Nibbles Before the Binge: Sampling Mark Lewisohn’s “Tune In”

Book Spine 946377_588841387844668_861315064_n - CopyEntertainment Weekly (October 18, 2013 issue) included Mark Lewisohn’s The Beatles All These Years: Tune In as part of a “long, longer, longest” photo feature displaying this season’s thick biography book spines side-by-side-by-side. Tackling these is the print equivalent to binge video viewing, demanding extended time and attention.

At 944 pages, Tune In came in at #3, behind bios of Barbara Stanwyck (1056 pages) and Norman Mailer (960 pages). Just wait for Lewisohn’s upcoming “expanded author’s cut” version, which will double lap those first two.

Even at “only” about 1000 pages (give or take a few, in “Paperback Writer” parlance), the standard version of Tune In might appear a bit daunting for some, a strikingly long journey through what might seem a comparatively familiar story.

A further puzzlement would be the realization that this work ends in 1962, long before The Beatles even set foot in the U.S. in February 1964. But that is also the hint that there is more afoot in this “familiar” story.

In advance of publication, there were excerpts from the book published in Great Britain by the Telegraph.  These are highly recommended because they effectively provide a preview of what discoveries await, and offer answers to “Why revisit the story one more time?” and “Could there possibly be that much more to read about?” Continue reading

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At last! After all these years, the Mark Lewisohn Beatles biography (part one)

IMG_7420“The Beatles’ Boswell.”

That’s how the late Ray Coleman, long time editor of the British music weekly Melody Maker, once described Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn.

The comparison to 18th Century writer James Boswell, whose biographical work on Samuel Johnson defined the genre, concisely captured Lewisohn’s dedication to deep, thorough research on one subject: The Beatles.

It was appropriate. Most recently Mark Lewisohn spent the better part of a decade researching and writing what will arguably be the definitive Beatles biography (The Beatles – All These Years, three volumes during the next decade, or so).

Yet in its glibness, such a quick thumbnail almost glosses over details of Lewisohn’s entire body of work. That is especially relevant in understanding why a man who was not there in the inner circle of the 1960s, or watching first hand in Liverpool even earlier, has turned out to be the best-suited chronicler of the Fab Four.

The Beatles – All These Years: Volume One: Tune In, his first biographical volume, is immediately striking by its sheer size (400,000 to 700,000 words, depending on the edition). Appropriate to his research style, Lewisohn explained the length in a clear, measured tone. His key point: opportunities for deeper levels of detail.

In that spirit, even as Mark Lewisohn begins to roll out excerpts of volume one, here are deeper levels of detail on Mark Lewisohn himself, and his own research journey. Tune In is not “merely” the result of years of concentrated research.

The book reflects a Boswell-like lifetime of observations.

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Robert Feder and the Modern Media Madhouse

IMG_8314 - For MediawallyRobert Feder and the Internet have been a perfect match.

Feder has always prided himself on “getting the scoop” and the instant nature of the electronic medium has meant eliminating the delays inherent in newsprint.

Since departing the Chicago Sun-Times Robert Feder has crafted and polished his online presence, from to TimeOut Chicago through Facebook and Twitter.

As, his new licensing association with the Chicago Tribune Media Group couples his brand with one of the oldest established media institutions in Chicago.

It would be wise, though, NOT to read this as an easy-to-duplicate template for the journey from Old Media to New. Rather, it is an exceptional arc that might be best explained invoking two names from the past: Roger Ebert and Arthur Brisbane.

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Peggy Lee’s Patriotic Train Song

IMG_6784After recently visiting the family apartment of young Peggy Lee in Wimbledon, I’ve found myself spinning a number of her discs, especially from the big band 1940s.

Oh, to clarify: I mean her home in Wimbledon, North Dakota. As the residents there would observe, “not that other Wimbledon” so often in the news.

Over this extended Fourth of July holiday, Peggy Lee’s music has nicely illustrated that era. In particular, I’ve been quite taken with her part in the all-star 1947 track “The Freedom Train.”

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Convention story encore!

IMG_3965 Wally Sep 6“Do you have a photo of our convention anchor booth from last time?”

That question was first posed to me by a network producer between Democratic National Convention cycles some ten years ago.

My instant response back then was: “Don’t you?”

In truth, though, I knew it was cumbersome to search through hours of network archive video. This request was for a fixed image in a more manageable medium.

In fact, I did not have such an image. However, upon reflection, I concluded that I should.

Thus began a long collaboration with photographer Peter Sills, who captured first the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, and then the two venues of the 2008 Convention in Denver.

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“Media and the 2012 Elections”

IMG_4511 First Debate Oct 3The second Inauguration Ceremony of President Barack Obama on January 21 caps a long reelection campaign.  For this cycle, I had the unique opportunity to incorporate the week-by-week political activity into a fall course at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), “Media and the 2012 Elections.”

Of course, I also carefully arranged the early course schedule in August and September around the Democratic Convention, spending time in Charlotte between sessions.

Unfolding in real time, the UIC course was deliberately designed without the luxury of looking back at the results. Instead, though the students (and invited guest speakers) constantly examined historical context, with media coverage as the unifying theme, it was  all about truly observing that fabled “first draft” of history, via the media.

We saw the first Presidential debate in a variety of settings, from bar video screens to dorms to a formal viewing party at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

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TV museum rolls out the red carpet

ribbon cuttingOn June 13, 2012, in downtown Chicago, Betty White, Hugh Downs, and John Mahoney joined Founder-CEO Bruce DuMont cutting the ribbon and officially opening the doors to the new home of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

It was Bruce DuMont’s dream come true after many long years of planning and fund-raising. Continue reading

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Discovering My “Inner Shopper” in New York

Three hours with a personal shopping consultant!

That was a prize in a contest I won at New York’s Time Warner Center.

Columbus Circle in Winter IMG_3817Back in January 2012, on a Winter weekend visit to New York City, I had stopped by the Time Warner retail center to pick up a gift for my wife back home.

It has long been one of my favorite spots to relax with a cup of tea, looking out of its huge wall of windows to view Columbus Circle and the beginning of Central Park.

While gift shopping, I was invited to fill out an entry form for a contest. Though I always assume I’ll never win, it was a harmless enough entry. What were the odds?

Apparently, better than I expected.

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Early Autumn, New York City

NYC ENTER 0923 IMG_4329Autumn in New York.

My wife and I marked our latest wedding anniversary with a five-day trip to New York City in late September.

Splitting our time between the Columbus Circle and Union Square areas, we immersed ourselves in experiencing the city up close, mostly on foot or via the subway.

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A Gift for McCartney’s 70th Birthday

Ram Deluxe SetSir Paul McCartney certainly does not need a physical birthday gift from each of his fans.

Instead there are electronic best wishes posting opportunities everywhere, from Facebook to

However, this is an ideal excuse to give yourself a gift. In my case, it was the deluxe reissue of the Ram album.

It is tempting to completely ignore the context of the times surrounding the original 1971 release of Ram and just focus on the music.

But …

Since Paul McCartney himself has offered surprisingly detailed notes on the era as part of the 2012 reissue, historical scene-setting comments are not out of order. Ultimately, they are helpful (but not required) for taking a fresh listen to Ram.

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