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How The Beatles Changed The World by Tom O’Del book review

The World At War with catchier tunes

Cover art for How The Beatles Changed The World by Tom O’Del book

It’s strange to see living memory presented in dryly academic historical perspective. Weirdly disconcerting. There are moments during writer/director Tom O’Dell’s 105-minute How The Beatles Changed The World documentary when viewers over 50 might find themselves compelled to check their pulse. The starkly monochrome Swinging Sixties occasionally look as dusty, alien and distant as the silent Roaring Twenties once seemed. Can we really have been there, and still be alive now?

A fistful of talking heads, led by cultural historian and Fabmate, Barry Miles, retell the band’s tale (with illuminating contemporary performance and interview footage of the actual Beatles) and lace it with lashings of pertinent historical perspective. But it’s a story so familiar that O’Dell’s belated cinematic recapitulation – as adequate and accurate a labour of love as it surely is – may leave the average armchair classic rock historian baffled by its very existence. That said, woolgathering middle-aged nostalgists are possibly not its ideal audience. It would, however, make an ideal classroom aid for 21st-century kids studying late- 20th-century history, and a necessary one at that.After all, you’d need to present a hell of a lot of evidence to convince anyone born into this anodyne, static, complacent, a political musical zeitgeist that a mere pop group could once have actually changed the world. Most of today’s couldn’t change their T-shirt without written permission from their stylist.

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.