The Christmas British (Book) Invasion: Queen! Beatles! Stones!

John Deacon, Brian May, and Freddie Mercury of Queen onstage in 1977.
John Deacon, Brian May, and Freddie Mercury of Queen onstage in 1977. Carl Lender/WikiCommons
Queen: Album by Album
By Martin Popoff
224 pp.
Voyageur Press

Book cover by Voyageur Press
The insanely prolific music journo Martin Popoff (nearly 8,000 record reviews and many, many books) must be running out of performers to write about. Because in this latest installment in his Album by Album series, he tackles the discography of a little known English band with a snooty sounding name that haven’t put out an album in more than two decades…

OK, well, maybe not. Thanks to the massive success of the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, the music and catalog of Queen is getting perhaps its most attention ever, even more so than in the aftermath of the 1991 death of larger-than-life vocalist Freddie Mercury – looming so large it’s his mustachioed mug only featured on the cover here. That cuts out poor Brian May (guitar), Roger Taylor (drums), and John Deacon (bass) entirely.

Popoff sticks to his recent m.o. with this series and gathers a group in which he sort of moderates a Q&A that breaks down every record and every song, while adding some biography of the band at the time. He taps musicians like Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Derek Shulman (Gentle Giant), Dave Ellefson (Megadeth), an actual producer who worked with Queen, and a series of writers and Queen fans and tribute act members going back and forth. Oh, and he also managed to snag some Queen memories from this Sir Paul McCartney guy…

It’s fascinating to read the back and forth – one person’s fabulous song is another’s shite track – and it strikes a good balance for both the casual and die hard fan. And as with any good book of this type, makes the reader want to go back and revisit (or visit for the first time) many of the non-hits.

Most interesting are the discussion about the stylistic divisions between the anthemic, hard-rock Queen of the ‘70s and the quartet that the next decade embraced more pop, disco, and synth-driven new wave sounds. And also like others in Popoff’s series, the book is chock full of great photos – many rare – along with posters, record covers, T-shirts, and band memorabilia.

It’s not the full band bio to get the story of Queen that many new fans from the movie would want to read (for that I’d recommend Mark Blake’s Is This the Real Life?). But for those who want to dig deep or get granular about the music, this one’s more than worthwhile.

The Lost Beatles Photographs (192 pp.) &
The Lost Rolling Stones Photographs (265 pp.):
The Bob Bonis Archives, 1964-1966
By Larry Marion
Dey St. Books
Both $29.99

click to enlarge BOOK COVER BY DEY ST. BOOKS
Book cover by Dey St. Books
Even among hardcore Beatles and Stones fans, the name Bob Bonis would likely elicit a blank stare. But as the tour manager for the three U.S. tours by the Fabs and five in United States and Europe by the Stones at the earliest stages of their world fame, few men had as much access to the groups.

Luckily, he was an avid amateur photographer and brought his trusty Leica M3 with him on the road, eventually taking a staggering 3,500 pictures of both groups onstage, backstage, in hotels, on planes, and relaxing. A shy and modest man, only a few of photos ever saw publication until his death in 1992, but they were unearthed nearly 20 years later (along with another 1,500 photos of other top music acts from Cream and Simon &Garfunkel to Sinatra) by his son Alex and Larry Marion.

These books are reissues from their original 2010 publication, but are great for fans of both groups. Mainly because of the pictures’ rarity and usually informal settings. Both groups clearly liked and trusted Bonis, and his camera also captured band associates and fellow musicians. Marion’s brief but informative cutlines are very detailed.

There’s a full ten pages given over to the Beatles August 9, 1965 shows at Sam Houston Coliseum. According to a reproduced ticket, it was put on by radio station KILT and sponsored by the Variety Boys Club of Houston. A $5 general admission ticket got you a show by the headliners along with Brenda Holloway, the King Curtis Band, Cannibal and the Headhunters, and Sounds Incorporated, and the two shows with a capacity of 9,200 seats both sold out.

“Bedlam began with their plane hit the tarmac,” Jeff Millar of the Houston Chronicle reported. “The Beatles took this good-naturedly the non-stop screaming that made their singing all but unintelligible.” In their frenzy, Millar also reported that at least one fan threw a right foot shoe – that narrowly avoided missing George Harrison’s head.

click to enlarge BOOK COVER BY DEY ST. BOOKS
Book cover by Dey St. Books
If the Beatles were comfortable about Bonis’ lens, then the Stones must have been even more so, given the amount of photos that have them mugging, pulling weird faces, or, say, holding a long tree branch in front of their crotches.

There’s a lot of great stage and studio shots, along with a few of greater musical historical importance: color shots of the Stones rehearsing for the fabled multi-act concert film the T.A.M.I. Show (which Marion says are the only known ones in existence), along with the band recording at Chess Studios in Chicago.

But you also see the Rolling Stones rolling balls in a bowling alley, Keith Richards giving Charlie Watts a quick haircut, and the band relaxing around various pools at motor lodges on their U.S. tours, wearing very skimpy and, uh, tight bathing trunks (why hello there, Little Jagger!). There are also plenty of photos of Brian Jones – so long in consciousness as the sad, drug-addled, and doomed Stone – laughing and smiling.

In any case, both of these books would make great gift items for fans of either group, making a sort of English Invasion underneath your Christmas tree.
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero