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Solid State

By: Kenneth Womack,Alan Parsons - foreword
Narrated by: William Hughes
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Summary

In Solid State, Kenneth Womack offers the most definitive account of the conception, recording, mixing, and reception of Abbey Road

In February 1969, the Beatles began working on what became their final album together. Abbey Road introduced a number of new techniques and technologies to the Beatles' sound and included "Come Together", "Something", and "Here Comes the Sun", which all emerged as classics. 

Womack's colorful retelling of how this landmark album was written and recorded is a treat for fans of the Beatles. Solid State takes listeners back to 1969 and into EMI's Abbey Road Studios, which boasted an advanced solid state transistor mixing desk. Womack focuses on the dynamics between John, Paul, George, and Ringo and producer George Martin and his team of engineers, who for the most part set aside the tensions and conflicts that had arisen on previous albums to create a work with an innovative (and among some fans and critics, controversial) studio-bound sound that prominently included the new Moog synthesizer, among other novelties. 

As Womack shows, Abbey Road was the culmination of the instrumental skills, recording equipment, and artistic vision that the band and George Martin had developed since their early days in the same studio seven years before. A testament to the group's creativity and their producer's ingenuity, Solid State is required listening for all fans of the Beatles and the rock 'n' roll.

©2019 Kenneth Womack (P)2019 Blackstone Publishing

What listeners say about Solid State

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    4 out of 5 stars

The Wrong Reader for this Book

I've read a lot of books about The Beatles and was awaiting this one for months. Kenneth Womack always researches his books to a high standard. However, the reader was totally wrong for it. The overall delivery was inept, and in some parts it was as though he was not in tune with the subject. He also mispronounces words. Paul Woodson narrated the two George Martin books by the same author, and although he is American, he really tried hard to do them justice. He was fluent, clear and was obviously interested. But what they really should have done was to get David Thorpe to read it. Now he would have been ideal casting - the master for this kind of work. While I like the book, I'll have to return it because with this narrator, I'll never listen to it again.

5 people found this helpful

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Good book, bad reader

Terrible choice of reader. Why would you use an American for a book with extensive quotes from the Beatles? It's not hard to direct an audiobook but this director found a way to fuck it up.

2 people found this helpful

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Insightful

Opens up the story behind the Abbey Road album, as well as the technology, processes and relationships behind it….

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This is something special.

I came to this book hoping to learn something about The Beatles and their final sessions in the studio. I’m interested in the recording process and love The Beatles and always refer back to them as a high point for recorded music, so this looked promising. I got what I’d hoped for within the first hour of listening, but the thing I also got, that I’d not imagined I would, was a narrative as compelling as an excellent novel. I was listening to Murakami’s 1Q84 at the same time as listening to Solid State, and I kept forgetting that one was a novel and one was not. There was just such an incredible narrative pull. I’m sure this was assisted by William Hughes’s excellent reading, and I think it’s important to highlight this. He read with complete engagement and that’s a major plus for a listener.

The Fabs themselves emerge as complex, difficult, and gifted very young men. McCartney’s drivenness comes through very clearly. Ringo’s as much the hero of these recording sessions as anyone, and I’m really pleased Womack chose to highlight this.

Of course George Martin and Jeff Emerick in particular, deserve as much applause as it’s possible to give for their production work, and this book illuminates their (and several others), ‘above and beyond’ ethos, when it came to this album.
Listening to the album now, is an even greater experience.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting details

A really interesting deep dive into the Beatles recording process, a good companion piece to the Peter Jackson documentary

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One of the better beatles books.

A fascinating look into the recording of the final beatles album. A bit like the get back docu, only more upbeat. Quite a bit of information I didn't know. Recommended for those interested in recording techniques or just beatles history.

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Some nuggets

Have recently and belatedly become interested in the background of the Beatles as a group and individual. Having read Davies’s bio and McNans in the End, this book, which lifts a lot from those, doesn’t add much new material but it is packaged well, there’s a bit more for those technically minded, and a few nuggets here and there (but not everywhere). Written by an American for Americans some of the pronunciations and intonations can be jarring by the narrator. But worth the time nevertheless.

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The book told it as it was.

There are many different books on this subject, but this book tells it as it was. I know because my teenage years were spent being a true Beatles fan from there beginning to the end.
David aged 73.

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Couldn’t stop listening

Even though I don’t know the album Abbey Road very well I couldn’t stop listening to this audiobook.

Well narrated with only a couple of mispronunciations, and tons of information about the Beatles.

I really enjoyed it and I think it may have been free too!

Obviously now I have to start listening to both Abbey Road and Let it Be again!

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And in the end …

Somehow in the carnage of their later years, and amid increasingly bitter personal relations, The Beatles continued to produce history-making music. This book chronicles the making of Abbey Road, but also looks at the Get Back sessions and Let It Be - it analyses the latter stages of the band’s work and is highly detailed, exploring the production technology as much as the composition, while also examining the behind-the-scenes turmoil engulfing the band. The level of detail in the earlier part of the book will be almost overwhelming for all but the most committed fans, but it becomes more gripping as it moves on, blending a musicological appraisal with a wider look at the personal tensions that blighted the band’s terminal stages. It is a bit disorganised, jumping around chronologically, and there is some annoying repetition of phrases - eg ‘associated with’ makes too many appearances, so maybe better editing was needed. The narration is fine, arguably a bit Marmite, but it worked for me; at times I increased the speed of narration to 1.5 before reverting to 1 after settling into it. This is a good summation of the endgame of the world’s greatest band, and well worth a listen for fans of the Beatles, and indeed music fans generally.

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  • Cargod63
  • 11-12-19

For real Beatle fans

This book is for the fanatic Beatle fan not your everyday Beatle fan. A lot of technical info. A lot of insight I haven’t heard before. If you’re not a study of the Beatles may be a bit boring. I loved it became I am a fanatic. Just make it through the first chapter and it’s all good after that.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Tina
  • 18-02-20

It's all about the recording studios

This book is not about The Beatles relationship, music or songs. Focuses 8n unneccessary details about the recording studios and other small details about the recordings. Nothing really about the group.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Gregg Anderson
  • 12-06-20

A detailed look at an AMAZING album!!!

For some reason most books and documentaries about the Beatles tend to gloss over the recording of Abbey Road. Probably because it was recorded last, but released before the horribly Phil Spector produced "Let It Be" album and it doesn't flow into the narrative the way they want. Well this book bucks the trend and goes into great detail about the band and great technical detail about the actual recording process. It shows us how the Beatles really were at the time for better or worse

John: Paul you are too bossy and use all the time in the studio to do your songs!
Paul: We had to record my stuff because you didn't write anything due to you and Yoko spending your time doing heroin!!!

I'm paraphrasing and being cheeky of course. You need to read and learn from the actual book and not my overly simplistic recreation. You will also enjoy hearing about a solid state mixing board, and that is no small feat. Bravo Kenneth Womack for a great book! Also William Hughes provides solid narration.
A must buy for Beatle fans!!!!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tennyson98
  • 05-09-21

American accent for a British writer???

Why?? I don’t get it. Can’t imagine what went through the producers mind.impossible to suspend disbelief.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Victoria JD.
  • 31-08-21

Fascinating Book About Abbey Road LP and Studio

This does have a lot of technical stuff in it, but I really enjoyed it. I understood more than I thought I would. Really good acct on how the Beatles ended up quitting their group. Some nice insights as well. As a lifelong Beatles fan I'm glad I found it!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dean Bowlus
  • 02-03-21

Very Satisfying

To any Beatles fan ( about 90% of us ) a very satisfying audible listen. There are a lot of details on the recording of the iconic Abby Road.
Solid State is also the story of the final days of the Beatles, and the initial days of their solo careers.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Yaakov Gorensteyn
  • 10-07-20

Good book, nice and detailed.

A fascinating look at the Beatles' last great work. Especially great for sound engineers like myself as it also touches on the technical side of the sessions. Also it's something to hold us Beatle fanatics over until the rest of Lewnson's opus comes :)

1 person found this helpful

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  • HENRY D. MALANOWSKI
  • 28-01-23

Engaging

As a hardcore Beatle fan the minutiae of the recording of Abbey Road was interesting and delivered well. Great coverage of all details on those last years

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  • Just a reviewer
  • 09-12-22

I enjoyed it

Interesting and well-researched book. Great for a Beatles fans and people who have an interest in recording.

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  • Paul
  • 10-10-22

A lot of editorial comments may not be accurate.

Now that the documentary Get Back has been released, some of the recollections in here seem to be at odds with the documentary evidence. The author has a fairly obvious slant towards certain Beatles and likely sources. For example, Lennon is often pinpointed as problematic. His drug addiction is often blamed for friction that was clearly caused by Paul's overbearing personality. The author also leans heavily into the old Yoko was the problem trope fairly often. One wonders if he only had access to certain folks who had axes to grind. The book is great in parts, but clearly biased in others (no mention of Paul's cocaine use, only Lennon's heroin). And once again, it's pretty clear he or his sources misrepresented the Get Back sessions. I do wonder if the author had flashes of anxiety as he watched Get Back and saw the real reason George Harrison quit the band and realized his retelling was less than accurate.