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Magic Circles

Magic Circles

The Beatles in Dream and History

Devin McKinney

ISBN 9780674016361

Publication date: 10/18/2004

No one expressed the heart and soul of the Sixties as powerfully as the Beatles did through the words, images, and rhythms of their music. In Magic Circles, Devin McKinney uncovers the secret history of a generation and a pivotal moment in twentieth-century culture. He reveals how the Beatles enacted the dream life of their time and shows how they embodied a kaleidoscope of desire and anguish for all who listened—hippies or reactionaries, teenage fans or harried parents, Bob Dylan or Charles Manson. The reader who dares to re-enter the vortex that was the Sixties will appreciate, perhaps for the first time, much of what lay beneath the social trauma of the day.

Delving into concerts and interviews, films and music, outtakes and bootlegs, Devin McKinney brings to bear the insights of history, aesthetics, sociology, psychology, and mythology to account for the depth and resonance of the Beatles’ impact. His book is also a uniquely multifaceted appreciation of the group’s artistic achievement, exploring their music as both timeless expression and visceral response to their historical moment. Starting in the cellars of Liverpool and Hamburg, and continuing through the triumph of Beatlemania, the groundbreaking studio albums, and the last brutal, sorrowful thrust of the White Album, Magic Circles captures both the dream and the reality of four extraordinary musicians and their substance as artists. At once an entrancing narrative and an analytical montage, the book follows the drama, comedy, mystery, irony, and curious off-ramps of investigation and inquiry that contributed to one of the most amazing odysseys in pop culture.


  • I believe Magic Circles quickly will be recognized as one of a handful of classic rock texts. This is simply a wonderful book, and I mean that quite literally - a book full of wonder. It filled me with the joy of intellectual discovery, challenged hard-set conventional notions I'd long harbored, and perhaps most surprising for a book of this kind, filled me with joy to read: it is a joyous book.

    —Kevin Dettmar, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale


  • Devin McKinney is an independent scholar.

Book Details

  • 432 pages
  • 1-1/8 x 5-11/16 x 8-15/16 inches
  • Harvard University Press