beatles, to Peter Asher’s career and artists he produced, and finally to miscellaneous topics that happen to start with the letter of the alphabet he is discussing. It’s just paragraph after paragraph with no subheadings.
For an A to Z type book, there’s no easy way to find anything you may be looking for in this book. There are no line breaks between paragraphs or topics. The only division is for the letters in the alphabet, which surprisingly, Asher adds a wasteful sentence at the beginning of each chapter, saying in effect, “now we are at letter (fill-in-the-blank).”
It seems like Asher is basically taking scripts from his “From Me To You” radio show on The Beatles Channel on Sirius XM and placing them in a book with no formatting or organization. There is a reason radio is a separate medium from book publishing. What may sound good on the radio does not translate well verbatim in a book. It needs to be adapted for a book. It seems like Asher and the book editors forgot this point.
In addition, the substance is disappointing. There are very few personal stories about The Beatles that Asher offers. The bulk of the book is repeating facts about Beatles songs that have been written in multiple books before. It may appeal to people who are very new fans of The Beatles and have never read a book about them – you know, like those people in the fictional movie, Yesterday (don’t get me started about that movie). However, if you have read a few books on The Beatles, you won’t be discovering much new information here.
It’s true that Peter Asher did live with Paul McCartney in the early to mid-sixties, and he was the first head of A&R for Apple Records. But the truth is he did not really hang out with The Beatles. The person in his family who did that was his sister, Jane Asher.
You’d think in this book Peter could share something about his sister that we haven’t heard. Jane Asher has never publicly spoken about her relationship with Paul McCartney, and in The Beatles A to Zed she continues that tradition. If you look up Chapter “J”, you’ll find nothing on Jane Asher.
Jane is the one who really needs to write a book. Peter has capitalized on his association with The Beatles for years now. Up until now, he did a good job with his slideshow presentation show which he did a few years back telling Beatle stories, and also with his radio show on Sirius XM. But this book seems to be more of a vanity project for someone who – on paper – has a connection to The Beatles. By just looking at the photographs in the book, you will understand what I mean. There are just as many pictures of Peter in the book as there are The Beatles. Sorry, Peter, but in a Beatles book, I just want to see pics of The Beatles. Some of the other photos are interesting though, including the photo of McCartney with his dog Martha circa 1968 with The Black Dyke Mills Band.
In my opinion, you’d be better off investing in a book written by a real Beatles historian that goes through all their songs with detailed and sourced information. There are many books out there that do it well including Beatlesongs (Dowlding) and A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song (Turner). – T.Y.