at the end of the day, that’s what the beatles were about: music and death

Welcome to Alan Goldsher’s alternate universe where zombies walk among us, the Beatles were but a footnote in the annals of rock history by the year 2000, and Goldsher is still a rock journalist in Chicago, though he globe-trots to speak with everyone from Roy Orbison to the Devil. In Paul is Undead, readers get a revised history of the greatest mostly-undead band of all time.

Using the Beatles’ real-world history as a framework for his narrative, Goldsher spins a tale of the band’s rise to fame, their murderous rampages (a band’s gotta eat!), and Lennon’s obsession with getting to the “Toppermost of the Poppermost” and taking over the world.

On their way to the top, the Beatles must fight foes like the zombie-hating Mick Jagger, who uses his hips to hypnotize and revives the undead with a big-lipped kiss to the chest, only to kill them for good directly thereafter. Also on the radar is leader of the Zombies, Rod Argent, who despises the Fab Four following a journalist’s claim that the Zombies were trying to capitalize on the boys’ zombie status.

Though thoroughly entertaining as a genre story, the real genius in Paul is Undead comes from Goldsher’s taking what actually happened and turning it on its ear while simultaneously not straying that far from the truth. In the book, the Beatles were able to achieve mind-controlling hypnosis via their vocal harmonies on “All My Loving” while taping the Ed Sullivan show. The glazed looks of adoration and unabashed screeching that were the actual result of virtually every performance in those years is really no different than if Lennon and McCartney had conspired to create such an effect through clandestine means.

A good read for music/Beatles nerds who will recognize the likes of Neil Aspinall and Magic Alex, and/or those who just can’t get enough brain-chomping, detached-limb-swinging, wound-seeping fun.

Paul is Undead will be released June 22, 2010.
Find out more about Alan Goldsher here.

you stole the bomp

If I had to sum up David Walley’s 1998 release in one word, it would be ‘snoozefest’. Teenage Nervous Breakdown: Music and Politics in the Post-Elvis Age is more of a personal nostalgic take on life than insightful look at how the rise of rock ‘n’ roll shaped the world.

Though the book contains research, most of Walley’s commentary is derived from his own experience and predilections. In and of itself, it’s not a bad thing, but would be better suited for a memoir. The heavy baby-boomer/ex-hippie/weren’t the fifties swell-slant makes it difficult for a younger audience to relate while simultaneously dating the perspective.

Also annoying is the clear fact that Walley never got over high school – he goes so far as to dedicate an entire chapter to explaining how society structures itself in much the same way high-schoolers do. While high school as life is a common metaphor, most of us get over the fact we were picked last in gym class and don’t fixate on it well into our forties. Hopefully for him he really showed the football team who’s boss by putting out this book.

While the content of the book did nothing to move me, matters were not helped by the format. The publishers picked a font that is hard to read (commas and periods are nearly indistinguishable from each other, and each letter has so many serifs it might as well be Middle Ages-era calligraphy), each paragraph has a large break in between (generally reserved for a separation of ideas), and there are several large block quotes per chapter (why not just read the other authors’ work?). This may be a nerdy conceit, but if a book is a laborious read regardless of content, it’s a problem.

If the title and proposed subject matter of the book intrigues you, I’d advise skipping Walley’s entry and going straight for Jon Savage’s Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture. It does an amazing job of tracing youth culture’s rise to prominence and is well-written on top of it. It’s a bit heavier but will save you the waste of time Teenage Nervous Breakdown turned out to be.