Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mansfield scores Ace with "The White Book"

The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider’s Look at an Era. PDF Print E-mail
Reviews - Books
Written by Geoff Isaac
Monday, 05 November 2007

thewhitebook_book.jpgBook: The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider’s Look at an Era
Author: Ken Mansfield

Among the names of people who have helped shape The Beatles and the legacy they created, Ken Mansfield, the former U.S. manager of Apple Records, is scarcely the one people think of first.

This quiet, humble and revered American Grammy winning music producer, and strategist behind The Beatles’ Apple label, began as a 27 year-old promotions manager whose attendance at a press conference in the summer of 1965 culminated into a long lasting business and personal relationship with members of the infamous band.

Now he is finally telling his fly-on-the-wall tale in The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider’s Look at an Era.

Like many careers that spawn biographies and a worthy setting in history, Mansfield’s was more than just a chance opportunity, the meaning of which he could never have understood at the time. Mansfield gives the reader an all encompassing viewpoint of one of the most vital periods in music history. Like a gleeful fan, he relates sitting through the evolution of a single Beatles song through songwriting, session to final mix. Much like Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write, Mansfield provides detail on the evolution of a Beatles song, but with the added dimension of actually being in the room at the time.

The title is definitive as Mansfield frames the book using The White Album which he fondly states as “more than a record”, but “something all-encompassing.” Dividing the book into “tracks” (40 to be exact) rather than “chapters”, thusly avoiding any artifice, becomes both a clever and vital device.

In The White Album, he’s the humble reporter with an eye for detail and the insider’s seat on the historical proceedings that he fondly recalls with a sense of awe, enthusiasm and a philosophical posture that never waivers from selfless insight of all the events around him. The plus of Mansfield’s approach is that he’s smart enough to know the story is so much bigger than himself.

Mansfield’s self effacing manor is a welcome treat. He recognizes the mistakes he has made and refuses to take all the credit for his success. What we get is a point of view stripped of the clutter in self importance. Mansfield goes into sumptuous detail about meeting “the lads” for the first time, ruthlessly defends Lennon’s personal life, despite knowing him the least of all the members. This is most apparent in times when he reveals, that according to Lennon, his lyrics didn’t actually mean very much. They don’t have to mean anything all the time, they just have to sound like they do.

Mansfield’s bucolic upbringing in the “potato-bred simplicity” of Idaho gave him an outlook that is sharply contrasted with the often cynical nature of the music business, which is no doubt why so many people liked him. Mansfield is to good effect an insider from the outside. This also provides plenty of room for humor, especially during passages where he explains his outwardly perplexed reaction while enduring long socio-political speeches from John and Yoko, and hearing Linda McCartney refer to a hot dog as “decomposed cadaver tube on a roll” before Paul became a vegetarian.

There’s also an important element of what the release of a Beatles album meant for the industry itself. Due to both the popularity and wealth of manpower and energy required for a release, Mansfield confides that other Capitol artists suffered in sales while other artists, ill-fated by coinciding release schedules, had to settle for No. 2 at the pop charts. He doesn’t admonish the band for their success but recognizes the Beatles were a force of nature to be reckoned with.

Also of interest is a detailed chapter on their famous, attention-grabbing final roof top performance (in which he relates just how good a live act the band really was), recognizing the talent of a then unknown teenage Guns 'N Roses guitarist Slash, and an utterly heartbreaking chapter on the death of John Lennon.

His later career, working in Nashville with Dolly Parton, Waylan Jennings and David Cassidy, is also of interest for music fans, but he always manages to come back to The Beatles as he follows their solo careers and legacy, both up close and from a distance.

The book is presented in a lavish, multi-color spectrum, and is well laid out. Chockablock full of photos, signed album covers, memos, notes, letters, contracts and personal affects, the book demonstrates the most important times in music history with visual flair. There’s a full page scan of a hand written memo John Lennon wrote him, which comes complete with background information on the facing page.

A good source of information provides answers to the questions we ask. A great one gives us the answers to questions we never thought to ask, and enriches our experience in the process. The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz: An Insider’s Look at an Era has more experience and far more enthusiasm than one would expect from a biography, historical treatise or vital music biz how-to. The White Book is indeed something all encompassing, with sincere style and refreshing modesty from someone who was there.

For book excerpts, video and more general information on the book, please visit

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