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Monday, January 5, 2009

A guide to musical superstardom as taught by John, Paul, George and Ringo

Can "Here Comes the Sun" be your pathway to musical success? Does the "na na na na na na na" chorus in "Hey Jude" have a lesson for struggling composers above and beyond its sing-a-long tempo?

Those questions and about 48 more are dealt with in David Rowley's cute little digest "Help!: 50 Songwriting, Recording and Career Tips Used by the Beatles" published in the UK by Cromwell Press. (It's available from and in Canada.)

The tongue-in-cheek book pinpoints the techniques and ideas used in songs written by the Beatles and their success story and translates them into advice for upcoming songwriters, musicians and fans on all you need to succeed.

For example, the first section of the book, "Lyrics," opens with the tip, "Put 'you' in the first line." Rowley points out that almost half of Lennon and McCartney's songs do just that.

Another tip, and a rather obvious one when it comes to Beatle songs, is "Promote positivity ... say 'YES' and mean it." Yeah, yeah, yeah!

The eight sections in the 140-page digest size book give tips, often whimsical, for "The Lyrics," "Song Structure," "The Music," "General Songwriting Golden Rules," "Recording Tips," Vocals," "General Career Tips" and "Your Image."

Here are a few bits of advice that point up the effectiveness of the book's tips and that ring (make that sing) pretty true when it comes to the music of the Fabs: "Use screams to inject some wildness in your music" (aka "Ooooooo"), "Learn cover versions," "Scrap your first 20 songs" and "Keep a pen, paper and a musical instrument by your bed."

Serious stuff? Not really. There is plenty to smile about when reading the text. At the same time, though, you have to marvel at how the Beatles combined these simple elements to accomplish what they did.

As the book points out, for the Beatles, at least, these elements were the ticket to rising stardom. And who's to say you can't work it out for your benefit again?


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