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Interview: Anthony Robustelli analyzes the Beatles music in new series of books

The cover of Anthony Robustelli's book, "I Want To Tell You, Volume 1."
Shady Bear Productions

Introduction: Anthony Robustelli is the author of “I Want To Tell You - The Definitive Guide To The Music Of The Beatles Volume 1:1962/1963,” the first in a new series of books that will go through the Beatles catalog song-by-song. Robustelli takes each song, details the history of each one and includes players and recording information. We asked him about his books by email for this interview.

Q: “Yours isn't the first book (or books) to go through the Beatles catalog song-by-song. What does yours do differently?”
Anthony Robustelli: “I know there are a lot of books on The Beatles and their music; I have probably read the vast majority of them! When I took on this project of writing 'I Want to Tell You,' I did so because I found in all of my years of research and frankly pure fandom, there was still something missing within all the existing literature.

"As a musician, I was yearning for a true analysis of the songs, the instrumentation, the songwriting and studio techniques, the vocal treatment and delivery as well as some context for why the group approached the music as they did at that particular moment in time. And I found that it simply didn’t exist, especially discussions about their playing and their take on other people's material. So, I set out to write the book I had looked for and could never find.”

Q: Will you include only released songs or also unreleased as well?
Anthony Robustelli: “I want this series to cover the released songs of The Beatles for two reasons. The first is that these are the most accessible songs, the ones everybody knows or thinks they know. And secondly, because there are still a lot of myths, misconceptions and just plain inaccuracies about these songs that I plan to challenge. That’s what’s really driving this whole process -- giving Beatles fans something they’ve not had before -- a new perspective and hopefully some eye-opening information through the lens of a musician.”

Q: Which do you think was their best period?
Anthony Robustelli: “I tend to think of The Beatles as a group that reinvented itself every year. Outside of 1966 they really did stick to the plan of two LPs, as well as additional singles, each year. I think the pressure to create and their thirst for new sounds gave us a number of different 'bands' from the same four musicians. McCartney might have come up with the idea to create a band that wasn't The Beatles with Sgt. Pepper, but by 1967 the group had already changed gears a number of times.

"So to me, the question is which 'band' was best. If I had to choose, it would be who they were during their middle period. This consists of three different transformations. In my opinion, 'Rubber Soul' was the last LP that represents a true collaboration. It’s their best LP as a band that was still recording basic tracks together.

"While 'Revolver' has some fantastic group performances, McCartney had truly found his 'solo' voice by this album and Lennon only plays guitar on his own songs. It’s quite telling, really. The third part of the middle period, the psychedelic years, is probably my favorite as a musician and producer. The sound that came out of EMI studios in 1967 was just tremendous, and for me, life changing.”

Q: What's your favorite Beatles song?
Anthony Robustelli: “Another near impossible question. I can give you a top twenty-five, for today that is, in no particular order. 'I Want You,' 'And Your Bird Can Sing,' 'I'm Only Sleeping,' 'I Am The Walrus,' 'Old Brown Shoe,' 'Hold Me Tight,' 'I'll Get You,' 'All I've Got To Do,' 'The Night Before,' 'Drive My Car,' 'I Call Your Name,' 'You Can't Do That,' 'No Reply,' 'Penny Lane,' 'Strawberry Fields,' 'Getting Better,' 'Fixing A Hole,' 'Lovely Rita,' 'A Day In The Life,' 'Martha My Dear,' 'I'm So Tired,' 'Glass Onion,' 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun,' 'Savoy Truffle' and 'Girl.'”

Q: When will the next book come out and do you know the schedule of release for the rest?
Anthony Robustelli: “I plan to release Volume Two, which will focus on 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Beatles For Sale,' in Spring 2015. After that, my plan is to release one book for each year of The Beatles' career at approximately 18-month intervals.”

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